Getting married as Catholics in 2021

Getting married as Catholics in 2021
Getting married is a wonderful thing, but there are boxes to be ticked before getting there, writes Jason Osborne

Even in an era that is slowly turning against marriage, it’s still a closely-held desire in the hearts of many singles to one day commit themselves to another at the altar. The present western culture often depicts marriage as an oppressive trap for women, a source of disappointment and boredom for men, the statistics showing an institution in decline in many places around the world.

However, the truth still resounds more loudly throughout the world, and nowhere is it more widely proclaimed than in the Church. Marriage is no trap, but a road to freedom and joy through love and service of your spouse. Quite the opposite of being a disappointment and boredom, it’s the chance to become a person capable of loving as you were incapable of loving before.

It’s no wonder then so many people still harbour a desire in their heart for it. However, finding a suitable spouse is only half the battle (albeit the trickier half) – next comes the planning and box-ticking section, with both Church and State. There are many rules and procedures to be followed in respect to both, and unless these are satisfied, a sacramental marriage won’t take place.

Meeting the priest

Assuming that people reading this will be interested in a Catholic, sacramental marriage, a good place to start with your fiancé or fiancée is meeting with your priest, at least three months in advance, to go through the Church-essentials in order to be married.

Traditionally, this was all done with the local priest (who was often the same for both parties). However, in this fluid world, it may well be the case that both parties are living in different parishes, in which case permission can be sought from one or the other priest for both parties to deal with the same priest, for the sake of streamlining the process.

Regardless of whether you do it separately or together, both parties must fill out the pre-nuptial inquiry form with a priest. There are at least three forms needed before going to meet the priest, too.

  • A copy of your Baptism cert (issued within six months of the date of the marriage).
  • A recently issued copy of your Confirmation certificate (which in some cases may also be contained in a ‘long-form’ Baptism cert).
  • A document or documents establishing freedom to marry, which can be done in one of the following ways: A letter of freedom from each parish you have lived in for six months or more since you were 18; a statement of freedom to marry, made by a close relative (father, mother, brother, sister, etc.) in the presence of the priest; a sworn affidavit made in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths, where the relevant party states that he or she has never been married before, either civilly or religiously.

The pre-nuptial form goes through your basic details with the priest, as well as affirming that you understand the nature of Catholic marriage and accept all that it entails; rights, as well as duties and responsibilities.

Pre-marriage course

The Church also requires couples looking for sacramental marriage to do a pre-marriage course, and this is likely to come up during discussions with the priest, if it’s not done ahead of your meeting. Contrary to being a waste of time, a good pre-marriage course is an excellent revision (or primer) on the details of what a marriage asks of you, and what you and your spouse can expect from it. You can expect topics such as communication, children, housework, in-laws and more to feature.

Both are continuing to take place online as a result of the ongoing restrictions on day-to-day life, but it shouldn’t result in a diminished experience”

My wife and I were very lucky to receive excellent marriage advice and guidance during our own course, with many of the topics continuing to come up in conversation months later. Undertaken in a spirit of openness and humility, you both have a chance to come away from the course not only more prepared, but more excited, for marriage.

Accord (www.accord.ie) and Avalon (www.avalonrcdvd.com) both offer online pre-marriage courses. Both are continuing to take place online as a result of the ongoing restrictions on day-to-day life, but it shouldn’t result in a diminished experience.

Upon completion of the pre-marriage course, you’ll both be presented with a certificate which you should give to the priest celebrating your wedding, as proof that you both know what you’re undertaking.

Civil requirements

While that largely accounts for the Church-side of proceedings, there are also plenty of civil requirements to be taken care of.

First of all, a couple must give three months notice of their intention to marry to a registrar in person, at one of the civil registry offices. To do this, you must make an appointment at one of the offices, which you can get details for at www.civilregistrationservice.ie. This will take you to the HSE site with all of the details for the various offices.

To legally marry in Ireland, both parties must be over 18 and freely consent to the marriage. Your appointment with the registrar will cover this, as it is then that you make a statement to the effect that you are not aware of any impediment to your proposed marriage.

A valid ID (such as a passport), birth cert and your PPS must be presented to the registrar on the day, as well as the €200 fee for the appointment. Following this, you will be issued a Marriage Registration Form, which gives you civil permission to marry. You should take the utmost care of this document, as you will need to bring it to the church on the wedding day to be signed by bride, groom, witnesses, and the celebrant.

Following the ceremony, the completed, signed form should be given back to the registrar within one month of the ceremony, so that your new marriage can be registered.

In Northern Ireland, you must give between 14 days to one year’s notice of your intention to marry. You do this by approaching the local registrar in the district in which the marriage is going to take place to obtain a Notice of Marriage Form (one for each party).

These are but the most basic requirements set forth by both the Church and the State for a valid, Catholic marriage on the island of Ireland”

You must collect the Marriage Schedule from the local registrar’s office, which is signed during the wedding ceremony and returned to the local registrar within three days after the wedding. For more details on this, see www.groni.gov.uk.

These are but the most basic requirements set forth by both the Church and the State for a valid, Catholic marriage on the island of Ireland. Booking the church of your choice and the reception venue, organising a wedding photographer, music, food and the rest are all to be done, too. As such, it’s important to get the fundamentals in order in as timely a manner as possible, that you might focus on the more enjoyable aspects of the wedding arrangement together.