What are the rules on where you can have a Catholic wedding?

Looking for a place to have a wedding and reception. Do you need to belong to the same parish to have a wedding. If you are a practicing catholic but want to plan a wedding by a reception site which is not your own parish can you go to marriage classes at your home church but then have your wedding at a different church?

I’m not sure that this is the correct forum for this question. Hopefully a Mod will be able to help in that regard.

Welcome to the boards.

Moved to GQ.

Yes. When my wife and I got married that’s exactly what we did.

We were living in Texas at the time, but wanted to get married in her hometown up north where her family (and most of family as well) lived. We just went to our local priest in Texas, did our counseling there and he wrote a few letters on our behalf and sent all the necessary documentation to the parish priest at the church where we were getting married.

The only restriction we faced was that you usually do have to get married in an actual church. We had thought about having our wedding at a park gazebo where my wife’s family lived, but when we asked the priest about it, he said that you had to get clearance from the bishop to do something like that, and we didn’t feel like going through the trouble of what that would entail.

This was quite a few years ago, but we had a real kerfuffle about this.

The priest in charge at the Catholic parish my wife had attended for lotsa years & where all the family still was refused to marry us in his church because she had been living in a different parish the last few years. We eventually prevailed, but I bet we’re still the topic of “Weddings I wish I’d never done” stories at priest conventions.

I think the bottom line is that local priests have a lot of leeway for individual policies. What you’ll get here is a bunch of anecdote that doesn’t add up to anything useful to you. Ask your local guy what he can accept.

I think refusals are more a function of availability of the church and preference for the local parishioners than a matter of any church doctrine. This is a particular problem in some of the larger Washington DC churches, especially the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

As long as your local priest is willing to vouch for you, you should be fine.

I did this as well (got married outside my own parish). We had to get a letter from the priest in my parish saying that it was okay for us to get married in another church. (Weird, huh?)

We also took our marriage class in another (third) church 45 minutes from us, since it was the only one with a class that fit our schedule.

We had to do this too. (Chicago Archdiocese) Although, I actually have no idea whether the letter actually got sent. After I asked the priest about it a couple of times, I didn’t ask again and nobody ever mentioned it again.

Taking a marriage class at a third church didn’t seem to bother anyone.

I also had trouble getting a copy of my confirmation that could have caused problems theoretically, but I finally got it straightened out before the actual ceremony.

ETA: Oh, I meant to add that you can probably look at the website of whatever archdiocese it is and get a list of wedding rules and guidelines. The church we used was pretty relaxed I think. You couldn’t have the ceremony outside for instance, but you could pretty much do whatever you wanted to the inside of the church as long as you removed it afterward. The priest was telling us one story that the couple basically turned the inside of the church into a tropical rainforest full of dozens of potted trees and plants. Then had the manpower to remove it in time for the next wedding of course.

you can get married in any catholic church you want. but many of these require wedding bans: a certificate for each of you that members of your respective parishes were informed you are getting married.

Bear with me, because I’m doing this from memory. There’s a large body of cannon law that deals with marriage, but it basicly boils down to three rules. First, the couple must be capable of being married. This covers such things as being old enough, not closely related, etc. Second, the couple must be capable of and give consent to being married. Third, the wedding must follow the laws of the church.

From these three rules, flow the rest of the rest of the requirements for a church wedding, many of which have changed over the years. For instance, it used to be ommon practice to publish the banns, making a public announcement in church, for, IIRC, three consecutive weeks. This helped to both ensure that anyone in the local community who knew of a reason why the marriage shouldn’t take place was aware of the wedding and could notify the priest about the reason why it shouldn’t happen (rule 1) and to allow the couple time to reflect on whether they were ready to commit to being together for life (rule 2). Pre-marriage counseling is usually required to make sure that the couple really understands what they’re agrreing to by marrying (again, rule 2). Its been mentioned above that if a couple wats to get married outside their parrish that their parrish priest needs to write to the priest performing the ceremony. This is to let hime know that the marriage isn’t violating rule 1. Nowadays, this tends to more a matter of form than anything else.

The third rule is where there’s the most leeway. The minimum requrement is that the ceremony be performed by representative of the church with, I think, two witnesses and the priest has to follow specific step and use specific wording in accordance with the Rite of Marriage. Pretty much anything to do with the setting is up to local dioces and parrish guidelines.

It’s my understanding that bishops almost never grant permission for a priest to officiate at a wedding outside a church. The nursing home my mother worked at when I was in middle school had a wedding (complete with a Nuptial Mass) in it’s day room.

Nitpick: banns.


  • you do not need to belong to a parish in order to get married there,
  • theoretically, the upcoming wedding should be announced at the parishes of both future spouses (where people are more likely to know them and perhaps have an objection) but doesn’t have to be announced at the location where it will take place,
  • the priest who will perform it should be the one making sure he has the paperwork straightened out, whether it’s in a church or a park,
  • and you can have pre-marriage courses wherever you fancy so long as the performing priest and (if different) the recording priest accept it.

Now, specific rules will change by location. Popular churches will be booked way in advance and may have rules intended to shoo some of the “customers” away. Some Church officers (priests or bishops) are more rigid than other about what “the rules” are: this will influence how easy it is to get permission for a not-in-a-church wedding or whether you can write your own vows, choose the songs and readings…

(Memory might be dodgy but here goes…)

My Dad was RC and my Mom Protestant; the catholic church wouldn’t marry them or let them otherwise use the church because she wasn’t RC.

I’m Protestant and my (now) wife is RC and we got married in our local-parish RC Chruch. I think there may have been some folderoll that we couldn’t have the rite performed all the way up near the altar (because I’m not RC)

My daughter is RC and married a young man non-RC, in an RC church that is not our/her parish. No questions asked.

Things seem to be trending less-strict.

I don’t recall how any banns were handled.

The general rule, set out in the Code of Canon Law, is that marriages are to be celebrated in the parish where one of the spouses lives (Canon 1115). This is because marriage is not a purely private affair between the couple concerned; it involves the community to which they belong, and it is fitting to celebrate it with that community. However a marriage can be celebrated elsewhere with the permission of the bishop, or of the parish priest of one of the spouses. How readily this is given may vary from bishop to bishop or priest to priest, and may depend on the reason offered for not marrying locally.

Whatever parish the marriage is celebrated in, it should normally be celebrated in the parish church (canon 1118). It can be celebrated in another church or chapel with the permission of the bishop/parish priest. It can be celebrated in a place which is neither a church nor a chapel with the permission of the bishop. Again, practice may vary regarding how readily this permission is given, but my impression is that it is not given very often.

However, if one of the spouses is not a baptised Christian then the marriage can be celebrated in a church or “another suitable place” without the need for any special permission.

All these rules only apply to marriages actually celebrated by a Catholic minister. If one of the spouses is not a Catholic, the Catholic spouse can apply for a “dispensation from canonical form” to enable the marriage to be celebrated in the church of the non-Catholic spouse. This is fairly readily given. In that case, the rules and practices regarding where the marriage is to be celebrated will be those of the non-Catholic church.