Interfaith Weddings

Catholic Marrying Unbaptized Agnostic/Atheist

I am a confirmed Catholic. While I may not be the most religious person, I do view the church as a large part of my childhood and family tradition. FI was never baptized and would check none or leave blank if he had to choose a religion. He also told me that he believes you cannot prove that there is or isn't a higher power and leans towards atheism. His family background is mainline Protestant (they are no longer affiliated with any particular denomination or congregation) and it sounds like he only attended church with his mother at Christmastime.

We did meet with a priest at my family parish last year and was told to get back in contact about a year before the wedding. We postponed until Spring 2022 and I haven't attended Mass since the pandemic began. FI has expressed discontent with having to do marriage preparation classes and/or workshops – even if we had the option to do them online. He also doesn't like how his mother would have to be interviewed. I assume this is just to prove that he's never been married before and is ready for a lifetime commitment, but am not sure what she would be asked. One aspect he did not have a problem with is meeting with the priest a few times before we were married and showing that we are a compatible couple. He was also relieved that he did not have to be baptized as an adult, convert or join the parish.

We also considered having a Protestant minister officiate, but it feels impersonal and if we are not going to have a Catholic wedding, I would rather just have a civil ceremony and ask his close family member to officiate. She was an influential part of his childhood and it was important that we received her blessing when we announced our engagement. Whether or not we marry in the church, I would still like to have any future child(ren) we may have baptized and FI has agreed to this. If he is unwilling to have a Catholic wedding, I doubt he would be open to a convalidation after a civil marriage.

I have a few questions for any Catholic brides (or non-Catholic brides who may have dealt with similar interfaith or intercultural issues) who would like to chime in. If you did marry in the church and your FI was unbaptized and/or nonreligious, how did you explain to him why you wanted a religious wedding? I know that in some families, parents put a lot of pressure on their children to marry in the church, so was that also a factor? Aside from Pre-Cana, what else was required? One on one interviews with the priest, character witnesses, etc. How did your FI handle prayers and other participatory parts of the ceremony (or even marriage preparation) that he does not believe in? My FI refuses to bow or kneel in a church and I hope this wouldn't be a hindrance in a wedding outside of Mass. I also am worried that he may put in his two cents when it comes to the church's teachings on birth control, etc. and is there a way for us to do Pre-Cana without him feeling left out or offended as someone not raised Catholic? Does he just have to sit quietly?

If you are Catholic and did not marry in the church, were there any Christian traditions that you still included in your ceremony? How did you explain to family your decision not to have a Catholic wedding? Was there a way to compromise? What were the religious repercussions? Are you not allowed to take communion if you attend Mass? I know that those who remarry without an annulment are not supposed to take communion, but am unsure when a Catholic is only married once and civilly. If you did have your marriage convalidated, did you have to attend Pre-Cana style classes or was it a simpler process with the understanding that you two have already been legally married for a while? Are you still able to have your child(ren) baptized (even if the church views them as illegitimate) and belong to a parish? And, if you did do this, did the non-Catholic parent have to attend meetings for the child(ren) to be baptized? Would I have more autonomy as a future Catholic parent if the church considers me unmarried (ex: FI could simply attend his future son or daughter’s baptism without having to do any parental preparation)?

Re: Catholic Marrying Unbaptized Agnostic/Atheist

  • I am not Catholic, I was raised Protestant (Lutheran) so I can't answer some of your questions.  But my mom was raised Catholic and I seriously dated a guy who was Catholic, so I am fairly familiar with the differences between the those two Christian sects.

    Communion is actually one of the big differences.  In Catholic and East Orthodox faiths, they believe that the wine and the host literally become the blood and body of Christ.  In Protestant faiths, it is considered symbolic.  Because of this, in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, you have to belong to one of those sects to take Communion.  If you are Protestant/another religion/atheist/etc., you are not supposed to take Communion in those churches.  Though usually those people can go up to get a blessing (if they want to).  I can't speak for all Protestant churches but, in the one I grew up in, anyone who believes in the Trinity can take Communion.

    Pardon me for my personal tangent, but I can't help myself to tell this story every time the subject comes up because it still irritates me all these years later.  I went to Catholic Mass about once a month with the b/f (mentioned above) and his mom.  

    I never went up to take Communion, which really offended his mother.  I explained to her, SO.MANY.TIMES....until I was blue in the face...that it wasn't ME.  I have no issues at all with taking Communion in a Catholic church.  However, I know that I am not supposed to take Communion, per Catholic church rules and beliefs.  That I was trying to be RESPECTFUL of THEIR TENETS.  I still to this day don't know if she didn't believe me or didn't understand what I was saying.  But she always had such a side-eye, offended attitude about it.

    I don't know how that would work for a Catholic Mass wedding.  But I can't imagine your FI would be allowed to take Communion.

    That doesn't make sense to me either to have a Protestant minister officiate.  Because your FI isn't Protestant in his faith, either.  He's actually not Christian at all.  Which is fine! I'm not saying that like it is a bad thing.  On a different note for something you mentioned, there isn't any kneeling in Protestant churches.  People usually do bow their head in prayer.  But they don't have to.

    My own H is an atheist.  We didn't get married in a church, but did have the Lutheran minister who is the officiant at the church I grew up in handle our ceremony.  He knew my H was an atheist, but was not concerned about it.  I asked my H if he was okay with prayers and mentions of God during the ceremony and he said he was.  The minister had wanted to meet with us over Zoom once at some time before the ceremony.  My H was a little uncomfortable with that, but agreed to it.  I assured him that, while I appreciated him being okay with prayers and mentions of God happening during the ceremony, that he never needed to pretend to be something he wasn't.  As it turned out, the timing never worked out, and we never had a Zoom call with the minister.

    Obviously I can't speak for your FI.  But even for someone like myself who is Christian and with a strong religious upbringing, if I had married someone Catholic and needed to go to pre-Cana classes, I would absolutely refuse to allow the priest to speak to either one of my parents.  Because I would personally find it ridiculous, unnecessary, and insulting.  And, while I wouldn't go out of my way to make an uproar, I also wouldn't silently condone things I don't agree with.  And there are definitely some things in the Catholic beliefs that I am diametrically opposed to.
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  • I'm a Christian, not Catholic, engaged to an agnostic who was sprinkled Anglican as an infant but as an adult leans spiritual with a bit of a Buddhist bent (yes we are a strange couple...but we're also strange individuals). I can't speak for any of the specifically Catholic things, like their teachings on who may or may not take Communion (my fiancé does not, though he does bow his head during prayers and sings along when we sing in church), Pre-Cana, or future children (we don't want kids and are speaking to doctors about surgical sterilization, because I am serious about not getting pregnant, but opposition to birth control around here seems to be a personal fringe belief and is not a teaching of the church; most people just respond "at least you already know you don't want kids rather than having them and then deciding you don't want them!").

    We're having a church wedding officiated by my preacher, because having a church wedding is important to me (fiancé just cares we get married; he'd be content with a court registrar but wants me to be happy - my church would recognize a civil marriage, but I personally want to be married in church). Also, it's cheap: because I'm a member, they're only charging a $50 cleaning fee and $50 for the sound booth guy to run audio for us! (I honestly don't think non-members would get charged much more; even doubled or tripled, it would still be far less than most venue rentals) The building is very nice; a few flowers and light strings and it'll look just like a fancy wedding that would've cost ten times as much if we'd rented a "professional wedding venue" instead of using the church building (and we don't have to rush because there's not another wedding scheduled three hours after us, so we don't need to vacate the space so they can tear down our decorations and put up their own).

    We did do a bit of premarital counselling, with two preachers (the one officiating and a second who is a guest and backup officiant if the first has an emergency on that day). This wasn't required by the church (in the words of one preacher, married forty years, "You know how much premarital counseling we had? Zero"), but I wanted to do it and he agreed. Fiancé found it a little overwhelming, but that's as much because he doesn't like talking about himself as specifically being talking to a preacher; he would've been equally uncomfortable with a secular counselor. Neither one asked to speak to his parents (they did ask about them, if they're still living and married to each other and what his family life was like growing up, but nobody wanted to make a long-distance call to his mum).

    I've decided we're using the Church of England wedding vows, both because they're useful and familiar to everyone ("for better or worse, richer or poorer" etc.) and to honor his grandmother who does still attend regularly (my own denomination doesn't have set wedding vows and leaves it up to the couple and minister to decide, and my preacher said "write something for me and I'll read it, or tell me you don't want to and I'll compose something"). I've also told him that he can have his grandmother's church call banns; while it's not legally required for American weddings, it's a nice tradition and is basically just putting people on notice that her grandson is getting married.

    I'm trying to make sure the sermon isn't too preachy, just touching on God creating Eve specifically to be Adam's companion, because I personally love the creation presented in Genesis and fiancé certainly likes the sentiment of being made for each other even if he views the story as more allegorical. This is both for the comfort of less religious members of his family and because even I don't like listening to exceptionally long speeches, even if I agree with the contents of them (I don't want to stand there like a stump while the preacher pontificates for an hour; my legs will go out!).

    I can't speak to Catholic-specific things, like you being considered "unmarried" when you've had a civil wedding or kids from that marriage being "illegitimate" because the civil wedding wasn't recognized; that strikes me as very odd, since we view courthouse elopements every bit as real and binding as full church wedding ceremonies (certain people may whisper that they think elopements are more likely to fail - you sometimes get that same sentiment applied even by secular people who think you should've splurged on the big fancy vineyard wedding - but nobody says the wedding didn't count). But an interfaith wedding is certainly doable, with a scale ranging from "typical church wedding but the groom happens not to be a member" all the way to "public venue wedding with just a touch of church traditions" (in fact, most public venue weddings already have a smattering of church traditions, even if the two people involved are atheists, because a lot of "wedding traditions" come from religion and it's difficult to completely cut them out and still have it feel like a wedding).
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