Help for my sister - getting married


Need some help on a possible situation that may be coming towards my family soon – I would sincerely appreciate any information (general advice even) concerning this issue.

My younger sister is a cradle Catholic (like me,) but not really practicing – you know the type… Mass on special Holidays only, stuff like that. She recently made the decision to move in with her boyfriend (a homeowner, and a non-Catholic – who has apparently thought about “becoming” Catholic) while she’s continuing her education and working part-time. Shortly after moving in together, he proposed to her… so now they’re engaged and starting to plan a wedding.

Her fiancé is a really nice guy, I get along with and respect him. He is also divorced and shares custody of a child from that previous marriage with his ex wife. I don’t know what the circumstances for the previous marriage were (“form”ally speaking.) But, I know that they got pregnant and he “thought marriage was the right thing to do.” But, it didn’t work out, so they got divorced – now they get along very well (my sister’s fiancé and his ex wife.)

Obviously, the fact that they are living together presents a problem. Another problem is that he’s been married before. Adding to that… they already have a date set for when they want to have their wedding - September 3rd of this year (not too far away) and are making plans for that date.

That doesn’t give a lot of time for a possible annulment to be granted, to work something out with their “living arrangements,” and to have a proper and sacramental wedding.

I would love to know how I can talk to her about these issues without alienating her (from me and more importantly from the Church.) But, I fear that confronting her with these issues may make her angry at the Church on behalf of her fiancé. I’ve seen it before… and since she isn’t too “grounded” in her faith, I could see her leaving the Church out of anger or frustration – however misdirected that might be. Any advice on how to approach that would be appreciated.

Also (and I suppose this is a more selfish part…) but, what would I be ethically bound to do as a practicing Catholic if she decides NOT to have her wedding in the Church? If I am asked to be a part of the wedding (best man, groomsman, or something) does the Church teach that I must decline the invitation? If I cannot participate formally, am I obligated not to attend because the ceremony will reflect an outright protest against the Church? I hope that’s not the case… it would certainly hurt a lot of people’s feelings – and not just my sister and her fiancé’s.

I want to do what’s right, but I don’t want this to be “all about big brother” if you know what I mean. I don’t want her to do the right thing, just because “big brother” won’t come to the wedding otherwise – I would much prefer her to go about this the “rite” way and for the right reasons.

To re-cap… I would appreciate advice about how to communicate with her (gently) about some of the decisions she’s making right now. And I would like to know what (officially) is my duty as a Catholic as far as participating in her wedding ceremony goes… should she not have a sacramental and valid wedding in the Church.

Thank you for your time and consideration – any direction is appreciated! God bless!

Michael-Peter Donegal


Well, there are certainly a lot of issues to deal with here!

You know the complications she has placed on herself with the Church and with God. At best, she is living with someone without benefit of marriage and at worst, she is a party to adultery.

Since it sounds like you are well aware of the challenges she faces should she decide she wants to be married in the church, the best way to start the conversation is to just ask her: ‘are you planning a Catholic wedding’? If the answer is yes then you can tell her ‘you might have some problems because of your fiances prior marriage’. Then you can tell her what some of the problems might be and ask how you can help. If you are concerned about alienating her, do not preach at her. I suspect deep down she already knows she should not be living without benefit of marriage.

If she is not grounded in her faith then she is likely not to be interested in pursuing an annulment, should one be required. If her fiance was married in a church, Catholic or otherwise, then an annulment would have to be investigated. But if she knows there may be ‘issues’ before she talks to a priest, then she won’t be blind sided. Maybe she doesn’t plan to have a Catholic wedding, which brings us to the next part of your post.

I don’t think the Church prohibits one from attending a non-Catholic wedding, especially if it is a civil ceremony. I do not think you could participate in the ceremony if it is held in another church, because then you would be witnessing and condoning a non-valid marriage. This might also be true as far as witnessing a civil ceremony. There are others here who have much more knowledge than I about this. But I do not think it is a problem for you to simply attend the wedding.


First off, pray!

Be careful about taking advice from forums, go talk to a priest, they deal with this more than any of us.

It might be a good idea to talk to the groom. He might be a little more level headed about things. Moving in with a lover, being proposed to, planning a wedding are all very emotional and stressful things, but of course be very diplomatic and know your stuff when talking with him. And make sure it is not going behind her back or anything either.

See I thought it wasn’t a good idea to go to a wedding involving Catholics outside a Catholic church (without a proper dispensation.) It would be due to it looking like you give your approval to what isn’t really a marriage, cause Catholics should get married the Catholic way.


I have read where you can go to the wedding, in the appoligist area,its recommended to not stand up is all,

as far as it being a non valid marriage, my 1st marriage in a Lutheran church is considered valid,and i have to do the nullity thing, so if its valid in that case why wouldnt it be otherwise,

as far as the sacramental value goes, Take a look at the Foccus test that has to be taken before you can marry within the Catholic church, there is a question in it that makes you give your future spouse permission to have an affair, if you dont answer that you would forgive your partner for “getting some extra nooky” and talk it out then you cannot get married in the church, not very sacramental right off the git go to me.

so i think you are worrying and stressing way to much over things you have zero control over…

     good luck to you


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit