Marriage outside the church

Someone in my family has chosen to be married by a judge, and I was wonder if it would be a sin on my part to attend the wedding ceremony?

Thanks and God bless!

Well, not all Catholics who marry before a civil authority are marrying invalidly. If they are marrying a non-Catholic, it is possible they received a dispensation from form. If they did not, then they are marrying invalidly and it is generally imprudent to witness such a marriage.

The Church does not prohibit us from attending by some sort of law. The Church expects us to use prudence in the matter. The Church gives us this guidance, and expects us to form our conscience. So we must do the heavy lifting of weighing the situation and deciding for ourselves if we may attend.

From the Catechism.

1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

  • by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
  • by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
  • by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
  • by protecting evil-doers.

1869 Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.”


Yes such is a key aspect.

I do not attend such weddings (or send gifts for the wedding or as a married couple …or attend the reception) for I would say that such would be “celebrating” …approving…the happening there (which is not a marriage)…

I may though express my love for them and hopefully seek things working out the right way…


As someone who was married outside the Church, without permission, I think I can provide a different point of view (I received Radical Sanation - so my marriage is now recognized).

There are many of today’s young who simply do not understand or know Church teaching on this subject.

When I was getting married, I did NOT know about Dispensation and didn’t know how relatively easy it is to get. I was simply under the impression that I had to get married inside the Church or else. No one in my family knew about Dispensation. I didn’t know about and searched incorrect websites. I was also afraid to speak with a priest because I thought he would tell me that I have to marry inside the Church or leave the woman I love (this was based on how the media portrays this subject).

I would suggest the following (assuming that your family member is still Catholic and the future spouse is not Catholic), gently bring up the subject of Dispensation (to your Catholic family member or his/her parents). While the Bishop approved them, they are pretty easy to obtain. The Catholic party simply speaks with a parish priest, and the process is started.

It’s quite possible that they have no idea about the requirement of Dispensation or how simply it is. Its really worth doing. When I returned to the Faith and learned that I could not receive communion (and why), I almost started to cry and was very upset with myself. I could have avoided everything if I would have spoken with a priest.

Too often we laity place priests on a pedestal and are afraid to discuss these things with them due to fear of judgment (which is also why so many do not attend Confession).

God Bless

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The engaged couple are both catholic, and living together as if they were already married.

Then form cannot be dispensed, and this is an invalid marriage which shows contempt for the Church.

Do you believe you should attend under such circumstances?

Are they actual believers or just cradle Catholics who never took Catholic faith seriously once they left home?

They are believers.
They were brought up Catholic, but they live as if they were already married (if you know what I mean)

Since you put it that way…I think it would be scandalous for me to attend.
I’d be showing immoral support wouldn’t I?

Why don’t you encourage them to talk to their pastor about their marriage and about doing it validly.

If they go ahead with the marriage civilly, encourage them to convalidate the marriage.

Yes, I do believe it gives scandal and implies approval. So I’d be very reluctant to attend and would discuss it with my pastor before I made a decision.

OK this is sounding bit strange…

If I understand you correctly they both comne from good practcing Catholic families and they still hold to and practice their faith.
By that I am assuming they still come to Church (even if not like clockwork), they would perhaps pray outside of mass and might even be involved with the parish outside of Sunday mass?

Yet they cohabitate without any self-doubt as to the Catholic appropriateness of this and when it comes time to do the right thing they believe a civil service (without so little as approaching their parish priest for permission let alone to do the service) is the appropriate thing for Catholics to do…

Something doesn’t gel here, these are not the actions of living believers
(at least not that of those who know what their faith is about) :shrug:

Is the judge a Catholic perhaps?

That’s what is going on here. :frowning:
They say it’s ok to cohabitate and to sleep together and engage in sexual acts because they are engaged. :shrug:
It’s crazy that they pray together and they go to mass together…but they act like this! :shrug:

Absolutely not a sin. If they are Catholic the Church won’t recognize the marriage. I married my wife before a justice of the peace. She was Catholic but I wasn’t. A year or two later I was baptized along with our baby. Best choice I ever made

Perhps they don’t want a big wedding and don’t want to “pay” for the Church?

If that’s the case, the priest can marry them with only 2 witnesses and in the Chapel or rectory. Wedding “fees” that a Parish charges for weddings is really for the utilities, the music, and all the work that’s put into the wedding and prep by the lay employees of the Church (plus the utilities of warming/cooling the Church and lighting it.

A Preist would be more than willing to have the same kind of “low key” ceremony in the Chapel or Rectory as the judge would do in the courthouse.

The difference - they would be performing the Sacurment of Matromony.

Perhaps you can discuss this with them. They would each simply need to confess their sins before the ceremony (morning of if they slept together the night before)

If they are both Confirmed Catholics then this must be the issue, one would think.

Keep in mind, they must not be fully catichised regarding why the Church wants them to get married in the Church or they believe they have an impediment and don’t realize that they can fix it properly with a Priest.

Please let me know if this helps.

Thanks and God Bless

Do they know the wedding will be invalid in the eyes of the Church (I presume no special permissions have been sought)? Do they care?

If they do not care I would prob not go.

I’m certain they don’t care.
For goodness sake, they don’t care they are being immoral by sleeping together before marriage, and doing other things that should be done when only married. :shrug:

they know what’s right but choose to do wrong. :frowning:
I tried to admonish them , and I was told to ‘‘butt out’’

If they want a small informal ceremony, why not just get married inside the Rectory with 1 Priest, and 2 witnesses? Would be the same thing as getting married with a Justice of the Peace, EXCEPT that it would be recognized by God and the Church…?? I’m sure they woudn’t have to pay the large fees which are usually associated with have a large cermony in the Church. They wouldn’t even have to have Mass (a Deacon could do it)


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