Marriage Question

My husband and I got married a year ago by a civil union out of state due to the fact that he was still int he military and it was hard for us to have a formal wedding as we were apart from one another due to myself finishing up school. We want to have a formal traditional ceremony/mass in the Catholic church now that he is home so we can celebrate our marriage with our family and friends the way that we wanted to truly have it. Is this still possible?
I know I have looked into it and have seen that the marriage has to be convalidated as it is not the proper way for a Catholic to get married. Does this mean that we cannot have a true ceremony? If this is the case what would we have to do to do so?

Would we have to have the marriage annulled or a divorce and then get re-married by the church? We are willing to go to all means and do whatever it takes to have our marriage approved by the Catholic church and to have the proper marriage and wedding cermony.

This is a very important subject to us and is something we would like to make sure is taken care of in the proper and appropriate manner.

Welcome, Bonnie!

First and foremost, congratulations! My wife and I also were married civilly initially (due to military-related issues) and sought convalidation after. You do not need to get a divorce or annullment. The convalidation is a blessing ceremony (ours actually took only five minutes after Mass one day), and if you would like it to be a bit larger scale with family invited, I would talk to whoever coordinates weddings and pre-Cana at your parish to find out what your options are. If you don’t know, your pastor should be able to point you in the right direction.

Also, realize that depending on your diocese there may be a required waiting period for convalidation. Something else the coordinator should be able to answer.

Thank you for your response. A lot of our family members do not know that we got married due to the military factor etc. we wanted to make sure that we could have the “typical” ceremony with bridesmaids etc and was hoping that that was still possible. We are saving up funds right now and have decided to start looking into what all needs to be done as our faith is very important to us and as we both know the Military makes things a bit hard at times.
I truly appreciate your response back :slight_smile:


The Catholic Church is not going to participate in any annulment of your legally constituted marriage.

Would you or your husband want to redefine your honoured marital sexual relationship as sinful premarital fornication?

Your marriage is recognized by the Church.

The Church recognizes both of you as husband and wife.

By the Church recognizing your marriage, she cannot recognize your divorce.

If the ceremony itself is essential to you, discuss the viability with your parish bishop or priest.

As Catholics your are entitled to participation in all the other sacraments, and unadulterated embrace by the Church and Christ.


You make a very true and wonderful point. My husband means all to me as does my faith. I know that our marriage is in a way against our beliefs but it was something we had to do so we were not living in total sin. Catholicism means everything to us and we want to make sure we have the proper wedding that is approved buy the church. Our main concern is how to do so and having a “normal” wedding party there

What is the dispensation you are referring to?

Yes we are both Catholic.

I appreciate all of yours feedback as we want to make our marriage true and accepted by our faith and do what we need to do to make that happen

A convalidation is not simply a blessing, it’s a wedding. You are speaking your vows in the Church and, as far as the Church is concerned, you are not married until you do so.

At that convalidation ceremony, you can have 4 people present other than the celebrant, or you can have 200 with all the trimmings. That’s up to you. Discuss it with your priest.

Thank you Phemie for the clarification :slight_smile:

A dispensation is a special permission from the bishop to get married in a way that isn’t the ‘Church’ way. Catholics are required to marry in the Church, by exchanging their consent in front of a priest/deacon or, sometimes, a lay person appointed by the Bishop with Rome’s permission.

Now sometimes when a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic there may be a good reason for them to marry in another church or civilly: the bride is strong in her faith and wants to marry in her own parish; one of the two have a minister for a dad or other relative; the non-Catholic family cannot agree to attending a wedding in a Catholic Church, etc. etc. The priest who prepares the couple can petition the bishop for permission for that couple to be married in a non-Catholic church or by a JP. It’s called a dispensation from canonical form. If it’s granted, the non-Catholic wedding ceremony is considered to have resulted in a valid marriage.

As far as I know, bishops are not allowed to give such a dispensation to two Catholics.

This is completely untrue. Where on earth do you get this from?

Anyway, if a Catholic attempts marriage – either civilly or in another religion – without ecclesiastical permission, they are not married.

OP, at the moment you are not married. The Catholic ceremony you are planning will be your wedding. You can have as many bridesmaids and flowers as the priest will physically allow into his church building.

Thank you for your input and information. I truly appreciate it. I know what we did was not the proper way to go about marriage and that it is not the right way with Cathocism but it is with our best intentions to make it correct and to be married in the faith and follow the proper guidelines and ways. Thank you again

I think you should qualify this as

“In the eyes of the Catholic Church, you are not married.”

Make an appointment with a priest ASAP. He will be in the best position to help you. You will still have to go through the usual marriage preparation process and it could take a little time. Congratulations!

The Catholic Church considers every legal marriage valid [Canon 1060], unless accepted as invalid, by the diocesan tribunal.

The Catholic Church does not accept your marriage as invalid, simply because you had a civil marriage.

The marriage is not invalid solely due to no priest or deacon witnessing it.

The Church recognizes your civil marriage.

The Church and Christ see you as husband and wife.

The vows themselves you expressed to each other are sacramental [Canon 1057], no priest or deacon is required to be present.

As a Catholic, you are not prohibited from any other Sacrament, including the Eucharist, because of your civil marriage.

To move to annul your civil marriage, by petitioning for a declaration of nullity, is not simple, and may fail.

Catholic nullity does not affect any current legal ligaments to the civil marriage.

And do you really want to annul it, certainly the Church does not, though it provides access?

Better to seek convalidation of your civil marriage where annulment is not necessarily required.

There will be many well meaning Catholics who will challenge me on the above points, and that is all well and good for them.

Hopefully you will talk directly to your priest or bishop to clarify the options for your intentions, given your particulars.

I hope all goes well, for both of you.


Anyway, if a Catholic attempts marriage – either civilly or in another religion – without ecclesiastical permission, they are not married.

What you said is incorrect - dispensation is not required, for the Church to recognized marriage.

OP, at the moment you are not married.

What you said is incorrect - they are married, in the eyes of Church and Christ.

To Phemie:

Annulment is the legal term.

All legal marriages are recognized by the Church, between non-coerced conscientious consenting life-committed heterosexuals seeking progeny, vowing as such, one to the other.

Married couples can participate fully in the Sacraments, including the Eucharist.



What in the world?

Catholics MUST marry in the Church, unless they have a dispensation. This couple is NOT married in the eyes of the Church, for they have not had a wedding before God and a priest. Therefore, they are fornicating until such time as they do marry in the Church.

What they should have done is to marry in front of a priest in the Church, and had a larger reception at some point later in time. Now they must go back and re-do what they didn’t do correctly, and also confess the sin because they are married civilly but not as Catholics.

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, they are married.

Marriage is between two, neither of whom needs a priest.

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