Is it proper to have a Roman Catholic wedding without a Mass? Say a family is half Catholic and half Protestant. The Catholic part of the family doesn’t want to offend the Protestant part. Does this make it okay to not have a Mass during the wedding? I was told that you need special approval from the bishop for this. Could someone help me with this?
What primarily matters here is not the religions of the families but of the bride and groom. If either the bride or groom is not Catholic, then a special dispensation from the local ordinary will be needed for the Catholic to marry the non-Catholic. If the non-Catholic is not baptized, and the couple wishes to marry in a Catholic ritual, the wedding must be a nuptial liturgy outside of Mass. If the non-Catholic is baptized and the couple will be marrying in a Catholic ritual, the couple may have a Mass if they wish, but are usually counseled to have a nuptial liturgy outside of Mass to avoid the problem of the non-Catholic Christian not being able to receive Communion at his or her own wedding (along with the non-Catholic family as well).
If the couple is both Catholic though and their families are the Protestants (e.g., one or both are converts) they may have a nuptial liturgy outside of Mass if they wish – and without a dispensation – but it is most fitting for Catholics to be married in a nuptial Mass. The idea of Catholics giving up having a nuptial Mass to avoid “giving offense” seems unfair to the couple and to Catholic family at the wedding. It seems to be worth a try, at the very least, to explain to the immediate family members who are Protestant how important the Mass is to Catholics and why it is fitting for Catholics to marry in a nuptial Mass, even if that means some of the guests will not be able to receive Communion.
As for less closely-related guests, such as extended family and friends, most people should know that attending the wedding of people not of one’s own religion will mean that there may be some parts of the ceremony in which they will not take part.