THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY
Marriage is very special, and a significant and wonderful celebration. Marriage in the Catholic Church is a very special event: it is not just about the wedding day, but about a whole lifetime of love, fidelity and commitment.
Christian Marriage - the basics
In the Roman Catholic Church, we believe that marriage is a state of life ordained by Almighty God, which was blessed by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church. This means that marriage has blessings and gifts, as well as duties and obligations. The most important aspects of the Roman Catholic understanding of marriage are that it is:
• FOR LIFE: it is our faith that a valid marriage cannot be ended. We do not believe in divorce.
• EXCLUSIVE: a couple give themselves to each other and to no one else.
• OPEN TO THE GIFT OF CHILDREN: marriage should not be “closed” in on a couple, but should be the place where the family is born.
If you wish to be married in the Roman Catholic Church, there are many things to be done. The first and most basic, however, is to ensure that both members of the relationship agree with all three of these statements (this includes any non-Catholic partner). If you have any doubts about these things, then you should seriously reflect on whether it is in fact a Catholic marriage that you are looking for. You can always talk to a priest or deacon about this.
Who can be married in the Catholic Church?
Not everyone can be married in the Church: these are the basic conditions -
• at least one person must be a full, practicing, member of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. baptised, confirmed and able to receive Holy Communion);
• at least one party must live within the boundaries of the Parish where they seek to be married;
• neither party has been through any sort of marriage ceremony before (unless the previous marriage was ended by the death of a partner). If you have questions about the validity of a previous marriage, please talk to your priest or deacon.
What do we do now?
If you are happy with all these details, the next step is to arrange an appointment with your Parish Priest. At the first meeting, the minister will explain all the procedures for celebrating marriage in the Church. It will also need to be established that you are free to marry in the Church (it would be useful for you to bring birth and baptism certificates to this first meeting, if possible). Please do not make any other bookings until you have confirmed a date for your wedding with the Church.
After a date has been booked, you will need to complete a Marriage Preparation Course. Such courses, which are obligatory, will look at the Catholic teaching about marriage, relationships, communications, the wedding ceremony and other topics. You will also meet with the minister who will celebrate the ceremony at least six times to prepare all the details. During this time of preparation, it would be good to make coming to Sunday Mass together a part of your preparation for marriage: getting to know God and the Church better together will deepen and enrich your wedding!
In the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton the Bishop requires that a minimum of twelve month’s notice before a wedding is given - so you would not be able to be married until at least twelve months after this first appointment (whether the marriage is taking place at one of the Parish churches, another church in the diocese or in a church outside of the diocese). Please note that exceptions can only be made to this rule with the permission of the Bishop. Marriages are not celebrated in the East Worthing Parish during the seasons of Advent or Lent.
The East Worthing Parish welcomes couples from the Parish who would like to be prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage and the clergy are here to help you in whatever way they are able.
If either of you has had any sort of marriage before you will need to contact the Parish Priest much earlier so that nothing stands in the way of you being prepared.
Does my non-Catholic partner have to change religion?
Not at all: the only request made of a non-Catholic is that they are in agreement with the Church’s understanding of marriage, and that they will not interfere with the Catholic party’s practice of their faith or upbringing of any children.
How much does it cost?
Though the Catholic Church makes no charge for the celebration of a wedding it is customary to make a reasonable donation (it is recommended that you look at what other aspects of the wedding have cost e.g. flowers, cars, photography etc. and then to treat the Church accordingly). You will need to pay Civil Fees to register your marriage, but everything else is a donation.
How much say do we have in the Service?
The Rites of the Roman Catholic Church are followed, so much of the ceremony is fixed, but the choice of Bible Readings, Hymns and some other details will be discussed with the couple.
What sort of music can we have?
Since your wedding in the Catholic Church will be a religious ceremony, only religious music of a Christian character is allowed in the Church - this does not to stop you having your favourite songs played at the Wedding Reception!
Can we have the ceremony Videoed/Photographed?
Normally yes, though many churches will have restrictions about what can and cannot be done. You should consult with the minister before making any bookings with professional Videographers or Photographers.
From the Catechism
C.C.C. 1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses, but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.
C.C.C. 1624 The various liturgies abound in prayers of blessing and epiclesis asking God’s grace and blessing on the new couple, especially the bride. In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit is the seal of their covenant, and is the ever available source of their love and their strength to renew their fidelity.
C.C.C. 1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; “to be free” means: - not being under constraint; - not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.
C.C.C. 1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that “makes the marriage.” If consent is lacking then there is no marriage.
C.C.C. 1627 The consent consists in a “human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other:” “I take you to be my wife” – “I take you to be my husband.” This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfilment in the two “becoming one flesh.”
C.C.C. 1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking then the marriage is invalid.
An Application Brochure for the Worthing Deanery Marriage Preparation Programme can be downloaded from the 'Download' section of the website.