Marriage Rite and Deacons


I am a Permanent Deacon and I have been asked by a colleague at work to ‘take’ his approaching wedding service.

I am of course happy and honoured to be asked but I think that possibly I may not be able to do this?

The reason being that happily my colleague is having his wedding within a Nuptial Mass and accordingly the parish priest will be present. Also my colleague’s Uncle is a priest and he will be there too- he intends to concelebrate but says he is too old to do the rest of the service!

Due to the presence of the priests at the service, I therefore believe that I am not permitted to ‘take’ the service and that it will be the priest’s responsibility to recieve the marriage vows etc.

I would be grateful if someone was able to confirm this and also may be able to find a document that sets it out in writing.

Many thanks

Deacon Dale

When DH and I were married, we had a family friend/retired priest preside at the Mass, but the deacon from my parish performed the Marriage Rite.

I don’t think there is a problem with that. Why don’t you ask the presiding priest?

That’s all you need to do, get permission from the pastor and who ever is the celebrant of the mass. My niece who is also my godchild was getting married outside of our diocese where she resides. I got permission from the local pastor to assist at mass and witness her vows. I even was allowed to preach at the nuptial mass. All you can do is ask, and if the answer is no, then you just tell your coworker that you asked.

Deacon Dale,
As long as the pastor grants you delegation (which I’m sure is happening here), then your conscience should be clear on doing the actual marriage rite. Canon 1108 applies here, and does not in any way say that a deacon is the “extraordinary” official witness. In fact, on the contrary the ministry of the deacon is “ordinary” here.

Coincidentally, we just recently finished our Canon Law course and this issue was discussed. “Ordinarily” if a marriage takes place within a nuptial Mass, the priest will take the vows. HOWEVER, it is not required, and a deacon present at the Mass may do so, unless of course one of the parties to the marriage is either an eastern rite Catholic or Orthodox, in which case the priest must preside at the marriage.

Do Orthodox have any problem recognizing weddings where a deacon presided (for instance, if one or both parties were to convert to Orthodoxy)? Or do they dispense with the apparent invalidity through oikonomia?

Do Orthodox have any problem recognizing weddings where a deacon presided (for instance, if one or both parties were to convert to Orthodoxy)? Or do they dispense with the apparent invalidity through oikonomia?

In the Russian Church, there is a brief ceremony of blessing the marriage of a couple who converts to Orthodoxy.

Other jurisdictions handle it in different ways.

That’s funny. In my intro to canon law we were taught that it is in fact not proper for deacons to witness marriages within Mass. The question didn’t come up during our treatment of marriage but when we were discussing sacramentals. The principle is that when more than one rank of cleric is able to celebrate a rite and both (or all three) are present, the one with the highest orders celebrates. Witnessing a marriage is not something like proclaiming the Gospel, which is properly diaconal, but is something for which all ministers are ordinary. Thus if a priest is present, he takes precedence over a deacon.

Yes, that is true. However, the pastor of the place still may delegate this function to a deacon. To say that one person takes precedence over another in a given situation doesn’t mean that if there is a sound, pastoral reason for making an exception that one can’t be made. So, in general you’re absolutely right, but in this situation the exception being made is a very minor one, and there’s no problem. To put it another way, if it were outright wrong for a deacon to preside at a marriage within Mass, the liturgical laws would specify this.

Thanks Andreas, that was my original understanding. I have also come across a similar situation when I have celebrated Benediction and my Parish Priest was in the congregation. I know that I am authorised to give Benediction but only when a priest is not present?

My wife’s father, who was a permanent deacon, officiated at our wedding. This was within a nuptial Mass that was celebrated by another priest. IIRC, though, he also needed to have our bishop’s permission to do this. This was readily granted.

So the OP may need his bishop’s permission too.

Possibly. Yet, the pastor would not give that delegation unless he knew that it would be licit; he would know enough to get the required permission first.

Back to the OP, Deacon Dale:
Please consider looking at it from this perspective: since the liturgical law allows you to perform the marriage rite, it can’t be something improper. The Church would only allow this if it were valid and proper. This isn’t an example of “extraordinary circumstances.”

If you aren’t comfortable doing this, please don’t take my posts to imply that I’m pressuring you into doing it. My only intention here is to set your mind at-ease that there would be nothing wrong if you decide to perform the marriage.

When my son was married, my husband had his four closest brother deacons assist at the Nuptial Mass. Our son wanted his dad in the pew, not in the Sanctuary, on his wedding day. I’ve been at weddings with 3 priests. Just beautiful!

Deacon Dale,

Not only would it be in good form to have the permission of the parish priest (it’s his parish)
but you (and not the parish priest) needs to get permission (licensed) of your bishop if it occurs in your diocese and if it is outside the diocese you need your bishop’s as well as the bishop where the marriage will take place.

Br Mark, OSB

Oh dear, seems like I have conflicting answers! The wedding takes place in my diocese and there is no problem with the PP giving permission. The only thing I can say is that I live in Liberal German and they probably do not care either way! When I asked for permission to begin teaching Catholic Religion to primary and secondary school children, they seemed bewildered why I had done so, and basically said - “do what you want…!”

Deacon Dale,

How do you see conflicting answers? I honestly don’t see it. Since you posed the original question, I think it’s rather important if you are seeing conflicting answers.

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