Wedding Vows & Ceremony Discussions

Non-religious ceremony but still recognized by the Catholic Church?

Does anyone have any advice or experience with this issue? My fiance was raised Catholic and his family is very religious. However, he is no longer Catholic, and neither of us is religious at all. I am not converting to Catholicism and we are not going to be get married in a church. We want the ceremony to be secular and avoid any religious language.

The problem is that I care about my fiance's family and I would like to give them the peace of mind that our marriage will have some kind of official recognition or stamp of approval by the Catholic church, if possible. We will not be able to give them a full Catholic ceremony, because it is not true to us or our beliefs. However, I heard that a priest might be able to be a guest and witness the ceremony and make it official that way. Does anyone know if this is true?

We have also discussed having a separate ceremony a few weeks later for family only in a Catholic church with a Catholic ceremony, but I don't think this idea is super appealing to his family.

Does anyone know of a priest or a way I can find a priest who might be open to giving us a "stamp of approval" in either of these scenarios? If it's too unrealistic, then that's OK. But if it is possible, then I would like to make it work somehow. Thanks!

Re: Non-religious ceremony but still recognized by the Catholic Church?

  • Nope, not possible. The only way for a Catholic's marriage to be valid in the Church's eyes is to have a Catholic ceremony (this can be a full Mass, or a shorter ceremony without Communion). This means going through marriage prep with the Church as well, it's more than just the ceremony.

    The Church does have a process to grant special exemptions to the requirement to be married in the Church, but these dispensations are only given in very very special circumstances.

    H and I were both raised in strict Catholic households, went to Catholic school, etc and are now atheists. Our families were not pleased that we didn't even include religious language in our ceremony, let alone not getting married in the Church. Our families got over it though-they understood that we were marrying in a way that was true to our beliefs. Your marriage ceremony needs to reflect you and your FI's beliefs alone-don't include another religion to pacify family. How can they be happy watching you go through the motions for something neither of you believe?

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    Liatris2010
  • Daria is (mostly) right. You could get something called convalidation, which is where the church recognizes a marriage that has already taken place. But this also takes effort, and you have to agree to abide by the church's rules and go through pre-Cana and all of that.

    In short, if you're not religious, don't make a farce of the Catholic faith and those of us who are pracitising Catholics by trying to do something to please his family. If you're old enough to get married, you're old enough to have the courage of your (lack of) convictions and say to his family, "We're not religious, so we're not having a religious ceremony. Thanks for respecting our wishes."

    Also, no priest is going to do a "separate ceremony" a few weeks later just to appease your FI's family.

    I don't mean to be harsh, but (a) this question has been asked a lot, so we've answered it a lot and (b) this is personal. 
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    I'm gonna go with 'not my circus, not my monkeys.'
    [Deleted User][Deleted User]itzMSwittykitty14
  • Thanks for the responses, they are really helpful. I really appreciate you guys putting up with my dumb questions, since I'm really new to both this site and Catholic traditions.

    We won't be lying about our beliefs or doing anything against the rules of the Church. I respect the Church and his parents, and I just wanted to try and find a way to make them happy that wouldn't compromise our beliefs. There's no need to worry that we will do anything we aren't happy with just to please them. And of course, if there's no way to give them any peace of mind on this issue, then that's fine, we will deal with it. They will have to accept it, and since they are reasonable people, I don't think that will be too much of an issue.
  • Thanks for the responses, they are really helpful. I really appreciate you guys putting up with my dumb questions, since I'm really new to both this site and Catholic traditions.

    We won't be lying about our beliefs or doing anything against the rules of the Church. I respect the Church and his parents, and I just wanted to try and find a way to make them happy that wouldn't compromise our beliefs. There's no need to worry that we will do anything we aren't happy with just to please them. And of course, if there's no way to give them any peace of mind on this issue, then that's fine, we will deal with it. They will have to accept it, and since they are reasonable people, I don't think that will be too much of an issue.
    Actually, by trying to have your marriage blessed/validated/recognised by the Catholic Church, you are, in fact, "doing something against the rules of the Church." But I'm glad you see now that you can't give them the peace of mind they want. 

    If, say, you were Protestant and your father was a minister and wanted to marry you, and your FI were a practising Catholic, you could probably get convalidation after having your father marry you, as long as you agreed to raise your kids Catholic. But that's not what your situation is.

    And good for you for recogonising that you can't please your FI's parents, but also seeing how much it means to them. As Catholics, they believe a Catholic who gets married outside the sacrament of marriage is no longer in communion with the church and is threatening their eternal soul -- it's a pretty big deal. 

    Good luck with them! If you have other questions, please feel free to ask any of us!
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    I'm gonna go with 'not my circus, not my monkeys.'
    [Deleted User]
  • Thanks for your support, Lemclane. I only meant that I wouldn't do anything I found out was against the Church's rules. Now that I know better, I won't try to do anything like that :)
    tiny speck
  • Lemclane a dispensation and a Convalidation are different things. Dispensations are granted by a Bishop and recognize a marriage performed outside the Church. From my understanding, they are very rarely granted, though I do know two couples who have had them.

    OP, your questions aren't dumb, don't be afraid to ask!
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  • In this case, you'd have to get a convalidation, rather than a dispensation. My understanding is that it's along the lines of "better to ask for forgiveness than permission." But I know a couple who did that -- she wanted her grandfather to marry them, but agreed to convert after the wedding and raise the kids Catholic, so they had the Protestant ceremony, then had it convalidated. 
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    I'm gonna go with 'not my circus, not my monkeys.'
  • Convalidations are not an "option" to be planned ahead of time like any other option. 


    [Deleted User][Deleted User]tiny speckwittykitty14
  • Marriage in the Catholic church is a sacrament. What you're proposing isn't possible. The Roman Catholic church won't recognize your marriage as valid, unless you are married in the church, according to their rules. 

    To have a Convalidation, fi would have to prove that you had a serious reason for being married outside of the church and that reason has been resolved or he would have to prove that he's done some soul searching and has deepened his faith since the illicit marriage took place. Evidence for that would be that he has been attending Mass regularly and if there are children from the marriage, he is raising them in the Catholic faith. 

    We have family friends who wanted a beach wedding more than they wanted a sacramental wedding. They wanted religious elements included in their ceremony. They were married by a priest from The Independent Catholic Church, which isn't affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Their marriage isn't considered valid by the RCC and they're not supposed to receive communion at the RCC. But their families were informed and satisfied with the ceremony. 

    IMO, the wedding ceremony should reflect the beliefs of the bride and groom, not their family members. 
                       
  • MobKazMobKaz member
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    edited July 2013
    @Leonora, I thought I would offer one perspective of a Catholic parent.

    My daughter married in the Catholic church.  My son married in a completely secular ceremony. His boyhood friend officiated compliments of something along the lines of "Ordained.com".  

    My son's wedding absolutely challenged all my beliefs as a Catholic.  Their wedding does not have the blessings of the Catholic church.  It's my conflict, not theirs.   I focused on the amazing relationship he has with his wife, their happiness, and their love.  I respect them for being true to themselves.  That, above anything else, is what gives me peace of mind.  

    Politely remind your in-laws that as much as you respect their opinion, you and FI need to start your marriage honestly and openly.  Hopefully they will give you the same respect.

    I absolutely agree with MariePoppy that , "the wedding ceremony should reflect the beliefs of the bride and groom, not their family members."




    [Deleted User]
  • MobKazMobKaz member
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    c1aud1a said:
    To make my UBER Catholic parents happy I am getting married in a church, just immediate family of 10 people, on the Wednesday before my actual day. My priest was very accommodating of this request

    Then I am having a 15 minute ceremony on my actual wedding day. 


    Clearly this is none of my business, but because you posted it, I am compelled to ask you some questions.  

    When you marry in the Catholic church, you make a sacred vow to raise your children Catholic.  Do you have any intentions of doing so?  If not, what you have planned, in the name of your parents happiness, is disrespectful.  If you do not plan on raising any children in the faith, are your parents aware of this?  I cannot believe they would prefer you marry under false pretenses rather than have a secular ceremony.

    If you plan on doing this to make your parents happy, I shudder to think of what your future may hold.  
    NYCMercedeswittykitty14
  • c1aud1a said:
    To make my UBER Catholic parents happy I am getting married in a church, just immediate family of 10 people, on the Wednesday before my actual day. My priest was very accommodating of this request

    Then I am having a 15 minute ceremony on my actual wedding day. 


    Ditto @NOLAbridealmost. What the ever-loving hell is this? This is wrong and offensive on so many levels. It makes my head hurt.
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    I'm gonna go with 'not my circus, not my monkeys.'
    NYCMercedes
  • I seriously don't get how a "devout" family would be appeased by their child faking their way through a ceremony. Our families weren't disappointed that we didn't have a Catholic Mass-they were disappointed because we don't believe in the Catholic faith and would never be participating in the faith. If you are truly devout, you wouldn't want someone to make a mockery of your faith.
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    [Deleted User]SKPM
  • TXKristan said:
    To make my UBER Catholic parents happy I am getting married in a church, just immediate family of 10 people, on the Wednesday before my actual day. My priest was very accommodating of this request

    Then I am having a 15 minute ceremony on my actual wedding day. 


    Does the priest know that you are lying by your actions????? In the declaration of intent, you have to say that you are entering into this by your own free will. As a Catholic, I find this offensive.,
    I'm very not a Catholic and I find this offensive. I was raised Catholic and knew a long time ago it was not for me. My mom still gives me dirty looks when I sit in the pew instead of going up for communion when at a wedding or funeral mass. Going through the motions with no intent behind it is appalling and so much worse and more offensive than having a civil ceremony. This is seriously not okay. 
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    KDM323
  • KDM323KDM323 member
    5 Love Its First Comment Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    I'm not even a practicing Catholic any longer and this is highly offensive to me.  Please don't use the Catholic church in this manner.  Either you and your fiance WANT to get married in a Catholic church or you want to have a non-religious wedding.  It can't be both ways.
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  • daria24 said:
    I seriously don't get how a "devout" family would be appeased by their child faking their way through a ceremony. Our families weren't disappointed that we didn't have a Catholic Mass-they were disappointed because we don't believe in the Catholic faith and would never be participating in the faith. If you are truly devout, you wouldn't want someone to make a mockery of your faith.
    This X100.  If my future child decided he/she didn't want to practice the faith and wanted to marry outside of the church, then I would be deeply disappointed about their decision regarding my religion, but I wouldn't want them to go through the motions of a Catholic wedding, or WORSE hire some rent-a-priest to give a "blessing" at their secular wedding.  Not only would that not be authentic to who they really were, but it wouldn't make me "happy" either.  Any parents who would be satisfied with that is just into their religion for show.

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    NYCBruin
  • @monkeysip I know there are people who make a business of dressing up like priests and renting themselves out for wedding ceremonies, but the priest who married my friends doesn't consider himself to be a 'rent-a-priest.' He conducts religious services every Sunday, has a congregation, an outreach ministry and performs charitable works. He also required that he couple attend a few counseling/interview sessions to clarify his and their views of marriage and the wedding ceremony. He performed a blessing at the ceremony, just as most religious ceremonies include a blessing. No one ever misrepresented that he was a RC priest or that the RCC would recognize the marriage. It was a simple, dignified, Christian service. The bride and groom aren't devout Catholics, but consider themselves to be Christians,  and wanted to reflect that in their wedding ceremony.
                       
  • @ Mairepoppy

    And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a couple hiring an officiant like that, or another christian minister for their wedding, just pointing out that since it's still not validly Catholic, I don't know why that would make the Catholic family happy, you know?  So if the couple wants that because that's what THEY want, then that's fine.  But I just don't think it's a good way to appease parents.

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    tiny speck
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