Preparing for Marriage at St. Elizabeth
Preparing for marriage is a very exciting time for a couple. Our parish family and pastoral team are joyful alongside you and look forward to accompanying you and helping you prepare.
Our pastor Father Alfred looks forward to meeting with you; Our Deacon Michael Halbrook & his wife Suzanne (and their 4 boys!) look forward to journeying with you in preparation. Other couples in our parish and our diocese look forward to helping you grow in your understanding of marriage and your readiness for it.
Please submit the form below to start the conversation, or call the parish office, at least 6 months before your desired wedding date to begin discussion, preparation, and scheduling.
FAQ About Getting Married in the Catholic Church
1. What does the term “married in the Church” mean:
It means that the Catholic has married according to the norms of the Catholic Church. It means more than getting married in a church building; it means getting married before a priest or deacon and two witnesses.
2. How does a person have a valid, or true, marriage?
A valid, or true, marriage means a marriage that takes place according to the norms of law. The Catholic Church says that a true, or valid, marriage involving a Catholic party has to take place before a priest or deacon (or other person designated by the bishop) and two witnesses. The Catholic Church allows that others, non-Catholic, may enter into a true or valid marriage by marrying according to the laws of the civil jurisdiction.
3. How does a person have a sacramental marriage?
The Church considers any valid or true marriage between two baptized persons a sacramental marriage.
4. Is every Catholic wedding a sacrament?
No, but we presume that every Catholic wedding makes a valid marriage. For a sacramental marriage, both parties must have received the sacrament of baptism. Without having received baptism, a person cannot receive any of the other sacraments. Every valid marriage between two baptized people is a sacramental marriage. Marriage is the only sacrament in which the couple are the actual ministers. The priest or deacon presides and serves as an official witness to the sacrament.
5. We want to marry in the Catholic Church. What preparation is required?
a. For the ceremony, we require that the couple make their vows before a priest or deacon and two witnesses. The pastor may allow a catholic to marry a baptized Christian. The bishop alone can allow a Catholic to marry a non-baptized person. In matters of permission, the bishop usually takes the advice of the priest or deacon preparing the couple for marriage.
b. For the marriage, the persons seeking marriage must be free from any other marriage bond or impediment (The Church presumes the validity of any marriage ceremony until the Church determines the contrary). The Church never grants dispensations so that siblings and first cousins can marry each other (Canon 1078.3).
6. Why does it take six months for a person to marry in a Catholic Church?
We want the engaged couple ready for marriage. The pastor or deacon preparing the couple for marriage wants to know the couple as couple even though he may already know one or both individually. The church wants the couple to consider many aspects of life that they may encounter in marriage. In marriage, they will share living together, combined finances, shared children and ownership of properties. The pre-marriage inventory, FOCCUS, invites the engaged couple to look at these and other aspects of married life. Pre-marriage workshops help couples focus to other aspects of married life. Natural Family Planning enables a couple to appreciate each other and their future children better. The six-month period gives the couple opportunity to pray together and talk about God in their lives.
7. I got married in a Protestant Church, how can I have my marriage recognized by the Catholic Church?
a. Two baptized non-Catholics already have a sacramental marriage because the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of their marriage.
b. For a Catholic who should have married in the Catholic form, the couple have to go through the process leading to a Catholic wedding. In the pre-marriage counseling, the person preparing the couple for marriage does not have to take the person through all the same programs for couples who have never married before, but the priest or deacon must satisfy himself about the readiness of the couple for marriage. He gets the required dispensations and permissions and presides at the wedding. Presto! Catholic wedding.
8. I am Catholic but my fiancée is not. He/she has been baptized in another Church. What do we need to do to marry in the Catholic Church?
The couple has to abide by the same laws that the Catholic party has to. In addition, the Catholic party must promise to remain Catholic and do his or her best to raise their children in the Catholic faith. The marriage should take place in church, but not at a Mass. The priest or deacon who prepares the couple needs to help secure the pastor’s permission for them to marry each other.
9. I am Catholic but my fiancée is not. He/she has not been baptized. What do we need to do to marry in the Catholic Church?
The couple has to abide by the same laws that the Catholic party has to. In addition, the Catholic party must promise to remain Catholic and do his or her best to raise their children in the Catholic faith. The bishop must grant a dispensation that enables the Catholic party to marry the non-baptized party. The marriage should take place, not at a Mass, but in a church or some other suitable place according to the permission given by the bishop. The priest or deacon who prepares the couple needs to petition the bishop on behalf of the couple.
10. What if we want to marry in a non-Catholic Church?
A Catholic who wants to marry in a non-Catholic church, besides meeting all the conditions for a Catholic marriage, must have the bishop’s permission to get married in a place other than a Catholic Church. Usually this happens when the non-Catholic party has good reasons for wanting to get married in her or his own church. Usually this happens when the couple wants the non-Catholic minister to receive the vows and celebrate their marriage. This, however, requires the permission and a dispensation from the bishop of the diocese.
11. Can a Protestant minister do Catholic weddings?
The ultimate authority for marriage in the Church rests with the bishop of the diocese. He may at times allow someone other than a priest of deacon to officiate at a Catholic wedding. Usually he does this when a Catholic marries a person of a different denomination. Then, at the recommendation of the pastor of the Catholic party, the bishop may allow a non-catholic person to officiate at the wedding.
This only happens because the priest or the one who officiates at the wedding only acts as the official witness: the bride and the groom actually serve as ministers of marriage to each other.
12. We want an outdoor marriage ceremony. Can I ask a priest to preside?
You can certainly ask a priest, but he will probably have to say no. In our diocese, our bishop does not give permission for couples to marry in outdoor ceremonies or ceremonies in other secular locations. See also Canon 1118.
13. We want to choose our readings and music for the Mass or wedding ceremony. Are there guidelines for doing that?
We do have guidelines for readings and music. We have a large arrangement of readings for weddings. The couple should pick from these readings. We require hymns at weddings. We want to avoid the theatrical, arias from operas and wedding marches such as the one from Aida, which precedes Aida’s wedding to a pagan deity.
14. What is the significance of the Unity Candle?
Answer: The use of the Unity Candle does not fall into the scope of the Catholic ceremony. It seems to come from an Eastern European context. In the Catholic Church, candles represent the light of Christ. Unity candles are usually not permitted in weddings in our church, but you really want to use one, you might consider lighting the unity candle when you arrive at your reception.
16. One of us has been married before and is divorced. The ex-spouse is still living. What do we need to do to have a Catholic wedding?
We need to ascertain the freedom of the married person to marry. The Church presumes all marriages valid until proven otherwise. These cases fall into several categories:
a. A Catholic has married before, but not before a priest (or other official witness designated by the bishop) and two other witnesses (= the proper form of the sacrament of marriage): We only need prove the existence of the marriage ceremony and the baptismal certificate from the Catholic Church to prove it.
b. One or other or both parties has or have living ex-spouses in situations different from #a above: The Church will look at each one individually to see if the marriages in question had all the elements needed for a marriage (monogamy, love, desire for children, fidelity to each other). These cases usually take at least a year to complete
17. Why can’t divorced people get married in the Catholic Church or get married again? Why doesn’t divorce end your marriage so that you can marry someone else if you want to?
A civil divorce releases the husband and wife from legal responsibilities to each other, but it does not affect the natural bond uniting husband and wife. The intimate bond of marriage continues to exist. Only death or a decree of the Church can break the bond of marriage.
18. What is an annulment?
The Church presumes that every marriage ceremony makes a valid marriage. A civil divorce does not change this inherent, natural bond established by God in the beginning when he gave the human race the institution of marriage. Only death or a decree of the Church can break the bond.
A Declaration of Nulity (annulment) is a decree that a marriage lacked the necessary ingredients for a valid and stable bond. It states that what had all the appearances of a marriage lacked some essential quality or qualities for a true and lasting marriage. For instance, if one of the partners to the marriage could not give consent to a marriage until death in mutual and lasting fidelity, the marriage would lack a necessary component for marriage. The Church’s Tribunal (the law court of the Church) would declare such a marriage as null and void in the eyes of God and of the Church.
19. How do you get an annulment? How long does it take to get an annulment?
Most ordained ministers of the Church, deacons and priests, can help people through the process of annulment. Some lay people have also received this training. If you think you have grounds for an annulment or want to look into an annulment, talk to your pastor. At St. Elizabeth, both Father Alfred and Deacon Michael are certified to serve as Advocates before our diocesan Tribunal for annulment cases. If you meet with one of them and they believe you may be able to proceed with an annulment case, they will work with you to prepare the information and forward it to the Tribunal office. There, canon lawyers will check it over. If they accept it, they say, in effect, that they think that they can prosecute the case and show proof that the marriage is not valid and that the couple has freedom to marry.
20. How old do you have to be to get married?
The absolute youngest age at which a person can marry under Canon Law is based on traditions in other parts of the world: men at 16 years of age and women at 14 years of age. Canon Law allows national conferences of bishops, however, to specify higher minimum ages for marriage. In the United States, the minimum age has been set at 16, or the age required by the local civil authority, whichever is higher. Those marrying at younger ages bring their own unique pastoral challenges in working with them and their parents to ensure they fully understand the rights and obligations of marriage and are properly prepared. Please contact our pastor to discuss if you have any questions.