Frequently Asked Questions about Weddings
1. We do not regularly attend a Parish in the area, and we cannot find a Priest who will marry us. Being married in the church means a lot to us. What can we do?
There are several options that are open to you. Most Roman Catholic parishes will require that you have at least some connection to them before they allow you to marry there. If you are open to doing so, seek out a parish where you feel comfortable, meet with the priest and explain that you would like to join the parish and that you have plans to marry. If you now live in another area and are active in a parish there, ask your local priest to connect you to a parish near where you want to marry. If you still have parents or relatives living in this area who belong to a parish, ask them to speak to their priest about your request.
All Catholics who approach a priest for any sacrament, or help of any kind should be welcomed and listened to with kindness. If you do not feel that you are being welcomed or treated kindly by your local priest or parish, I assure you that I will treat you with kindness and acceptance – nonjudgmental.
2. One of us is (or both of us are) divorced and we do not wish to use the annulment process. Our priest has told us that we cannot be married in the Church. Can you help us?
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, other Catholic Churches (such as the Episcopal Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Independent Catholic Churches) teach that second marriages may be blessed. I believe that the sacred bond that is established by God in the Sacrament of Marriage is a living bond, capable of growth and maturity, requiring the care and sustenance of both parties to the marriage. Humanity has been redeemed in Christ Jesus, and the chance for New Life given to all.
Unfortunately, for many reasons--some good and some not so good--marriages sometimes fail. If God sends love into your life after a failed marriage - I believe that new love is a sign of hope, and gives you a new chance to journey through life with your beloved. I welcome divorced people who want to marry again as children of God, because you deserve another chance to enter into a loving and lifelong union. I will gladly bless your second marriage in the name of the Church, which is the People of God.
3. Do either or both of us have to be Catholic?
Neither party has to be of any particular religious persuasion, or even be an active member of a church. My main interest is in serving those who: appreciate the spiritual dimension of their relationship, and want to celebrate their wedding as a sacred and dignified ceremony.
4. We are living together, and the parish priest said that we could not be married in the Church unless we move apart for at least six months. Will you marry us if we continue to live together?
Today many couples cohabitate, that is, live together before marriage. They do so for a number of valid reasons, for example to save money on housing. The institutional Church prohibits cohabitation, as well as sex before marriage. Most dioceses and parishes require couples to move apart and avoid sexual contact for at least six months prior to their scheduled wedding. This can be a terrible burden on the couple, and from a moral perspective, push a couple into lying about living apart and their sexual abstinence, or sneaking around as if their love is something to be ashamed of. Although there is a biblical value to waiting until after marriage to begin to live together and share sexual intimacy, your conscience is always your supreme guide. A well-informed conscience has always been the Church’s standard for weighing personal moral issues.
I do not consider your living arrangements to be a stumbling block to celebrating your wedding, nor will I ever demand that you move apart before officiating at your marriage ceremony. We will certainly discuss in our meetings all that you have learned about one another, and about living as a couple under the same roof--as a part of our pre-marital counseling sessions. However, the conversation will be focused exclusively upon those insights and experiences that you have had, so that we can look ahead to the effect that marriage might have upon your already established home-life.
5. If you witness our marriage will the Church recognize our marriage? And will it be legal in the eyes of the state?
I am an ordained Roman Catholic priest. I left ministry in the institutional Church in 2000, but have been called back to ministry by CITI Ministries, a lay Catholic organization. Because of that call, I am a member of the Society of Christ’s Priesthood, and recognized as a Roman Catholic Priest in good standing with the International Council of Community Churches (ICCC). As a result, I am a legally designated “minister of religion” in every state in the nation, and therefore I am able to legally officiate at your wedding ceremony.
The International Council of Community Churches and all other Christian denominations will recognize your marriage as valid and licit (i.e., legal). Since I am no longer ministering as a cleric within the institutional and juridical Church of Rome, I lack jurisdiction from the Vatican to witness marriages on its behalf. Your wedding will be a ceremony in the Catholic tradition, according the rites of the Catholic Faith, officiated by a Catholic Priest, and performed in accordance with state law. It will be recognized as legal by the state. It will be recognized by the Catholic Church, understood here as the “People of God.” If you wish, you may seek canonical approval from the institutional Roman Catholic Church through a process called “convalidation.” Simply, a “renewal” of your vows with the blessing of the Church within a parish church building. The Church of Rome requires that its members follow the "form" of marriage as established by Canon Law. Couples I marry are not following the form established by Canon Law, so the Roman Catholic Church considers these marriages to be illicit, and will not recognize them as sacramental according to its Church law.
6. We want to be married in an outdoor ceremony but our priest will only officiate if it takes place in a service inside the church building. Will you perform an outdoor ceremony?
Yes, I will be more than happy to perform your ceremony at a reception hall, home, or other appropriate setting, inside or outside (this is also contrary to the Roman Catholic form of marriage set out in Canon Law). We can discuss the setting that you have in mind during our first meeting.
7. Will you perform ecumenical, interfaith, or non-denominational marriages?
Yes, as long as you ask God’s blessing on your marriage, I will be happy, and privileged, to help you. I frequently celebrate with rabbis and ministers of other Christian denominations and non-Christian religions.
8. How long does the typical ceremony last?
The typical ceremony runs 15-60 minutes depending on how you choose to personalize it. This is your ceremony, and you may create it as you wish. My role is to assist you with ideas and concrete suggestions, as well as inform you of the elements of the vows and celebration required by civil law so at maintain the validity of your marriage. There is plenty of room for readings—Biblical and non-Biblical—music, and symbolic acts, such as the lighting of a unity candle, lasos y arras, presentation of roses to parents. You may choose to have your marriage celebrated within the context of a Mass. In addition, you may include people who are special to you in roles such as a reading, music, or giving a blessing or a reflection during the ceremony.
9. Who is responsible for obtaining the marriage license?
The couple is solely responsible. Please bring the license to me at least one month prior to the wedding. It is my responsibility to complete the marriage license documentation and to obtain appropriate signatures on the wedding day from the bride, groom, and both of their witnesses. I will then return the signed documents to the municipality in which the ceremony is performed.
10. What is your stipend to officiate at our wedding ceremony and what services does this include?
Ordinarily I receive $600 to assist with marriages. This stipend or honorarium is inclusive of: pre-marital counseling services, preparation of your ceremony, officiating, and processing the marriage license. These services may vary based on the needs and desires of the couple. Some couples like to meet often, others need to plan with me from remote locations and meet infrequently. It's up to you how often we get together. On average, though, we will meet three times before the wedding, not including a rehearsal.
Some officiants provide a "cookie-cutter" ceremony. I spend a significant amount of time with you prior to the celebration of the wedding to get to know you both. We can then work together to craft a ceremony that reflects your unique relationship and beliefs. I will use our time together to support and counsel you both as you enter your married life. This is not a “test” to see if you are suited to one another. All that we will share will be for your benefit as a couple. So this is an opportunity for the two of you to sit down in a safe place and talk about the foundations of a life-long friendship and marriage. I will provide you with a workbook of resources for designing your ceremony.
11. What does it mean to 'rent' you to officiate at a wedding?
Despite the name of the CITI Webpage (rentapriest.com), Roman Catholic priests are not for rent. The stipend is merely intended to compensate for the time that I spend away from my family, and to defray from the expenses I incur in planning, preparing and celebrating your wedding ceremony. Sacraments cannot be sold or bought. Marriage, like all of the sacraments, is a free gift of grace established by Christ for the salvation and holiness of those who receive them. Jesus alone paid the price through His Suffering, Death and Resurrection. Nothing can ever truly compensate for the cost of ministry, other than the blessings it bestows on the couples I work with.
I want to make this very clear, this is not a fee for services rendered. This may sound like a fine point, but this is very important. Above all else, this is the ministry that Christ gave to me at my ordination, and so it is not, nor will it ever be a business.
12. What if this is more than I can afford?
Since this is a ministry, and we are discussing the celebration of a sacrament, no couple should ever feel that they cannot call me simply because of the cost. If the offering listed above is beyond your means please let me know, we’ll work something out. I will never turn you away because you cannot afford the 'customary' offering.
What is most important to me is that you have God’s blessing at your wedding, and that you feel His love in your hearts and in your marriage.
13. When do we pay you?
Unless we agree to another arrangement, please make a non-refundable deposit of $100 when you reserve your date on my calendar. This is important, since couples have, from time to time, disappeared after meeting with me once or twice and I have turned others away while reserving the date for them. The balance is due one month before your wedding.
14. What about Rehearsals?
Most wedding venues have professionals to choreograph your rehearsal and so you won't need me there. I am willing and available to consult with these professionals, and to speak with them by phone before, or on the day of the rehearsal at no cost. If you want me to be physically present at your rehearsal, I will make every effort to be with you. It is often very difficult for me to schedule weekday rehearsals, because of my own work schedule and family commitments. If I have to take the day off from work to assist with the rehearsal, there will be an additional charge, but only if I have to take a day off from work, or if travel to and from the rehearsal is extensive (greater than 20 miles).
15. Where’s Christ in all of this?
According to the Gospel of John, the very first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding feast in Cana. In changing water into wine, He protected a newly married couple from being embarrassed because they had run out of wine for their guests. In addition, Jesus frequently ate and drank with anyone and everyone, especially those whom others considered to be outcasts – tax collectors, sinners, and lepers. Jesus always reached out to those whom others rejected or ignored, to bring them the Good News that no one is beyond the love and the mercy of God. Of course, this placed Jesus at odds with the religious leadership of his day, and the institution that supported them. Jesus did not place value on the opinions of these religious critics, but sought out those whom God has called to His heavenly banquet.
Catholicism is larger than the institution that has evolved around it. Catholicism is more than its corporate structure. It's more than the bishops – though we ought to respect them. It is more than the Pope, though he has claim on our loving attention. It is more than the Vatican. Popes, bishops, and priests may be the ones with legal title to the buildings, but they are just people. They can be woefully mistaken, or even malfeasant, as just a glance at recent headlines reminds us.
We are the Church -- you and I – we are the People of God. The Church is the Spirit of Christ within our hearts that has formed the community of believers who support and nurture one another through prayer, the sacraments, and charitable words and deeds. We seek to promote the growth of all people in holiness of life. It is our journey together – and on that journey each one of us has the right to feel welcomed at the Lord’s Table, where we recognize Him in the breaking of bread. Each person has a right to receive God’s blessing in great moments of happiness and sadness – at our weddings and at the loss of our loved ones, the birth of new life, in our own sickness, and at the hour of death. Everyone has the right to receive help on the journey from those called to be helpers and guides in the way of the Gospel. Isn't that what the priesthood is all about, being a wise and helpful guide on the journey of the soul to God?
When the hierarchy loses its way – as it has from time to time throughout history – it is incumbent on the rest of us to claim our rights and assume our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ. If you are alienated from the institutional church, you need not be alienated from your Catholicism. The Church – though not its current leaders – welcomes you just as you are. It welcomes you in your second marriages, it welcomes you if you are gay, and it welcomes you if you are burdened down with some unspeakable guilt or shame. It welcomes you in His name, the one who has never ceased loving you – not even during the times when you felt farthest from Him.