Frequently asked questions about Marriage
- Why does the church teach that marriage is a sacrament?
The sacraments make Christ present in our midst. Like the other sacraments, marriage is not just for the good of individuals, or the couple, but for the community as a whole. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament. The Old Testament prophets saw the marriage of a man and woman as a symbol of the covenant relationship between God and his people. The permanent and exclusive union between husband and wife mirrors the mutual commitment between God and his people. The Letter to the Ephesians says that this union is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
- What is the difference between a valid and an invalid Catholic marriage?
Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
- If a Catholic wants to marry a non-Catholic, how can they assure that the marriage is recognized by the Church?
In addition to meeting the criteria for a valid Catholic marriage (see question #2), the Catholic must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a “permission to enter into a mixed marriage.” If the person is a non-Christian, the permission is called a “dispensation from disparity of cult.” Those helping to prepare the couple for marriage can assist with the permission process.
- Why does a Catholic wedding have to take place in a church?
For Catholics, marriage is not just a social or family event, but a church event. For this reason, the Church prefers that marriages between Catholics, or between Catholics and other Christians, be celebrated in the parish church of one of the spouses. Only the local bishop can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
- When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, must the non-Catholic promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith?
The non-Catholic spouse does not have to promise to have the children raised Catholic. The Catholic spouse must promise to do all that he or she can to have the children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith.
- What is a Nuptial Mass and when can a couple have one?
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. The Sacrament of Marriage between two baptized Catholics should normally be celebrated within Mass.
If the situation warrants it and the local bishop gives permission, a Nuptial Mass may be celebrated for a marriage between a Catholic and a baptized person who is not a Catholic, except that Communion is not given to the non-Catholic since the general law of the church does not allow it. In such instances, it is better to use the appropriate ritual for marriage outside Mass. This is always the case in a marriage between a baptized Catholic and a non-baptized person.
- Why does the church require engaged couples to participate in a marriage preparation program?
Marriage preparation offers couples the opportunity to develop a better understanding of Christian marriage; to evaluate and deepen their readiness to live married life; and to gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple.
It is especially effective in helping couples to deal with the challenges of the early years of marriage.
- What is an annulment?
An annulment is a declaration by a tribunal (Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union (see question #3). Unlike civil divorce, an annulment does not erase something that was already there, but rather it is a declaration that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship ever existed between the couple, or that the spouses truly loved one another.
- What key issues are covered in marriage preparation?
Marriage preparation programs help couples to understand the Christian and the human aspects of marriage. Typical topics include: the meaning of marriage as a sacrament; faith, prayer and the church; roles in marriage; communication and conflict resolution; children, parenthood, Natural Family Planning, and finances.
Natural Family Planning (NFP)
The Office of Marriage & Family Life currently promotes and sponsors classes in two methods of NFP instruction in the archdiocese:
- The Sympto-Thermal Method, taught by the Couple to Couple League, Northwest Family Services, and Natural Family Planning International, and
- The Creighton Fertility Care System.
All of these courses require at least 4 months of instruction before your wedding, so early registration is important.
What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy. NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.
MARRIAGE PREPARATION POLICY AND GUIDELINES FOR ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA CHURCH
This information represents the combined policies of the Archdiocese of Denver and St. Catherine of Siena Church.
The general policy at St. Catherine’s is to have a ceremony on any given Saturday. Times available for weddings are 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM. Your wedding date may be secured by calling the marriage coordinator to see if a particular date is available. An initial interview with the marriage coordinator will determine if you are “free” to marry, that is, there are no impediments or previous marriages. The couple must make a non-refundable $150.00 down-payment to reserve the date.
FEES FOR USE OF THE CHURCH
For members of the parish who have been registered for more than six months before reservation of a wedding date, the fee is $500.00. For non-parishioners, the fee is $700.00. This includes a non-refundable $150 down-payment that must be paid at time of registration. All fees must be paid within 30 days of the wedding. They do not however include the cost of the required Archdiocesan preparation programs. This also does not include an honorarium (donation) for the officiating clergy and musician costs.
In the event of cancellation we ask to be notified at the earliest possible time so that the date can be made available for other use.
The preparation length is eight to twelve months. Each engaged couple looking to be married at St.Catherine’s’ must contact the parish office at least eight to twelve months in advance of their wedding date. This eight to twelve month period allows time to develop “life skills” that will help in their life together and understand more, the beauty of the Church’s’ teaching on marriage.
The couple is also required to participate in an “engaged couple’s” inventory (FOCCUS) to be completed at St. Catherine’s. They are then required to participate in one of the Archdiocesan approved marriage preparation programs. Here at St Catherine of Siena Parish we offer a comprehensive marriage preparation course, that covers two of the three steps required by the Archdiocese. There are also a variety of programs offered in the Archdiocese.
Marriage preparation programs allow the engaged couple to reflect on and discuss various areas that touch married life today, such as religious values, communication skills, lifestyle expectations, the raising of children, etc. For various Archdiocesan programs call 303-715-3259, or visit online at www.archden.org/marriage
This process is an investment of time and energy, to help build the foundation of your life together. The Church wants your marriage to be successful and we feel that it is our responsibility to provide you with the best possible preparation for married life.
- Baptismal Certificate: A current (within six months of the wedding date) baptismal certificate is required (with notations of 1st Communion and Confirmation if applicable) from the Catholic party. This is obtained by calling or writing the parish in which you were baptized and asking them to send you a copy of your baptismal certificate. A copy of the certificate given to your parents at the time of your baptism is not acceptable.
- Proof of Freedom to Marry: A witness (preferably a parent) must complete a questionnaire attesting to the individual’s freedom to marry. Other documentation is required when one of the parties is not Catholic. The priest or marriage coordinator will outline the specific requirements.
Rehearsals are generally scheduled on the day before your wedding between 4:30pm. Exceptions to this must be arranged with the priest who is witnessing your ceremony and approved by the pastor, since all rehearsals are subject to the availability of the church. Visiting clergy must conduct their own rehearsals.
Photography and Videography
Both photography and videography are allowed, however, a professional photographer should contact the marriage coordinator prior to the ceremony to determine what is permitted. Anyone filming or taking pictures of the ceremony should keep in mind the sacredness of the event and at all times be mindful of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Only music approved by the parish music director, Mrs. Madeline Mottola, is permitted. All music should be coordinated through Mrs. Mottola, including the use of outside musicians and vocalists, and organist and soloist are available through the parish, these costs are separate from the use of the church fee. (Please check with Mrs Mattola for cost). Mrs. Madeline Mottola can be reached at 303-477-9489. Spanish music is available by the Jovenes Para Cristo for a Spanish Mass. (Please contact the parish)
Rice or similar substances
No rice, confetti, bird seed, torn paper, flower petals, or other items may be thrown on church property as these items create a safety hazard for wedding guests or our parishioners who will be attending mass later on that day.
The center aisle is 100 feet long. If you use an aisle runner it is your responsibility to remove and dispose of it after the ceremony. The parish does not provide the aisle runner.
Decorations and Flowers
It is the couple’s responsibility to provide any flower arrangements. The church has a limited number of flower stands available for use. It is also the couple’s responsibility to remove flowers from the church at the end of the ceremony. If you are having your flowers delivered, please call the parish office and make arrangements for someone to receive them. Pews may be decorated with bows on the side. No decorations and/or flowers are permitted on or behind the altar.
Candles and Candelabra
The only candles permitted are those provided by the church. The only exception is a “Unity” candle or unity candle set, (if you chose to provide one).
A dressing room is available in the basement of the church for use of the bride and bridesmaids. Be sure to protect your personal belongings, as the church cannot be responsible for lost or stolen items. Putting a relative or friend in charge of these items is recommended. The groom and ushers must be dressed for the wedding when they come to church, as no facilities are available for them to dress.
The officiating clergy for a wedding in the Catholic Church is a priest or a deacon. A priest assigned to the parish will normally officiate, however, if you have a friend or relative who is a priest or deacon and would like to officiate, check with the priest or marriage coordinator who is preparing you, so that arrangements can be made. The honorarium (donation) for the officiating clergy is not included in the fees paid to the church.
A Colorado marriage license, which is valid for a period of no more than 30 days, must be provided at the time of the rehearsal. We recommend that the license is obtained at least a week prior to the ceremony.
Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and/or drugs are prohibited on church grounds. Intoxication with either drugs or alcohol on the part of the couple or their witnesses renders a marriage invalid in both civil and church law.
Items Left Behind in the Church
The church is not responsible for any items that may be left behind. Please make arrangements for someone to check the church after the ceremony to avoid leaving items behind. If you have questions regarding this information, or additional questions or issues, please contact the marriage coordinator, Ph. 303-455-9090.