Skip to comments.Why do Catholics have to get married in church?
Posted on 01/22/2012 12:01:16 PM PST by NYer
That’s the gist of this piece by writer Cara McDonough, who raises a question that’s increasingly common these days. I get several calls a year from people who ask if I can do a wedding for them in a catering hall or on a beach. (Usually, it’s after a priest has turned them down; deacons, of course, are always the last resort.)
My sister-in-law is getting married this spring. I’ve tried on my bridesmaid dress, jotted down the date of her New York City bachelorette party and also, intrigued, watched her struggle as she strives to book a priest.
Like me, she was raised Catholic and is marrying one. And, like my husband — her brother — and I did when we got married in 2005, she and her fiancé are trying to make this a Catholic affair.
Trying. Because there are rules.
I remember sitting in the chapel of the Newman Center at the University of Chapel Hill with many other couples during a Pre-Cana conference prior to our own wedding, listening to the priest talk about the importance of our forthcoming unions.
And then, unexpectedly, but with true passion: “You can’t get married outside.” He paused, then repeated, “You just can’t.”
My sister-in-law, however, wants to do just that. Plenty of people do.
Why can’t a Catholic ceremony take place outside? I turned to the wisdom of the internet to help me sort this out, and found many reasons, both casual and, seemingly, from on high.
Catholics marrying non-Catholics can get a special dispensation allowing marriage someplace other than a Catholic church. But if you’re both Catholic, the church wedding is important. The answer, as I’ve interpreted it, mostly concerns the fact that the church is the true “house of God,” and marriage, being a sacrament, should be celebrated there.
The sites Catholic Education Resource Center and Catholic Answers , as well as many others, approach the subject with articles and online forums.
But really, the best explanation I’ve heard was from that priest. “You just can’t.”
But wait, there’s more:
My sister-in-law, however, wants to get married outside due to a combination of factors, including the fact that the reception location is not close to a church and is a lovely place to hold a wedding.
Not to mention that the diocese where she and her fiancé will wed is not one either belongs to, and is rumored to be strict, so may not have allowed them to hold the ceremony in a church there anyway.
She’s been looking for a priest who would agree to marry them at their reception site — outside the house of God, within the house of nature — for several months. She’s had priests outright refuse, refer her elsewhere and one memorable man of God who agreed to do it but only for a considerable sum of money.
Well. As my sainted father used to say: “If you want to belong to the club, you have to follow the rules.” And that’s one way of looking at this. But it helps to look at marriage as what it truly is: a sacrament. It is the tradition of the church that – with some rare and specific exceptions — sacraments are received in a church. Which means, among other things, the ritual takes place in the presence of Jesus Christ, reserved in the Blessed Sacrament. It unfolds before the people of God, the community of faith. And, for marriage, it is witnessed by a minister of the church, a priest or deacon.
But there is also this: being married in a church says something. It says: “We take this seriously, and are making this commitment in a sacred space, in the presence of God, before His people, forever.” It says: “We are beginning our life together in a way that signifies to the world our commitment to each other, and our commitment to our faith, and we let’s face it: know we’re going to need all the graces we can get.”
It also says: “This is something more than just a party.”
Another take, and a very good one, from Busted Halo:
The key element to remember about the Catholic understanding of marriage is that it is a public act of the church which recognizes the lifelong and exclusive commitment of the bride and groom to each other. The bride and groom may say I do to the wedding vows, but the presence of the church community is meant to support the couple throughout their married life together. All those present are presumed to be saying to the couple We do. We do witness, confirm, and support your marriage.
The popular notion that a wedding is primarily the business of the bride and groom is romantic, but not true in the sacramental sense. The church, and all the people of God who witness the marriage, have a stake in the sacrament of marriage. It makes a difference to the community of believers and to society that marriages are freely entered and strong. As Pope John Paul II said, The future of humanity passes by way of the family. (Familiaris Consortio, #86)
Whats all this got to do with having a wedding in Gods beautiful outdoors?
Since sacraments belong to the entire churchnot just the bride and groomthey are normally celebrated in the place that the church gathers. This unites the couple with the universal church throughout the ages and puts the ceremony in the common gathering place where other sacred celebrations occur.
Although as Christians we believe that God is everywhere, we also have set aside special places for community worshipchurch buildings. It makes sense that baptized Christians would celebrate the vocational sacrament of marriage in the building where the community usually worships and which is dedicated to such special sacred commitments.
Read the rest.
This is another area, I think, where the Church needs better catechesis. With World Marriage Day approaching in February, that might be a good opportunity to address this from the pulpit.
Notice how people want the church to bend to their whims instead of them following what is supposed to be their faith. They want the church to be less churchy is what it is, lets destroy an institution instead of just holding whatever wedding they want without a Priest. They want to corrupt the church, IMO.
I guess corrupting the church is the thing to do after the stripper leaves from the bachelor/bachelorette parties, which show how much fidelity they will have to their spouses, not.
It's not hard to book a priest if you marry in your parish - or your parents' parish. Might be hard to book a date. Might be hard to wait, when the diocese mandates nine months or a year.
It's the venue that matters to the bride in question, the view more than the sacraments, the wedding more than the marriage, although that may be uncharitable. But better to begin your marriage in your community rather than in a showplace.
Interesting story NYer.
What I don’t understand is why people complain about the Churches approach to important issues like this.
There are thousands of other churches out there. Nobody is holding a gun to your head saying you have to be Catholic. You can be Episcopal or other faiths and still have the bells and smells even.
And if you are doing it because your family wants you to be Catholic, MAN UP MAN! If you don’t believe in it you should not belong because someone else thinks you should!
I had to be disinherited to join the Catholic Church. You should be willing to do the same, but you probably won’t have to since I’ve found Catholic’s generally to be more understanding about this than non-Catholics.
If the Church is wrong, don’t let the door hit you on your way out! Don’t go along to get along. Do what you think is right!
If that means a hippy wedding standing in a river, that is what you should do. I am sure a Unitarian minister would help you do it as well....
THe “have to in a church” for sacraments may be a little weak, since:
- the apostles had the first communion (the last supper) in a house’s upper room, not a church
- John’s water baptisms were in the Jordan river, outside
- Other believer baptisms took place outside, or in private homes, by the Apostles, and were apparently validated by God as witnesses described the Holy Spirit coming down on those just baptized
- people are given communion at home, in nursing homes, and outdoors on battlefields
- people are able to give confession outside of a church building when needed
To say sacraments ALWAYS have to be done inside the church, is just not true. Are some easier and perhaps more fitting, not to mention more used to being done there out of tradition, yes. To dogmatically insist it, no.
Also, who can forget the first man and woman who were married were not married in a church building, but rather in the open Garden of Eden. By God Himself, no less.
I understand this, but I also have questions. The following happened a few years ago.
In our (Catholic) church, there were a number of musicians in the contemporary choir who went camping together at a nearby campground one summer weekend. My family was invited and we agreed to join in. It was a weekend of fellowship from start to end, with songs, recreation, and goodwill all while enjoying God’s bounty in the beautiful world He gave us. We enjoyed it immensely.
We were surprised, but grateful, when we awoke Sunday morning to learn that someone had invited a priest to say Mass for us. We already had in our number the choir, altar servers, several Eucharistic ministers, and lectors. The priest set up an altar complete with linens and his vestments, and usual accompaniments. He brought hosts. The readings from the missalette were used. It was all just like we do at the Church we attend, only not there. It was beautiful!
What this Mass legitimate? From reading this article, I’m now wondering. It certainly felt like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were in attendance, nodding in approval.
My personal opinion, and I don’t expect the Church to change because of my personal opinion, is that what is more Godly than marrying in a beautiful place like a garden, park, or beachfront, which are creations of God in their purest forms? It’s not like marrying in a saloon or someone’s living room. But if the Church says No, then it’s No.
priests frequently say mass for gatherings like this. They carry a “mass kit” to do so.
Is that like a “rule”.
I have been to Catholic weddings that were outside with a priest and communion.
I mean really does God care if you are in a building or out outside, all He sees is your heart anyway.
We had daily Mass during a camping trip by the Rector of the Seminary back in the early 60’s in Latin.
Ten years ago, my sister searched all over Broward County, looking for a church for a wedding for her eldest daughter on a specific date. She couldn’t find one, so she went on line and found the church where our grandfather was baptized - in Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland. So she booked it, and the whole clan made a family trip out of it. Great wedding with an excellent reception at the Adare Manor. We then spent the next ten days driving all over Ireland, seeing long-lost cousins.
When the Pope visited New Orleans in the 1980s, he said Mass outdoors. I’ve seen it happen when the Pope has visited other cities.
I was an altar boy who learned the latin mass, served for 4 years, and then, after 2000 years, the church changed the rules...then they wouldn’t marry my wife (also Catholic) and I in the church. So long, we’re now card carrying agnostics...after 30 years of faithful matrimony...just the kind of people the church doesn’t want to be associated with. So be it, life is good.
I’ve head of some priests marrying in the rectumry. :-)
What is it with dingbats like this who claim they want a Catholic wedding but don’t go to church and won’t go to church after the wedding? I don’t get it.
Same with having their babies baptized.
. . . at the door of the church like Michael and Appolonia in The Godfather.
Ummm, You’re leaving something out here brother. Two never maried in the church before are being refused the sacrament in a Catholic church? Somethins fishy here. C’mon! Name the reason they were refused!
The priest that refused us bought his Thunderbird from my deceased (by suicide) father’s dealership...any other questions?
That still doesn't compute. What does that have to do with marrying you? You're not brother and sister, are you. Nah, your profile page doesn't list you as being in Arkansas so probably not. Forget I asked.
I guess he felt we hadn’t been tithing enough near as I can figure. No problem, we’re happy agnostics now.
Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion is probably what you mean. Only a validly ordained Priest is a Eucharistic minister, as taught in Redemptionis Sacramentum. If several Eucharistic ministers(sic) were already there, there would have been no need to invite another one.
I’ve heard of some parents seriously regretting their decision to reproduce.
You might be happy now but get back to us after your particular judgment.
So one negative experience with a dolt of a priest and your belief in God is blown away. Must have been quite a deep faith.
I mean think about it. If the human beings representing God’s church turn out to be human and therefore less than perfect, then by golly I am going to doubt the very existence of God Himself.
Now there’s a Mensa moment for you.
>> Also, who can forget the first man and woman who were married were not married in a church building, but rather in the open Garden of Eden. By God Himself, no less. <<
Yeah, and how’d that work out? Do people in your congregation show up naked? The mass is a “foretaste of Heaven.” The elements of the sacred space are related from the Book of Revelation’s depiction on Heaven.
Yes, of course! Thank you for the lesson. :)
Forgive me for saying this, but you don’t sound happy nearly as much as you sound bitter. I hope I’m wrong, though.
hmmm... i didn’t quite understand your post. Why weren’t you allowed to marry in Church?
As far as we know Adam and Eve didn’t divorce, and had many, many, many children through their very long lives.
Well, sure, they just damned the entire human race to hell. No “big” problems. (You are being funny, right?)
Ummm, no. It wasn’t because they got married outside that caused the fall of mankind.
I was being silly. I was HOPING you were being silly.
You want your serious answer?
The Church is supposed to be a “foretaste of Heaven.” Adam and Eve were in paradise. They rejected that paradise, and were expelled from it. The Church is sign to us that we will someday be with God in Heaven. Adam and Ever were already with God.
If your local parish church doesn’t inspire you much, well Catholics CAN find churches that are more inspiring. But whereas your local parish may be very inexpensive, (ours was free, because we found our own cantor, organist, etc.), you might have to pay... significantly if it’s a grand church with high maintenance costs and high demand.
Yes, God is outdoors, too. God is everywhere. But each church contains the tabernacle, his chosen dwelling place among Man. And choosing to mark your marriage with that sacred place signifies that you are putting God front and center in your marriage.
Now, Catholic masses can take place outdoors, if there is an extraordinary issue. The Pope frequently has outdoor masses simply because the outdoor venues are larger. But that’s a special circumstance where a church is inadequate, not that the Pope doesn’t find churches to be beautiful and sacred in a special way. There are also certain venues which are designed to regularly permit outdoor services. But don’t be cheesed off if they don’t play along with being used as a loophole.
All I am saying is that there’s no explicit command given in the bible, by Jesus, or God the Father, nor through any of the writers inspired by God, that says weddings have t be performed inside a church. This is something decided by a pope for reasons other than that. Masses are held outside, communion is held outside, confessions can be taken anywhere. I’m just saying it’s denominational convention and tradition rather than required because Scripture requires it.
Also in the article it did point out there are some churches that will turn away those in their denomination from a wedding because they aren’t local members. Not sure what these folks are to do if they are trying to ‘play by the rules’ and be married inside a church.
The words you're looking for are "valid" (was it really the Mass?) and "licit" (was it offered in the proper manner, with the permission of the Bishop?)
To both, I would be inclined to say "yes". Outdoor Mass is not the norm, but it is permitted when appropriate.
Well, if you’re not Catholic, why are you taking issue with what Catholics do? The bible is almost devoid of any descriptions of rituals; does that mean the bible opposes rituals? Someone better tell St. James, because about 1,950 years ago he penned a very elaborate ritual called the Liturgy of St. James, which is still the liturgy of Antioch and Jerusalem... you know... the earliest headquarters of the apostles? Also, in Ethiopia and India. Go figure.
I grew up in the roman catholic church. I feel able to discuss such things.