The Catholic Church and Marriage

Marriage is an intimate community of life and love, established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws. God, Himself, is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the Hand of the Creator. Marriage is not purely a human institution. The marriage covenant is a relationship between husband and wife, a permanent union of persons, capable of knowing and loving each other and God.

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Video: Saying I do ... What happens at a Catholic Wedding

This video walks you through the Rite of Marriage, whether you’re marrying another Catholic, a baptized person who is not Catholic, or someone who is not baptized. It also answers several FAQs about Catholic weddings. Ideal for engaged couples, their families and anyone who is involved in Catholic marriage preparation.


Getting Married in the Catholic Church

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Decide where to get married

Under normal circumstances, a Catholic gets married in the Church of the parish in which he or she lives. Instead of residence, parish registration might apply. If both are Catholic, the parish of either may be used.

Getting married somewhere other than a home parish?

The wedding can be celebrated in another Catholic church with the approval of the Catholic's pastor.

If one party is not Catholic, it is possible to arrange for the marriage to take place in his/her church with the minister of that church officiating and two witnesses. This requires a dispensation from canonical form granted by the bishop of the Catholic party.

It is possible for this permission to be extended to a wedding in another diocese but only after the Diocese of Dallas clears that with the bishop of the other diocese.

Talk to your pastor about marriage preparation

The pastor is responsible for your preparation for marriage. Many parishes have someone specifically assigned to coordinate marriage arrangements, so you may be asked to work with the parochial vicar, deacon, or lay minister.

Choose a celebrant for the wedding

Obviously, the pastor or the parochial vicar can celebrate the wedding if he is available. In some parishes, a deacon may be assigned to officiate. Depending on the policy of the particular parish, a priest or deacon from some place else can be delegated to officiate at the wedding. Such arrangements must be worked out ahead of time with the pastor or parochial vicar.

Complete Marriage Preparation - A two-part process

So far, we know where and before whom the wedding can take place. But a person must be prepared for marriage. People get married all the time; that's true, but there is much more to marriage than a ceremony.

There are two phases in preparing for marriage: the immediate preparation for leading an enriched married life and the establishment that both parties are free to enter marriage.

Attend Marriage Preparation Programs

Marriage preparation is a part of the pastoral office of the Church and is not like a class in school or college. Preparation opens to each partner the awareness of the sanctity of Christian marriage and introduces the methods for living out a future life together to their mutual benefit and happiness as well as to that of any children born to the couple.

In the Diocese of Dallas, the office of Marriage Ministries manages and is responsible for appropriate Diocesan-approved marriage preparation.

Some parishes in the Diocese of Dallas provide couple-to-couple individualized preparation and/or provide an approved adaptation of diocesan-sponsored programs.

Sometimes marriage preparation programs offered in other dioceses satisfy this need. Some other Christian churches or denominations now offer comparable marriage preparation programs, which could benefit a couple with different religious heritages. Preparation sponsored by other Christian churches must be partnered with an approved Catholic process to ensure the sacramental teaching of the Catholic Church.

Establish Freedom to Marry

In practical terms, establishing your freedom to marry will seem more complicated than your marriage preparation. Before a wedding can take place in the Catholic Church, it must be established that each party is not restricted in marrying by past events or his/her current situation.

Through the centuries, certain personal situations were set down by the Church as "impediments" to marriage. Such an impediment renders a person incapable of contracting marriage validly in the Catholic Church. In other words, the marriage is invalid from the beginning. Currently, in the Roman Catholic Church there are twelve impediments.

A dispensation may be obtained for some impediments. A dispensation is a relaxation of a Church law or an exception made for the spiritual good of the parties. For a fuller explanation of impediments contact (214) 379-2840 or .

If either party, whether Catholic or not, has been married previously, a wedding cannot be scheduled until that past situation has been resolved. Even if a declaration of invalidity already has been given, the decree or notice from the Church court must be reviewed in case any stipulations were set by the court.

If one of the parties is a widow or widower, a death certificate is required.

For Catholics, a recently issued baptismal certificate/record is required, because it is supposed to note significant church celebrations affecting a person's status in the Church (like being confirmed, ordained, married, etc.). An affidavit of "freedom to marry" is required from one of your parents or older relative who has known you since early adolescence.

That's a lot of steps to get married in the Catholic Church!

Yes. For that reason, you should approach your parish priest, deacon or marriage coordinator in plenty of time not only to make arrangements for the wedding but also to begin a marriage preparation program and to complete necessary prenuptial paperwork.

Married couples participate in God's plan of creation and God's plan of salvation. The Catholic Church tries to assist couples in experiencing a nice, memorable wedding and in supporting their life together so that they can receive God's grace and blessings.

The Catholic Church and Marriage

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Biblical basis for Sacrament of Marriage

The Hebrew Scriptures speak to the fidelity and perpetuity of marriage and likens Yahweh’s covenant with Israel to that between husband and wife. God created man and woman out of love and commanded them to imitate His love in their relations with each other. Man and woman were created for each other: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him. … The two of them become one body.” (Genesis 2:18, 24)

The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana as indicative of the goodness of marriage and its sacramental nature. A baptized bride and a baptized groom administer this sacrament of Matrimony to one another; they are the ministers of Christian marriage. The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved His Church.


Definition of Marriage in Canon Law

The Catholic Church, in its canon law and theology, describes marriage as a lifetime, exclusive partnership between one man and one woman, who give and receive mutual help and love and, from their union, bring forth and rear children. Marriages always are presumed valid until proven otherwise. If a marriage involves two baptized Christians, it is presumed not only valid but also sacramental. If one or both parties is unbaptized, the marriage still is presumed to be valid and a good and natural bond. The 1983 Code of Canon Law says about marriage: 

Canon 1055, 1°: 

     The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership
     of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and
     education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord
     to the dignity of a sacrament.

Canon 1056:

     The essential properties [of marriage] are unity and indissolubility; in Christian marriage they acquire
     a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament.

Canon 1057, 1°:

     A marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of persons who are legally
     capable.  This consent cannot be supplied by any human power.

Canon 1057, 2°:

     Matrimonial consent is an act of will by which a man and a woman by an irrevocable covenant
     mutually give and accept one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage.


Required Consent for Marriage

The exchange of consent between the spouses “makes the marriage.” If consent is lacking, there is no marriage. Consent must be canonically expressed between two persons who are capable of giving it. The couple, by their free, mutual consent, makes the marriage covenant; and on that covenant they build a life partnership. The officiant has an important role as the official witness at the wedding, representing the entire community; but spouses bring into being the marriage by their exchange of consent. While the sacrament is received at one moment, the grace of the sacrament continues to be administered and received throughout their lives. Thus, their gift of themselves to each other is a gift of grace.

Marital consent is a “human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other.” This consent then binds the spouses to each other.

Consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking, the marriage is invalid.

The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God Himself. From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, … even in the eyes of society.” The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with human beings.


Unity and Fruitfulness in Marriage

Conjugal love involves a totality in which all the elements of the person enter. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.

The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and the indissolubility of the spouses’ community of persons, which embraces their entire life. They “are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.”

The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense, the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.

Thus, marriage, whether sacramental or a good and natural marriage, is created by God, and the spouses are called to a perpetual, faithful, fruitful union directed toward the well-being of the spouses and their offspring. Marriage as a covenant relationship between the spouses exemplifies God’s love for His people.


Marriage as an Exclusive Lifetime Partnership

The Catholic Church believes marriage is a lifetime, exclusive partnership between a man and a woman, who give and receive mutual help and love and, from their union, bring forth children. When Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians marry according to the requirements of their Churches, and when people of other religions marry according to the requirements of civil law, the Catholic Church presumes they marry validly.

Because marriage is a lifetime commitment, the decision to marry is one of the most serious decisions most people ever make.

For specific information concerning marriage in the Diocese of Dallas:


Find more detailed information concerning marriage preparation in the Diocese of Dallas Sacramental Policy Handbook (2012) or by emailing .