Wedding Ceremony Questions
Must we marry in our own parish church?
Marrying Abroad /
Wedding in Rome
Can we marry on a Sunday?
What documents are needed?
Can non-practicing Catholics marry in Church?
Is a church blessing allowed in a civil wedding?
May we have a "Handfasting" at our wedding?
In a mixed marriage, what regulations apply?
Can a priest-relative officiate at our wedding?
Must we invite our local parish priest too?
How can we get a Papal Blessing for our wedding?
Can our Readings be from outside the Bible?
Are published Wedding Banns still required?
What music may we have at the ceremony?
In a wedding without Mass, what texts are used?
Who registers our Marriage with the State?
Where can we get married?
According to Canon Law, "Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a quasi-domicile or a months residence or, in the case of travellers, in the parish in which they are actually residing. With the permission of the Ordinary (bishop) or the parish priest, marriages may be celebrated elsewhere." Can. 1115.
A supplementary question is, can we have our wedding ceremony outdoors? Catholic practice requires that the all sacramental marriages be celebrated in a properly consecrated church building. Canon Law says that "A marriage... is to be celebrated in the parish church. But by permission of the local Ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory." (Can. 1118) The local bishop can allow a marriage to be celebrated in another "suitable place". So far few bishops, if any, have allowed a marriage to be celebrated outdoors.
For the civil requirements relating to the permissible venue for a marriage, see the Registrar's Website.
What are the rules for a wedding in Rome?
We have a separate webpage for weddings in Rome. Click here
Can we marry on a Sunday?
To have a Wedding Mass on a Sunday is not directly forbidden by canon law, but is a matter for the local bishop to decide. A bishop can allow Sunday weddings within his diocese but it is forbidden in most Irish dioceses, as: *1. liturgically, the Sunday texts have precedence, and *2. it's burdensome for the clergy.
- * On Sundays, liturgical priority is given to the readings and texts of the Sunday rather than to those of the Wedding Mass.
- * Parish clergy are usually quite busy on a Sunday. Often they must celebrate two or more Masses in the morning, and may have to other pastoral commitments as well (e.g., bring Communion to the sick).
The local regulation in Dublin is: "No marriage may be celebrated on a Sunday or Holy Day without the permission of the Archbishop." (Pastoral Directives, 1982). Clearly, bishops may dispense with this regulation. But there is resistence to this in most places, as it could set an unwelcome precedent.
Documents needed, for a Catholic wedding
with the parish priest where the wedding is to be held,
who is responsible to see that the required documents
you will need these three:
certificate; of recent date; from your native parish
b) Pre-Nuptial Enquiry
Form (by a priest of your parish)
c) Letter of Freedom (or Affidavit)
d) Certificate from a pre-marriage
e) A Confirmation certificate
f) Licence from the bride's
parish (to wed elsewhere)
g) Document from your local registrar (ROI only).
If marrying abroad, your wedding papers
go to your wedding church-venue via your local bishop's office.
May we have "Handfasting" at our wedding?
It is not part of the Roman Ritual for marriage, but if your celebrant agrees to including this ritual in your wedding ceremony, it can be done in some form. In case he is not already familiar with this optional rite, you should print for him a sample of what you have in mind. We have our own, version of a Handfasting ritual online here, including a prayer to accompany it which the priest may find agreeable.
The Handfasting can be done directly after the wedding vows and before the exchange of rings. Or it can be done during the Nuptial Blessing towards the end of the wedding Mass.
While the priest says the Handfasting prayer, the couple's hands are bound with the ornamental cords, by the Best Man and Bridesmaid.
What should go into our wedding booklet?
Assuming that the couple wish to furnish a booklet to help their guests follow the wedding ceremony, they should include, as a minimum, all the optional texts and readings they have selected, for their particular wedding. They can also, if they wish, include the set text of the Mass.
Suppose the couple already have one or more children?
The prayers of the set nuptial mass all focus on a couple as they set off on a new life together as husband and wife; it prays for harmony and for the gift of a family, and for "setting out on a new life together." Now, if the couple have in practice been living as husband and wife for a number of years and already have children, surely their personalised booklet should reflect that fact. Pray for your children by name; and modify the other references, e.g. "that they continue in harmony" or that "now, as husband and wife, they bring their union before almighty God, for a blessing on this, their wedding day."
Is Confirmation required before marriage, for a Catholic?
It is encouraged rather than obligatory, that a Catholics would have received the Sacrament of Confirmation before receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony (i.e. be married in the Church.)
Canon Law states that "Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience." Can. 1065
What would constitute a 'grave inconvenience' is clearly a matter of interpretation. You should check this out ASAP with the local priest where you are getting married, as in practice some dioceses are very insistent on confirmation before marriage, while others are not.
If we wish to marry abroad, what are our options?
You can hold the civil ceremony at home
and the religious ceremony abroad - or both can be abroad,
in which case you'll need help from a wedding-planner in the foreign
country, plus a document from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs,
stating that there is no legal impediment to your marriage. Only
if the civil wedding is held in Ireland
will the marriage be formally registered here. If it is held abroad,
make sure you bring home a copy of your civil marriage record.
For other details, see Abroad,
and the Registry website http://www.groireland.ie/getting_married.htm
The wedding documents (above) need to be prepared and sent to the place of the wedding
well in advance... sometimes as much as three months before the
The priest to officiate may be a local
priest in the wedding-church or an invited celebrant that
you bring in, with the consent of the administrator of the wedding-church.
If the invited celebrant is travelling out from
Ireland to officiate, we suggest
an honorarium of about Euro 500.00 for him, to cover all his travel
and accommodation costs. This is more gracious than asking him
to submit a list of expenses later.
It is very important to show respect for the
customs of the local church where the wedding is held. A well-designed wedding-booklet for the ceremony will help to allay any anxieties on that score. Some clergy
abroad have been offended by the apparent lack of reverence and
decorum shown by Irish wedding parties, their non-response to
the prayers, loud chattering. in church, issues regarding modesty
of dress etc. Sensitivity to local customs in such matters will
help ensure a continuing welcome for other Irish couples who wish
to come after you to those places.
What about a bilingual ceremony?
the first language of bride and groom is not the same - as is so often the case
in multi-cultural Ireland
- you may wish to have the wedding ceremony celebrated in bilingual fashion, for the sake of family members
and guests with a limited knowledge of English. You priest celebrant may well be able to read all or part of the ceremony in both languages. If not, then you should at least provide the wedding text in a Bilingual Booklet, for the sake of your guests.
May non-practicing Catholics marry in Church?
If the couple are baptised Catholics but not
regularly practicing the faith, can they celebrate their marriage in the church?
This is a delicate question, that may well be raised
by the priest at the pre-nuptial enquiry (interviewing the couple about their wedding plans).
Clearly, for a church wedding to be authentic, some measure of
"belonging" within the Catholic community is required.
But who "belongs in the Church"? Who are to be regarded
as practicing Catholics today? The phrases seem to
cover a wide spectrum of levels of "belonging", from
regular attendance at Mass each Sunday, to a looser or occasional
participation at Church functions - say at weddings, funerals,
anniversaries and major feasts, and a general acceptance of Catholic
faith and morals. It would always include a personal trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour, allied with some sense of God's presence in our life, and some linke with the Catholic community of faith.
If this description of Church membership applies to even
one of the couple, then a Catholic sacramental wedding is
possible. The priest interviewing the couple will probably urge them
to share in the life of their local parish as a married couple.
This is part of his pastoral duty, helping them prepare
for sacramental marriage.
Some intention of future partaking in the life
of the church is a normal requirement,
during the couple's "Prenuptial Enquiry" interview with
At a Mixed Marriage, what regulations apply?
may be held within a nuptial Mass, or without Mass, according
to the couple's preference.
If it is celebrated
within a nuptial Mass, Catholic regulations allow the non-Catholic
Christian partner to receive Holy Communion at the wedding, but this
permission does not (yet) extend to the non-Catholics in the congregation.
May our non-Catholic
guests receive Holy Communion?
In many cases,
it is customary for non-Catholic participants to come forward
at Communion time, if they wish, to receive a blessing from the
priest. They can indicate that this is their intention by folding
the arms before the chest, and slightly bowing the head. The priest
will be most happy to offer a personal prayer of blessing for
For more detailed
information on Mixed Marriage, click
Must our wedding be in our own parish church? Where else may a Catholic wedding be held?
A Catholic sacramental wedding must be celebrated in
a building that is church-approved for the solemnisation of a marriage. The canonical
or "normal" place for marriage between Catholics
is the Bride's parish church. However, with the consent of her
parish priest, the wedding may be held in any public Catholic
church, with the consent of the administrator of that church.
of the church where the wedding is to be held will ensure
that the couple make some formal marriage preparation, and that
their wedding documents are in order, before the wedding takes
place. If this priest is not also your celebrant, he should be
offered a donation for taking care of your wedding documents;
we suggest something in the order of 100 euros.
churches: Because of their location or other features, some
churches are in great demand for weddings. If they do not have
large Sunday congregations, there may be a higher fee attached
to their use. Also, they will need to be booked not less than
three months in advance of the wedding.
Can a priest-relative officiate at our wedding??
Yes, it is common for a priest who is a relative or friend of either family to officiate at weddings. In Canon Law, any
Catholic priest with church faculties (i.e. not debarred)
may officiate at the wedding sacrament, as long as he has
the written permission ("delegation") from the Administrator
of the church where the wedding is to take place. A "delegation-form"
will be left in the Sacristy, for your priest to sign before celebrating
the Celebrant: By the way, if you choose to have your Celebrant
as a guest at your wedding reception, it is only right
that in one or other of the speeches (normally, the bridegroom's)
he be publicly thanked for the manner in which the marriage ceremony
Note that only priests who are on the Register
of Solemnisers will be authorised to fulfil
the legal requirements, so that your marriage will be valid under
Can we have a civil ceremony with a Church blessing afterwards?
We are lapsed Catholics who are getting married civilly and not in church, but for the sake of our parents we'd like to have some kind of church blessing from a priest either during the civil ceremony or at the reception afterwards, is this allowed?
In Canon Law, the proper place for Catholics to marry is the church. If a Catholic chooses to get married in a civil ceremony a priest is not allowed to formally bless the wedding afterwards, as this could imply that the Church approves of the purely civil ceremony. This prohibition exists in Ireland, despite the fact that in some other countries, in order to fulfil the law a couple must marry civilly before being married in Church.
Must we invite our local parish priest to our wedding?
It is not
necessary to have the priest either of your home parish or of the
place where the wedding is held, as celebrants at your wedding.
Indeed, with pressures of other work, your parish priest may
prefer if you can bring a priest of your own choice to conduct your
As a courtesy,
you may, if you wish, invite the parish priest to concelebrate,
leaving him free to say Yes or No. If he does join in, the priests
will share out the ceremonial tasks.
Even if the
parish priest does not concelebrate, he may attend the church at the start
of the ceremony, to meet your celebrant and see that everything is in
place; or he may delegate this task to the Sacristan.
Wedding Banns be published, before our Wedding ?
Wedding Banns is no longer required by the universal Canon
Law (since 1983), but some parishes still publish banns following
the older tradition.
To make certain
of what practice applies in your parish, you should consult your
local parish priest about it, and follow his directive.
What Fees are payable to the parish and to your celebrant?
Fee for use
of the church building and for administering your documents.. This fee is variable, from
one parish to another. Wherever the main
source of income is from weddings, the fee may
be correspondingly higher.
the Sacristan. If s/he has been especially helpful to the couple, we suggest a donation of €20 to €30 would be appropriate
the Celebrant. There is no
set fee for the priest's sacramental ministry; but it is customary
to make a decent donation in appreciation for his services.
We suggest that he be offerred about half of the couple's joint
daily earnings (pre-tax!), whatever that amounts to. But it is really left to the couple's sense of proportion
Can we plan the ceremony for our own wedding?
Very much so...
after all, the Wedding ceremony belongs to the couple.
You have the right to plan its details, within the parameters
of Catholic liturgical custom. You could compose your own wedding
booklet, from the elements given on this site, under Ceremony. Let your celebrant know that you are doing
so, and ask his advice, whether he has any elements he wants included,
Among the details
to plan are: Music, Bible Readings, Formula of the Vows, Candle
Ceremony, Intercessions, etc. You have a choice of having a Wedding Celebration, or a Wedding Mass which includes the wedding ceremony. Either is a perfectly good choice.
If one of you is not a Catholic, it may be good to decide for the Wedding Celebration (without Mass), so that there would be no lack of inclusion of all for example in familiarity with Mass or in receiving Holy Communion, both for the one who is not Catholic, and for guests who not.
your own wedding booklet makes it easy for the celebrant to conduct
the ceremony according to your expressed wishes.
For a bi-lingual couple, should we prepare a bi-lingual booklet?
If an Irish
couple is marrying abroad, they'll probably want their ceremony
in English only - provided their priest-celebrant knows enough
English for this. But if, for example, you're marrying in
and your Italian celebrant can offer you only the option of Italian
or Latin, you should probably provide your guests with a bi-lingual
the family members of one of the spouses do not speak English,
providing a bi-lingual wedding booklet would be a courtesy to
them. You can find many of the text elements you'll need for this, elsewhere on this site.
Can we have readings at the wedding, that
are not from the Bible?
Yes, but the
readings used during the "Liturgy of the Word" (i.e.
up to the Gospel and Homily) are meant to be from the Bible.
You could have
a short and thoughtful, partnership-oriented reading of your choice,
during the period of meditation, after the Holy Communion.
readings of this kind are listed under "Extra Reading"
on this site.
Any other exceptions
or deviations from the usual order of ceremonies should be discussed
beforehand with your celebrant.
What are our music choices?
They are quite extensive, and
are described elsewhere on this site, with guidelines and examples of current
The only music that is formally
excluded is such as would be inappropriate to the religious setting
of the ceremony.
If in doubt about a particular
choice, why not discuss it with your organist (or regular wedding
singer - they have studied the matter) or with your celebrant?
In a Wedding outside of Mass, what texts
Substantially the same texts
should be used, but omitting the Offertory and the Eucharistic
Prayer and Holy Communion. Some additional texts and music may
also be used, to bring the ceremony up to similar length to one
held within Mass, i.e. about one hour.
[This option is sometimes preferred
in a mixed marriage, where the non-Catholic partner or guests
might feel excluded if not invited to take Holy Communion. But
remember: the norms allow the partner to take Communion at the
nuptial Mass, if s/he accepts that the Lord is truly there.]
How can a Papal Blessing be obtained,
for a newly married couple?
If you want
one to be read out at your wedding, you should apply for it at
least three months in advance of the wedding, along with a letter
of recommendation from your parish priest.
(Select the scroll you want, in any major bookshop.)
The cost of
the scroll includes a standard offerring that goes to the designated
papal charities, in return for the favour of having your scroll
signed in the
some official, on behalf of the Holy Father.
If you want
the papal blessing scroll to include a wedding photo of yourselves,
obviously you must incorporate that choice in the sort of scroll
that you select.
Who registers our Marriage civilly?
for the registrar's office are those signed by the couple, the
witnesses and the celebrant, immediately after the ceremony. Strictly
speaking, the Bridegroom is responsible to see that these are
forwarded in due time to the registrar's office.
he may leave this task to the Administrator of the church where
the wedding takes place.
At some future
might follow the general continental practice of separating the
registration from the church ceremony, and having it done at the
register office, before the ceremony.
questions may be asked at the course
The priest who runs this course is available
to answer specific questions about the ceremony either during
his session ("Marriage in the Church") or after it.