Marriage is for the good of the individuals and of society as a whole. Thus, it is part of the order of God’s Creation for all humanity. However, between a baptised man and woman, the institution of marriage was raised by Christ the Lord to the level of a sacrament. That means it is an action of Jesus Himself and in marriage we receive His grace to live out our married and family lives.
The Purposes of Marriage
There are two purposes of marriage : the mutual welfare and support of the couple, and the procreation and upbringing of children. To be a valid marriage, the couple cannot deliberately exclude either of these purposes. Marriage is about love – you must be certain that is the man/woman whom you want to spend the rest of your life with. Marriage is also about openness to receiving children as a gift from God. The physical relationship between a couple is something beautiful and precious – but to be reserved for marriage so children can be brought up in a loving and stable home. The Church’s teaching about sexuality and fertility is based on self-control, generosity and mutual respect, it is life-enhancing and for our own happiness. Yet is often misunderstood and seldom taught as it ought to be. Useful links giving further information include :
The Properties of Marriage
- Unity :Marriage is between one man and one woman. A husband and wife have a legitimate claim to each other’s time and affection. There must be mutual trust and commitment. This cannot be an “open” relationship.
- Indissolubility :At the wedding ceremony you take vows “till death us do part.” Christ taught that marriage is for life. The Catholic Church upholds His teaching – as all Christian denominations did until recently. Where a valid marriage is celebrated, there is no divorce in the eyes of God.
These are difficult commitments to make. That is why we need the grace of the sacrament and the strength gained from living a Christian life. Yet a marriage is celebrated after proper prayer and preparation and in accordance with the teaching of the Church, is the most beautiful state of life, something which brings life and true joy to this world and contributes towards the eternal happiness of the whole family. A good Christian family is at the heart of all parish life.
Preparation for Marriage
Do not make commitments, for example booking a reception venue, until you have spoken to the priest and established that you are able to marry in church on the date you want.
- You must give the priest at least six months’ notice of your intention to marry.
- You need to complete certain documentation giving evidence that you are baptised and free to marry, ie neither of you are in a marriage which is still existing in the eyes of the Church.
- You need to attend a marriage preparation course – the priest can give you details.
- You need to comply with the civil requirements for a marriage. It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary certificate/licence from the local authority. The wedding cannot take place without this.
- The marriage will normally take place in the parish church of the bride or the groom. To marry at St. Peter’s at least one of you must be a Catholic connected to the parish.
Frequently asked questions
What if one of us has been married before? If either of you have been married before and your partner is still living, you should discuss the details with the priest. For a Church wedding both husband and wife must be free to marry – ie not be in a marriage that still exists in the eyes of the Church. However, it can be worth exploring whether there was, in fact, a valid marriage in the first place. (This is a thorough process that will take some time.)
What if you want to marry a non-Catholic or a non-Christian? In principle, this is not a problem. A Catholic should get married in a Catholic church unless premission is received to marry elsewhere. Obviously, the two of you must discuss your respective beliefs and how these will impact on your marriage and future family. As our faith is a precious gift, the Catholic partner promises to do all they can to continue practising their faith and that any children will be baptised and brought up as Catholics.
“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” (Matthew 19:6)