For couples planning a Catholic wedding

Father Jacob Runyon

Together in God's Love Catholic marriage preparation program

Father Runyon Question: “My fiancé and I live in California, but none of our family is located anywhere nearby — her family lives in Italy, and my family lives in Virginia. We would like to get married in Virginia with a full Catholic wedding mass, however, my parents are Lutheran and do not belong to a parish. What should we do?”

Answer: First of all, congratulations on your engagement. I wish you and your fiancé all God’s blessings as you prepare to celebrate this sacrament.

First of all, marriage requires jurisdiction. The pastor your parish has this jurisdiction by his position as pastor. Also, marrying couples need permission to use the church. So basically you need approval of both your pastor and the priest in charge of the church, which is the same person when you get married in your own church.

However, your situation is more complicated. You certainly could get married in another diocese, but you will need jurisdiction and permission, and to decide who will conduct the wedding ceremony. Here are a couple of options:

  • If your pastor is going to do the wedding in Virginia, then he would need to ask the pastor of the parish for delegation to witness your marriage in that parish (this would automatically include permission to use the parish).
  • If you are going to ask the pastor of the church in Virginia to celebrate the marriage, you would just need a letter of permission from your pastor allowing that priest to celebrate the wedding.
  • If you are going to have a third priest (neither your pastor nor the pastor of the church of the wedding), then you would need letters from both your pastor at home giving permission for that priest to celebrate your wedding and a letter from the pastor of the church delegating this third priest to witness the marriage within the Virginia parish. Also, the priest celebrant will have to provide the diocese in question with affidavits showing that he is a priest in good standing if he is going to travel into a diocese that is not his own.
  • As for the question of having a Mass, that should be no problem. I gather from your question that both you and your fiancé are Catholic, so having a Mass would be a natural fit. Although, it is possible to have a wedding ceremony without a Mass if you prefer.

If all of this sounds complicated, but don’t worry. Priests have to do this kind of thing all the time and we are quite used to it. My suggestion is that you decide whom you would want to preside at the wedding, then contact the church where you would like to have the wedding. That should get the ball rolling.

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