Guidelines: catholic weddings

Where can we get married?
Can we marry on a Sunday?
What documents are needed?
Can non-practicing marry in Church?
Must we be confirmed, to marry?
Regulations re. mixed marriages
Can a relative officiate at our wedding?
Must we invite local parish priest?
A Papal Blessing for our wedding?
Readings from outside the Bible?
Are Wedding Banns required?
Music for our wedding ceremony?
Who registers our Marriage?
Can we have a Handfasting?

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Where can we get married?

Canon Law says, "Marriages should be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a month's residence, or if they are travelling, 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 question recently asked is this: can we have our wedding ceremony out of doors? Catholic practice is that all sacramental marriages are celebrated in a properly consecrated church building.

Canon Law says: "Marriage... is to be celebrated in the parish church. But by permission of the local Ordinary or 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 have allowed a marriage to be celebrated outdoors.

For permissible venues for a marriage, see Registry Office Website .

Regulations for Catholic weddings abroad?

A couple living in Ireland who intend to have a Catholic wedding in another country must have their Catholic wedding documents (Baptismal Cert. etc.) prepared in their home parish or diocese and then sent to the bishop's office abroad. The documents should include a certificate from a pre-marriage course that is approved by your home diocese.

Specifically, for a wedding in Rome:

Arrangements must be made through the Department of External Affairs for the civil formalities, and through a priest in Rome who will take care of the church ceremony. We have a separate webpage on the main churches in Rome that cater for Irish weddings; to see it, click here.

Can we get married on a Sunday?

A Wedding on a Sunday is not forbidden by canon law, but is a matter for the local bishop to decide. A bishop can allow Sunday weddings within his diocese but generally it is forbidden in most Irish dioceses, because: *1. liturgically, the Sunday texts have precedence, and *2. it's burdensome for the clergy, who have extra parish duties on a Sunday.

The regulation in Dublin: "No marriage may be celebrated on a Sunday or Holy Day without the Archbishop's permission." (Pastoral Directives, 1982). For a substantial reason a bishop may dispense with this regulation. But it is hardly ever granted, so as not to set a precedent.

Documents needed for a Catholic wedding

Check with the parish priest where the wedding is to be held, who is responsible to see that the required documents are present.

Always you will need these three :

a) Baptismal 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)

Usually these also :

d) Certificate from a pre-marriage course
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.

Is "Handfasting" allowed in the wedding?

It is not part of the Roman marriage ritual, but if your celebrant agrees to include it as an optional extra, you should discuss the details with him in advance. In case he is not already familiar with this practise, you could print for him a sample of what you have in mind. You might find a simple Handfasting ritual, including a prayer that the priest might agree to use.

Handfasting could come before the exchange of rings; or (preferably) during the Nuptial Blessing, just after the Our Father. While the priest says the Nuptial Blessing, 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 needed before marriage?

It is the Church's preference, that a Catholic be Confirmed before receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Canon Law: "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 a matter of interpretation. You should check this out ASAP with the local priest where you are getting married, as 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 Officewebsite www.groireland .ie/ getting_married.htm.

The wedding documents need to be prepared and sent to the place of the wedding well in advance... sometimes as much as three months before the wedding date.

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 a stipend 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.

May a non-practicing Catholic 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 member 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 declared intention of future taking part in the life of the church is normally a requirement during the couple's "Prenuptial Enquiry" interview with their priest.

In Mixed Marriages, what regulations apply?

The wedding may be held within a nuptial Mass, or without Mass, according to the couple's preference. The main difficulty arises regarding sharing in Holy Communion.

If the wedding is celebrated within a nuptial Mass, according to Catholic discipline the celebrant may - by way of exception and under limitied conditions (see below) - give Holy Communion at the wedding to the non-Catholic spouse, if he/she is a baptised Christian, but this permission does not extend to the non-Catholic guests in the congregation.

What should non-Catholic guests do, instead of Holy Communion?

In many cases, it is customary for non-Catholic guests to come forward at Communion time, to receive a blessing from the priest. They can indicate that this is their intention by having their arms folded before the chest, and slightly bowing the head. The priest will be happy to offer a personal prayer of blessing for them.

Apart from our parish church, where else may our 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.

The administrator 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.

Popular wedding 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 your marriage.

Thanking the Celebrant. 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 was conducted.

Note that only priests who are on the Registrar's Register of Solemnisers can legally solemnise your marriage under Irish law.

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.

Should we invite our 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 wedding.

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 not needed, before your Wedding

Publication of 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.

Fees normally 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.

Stipend for the Sacristan. If s/he has been especially helpful to the couple, we suggest a donation of €20 to €30 would be appropriate

Stipend for 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 may be.