Can we have a civil ceremony before the wedding?

My son is in special forces training and his only time off for a proper wedding is the day after Christmas. Is there anything improper if they would get married in a civil ceremony in July, so that he can add her to his insurance and so that he can get housing prepared before the true wedding? His fiancé would remain at home with her parents until the real Catholic wedding. Neither of them would consider themselves married until the Catholic wedding.

Why not have the real marriage in July, with a priest or deacon presiding over an exchange of vows at that time, and then have a reception for the couple in honor of their marriage in December? I strongly urge the couple to speak to their pastor about getting permission from the bishop for an expedited exchange of vows when your son has the time available from his military training.

I’m afraid that a lot of people think a “real wedding” means a big shindig with orange blossoms, white lace, and limousines. What constitutes a “real wedding” though is a couple validly marrying.

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