Beach wedding is "no problem," really?


Hello All,
My nonpracticing Catholic brother in law is planning to marry his new pregnant girlfriend on the beach next month. My husband informed his brother that he needs to talk to a priest and try to obtain the appropriate dispensations to at least have a valid marriage. Apparently a priest said there would be “no problem” to have this wedding next month on the beach, performed by the bride’s uncle (I’m not sure of his church affiliation, if any).
This just doesn’t sit right…this has not been a long term relationship, and the wedding is obviously precipitated by the pregnancy. And, it’s not even in a church. Should my husband and daughter participate in the wedding party (or should we just attend the wedding as guests)? Should I continue question the validity of the marriage if a priest said it was “no problem?”
Thanks for your help!


My DH and I just had this conversation with our priest during our convalidation process. A valid Catholic wedding has to take place in a Catholic church. He said that he could perform a “wedding” outside the church (which would basically be for show to the guests), but requires the couple to actually have a ceremony in the church prior to the outside event. So, doesn’t sound right to me at all.


I have always been told/taught that this was up to the discretion of the Bishop, and not even a matter that a priest could decide alone? And it was always contingent on participation in a Pre-Cana style class, as well as a ceremony presided over by a priest, presumably inside the walls of a Catholic Church?

Getting married ‘because’ of a pregnancy does not in and of itself make a marriage invalid to my knowledge, and I would counsel you to exercise caution around this subject. I am not giving a blanket ‘OK’ here, but there are Catholics who have returned to practicing the faith who have been in this exact situation. In short, don’t judge too harshly. They have not chosen abortion, and are recognizing that a child should be raised by two parents whenever possible. They have further taken the steps to at least speak to a priest! These are things to celebrate and compliment them for doing.

I am praying for them and for you and your family. May your example be the beacon of The Light if Christ for them…as they approach marriage and as they raise their child. Amen.

Peace in Christ


Someone posted this in Ask an Apologist recently and could lead to a good answer:


The brother is not interested in a church wedding and neither is his fiancee. They aren’t interested in jumping through the hoops that a Catholic goes through to have a valid marriage so when your husband asked, they gave an answer that stops any more questions or insisting.

I would attend as guests. One day down the road they may show some interest in restoring a relationship with Jesus as their lord and saviour. They are on their own journey. Pray for them, as I’m sure you are doing.


Thank you for posting that. :slight_smile:


With respect, it is actually up to the couple where they choose to Marry - no-one else.
If you love your brother, rejoice with him and his bride on their special day.
God bless you all.


Assuming the girl involved is not Catholic, it IS possible to get permission from the Bishop to marry without a priest, even at the beach. The couple would still be required to do their marriage preparation with the Catholic pastor (or designee).

The bigger question is who is this priest who gave them this advice? The only one with the authority to even initiate a request to the Bishop is your brother’s** pastor**. There are lots of priests, including the “Rent-A-Priest” variety, who dispense wedding advice without authority. The Rent-A-Prest priests, for example, make a living out of performing invalid marriages so they are pretty loose in their advice.


Don’t worry about it. It’s the kind of answer someone gives to stop further conversation.


As another poster pointed out, the status of the bride is important. Is she Catholic? My wife is not Catholic, and we had a dispensation to be married outside of the Church (well in a Presbyterian church building specifically), but the Catholic pre-Cana prep was still a requirement for both of us, as was giving testimony before a Catholic priest regarding our freedom to marry, intentions, etc.


As a Catholic, you should know that this is not the case. Catholics are bound by Church law regarding who and how they marry.


That’s what I was thinking. I suppose by “valid” marriage the OP must have meant a Catholic Church approved marriage. But the groom is non practicing. Yes he may technically still be bound by Church law but realistically I’m guessing if he’s non practicing he either does not believe in or does not accept everything or at least does not adhere to more than just this. I was baptized and confirmed in a Catholic church but I know I’m not perfect and don’t adhere to everything. Whom amongst us is perfect? Personally I find the beach, created by God, to be a beautiful setting for a marriage. Granted not a CC approved one. But a lovely setting none the less. As another poster said about the couple and soon to be parents of a precious special little one, they are not interested right now in a Church wedding. Maybe someday they will be. But it is their journey. And I guess I have known enough other couples who marry outside the Church yet who create loving homes not to simply do what you said. So like you I would simply love and rejoice with them on their special day. They’re still family. And if someday they are led to have the CC approve of their marriage then there can be can more rejoicimng again! God bless you and all as well.


The bride is not Catholic. She is baptized, and there was mention of her becoming Catholic through RCIA. They also want to raise the baby Catholic, which of course we support. I just feel like if they are really serious, they should want to marry validly in the Catholic Church.

Thanks for all of your comments thus far.


I do understand what you’re saying. But at the same time I personally know of a Catholic woman who was married (no not in the eyes of the CC) to a Catholic man by a Protestant pastor of a denomination accepted by the Catholic Church as Christian. The woman’s family had staunch Catholics within it. But they did not abandon her or single her out as less holy than them. They stood by her. And when the couple had children they had each one baptized in the Catholic Church. Both are deceased now and for whatever reason they never were led to have their marriage approved by the CC. But I recall the mother especially came to attend Mass regularly with her young son next to her. She made certain her children were catechized and provided a loving home for her children. She had a Catholic funeral and prayers of the Church. So I just hope it works out for them. I’m just afraid if you and your husband resist or push too hard, you may push them further away from where you want them to be and I don’t know but that maybe could be worse. Peace.


I assume you are no doubt correct. But I’m not sure the Catholic groom being non practicing as he is right now, cares all that strongly. I understand his practicing family does though. The 4 month prep is something that has always puzzled me though. I’ve known Catholic couples who have lived together as husband and wife for quite sometime outside of a legal marriage of any kind. Catholic, civil or otherwise. Then they plan a Catholic wedding. They continue to live together during the entire 4 mos they are doing their marriage preparation. Is that ok as long as they confess on the day of the wedding?


Confession requires a truly contrite heart, you can’t use it in such a legalistic way.

If the priest presiding over the Rite/Mass finds out, I would imagine he would cancel/postpone on the basis that the couple isn’t ready to participate in the sacrament.


Not necessarily. If a couple is truly not willing to live separately / chastely prior to marriage, it may be a greater evil to discourage them from marriage completely. At least the couple is seeking to rectify their situation ultimately. While the pastor would certainly encourage them to live chastely before marriage, not doing so wouldn’t necessarily invalidate the marriage. Being in a state of grace is not a requirement for a valid marriage.


Is knowingly being in a state of mortal sin OK, so long as you plan to confess later? If I rob a bank, is it OK so long as I plan to confess afterwards?


Sure, I didn’t mean the priest had to deny them. I just imagine it being a real possibility.


That is completely wrong. Catholics are bound by Canon Law.

The wedding must take place in a Catholic Church unless special approval is given for it to take place elsewhere, and also must take place within the parish of the bride or groom unless special approval is given for another place.

Can. 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a quasi-domicile or a month’s residence or, if there is question of vagi, in the parish in which they are actually residing. With the permission of the proper Ordinary or the proper parish priest, marriages may be celebrated elsewhere.

Can. 1118 §1 A marriage between catholics, or between a catholic party and a baptised non-catholic, is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local Ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory.

§2 The local Ordinary can allow a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.

§3 A marriage between a catholic party and an unbaptised party may be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.

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