Finding a partner to share the rest of your life with is a blessing. If you’ve recently been engaged and are planning to be married in the Catholic Church, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.
In the Catholic Church, marriage is a Sacrament, and taking these important steps will prepare you for a lifetime of love and commitment to each other and God.
1. Ensure You Meet Important Requirements
These are the requirements established by the Church:
- Baptized Christian
One or both partners should be baptized Catholics. If one of the partners is not Catholic, he or she needs to be a baptized Christian. If the non-Catholic partner wants to join the Church, they may go through the process of becoming a Catholic as an adult during the marriage prep process.
- Not closely related
Catholics cannot marry first cousins or anyone else in their immediate family.
- Free to marry
Both members of the couple should be unmarried. If either were previously married, they must be widowed or issued an annulment from the Catholic Church.
- Be of the opposite sex
It is the Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.
- In good standing with the Church
Being a Catholic in good standing means more than just attending Mass for 6 months previous to the wedding. It means being in a ‘state of grace’ which is to be free from sin and able to receive Communion. Mass attendance for 6 months, or some other period of time (it varies from diocese to diocese) is a part of it, but the term Catholic in good standing means more than that. It has to do with the spiritual state of the individuals celebrating the sacrament.
- Free consent
Both parties must freely consent to the marriage and have worked out any issues that might cause one party not to freely consent.
2. Contact your Parish
If you believe you meet the requirements above (or if you need to discuss them), you should contact your parish to discuss your wedding. You’ll need to obtain permission to be married in the Church, whether it is at your current parish or elsewhere.
Check with the diocese or the parish where the wedding will take place and make sure about registration requirements.
You will likely have an initial meeting with clergy to discuss your marriage, and you’ll be able to discuss any issues you may have with getting married in the Catholic Church.
This meeting will also be an opportunity for clergy to explain the process of getting married in the parish along with the things you’ll need to do.
3. Participate in a marriage preparation program
All parishes have a program in place to prepare couples for marriage. Most dioceses require at least 6 months of marriage prep that could include classes, mentoring, or seminars.
Marriage prep (or Pre-Cana) is mandatory so couples get a good understanding of the value the Church places on marriage and an overview of its teaching on family life.
During a marriage preparation program, you’ll learn about balancing values, managing money, the role of family, healthy sexuality and intimacy, planning a family and parenting, communication skills, and the theology of marriage.
If your schedule doesn’t allow you to participate in marriage prep classes at your parish, an online course may be a better option. There are courses approved by the Church that fulfill the requirements for marriage prep.
4. Provide your certificates to the Church
There are a number of documents that the Church will want to see before granting you permission to marry.
- A recent copy of your baptismal certificates
- Certification of Holy Communion and Confirmation (Sometimes a notation is made in the Baptismal registry and inscribed in the back of the recent copy of the Baptismal Certificate. That’s why the Church requires a recent (within 6 months of the wedding) copy of the Baptismal Certificate.)
- Affidavit of Freedom to Marry
- Civil marriage license
- Marriage Preparation Course Completion Certificate
Collect these documents while preparing for your marriage, and store them together so you can easily present them to your priest or Family Life Director.
5. Plan the Wedding Mass
Depending on your circumstances, there are options to celebrate the Rite of Marriage.
Aside from that, you will have options about certain readings and rituals performed at your wedding along with choosing family and friends who will participate in the Mass. Your priest or Family Life Director will help you make those decisions, and they will also let you know the guidelines for decorating in your participating parish.
There are aspects of the wedding Mass that you cannot change, but these are important aspects of the Mass altogether and denote the sacredness of celebrating your marriage in the Catholic Church.
6. Get married!
There are many other details involved in planning a Catholic wedding, but this basic framework should get you off to a great start. Weddings are a wonderful celebration of the union of two people with the blessing of God in the presence of their family and friends.
As you walk through these steps to getting married in the Catholic Church, we pray that it’s a time of spiritual and personal growth for you and your future spouse.