Q. Marriage Outside the Church

Q. I am a young Catholic male. I want to marry a non-Catholic lady whose parents insist that I wed in their church to have their consent. Will it be acceptable for me to wed in their church and later come to Catholic Church for another wedding when she receives the Sacrament of Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation? This lady is willing to go with me on Catholic doctrine but would not want to hurt her parents. Please advise.

A. Clearly your intentions are right on track; just a few suggestions to fine tune what you are thinking.

First of all, it’s clear that you want your marriage to be blessed and you want to do the right thing.  For Catholics, it is essential that marriage vows be received in the Catholic Church.  But this can be done in a variety of ways.  The ideal way is to have your marriage celebrated within the Catholic Church before a priest or deacon.  However, it is permissible to celebrate your marriage in another church (a non-Catholic church) with the approval of the Catholic Church.  In this case, you will still meet with the priest and go through all the normal marriage preparations.  The priest will then request from the bishop that you be released from what is called “canonical form.”  A special dispensation is given, and your marriage is fully accepted by our Church.  So the first thing to do is to speak with your parish priest about this and see if it is possible.

With that said, it is not a good idea to get married first in a non-Catholic church (without a dispensation from canonical form) and then to get married again in the Catholic Church.  Though this does happen, it’s best not to plan it out this way.  Having your marriage received later in the Catholic Church is something that is done to validate your marriage that is already legally binding from some other ceremony.  And although it is highly recommended that those married outside the Church do this, it is not good to plan it this way from the beginning. It causes confusion as to when you are truly married.  It’s not good to have two marriage ceremonies.

As for the concern about her parents, this is a valid concern.  It’s important to honor them and respect them, so as to start off your marriage with their blessing.  With that said, it’s important that they not take precedence over your faith.  If you can accomplish the first suggestion above, then all should work out well.  However, if you cannot work out a dispensation from canonical form, it would be best if you seek to have your marriage in the Catholic Church, even if this causes problems.  Again, your Catholic faith is the most important part of this decision, and compromising on your faith from the beginning will be problematic.  That’s hard to do since a wedding is very much a family event, but your faith must not take a back seat.

Most importantly, pray hard about this and spend plenty of time talking about it.  Be patient and keep your eyes on doing it the right way.  You’ll be grateful you did!

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