The Rite of Marriage provides for both a Nuptial Mass as well as a wedding ceremony outside of Mass. Generally, a marriage between a Catholic person and a non-Catholic person should be celebrated outside of Mass.
However, The Eucharist is the primary sacrament. All other sacraments, including Marriage, find their source and meaning in the Eucharist. In this primary sacrament, it is the total self-donation of Jesus that nourishes and gives life to the Church.
By virtue of their Baptism, the couple already shares in Christ’s marriage covenant with the Church. It is fitting, therefore, that the marriage celebration of a Catholic man and a Catholic woman be performed within a Nuptial Mass.
For example, if a wedding liturgy is celebrated at 2 PM on Saturday, it therefore would not fulfill the time requirement to celebrate the liturgy for Sunday and the readings would be taken from the Liturgy for Marriage.
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.
One may ask, what business is this to anyone except the couple and their families? The answer lies in the fact that the decision to marry is reserved not only for the couple but also for the Church, as well as the State.
For instance, the Church may refuse marriage to a couple if there is an impediment of some sort, i.e. a previous marriage that has not been annulled. The State may refuse to issue a license to marry a couple if there is too close of a relationship between a man and a woman, for example.
The Church takes marriage very seriously because it allows a man and a woman to reveal to all around them something of the mystery of God. This is why marriage is a sacrament. As a sacrament, marriage gives us grace to live the vows made at the altar. As a sacrament, marriage has its source in the Eucharist. Just as a man and women give themselves totally and unconditionally to each other, so does Jesus give Himself totally and unconditionally to us and we to Him in Holy Communion. So, marriage matters to the Church
Because it is so significant, the Church wants to make sure that a couple is properly prepared for marriage, and that they enter into it freely, without reservation, and with full understanding of what is involved. The Church also has an obligation to make sure that the marriage is celebrated in the right way, according to the right forms. All of this stems from the Church’s a special obligation to take care of the spiritual health of all of God’s people.
As a result, the marriage preparation process is governed by rules and regulations that are part of the Church’s Code of Canon Law (the universal law of the Catholic Church), liturgical rules, and particular pastoral requirements of our diocese and individual parishes and priests.
In addition, a couple who goes through this process with an open heart and open mind will find that they will address issues of critical importance to their marriage. In having discussions between themselves and with a priest or deacon about these issues, they can avoid problems in the future and have a firmer sense of confidence in their love and in the love of God.
In short, the Church is concerned about your well-being, and wants you to have a great marriage
At least one of the parties must be a baptized Catholic. When two Catholics marry, the celebration of marriage normally is during a Nuptial Mass. A Nuptial Mass is a Mass which includes the celebration of the sacrament of marriage. It has special readings and prayers suitable to the Sacrament of Marriage. When a Catholic and baptized person of another faith marry, the rite for celebrating within Mass may be used. If either the bride or the groom has never been baptized, Mass is not permitted.
Both parties must be free to marry. This means that neither of them has a prior marriage that is recognized as valid by the Catholic Church.
They must be psychologically mature and capable of consenting to the marriage; and they must understand the nature of Catholic marriage as one that is exclusive, permanent, and open to having children.
If any of these requirements are missing, the marriage will not be recognized as valid and thus, the clergyman cannot witness the marriage for the Church.
Along with the above: The engaged couple must also meet several times with the priest/deacon who will be witnessing their marriage.
They must attend a marriage preparation program and receive a certificate of attendance.
Since preparing for marriage is a process, it is recommended that a couple begin a full year prior to the wedding.
the date of your First Communion (if applicable)
the date of your Confirmation (if applicable)
If you’re a non-Catholic Christian, you need: some evidence that you were baptized or dedicated (e.g., a baptismal certificate or letter from your church).
you may be asked for an affidavit from a parent or other adult stating that you are free to be married (e.g., there were no prior marriages).
A letter or Ecclesiastical Decree of Annulment (if applicable)
Civil documents that are needed: Marriage License: A couple intending to marry in New Jersey must obtain a license from the municipality in which the either the woman or man resides.
A Civil Decree of Divorce (if applicable)
The Death Certificate of the former spouse (if applicable)
The license is the official document which is validated by the signature of the celebrant and two witnesses. In New Jersey there are four copies of the marriage license. The original and one copy are returned to the Registrar of Vital Statistics in the community where the wedding takes place. The wedding will be recorded there as well as in the marriage register of the parish of the Catholic party. The third copy is given to the couple for their safekeeping. The fourth copy is kept as a permanent record in the Pre-Nuptial Investigation Folder that is retained in the parish of record.
Your priest or deacon will help you to obtain this dispensation from the Chancery Office. Obtaining the dispensation can take time, so you should start the process early.
The Sacrament of Marriage is a sacred event for both the couple and for the Church as a whole. The Sacrament is a sign not only of the love of the couple for each other, but of the love of God for the couple and the love of God for his people.
With rare exceptions, all of the sacred events in the life of Catholic people (Mass, baptisms, funerals, weddings, ordinations, confessions, confirmations, etc.) are celebrated in a Church — at the sacred place that is the center of our life as a faith community, the place where Jesus Himself is really present in the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The church is also the place where past and future generations (our ancestors and descendants) have and will worship — so when we gather there we act in solidarity with all of God’s people past, present and future.
That is also why weddings are supposed to be celebrated at the home parish of either the bride or groom (by custom, it is usually the bride’s parish) — so that your own part of the universal Christian community can come (at least symbolically) to be witness to and supporters of your Sacrament, in their own special holy place.
Essentially, location has meaning, just as the words of the marriage vows have meaning. Sacred events belong in sacred places, and secular events belong in secular locations. The requirement of Canon Law reminds us of the sacred nature of marriage, the special participation of God and His Church, and the place of every marriage in the life of the Church. A catering hall, a park, the beach, or city hall, are not sacred places, however nice they may be — they are certainly not places where the Catholic people ordinarily come together to worship God in the presence of Jesus and each other.
So, by all means have a wonderful wedding reception at an appropriate secular location. But the right place for your sacred exchange of wedding vows is a sacred place — in a church.
In this case it would seem, then, that either there may have been extraordinary circumstances present or the priest witnessing the marriage was acting outside of the official guidelines of the Rite of Marriage.
When marrying a person who is not a baptized Christian, the Church expects that the celebration of the marriage will take place in a Catholic Church. In some circumstances, however, the ceremony may take place outside of a church with the permission of the local bishop. A dispensation of this kind, nevertheless, is only granted when all of the other prerequisites of marriage preparation have been fulfilled.