Preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage
As soon as you get engaged, even before you are in a
position to book a wedding date, you should contact your
Parish Priest in the place where you are resident to start
the preparations. The Catholic Church asks for a
minimum notice period of six
months, to facilitate the required paperwork
and the proper preparation of the couple.
The required paperwork and marriage preparation is the
same, regardless of where the marriage is to take place,
even if it will be in another country or in a non-Catholic
Church. The marriage paperwork needs to be done by your
Parish Priest in the place where you are resident.
Marry in The Catholic Church
One of the greatest confusions among people is who can
marry in Church. It is normally straightforward if neither
party has married before or if previous spouses have died.
However, many people who have been married before can marry
in the Catholic Church once a Church Tribunal has
determined the status of their previous marriage. Since
every person’s situation is different, your Parish Priest
will be able to advise you.
You will then be invited to attend a marriage preparation
day or a series of evenings. Most couples find marriage
preparation a very enjoyable and reassuring experience, as
they explore with their future spouse aspects of their new
Catholics should normally marry in the parish Church in
which one of the parties is resident. If one party is a
practising member of another Christian Denomination, it is
possible to get permission for the marriage to take place
in the non-Catholic Church to which the party is a
However, Catholics are never permitted to marry
in a registry office or in a purely civil ceremony (such as
in a hotel, on a beach or in a hot air
balloon). If you were married in such a
ceremony you should contact your parish priest immediately
so that he can make sure your marriage is recognised by the
church, this is normally achieved through a small service
where vows are exchanged before God.
Married in Another Church or Abroad
Quite often a couple or an individual party has a
particular attachment to a Church in a different place to
where they are resident, which may even be in a different
country. This may be where they grew up, or where the rest
of their family are resident. It is possible to get married
in such a Church.
However, the responsibility for the required paperwork and
the marriage preparation of the couple still rests with the
Parish Priest in the place where you are resident, so it is
important that you discuss your plans with your own Parish
Priest as well as the priest of the parish in which you
wish to marry.
The Cost of
A great sadness is that many couples delay getting married
in Church because of the perceived cost. They either choose
a civil ceremony that is not recognised by the Church as
marriage, or they begin a pseudo-married life while saving
up for their marriage day. Both situations create problems
for the couple and make it statistically more difficult for
them to live a happy fulfilled married life in the
The true cost of getting married is actually very small. It
is all the family and cultural customs that can often not
be afforded by the couple. Items such as expensive
receptions, cakes, photographs, dresses and luxurious
honeymoons should not take priority over the Sacrament of
Marriage, celebrated at an appropriate time before the
couple come to live together.
The Church does not charge for celebrating Sacraments, but
does ask a donation in proportion to the couple’s means.
This fee, called a stipend, is given to the priest who
celebrates the marriage. Guidance on this matter is
difficult to give as each couple’s situation is different,
but examples of what is reasonable might be whatever you
are spending on the cost of the cake, or the photographs.