Does a catholic wedding have to be in a church?

catholic church
Jun 05 2014

Does a catholic wedding have to be in a church?

If you read online about catholic wedding requirements, you will discover many articles written on whether people can have an outdoor catholic wedding,  questions like “Does a catholic wedding have to be in a church?”, “Can you have a catholic wedding outside of a church?” or “Can you have a catholic wedding outside?” are pretty common.  However, the responses to the questions sometimes are at best incomplete or at worst false.

The short answer is yes, but your bishop has to approve it.  I would encourage everyone to read the Canon law on the subject,  specifically No. 1118 which reads:

Can.  1118 §1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.

§2. The local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.

§3. A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.

The problem is that many bishops don’t approve of such marriages.  As a result, the priests in these local parishes cannot perform catholic weddings outside the Church.

In sum, to have a catholic wedding outdoor or outside the Catholic Church, your  local priest has to petition the bishop on your behalf for a “Dispensation from Canonical Form,” meaning permission for you to be married outside of the Catholic Church.

Some priests may already know about the bishop’s position on the subject.   In other words,  you may get it or not depending on the reason for not having the marriage in the Church or the bishop.   There is an interesting article by Father William Saunders about how he was able to perform a wedding outside the catholic church.  I would encourage anyone to read it to find out what he had to do.  You can read the article here.


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