Marriage is more than just a legal contract or a social arrangement. Catholics believe that marriage was ‘instituted’ by God. Most sacraments are celebrated by a priest or bishop, but in marriage the couple themselves mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony through their consent (‘I take you to be my husband/wife,’ ‘I do’). The priest receives this consent and gives the blessing of the Church. The giving of consent results in the marriage bond, which is permanent and irrevocable. ‘What God has joined together let no man put asunder.’ 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.
If you plan to get married:
- Do not make any bookings until you have spoken to a priest.
- You should see your parish priest even if you intend to get married elsewhere. It is your local church that normally completes the paperwork.
- You should see the priest at least six months’ before your preferred date so that paperwork and preparation can be completed.
- You need to provide some documentation – a Catholic, for example, needs to supply a new copy of the baptism certificate (made within six months of the wedding), confirmation certificate and a sworn affidavit to show that you free to marry. The priest will explain what is needed.
- If one of you has been married before, then this will need to be investigated before you can proceed – this can take time.
- If a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic there should be no problem, although the paperwork is slightly more involved. A Catholic should get married in a Catholic church unless permission is received to marry elsewhere. As our faith is a precious gift, the Catholic partner promises to do all they can within the unity of the marriage to continue practising their faith and that any children will be brought up as Catholics.
- You need to attend a marriage preparation course – the priest will give you details.
- You need to comply with the civil requirements for marriage. It is your responsibility to obtain the necessary certificate/licence from the local authority. The wedding cannot take place without this.