Are non-Catholic Weddings valid?

Hello - Long time reader, first time posting a question.

My wife was baptized Catholic, but then her family left the church when she was young. She was never confirmed and is beginning RCIA classes. I thought after she became Catholic, we could get married in the church.

I am a lifelong Catholic who married a Lutheran in a Lutheran church in 1998, then later divorced. So I was out of the graces of the church from the time of my first wedding. But when I went to talk to our priest about what I could do now that I was divorced. He said I didn’t need to do anything, that the church didn’t recognize my first wedding to begin with, so there was nothing to annul.

My wife’s friend, who is Catholic, is married to a baptist and they did not get married in the church. She said that her husband needs to get his previous non-Catholic marriage annulled, before she can marry him in the church. My wife now believes I need to have my first marriage in a Lutheran church annulled.

All the conflicting information I find, seems to rest on the premise that the church recognizes the validity of marriages outside the church. Do I need an annulment from my first wedding?

The two key things here are:[list]
*] the exchange of consent is what makes marriage
*] only Catholics are required to exchange consent in the Catholic Church[/list]

You, as a Catholic, were required to be married in the Catholic Church (or obtain permission to be married elsewhere) in order for your marriage to be valid. Since you did not do so, your marriage outside the Church was invalid.

You wife’s friend’s husband, on the other hand, is not a Catholic and therefore his exchange of consent is valid where ever it takes place. As a non-Catholic his exchange of consent was not restricted to any one particular form and therefore his first marriage is presumed valid unless proven otherwise (i.e. an annulment).

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