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Where can a Catholic Wedding be held? - 22nd February 2015
Catholic priests are often asked if they will travel to an outdoor location to perform a wedding. Bridal magazines promote outdoor weddings and “destination” celebrations seem to be the current trend for the wedding industry.
A couple’s desire for an outdoor wedding is often soundly grounded. They have discovered the link among transcendental experiences like love, beauty, unity and eternity. They realise that God is eternal and love is eternal.
Others make the request for practical reasons such as the convenience of holding the wedding ceremony and reception in one venue, or because most of their friends will feel uncomfortable in a church.
The Code of Canon Law presumes that a Catholic wedding will take place inside a Catholic church but this rule does not hold much sway with couples dreaming of a wedding on beach or mountaintop.
A priest friend often regales me with stories of problems he has encountered when conducting outdoor weddings, including gusts of wind blowing away the bridal veil, the invasion of a swarm of bees and sudden downpours drenching everyone to the skin.
But there are more weighty reasons than the possibility of rain for having wedding in a church.
The church is the place where the Community gathers for Eucharist and welcomes new members in the sacraments of initiation, so it is most fitting that it is also the place where the Community witnesses the sacrament of marriage.
Holding weddings in a church is a reminder that this is the celebration of a sacrament, that husband and wife are blessed and sustained throughout their marriage by the presence and love of God.
The Church expects the baptised to marry in the sacred place which we call the house of God because the sacredness of the place points to the sacredness of the bond that is sealed in marriage. This is not about being legalistic or restrictive, but is an invitation to couples to explore more deeply and to celebrate more joyfully the sacredness of their relationship of love and commitment.
The act of stepping through the door of the church for a marriage ceremony offers family, friends and the couple a more tangible sense of entering into something sacred than an outdoor setting can provide. Through sacred music and readings from scripture, all present are invited to pray and celebrate with the couple.
There are exceptional circumstances where permission might be granted for two baptised Catholics to be married in a place other than a church. An example would be if the bride’s mother is bed-ridden and could not attend the wedding if it were celebrated in a sacred place.
In some situations, for example where a Catholic is marrying a Christian from another tradition, the local bishop may give permission for the wedding to take place in a church of that tradition with the minister of that Community officiating. A Catholic priest may also be present and take part in the ceremony.
When a couple meets with the priest or deacon who is to be the celebrant at their marriage, he will be happy to discuss with them the matter of the appropriate place for holding the wedding ceremony.