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Etiquette

Can I ask a priest who is a family friend to do a civil ceremony?

Hi all, I know that priests cannot perform a Catholic marriage outside of the church, but I don't want a Catholic marriage. My fiancee and I are not religious, and we're getting married outside in a civil ceremony. I am working on who to ask to officiate, and we have a close family friend who is a priest. It would personally meaningful (not religiously meaningful) to me if he could do an off-the-books civil ceremony for us. Technically he has bent the rules before, once he actually did a Sunday mass for a small group of friends outside, and he's a very cool guy. But I'm afraid I might offend him by asking, because I get that his members of his faith would disprove. Has anyone ever heard of something like this? Thank you! 

Re: Can I ask a priest who is a family friend to do a civil ceremony?

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I don't personally know of any clergy who has officiated at a civil wedding or who has been married in a civil ceremony by a clergyperson.

    To be honest with you, I would not go for it.  Telling someone, "I want you to marry us, but I don't want you to do it in accordance with your profession and calling" is something I think the other person would find hurtful and offensive.  If you don't want them as a religious officiant but still want them to attend, then I'd just ask them to attend as a guest.
    indianaalumamelishaPrettyGirlLost
  • You can ask, but he'll probably decline. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I'd go for finding a judge or something. My fiancé got me to ask my grandparents' pastor to officiate our wedding after he met him during a funeral and his basic answer was "I will if your fiancé converts before the wedding." He then discussed Paul's instructions not to be yoked to an unbeliever. It got suuuuuuper awkward before I was able to get off the phone (as I knew it would be). Anyways feel free to ask, your friend might be fine with it, but just remember that to most Christians and especially to Catholics, marriage is a religious event that involves you and your husband making a promise TO GOD to be faithful, with your church community as your witnesses. It's a pretty sacred act for which being a believer is important. Most of the weddings I've been to involve something to the effect of a marriage being between you, your husband, and God. My two cents from someone who has been there!
  • manateehuggermanateehugger member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    edited October 2014
    I wouldn't ask someone to bend the rules of their job for me. I also wouldn't ask a friend to not be true to himself or his faith for my wedding. 
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    Wegl13lovesclimbingMyNameIsNotPrettyGirlLost
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
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    cs887 said:
    Hi all, I know that priests cannot perform a Catholic marriage outside of the church, but I don't want a Catholic marriage. My fiancee and I are not religious, and we're getting married outside in a civil ceremony. I am working on who to ask to officiate, and we have a close family friend who is a priest. It would personally meaningful (not religiously meaningful) to me if he could do an off-the-books civil ceremony for us. Technically he has bent the rules before, once he actually did a Sunday mass for a small group of friends outside, and he's a very cool guy. But I'm afraid I might offend him by asking, because I get that his members of his faith would disprove. Has anyone ever heard of something like this? Thank you! 

    I actually asked this question when my brother got married. He did not want to be married in the Catholic Church, but we have a dear priest friend who has known us for years. This priest said that he cannot officiate a civil ceremony. Celebrating Mass outside is something that can happen in certain circumstances, but a priest cannot witness a wedding that is not catholic.
  • Thank you all so much for your feedback! All very good points that I was worried about myself, but it helps to hear it from others. 
    So, follow up question- my mom would like for him to have some role at the wedding... can you think of anything to ask him to do that wouldn't be awkward? Say something at the close of the ceremony? My mom mentioned having him say grace, but half the guests are not religious at all. And, it seems bizarre to me to have a marriage that is not blessed, followed immediately by a meal that is. Any ideas? Or is it better to let him relax and enjoy the wedding as a guest? 
    Thank you again!! 
  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
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    I would just let him relax and enjoy the wedding as a guest.


    PrettyGirlLost
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
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    cs887 said:

    Thank you all so much for your feedback! All very good points that I was worried about myself, but it helps to hear it from others. 

    So, follow up question- my mom would like for him to have some role at the wedding... can you think of anything to ask him to do that wouldn't be awkward? Say something at the close of the ceremony? My mom mentioned having him say grace, but half the guests are not religious at all. And, it seems bizarre to me to have a marriage that is not blessed, followed immediately by a meal that is. Any ideas? Or is it better to let him relax and enjoy the wedding as a guest? 
    Thank you again!! 
    I suggest talking to your priest friend and explaining your situation to see how he can best be involved.
  • if you want him to have a role in the wedding, but don't want to have a catholic ceremony, how about him doing a blessing at the start of the reception? it's pretty common, and still in line with his life as a priest.
  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey member
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers

    @Sarahbear31 ; If two people were never baptized Catholic, would that make it ok for the priest to perform a civil ceremony? 

    I understand that the Church will say that anyone baptized Catholic will always be Catholic, even if they stop practicing and declare themselves not Catholic.  So in an instance of someone baptized Catholic, I can see a priest declining, but would it be different if neither were baptized?

  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    OliveOilsMom, I don't know.  I imagine they wouldn't, though, because they are an official representative of the Church. 
    OliveOilsMom
  • huskypuppy14huskypuppy14 Boston Suburbs member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer

    @Sarahbear31 ; If two people were never baptized Catholic, would that make it ok for the priest to perform a civil ceremony? 

    I understand that the Church will say that anyone baptized Catholic will always be Catholic, even if they stop practicing and declare themselves not Catholic.  So in an instance of someone baptized Catholic, I can see a priest declining, but would it be different if neither were baptized?

    Really? So I'm still considered a Catholic even though I am an atheist?
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  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
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    OliveOilsMom, I don't know.  I imagine they wouldn't, though, because they are an official representative of the Church. 

    Okay, I asked a priest friend and he confirmed that he couldn't witness the wedding.
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers



    @Sarahbear31 ; If two people were never baptized Catholic, would that make it ok for the priest to perform a civil ceremony? 

    I understand that the Church will say that anyone baptized Catholic will always be Catholic, even if they stop practicing and declare themselves not Catholic.  So in an instance of someone baptized Catholic, I can see a priest declining, but would it be different if neither were baptized?


    Really? So I'm still considered a Catholic even though I am an atheist?

    Technically, yes. We belive the baptism sticks for life.
    [Deleted User]
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
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    By "witness," does that mean that Catholic priests can't attend non-Catholic weddings as guests of the principals, or does that mean that they just can't officiate but can still be regular guests?
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Jen4948 said:
    By "witness," does that mean that Catholic priests can't attend non-Catholic weddings as guests of the principals, or does that mean that they just can't officiate but can still be regular guests?
    Forgive me, he can't officiate the wedding.  Technically a priest / deacon doesn't perform the wedding when they officiate - they are the official witness of the Church.  That's what I meant by witness.

    But, no - he can totally go & party.
  • I like the idea of asking him to do the blessing at the start of the reception. And just as a heads up - there are priests that perform Catholic ceremonies outside of the church. I personally did not have a Catholic wedding, however, a friend of mine is getting married this year and she found a priest that does Catholic ceremonies outside of the church. 
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  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I like the idea of asking him to do the blessing at the start of the reception. And just as a heads up - there are priests that perform Catholic ceremonies outside of the church. I personally did not have a Catholic wedding, however, a friend of mine is getting married this year and she found a priest that does Catholic ceremonies outside of the church. 
    I'd be cautious about this.  There are priests who are not officially in communion with Rome who do this.  The marriage will not be recognized by the Catholic Church.  Some priests who are "legit" can do this, too, but they have to get a dispensation from the bishop to do so.  And those dispensations aren't easy.
  • @sarahbear31 - Yup! I totally agree with you. When I started planning my wedding - I did the research and found the same thing. That was why I was SUPER surprised when she was able to find a priest who agreed to do it!
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    holyguacamole79
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    @sarahbear31 - Yup! I totally agree with you. When I started planning my wedding - I did the research and found the same thing. That was why I was SUPER surprised when she was able to find a priest who agreed to do it!
    Which route did she take?  I'm just curious.
  • tammym1001tammym1001 Akron, Ohio member
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    DH is Catholic. We were originally supposed to get married in the church, but then we didn't. His priest actually recommended someone to us that he knew from another religion to perform the ceremony since we weren't getting married in the church. It worked out really well and his priest offered to do a ring blessing for us since he wasn't able to marry us. Perhaps you could ask your priest friend if he knows someone and if there is a role he would be comfortable having in the wedding.
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  • Wow everyone, thank you SO much for all of your ideas! It's so helpful to know in advance that he can't officiate, but I like the idea of asking him if there is any role that he would be comfortable with (or for that matter if he'd like to sit back and enjoy it). The blessing in advance sounds like a nice option. Thanks again! 
  • Wegl13 said:
    You can ask, but he'll probably decline. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I'd go for finding a judge or something. My fiancé got me to ask my grandparents' pastor to officiate our wedding after he met him during a funeral and his basic answer was "I will if your fiancé converts before the wedding." He then discussed Paul's instructions not to be yoked to an unbeliever. It got suuuuuuper awkward before I was able to get off the phone (as I knew it would be). Anyways feel free to ask, your friend might be fine with it, but just remember that to most Christians and especially to Catholics, marriage is a religious event that involves you and your husband making a promise TO GOD to be faithful, with your church community as your witnesses. It's a pretty sacred act for which being a believer is important. Most of the weddings I've been to involve something to the effect of a marriage being between you, your husband, and God. My two cents from someone who has been there!

    SITB:

    For other posters out there, there is substantially more leniency for pastors than there is for priests.  It might be a pastor's personal preference to not marry couples outside their church and/or if one of them is not Christian...but it is generally not forbidden.  In fact, my mother's pastor performed the ceremony for me and my DH in an outdoor wedding away from the church.  He never even asked about my DH's religion.  I've also attended many weddings where the ceremony was not in a church, but the person officiating was a pastor.


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