Marriage

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For a greater range and more in depth response to questions, you may find it helpful to read the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council's document: Getting Married FAQs or the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference document: pdf Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage in the Catholic Church .

1. How do I obtain a copy of my Baptism Certificate so I can marry in the Catholic Church?

I am planning to be married soon and have been asked to provide a recent copy of my Baptism and Confirmation Ceritifcates. How do I obtain these?

To be married in the Catholic Church, anywhere, you will need to provide a copy of your Baptism certificate no older than 6 months. You are asked to provide a "new" copy of the certificate (rather than the one that may have been issued on the day of your Baptism), to verify that you are "free to marry" in the Church, as Baptism records is endorsed with marriage details.

There is no central record held of Baptism or Confirmations. These records are kept only in the parish where the event took place.

I remember where I was Baptised/Confirmed
Do you know where you were Baptised? Or do you remember where you were Confirmed? Let's assume you know the answer to both of those questions. In this case, you just need to contact the parish where you were Baptised/Confirmed and request a copy of your certificate. This is a routine request to Catholic parishes all over the world and parishes are familiar with handling these requests. If you cannot find the one you are looking for then contact the Catholic Enquiry Centre for further assistance.

I do not know where I was Baptised/Confirmed
Now, if you do not know where you were Baptised/Confirmed, it is time to put your detective hat on. If your parents/godparents or other relatives are alive you may need to investigate the combined family memories to discover the detail you are looking for. Perhaps you were baptised at the same church as your brothers or sisters - check with them if they have a record.

Do others recall if you were Baptised soon after your birth or was there a delay of some months/years? Can you work out the year of your Confirmation by recalling what class you were in at school or some other milestone that will help you identify the year.

Once you have identified the parish, contact them and provide your full name, date of birth and approximate date of the Baptism/Confirmation. Also provide the full names of your parents and it may be helpful to include the names of your godparents/sponsor also, if known.

2. Do I have to be baptised to get married in the Catholic Church?

For a wedding to be celebrated in the Catholic Church one person in the marriage must be Catholic. The other person might be baptised in another religion or may not be baptised at all. It is not a requirement for a non Catholic to become Catholic in order to marry a Catholic in the Catholic Church.

If you are a not Catholic and planning to marry a Catholic, you may find it helpful to read about what Catholics believe. The Catholic Enquiry Centre can send you a free copy of the book, "An Introduction to the Catholic Faith" without obligation.  Just contact us and provide your postal address.

3. Can we marry in the Greek Orthodox church?

I am Catholic and my fiancee is Greek Orthodox. We are planning to get married in the Greek Orthodox church. Is this OK?

You should speak with your parish priest who will be able to assist you to request from the bishop permission to marry in the Orthodox Church. The Catholic Church does recognize marriage in the Orthodox Church as valid marriage. But it would be best to obtain the permission of the bishop. This is usually readily given. I suggest that you speak to your parish priest as soon as possible.

4. Do I need to be wedded in a Church?  Can I have a garden or beach wedding?

The ideal place for the celebration of marriage is in a church as it appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion and recognises marriage as a Sacrament and a union before God. For Catholics, marriage is not just a social or family event, but an event of significance for the Christian community which witnesses and welcomes this new ‘domestic church’, the family. For this reason, the Church prefers that marriages between the baptised be celebrated in a parish church.

Marriage in gardens, on beaches etc. is discouraged by the Church because such celebrations can detract from the sacredness of the occasion.  For special reasons, the bishop may permit the wedding to take place in a building or outdoor location which respects the dignity of the occasion, for example, a marriage between a Catholic and Muslim or one with no religious background.  However, permission will not normally be given for a Catholic marriage to be conducted in ‘novelty’ locations.

For more informatio please read: pdf Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage in the Catholic Church .

5. Are there any guidelines regarding who can be a witness at a Catholic wedding?

The priest/deacon who celebrates a Catholic wedding is the church's official withness at a Catholic wedding ceremony. You are required to have two additional witnessess.

The following is an extract from page 793 "Code of Canon Law Text and Commentary", Canon Law Society of America, Paulist Press, New York 1985. It is part of a commentary on Canon 1108

"In addition to the official witness, two other witnesses are required. They must have the use of reason and be capable of comprehending what is happening in the exchange of consent. Although a minimum age is not mentioned, witnesses cannot be below the presumed age of reason. There appear to be few other restrictions on the witnesses. They may be of the same or of different sexes. While the witnesses are usually lay persons, clergy and religious may act in this capacity. They need not be Catholic or even baptised, since their sole function is to attest to the fact that the marriage took place. The witnesses are not required by canon law to sign anything, although their names must be inscribed in the marriage register. In some civil jurisdictions they may be required to sign a civil register or marriage certificate."

6. Order of Service for a Catholic wedding

We are planning a wedding and need a copy of the order of service for a Catholic wedding.

There are a few different versions for the Order of Service for a Catholic wedding, depending on your circumstances and the type of ceremony you choose. You will find some information at the linke below:

Order of the Rite for Celebrating Marriage Outside Mass
 
Order of the Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass
 
Order of the Rite for Celebrating Marriage Between a Catholic and an Unbaptized Person

7. Preparation for Marriage course

We are planning to be married soon in the Catholic Church. The local priest wants us to do a marriage preparation course, but we don't know how to find out where these are run.

It is required that those who are marrying in the Catholic Church also undergo pre-marriage preparation within the Church. Within the Church, a variety of options available at different locations. N Some programs are offered over a week-end, others for a couple of Satudays or Sundays or one night a week for a few weeks. Still others involve 1:1 meetings with a facilitator and the couple. ot all programs are available at all locations.  It is a good idea to plan ahead. The more time you have before your wedding, the more likely you are to be able to find/choose a program that suits you and is available within your timeframe.

Depending on where you live, there are a variety of options for pre-marriage courses. Below are a few links to information about pre marriage programs and some other helpful information about marriage in the Catholic Church.

Adelaide, Armidale, Ballarat, Bathurst, Broken Bay, Brisbane, Broome, Bunbury, Cairns, Canberra-Goulburn, DarwinGeraldton, Hobart, LismoreMaitland-NewcastleMelbourne, Parramatta, Perth, Port Pirie, Rockhampton, SaleSandhurstSydney, Townsville, Wilcannia-Forbes, WollongongAll States SmartLoving

For further assistance, please contact the Church Marriage Tribunal near you.

8. What is the church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage?

I have been married and am now divorced. I have met the love of my life and want to marry again, within the Catholic Church.

The Church believes that marriage is a permanent union, lasting until death. The Church recognises that the breakdown of a marriage can be traumatic, and tries to reach out and help people who are sufferers of marriage breakdown, while upholding the permanence of a true Christian marriage.  For a variety of reasons a couple who are in a Catholic marriage may seek a civil divorce. The divorce (as granted by the state) however is not recognised by the Catholic Church. Even though the couple have obtained a civil divorce they are still married to each other in the eyes of the Church. Following a civil divorce one or other members of the couple may seek a decree of nullity from the Catholic Church with regard to their Catholic marriage. A decree of nullity is not the same as a Catholic divorce. A decree of nullity or annulment is a judgement made by a marriage tribunal of the Church that in fact despite the appearance of a marriage, in fact the couple were not really sacramentally married. An annulment does not change the state of the relationship it simply recognises that from the beginning there never was a valid Catholic marriage.

As you have been married and divorced and are looking to remarry you will need to speak to the Church Marriage Tribunal in your diocese to discuss your particular circumstances. It may be that your first marriage was not a valid sacramental marriage and you can have the marriage annulled.  Invalid marriages can occur for a number of reasons.  The "annulment process" should it be necessary for your first marriage, can take some time. If this process results in a declaration of nullity then you are free to marry again in the Catholic Church.

You may find the information in Divorce and the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions of some assistance.

9. Can a Catholic have a second marriage and would this type of marriage have restrictions?

If a spouse dies a Catholic may re-marry.

Sometimes after an extensive investigation a decree of nullity (annulment) may be granted related to a marriage. This is a judgelment made by a competent Church tribunal that a marriage that was entered into did not meet the conditions of being a valid sacramental marriage. Such a judgement may be made after a civil divorce has been granted and the annulment process is completed.

If a decree of nullity (annulment) is granted, the first marriage is not recogised as a valid sacrmental marriage by the Church and therefore the parties may enter into another marriage but this new marriage (in the eyes of the Church) is viewed as a first sacramental marriage.

If an annulment is granted there are no restrictions.

If an annulment is not sought or is not granted the Church views the first marriage as still current even though there may have been a civil divorce. In such a situation, the Church views the couple as still married but separated. People who are in this situation are not free to marry in the Church.

10. Where can I find information about Annulment and Marriage Tribunal contact details?

Several of the Australian Dioceses provide some information about Annulments and the Marriage Tribunal on their websites. Below are some links where you will find Tribunal contact details and in some cases (*) more information about Annulments and the Annulment process.

Contact your local parish priest and/or the Tribunal Office in your Diocese for any specific personal advice or information.

New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory

  • Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese *
  • Sydney Archdiocese
  • Armidale Diocese
  • Bathurst Diocese *
  • Broken Bay Diocese
  • Lismore Diocese    The Chancery, PO Box 1 Lismore 2480 (02)6621 7288 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Maitland-Newcastle Diocese *
  • Parramatta Diocese *
  • Wagga Wagga Diocese *
  • Wilcannia Forbes Diocese         Coordinator: PO Box 154 , Forbes 2871 (02) 6851 1349
  • Wollongong Diocese *

Queensland

  • Brisbane Archdiocese *
  • Carins Diocese                       PO Box 625, Cairns 4879 (07) 4046 5644 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Rockhampton Diocese
  • Toowoomba Diocese
  • Townsville Diocese *

South Australia and Northern Territory

Victoria and Tasmania

  • Melbourne Archdiocese *
  • Ballarat Diocese *
  • Sale Diocese *
  • Sandhurst Diocese *                  PO Box 201, Bendigo 3552 (03) 54416875 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Hobart Archdiocese *

Western Australia

11. What is the cost for a Marriage Annulment?

In answer to your question, asked by quite a number of people, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in his book "Marriage, Divorce and Nullity, A Guide to the Annulment Process in the Catholic Church" says:

"A tribunal has to employ staff, pay rent and generally run a large and busy office. Because of the common and false accusation that decrees of nullity can be bought, the Church is very sensitive about costs. No one is ever asked to pay the whole cost of the process. Every tribunal is subsidized from Church funds. In most tribunals two-thirds comes from the Church subsidy, only one-third from clients. From those who can afford to pay it, a payment is asked. If a person cannot pay that amount, less is asked. If a person cannot pay anything, nothing is asked. No one is ever refused a decree of nullity (annulment) because of an inability to pay. A rich person received no priority, either in the time the case will take or in the way the case is handled. Costs vary with the type of case. You will be informed of costs when you contact a tribunal."  (Page 117)

Click here for the contact details of each diocesan Marriage Tribunal.

I would suggest you contact your local diocese to discuss your case.

End FAQ