Do we attend or send gifts for upcoming invalid weddings?

So I know that variations on this topic make the round on these boards regularly, but oh well–here is yet another thread on the subject: :slightly_smiling_face:

My husband has a couple of cousins getting married this year. Both are Catholic (i.e., were raised Catholic and received all the sacraments). They are planning weddings outside the Church, in secular settings.

Question 1: Should we attend the weddings? We are leaning towards not going, but it’s probably going to cool family relationships if we don’t go.
Question 2: If we don’t attend, should we still send a card and gift? I feel that we should send something, and yet these are going to be invalid marriages, sadly. How have you all handled similar situations?

First of all are you sure there has not been a dispensation that would make the marriages valid?

In the same situation I didn’t attend. The relationships have survived. I don’t think there is a moral obligation either way though.

Like attending I feel that it shows support for something immoral. In my case I sent a text wishing them both every happiness now and always, thinking of the next life.

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I am about 99.99% sure there is not. One of them is in a hotel or resort, and although I know that technically a bishop could give a dispensation to hold a wedding there, they never do–at least not where I live (and I believe that’s the case throughout the U.S.). I haven’t heard all the details on the other ceremony yet, but I am told it it is the same kind of thing. I would be very surprised (pleasantly so) if I am wrong.

I have attended invalid weddings for first marriages (and sent gifts if we could not be there). There is always a chance that they could return to the Church too. Had I been asked, I probably would have declined being a part of the wedding party, though.

I did decline an invitation to a friend’s second wedding, after a divorce but no annulment. I did not explain why, just sent the RSVP.

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If you didn’t come, and I was the one getting married, I would promptly return to you any gift you sent.


Good to know.

However, people decline wedding invitations for all kinds of reasons all the time and but still send a gift–that’s pretty standard. I assume that in your hypothetical scenario, the couple knows or suspects why we didn’t attend and are offended, and so that is why they return the gift.

Correct. I should have clarified!


I would go.

I would rather be supportive of family in the hopes of them coming back to the Church through my kindness than give them a reason to believe the worst about the Church through my neglect of celebrating what is still a big event in their lives.


I was married in a secular setting with a valid dispensation. It’s not that uncommon if the couple can articulate some compelling reason.

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What was the reason for granting it in your case? (Just wondering out of sheer curiosity, :slight_smile: as I have never heard of it being done in our area.)


If they were distant cousins, never really religious and this is nothing more than a big family reunion to you, then why not have a nice meal on their dime?

However, it sounds like you are close and they are falling from their faith. You could call or just send a text or email saying why. Also, it is good to explain this to older family, aunts and uncles parents etc. They need to be aware.

I wouldn’t try and push my religion on someone, to the extent that I thought they had to get married in a Catholic church, but at least has to be a church. Of course if they are atheist/secular then why should they care to get married in the first place, except for cultural social acceptance/ a big party etc. I mean, that they could just get ‘married’ by a judge then have a party; why the ceremony?

+1 to this.

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It’s neither, really. They are my husband’s family and while I wouldn’t say they are close, they aren’t exactly distant, either. They did grow up together; we see them a few times per year at family get-togethers. I have no idea whether they are falling from their faith or whether they never really made it their own and perhaps just don’t care, etc.

I almost guarantee that any kind of explanation will be seen as a pious, holier-than-thou type of thing. :frowning: It’s a no-win situation.

We have no children, so that is not an issue here.

Um, in that situation, ask the other religious aunts, uncles, parents what are their opinions on the matter. Or, “Why aren’t they getting married in the Church?” simple as that.

Start with that and see where it goes. In the end, if you don’t feel comfortable. The last thing you should do is go and be a Debbie and Danny Downer. That would be a no win situation.

We have no intention of doing that. :slight_smile:

If you want to get them a gift just make it overtly religious, like a holy water font :slightly_smiling_face:

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In one of the typical editions of the Baltimore Catechism (meaning I could not find a version on the internet, just a hardcopy version), it states - regarding Catholics who get married by ministers - that one can neither attend nor give gifts.

There is no Church teaching on the matter, so it is totally within your discretion.

If you had a direct role in their religious upbringing, their choosing a secular path might be a direct insult that could justify not attending.

If you had no such role, however, then the wedding would be far, far too late to try to assert any moral standing over the couple. Your failure to attend would not stop them or make them reconsider. Not attending may even drive them further away from the faith if they see it as tearing their extended family apart.

If this were a clear cut issue, there would be no Holy Synod of bishops in Rome to discuss the matter; the idea of giving communion to invalidly married coupled would not be a serious proposition. These are thorny issues that even the Pope needs help discerning!

The bottom line is that attending or not attending should not be about you, but about what you and your husband think is in the best interest of the family members involved.


ok, I will point out a different side of the coin.

If you only see them a few times a year at family get togethers, in their mind, you could simply be ‘part of the gang’ and if you are always at every single family function and they throw a wedding and don’t invite you, that could be twisted as them rejecting you. In other words, they may not really care if you come but just feel the polite thing to do would be invite you.

If I was to get married and invited people because I felt pressure to include them, I would actually be relieved if they declined.

Somehow, I can’t help but think this is the case. If they were close, they would already know your stances on such matters and an open conversation about respecting each other’s life choices would go over smoothly.

If your conscious is going to bother you, simply decline without an explanation

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@runningdude That is helpful; thank you.

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Yes, I am sure this is the case, haha. :smile: We would have been fine with not being invited, just as they would no doubt be fine with us declining to attend. If we don’t go, we will probably not give a reason but will still send a card and gift.

Thanks everyone for the good advice; I feel better about the situation.

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