Catholic Wedding

Wedding Ceremony - Roman Catholic

A Catholic Wedding ceremony in a Roman Catholic Church may include the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This could create some confusion for the non-Catholic guests. Perhaps the priest will need to explain clearly to the guests what is expected of them as he proceeds through the Catholic wedding ceremony.

Some people may feel a little intimidated or embarrassed if they sit or stand at the wrong times. Also, they do need to know they are not expected to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion if they are not Roman Catholics.

In the Catholic church, receiving Communion is only for any Catholic who has received the sacrament of Eucharist (known as First Holy Communion).

At a Catholic wedding ceremony in a Roman Catholic church, usually, the ushers will indicate, row by row, for guests to come forward to receive communion. Simply remain in your seat if you are not Catholic or if you are Catholic and will not be participating.

It is interesting to note that in most other Christian denominations, Communion is not included in the wedding ceremony; but if it is, all are usually welcome to participate (regardless of their religious affiliation or status.)

Catholics usually kneel to pray. You are not required to kneel, and may opt to remain seated during prayer.

If the ceremony is a Nuptial Mass, it may include the priest calling for the "Sign of Peace", during which the guests turn to those near them, shake hands and say "Peace be with you" or some similar greeting.

More information and background on Catholic Weddings:

One of the first questions that many Catholic brides and grooms have is, "Where can a Catholic wedding take place?" Throughout the years, there have been many different opinions and ideas, and even recently, after the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), in the 1960's, there were many changes to the laws of the Catholic Church on the matter.

Prior to Vatican II, weddings where a Catholic was involved always had to take place on church property, but not always in the church building itself, unless you had proper dispensations (relaxations of the law). In fact, Catholics were not even permitted to attend the weddings of non-Catholics, as they weren't supposed to set foot into non-Catholic churches!

After Vatican II, the rules began to "soften" and things began to change, and there were Catholic weddings held everywhere - from on top of bridges to within Cathedrals. The excesses became too extreme and so a new Code of Canon Law came into being in 1983, and the current norms for where marriages take place were established.

Currently, where you can be married depends on the baptismal status of the two people getting married.

1) Catholic marrying a Catholic - if it is the wedding of two Catholics, then the wedding can take place in the territorial parish church (the parish in which they actually physically reside, usually the closest parish church to their place of residence) of the bride or the groom. If the parties are from different Catholic Churches (Roman and Eastern, say), then the wedding usually takes place in the parish of the bride. A wedding between two Catholics can take place nowhere other than in a Catholic parish church. It can also take place in any other Catholic parish as long as permission has been granted by the parish priest of either the bride or the groom.

2) Catholic marrying a baptized person - if the Catholic is marrying someone who is baptized, the wedding can take place in one of two places. The wedding can either take place in the territorial parish church of the Catholic party, or in the church of the non-Catholic party. In order to have the wedding in the church of the non-Catholic party, a dispensation from canonical form must be granted. This dispensation can be requested by the parish priest of the Catholic party. In such a situation, the wedding would be recognized as creating a valid, sacramental marriage, even though it did not take place in a Catholic Church. The non-Catholic minister would preside over the ceremony and the Catholic priest or deacon could be there to say a prayer or a blessing, but he would not officiate at the vows.

3) Catholic marrying a non-baptized person - if the Catholic is marrying someone who is not baptized, the wedding can take place in one of three places. The wedding can take place in the territorial parish church of the Catholic party, in the church/temple of the non-baptized party, or in "another suitable place." The term "another suitable location" is defined in each diocese by the bishop. It is not consistent around the country or the world. In some dioceses, weddings between a Catholic and a Jewish person, for example, can take place in a hotel or country club, etc. In other dioceses, it can only take place in a temple or Catholic Church.

If you are in this situation, you need to contact the local chancery (diocesan head office) in your diocese to know exactly how they define "another suitable location." In order to have the wedding in the church/temple of the non-baptized party or in "another suitable location," a dispensation from canonical form must be granted. This dispensation can be requested by the parish priest of the Catholic party. In such a situation, the wedding would be recognized as creating a valid, good and natural marriage, even though it did not take place in a Catholic Church. The non-Catholic minister/rabbi/justice-of-the-peace would preside over the ceremony and the Catholic priest or deacon could be there to say a prayer or a blessing, but he would not officiate at the vows.

If you have further questions about where you may have your Catholic wedding, be sure to ask your Catholic priest or deacon or make a phone call to the Chancellor of your diocese. There may be locations such as chapels, oratories or other sacred spaces that may be available for weddings involving at least one Catholic. Just know that these other spaces may involve you finding your own Catholic priest/deacon to officiate at the ceremony.

More on weddings:

Japanese Wedding Ceremony

Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Military Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremony - Australia

Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Invitation Etiquette

You may also be interested in...

Engagement Party Etiquette

Engagement Ring Etiquette

Bridal Shower Etiquette

Engagement Etiquette

Broken Engagement Etiquette

Have your say in our Interactive Forum Catholic Wedding or our Rage Page.

Back to our A to Z guide