Marriage/wedding to non-catholic


I’m a senior in college and my catholic faith is very important to me. However, I live in an area of the country that does not have large populations of catholics. I’ve been in a serious relationship, though I’m not in one now, with a non-catholic where the topic of what marriage and a wedding would involve for me, being catholic. Ideally, I want the full Catholic treatment, and would love to marry a practicing catholic, but that may not be how things happen for me. When I do marry, I want it to be a sacrament and it be official, but I don’t necessarily want to only date catholic girls or girls that from the beginning don’t have a problem converting, as those seem hard to come by around here. I’ve been recently dating a girl that asked this kind of question of me. She’s great; she and I are very compatible, we have the same values, she would not be opposed to her children being raised in the Church, but she’s Methodist, and said she wouldn’t want a catholic wedding. She joked that we won’t get married then, but it got me thinking that I don’t know what weddings or marriages involve for me, and while she was joking, and I’m not considering marriage right now with anyone, I would want to be able to have this conversation seriously with a woman, when I begin to think about it and I want to have answers to these questions. I obviously do not know as much as I want to, and I’ve read alot but am still unclear about certain things.

Do I have to have a Catholic wedding with a mass and official ceremony for it to be recognized?

What would I, and my fiancee, have to do if I were going to marry a non-catholic?

What exactly is minimally required for it to be recognized?

I just want to have good information on the topic of weddings and marriage between catholics and non-catholics so when it comes up I don’t sabotage a great relationship with potential, which unfortunately has happened before. I know this is long, but thank you


Let’s deal with the sacramental aspect first. As long as you contract a valid marriage with a validly baptized Christian your marriage will be sacramental. A validly baptized Christian is one who was baptized “in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Not all religions that identify themselves as Christian baptize that way.

To be valid, a Catholic’s marriage has to be celebrated in the Church and witnessed by either a priest or a deacon (or, in rare cases, even a lay person designated by the bishop & Rome). If the marriage is to a non-Catholic, you must get permission for a mixed-marriage; if it’s a non-baptized you must get a dispensation for ‘disparity of worship/cult’ from the Bishop.

For valid reasons you may get married in the other person’s Church as long as a dispensation from canonical form is obtained.

Before you get to the wedding part, you would meet with your priest for what is called a ‘prenuptial investigation’. That’s where he will find out all about you and your partner: name, address, religion(s), sacramental history, your parents, their address, their religion(s), whether you’re free to marry and able to contract a marriage, whether you understand what a Catholic marriage is and that you understand that it is permanent, to the exclusion of all others, and that it has to be open to children.

Then you, as the Catholic, must promise to do everything in your power to have your children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic is informed of the promise you made but doesn’t have to make any promise.

Then you have to take a marriage preparation course and those vary from diocese to diocese and in some cases from parish to parish.


Is she opposed just to Catholic wedding or also to Catholic marriage?

She joked that we won’t get married then

Openness to concubinage isn’t a great sign.

I would want to be able to have this conversation seriously with a woman, when I begin to think about it and I want to have answers to these questions.

Good idea. Actually, I have to do the same in a country where 90% people are baptised Catholic. Such is life.

Do I have to have a Catholic wedding with a mass and official ceremony for it to be recognized?

Normally yes. Dispensations apply. Dispensation comes from the bishop (local ordinary). The minimum form is two witnesses.

What would I, and my fiancee, have to do if I were going to marry a non-catholic?

Instruction, dispensation you need to marry a non-Catholic, dispensation you need to marry outside canonical form, promise (you) to bring children up Catholic, acknowledging your promise (she).

What exactly is minimally required for it to be recognized?

As above.

I just want to have good information on the topic of weddings and marriage between catholics and non-catholics so when it comes up I don’t sabotage a great relationship with potential, which unfortunately has happened before. I know this is long, but thank you


Canon 1055-1165.


Thanks for your help and knowledge. As for the girl in the post, we are brand new and not nearly to the point of being serious, so a conversation about marriage was not expected or yet needed. She is not open concubinage, she was just joking because we were not talking about us and a wedding, more what i have to do in a wedding as a catholic. She’s a very strong christian, but she also said she wouldn’t be opposed to raising her kids catholic, but she wanted her ideal wedding. I have no idea if this will get serious to that point, and if it did if that would change, I just wanted as much information on what it takes from me as a catholic. So thank you.


I would be concerned about the ideal wedding. The whole thing is about marriage, not about the wedding. If the wedding is more important than the aspects of the going marriage, then something’s not really in place.


He did say this was a spur of the moment conversation with a new acquaintance, not a conversation with the girl he’s going to marry.

Also, he mentioned that this is a girl who is strong in her faith, and for all the the man she might marry later in her life might be Catholic, her dream as a woman is probably to get married in her parish. The Catholic Church acknowledges that the non-Catholic party has every right to follow his/her own religion and that’s why it grants ‘lack of canonical form’ dispensations.


When you say your faith is very important to you, what do you mean?

If I were to say that, I would mean that my spouse would have to share the same faith and I would have to feel connected to him through our faith.

If that is what you think you mean as well, then dating nonCatholics probably won’t be of much good to you.

Also, dating someone who is nonCatholic with the hopes that they will convert, change, become more tolerant, etc, is just as hazardous as expecting someone to change X after signing the marriage license.



Welcome to the forums, and good luck in your new relationship.

Before marrying in the Catholic church, any couple must go through marriage preparation, whether or not both members of the couple are Catholic. So you can expect that no matter whom you might marry. This preparation typically involves discussion about how religious issues will be handled in the family, especially with children. In a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, the Catholic party must promise to do everything they can to raise the children in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic spouse has to be made aware of that promise, but does not have to make a similar promise.

If the ceremony is between a Catholic and another baptized Christian and is being performed in the Catholic church, I don’t believe any special dispensation is required. However, a dispensation from the bishop is required before marrying a non-Christian. I believe this is called a dispensation from disparity of cult. It is required because the Catholic church considers marriage a sacrament, and one cannot normally receive other sacraments without having first been baptized.

If the wedding takes place in the Catholic church, there may or may not be a Mass. Sometimes it is preferable not to have a Mass since one of the spouses and many of the wedding guests would not be able to receive communion. Several of my Catholic friends have recently married non-Catholics. In some cases there has been a Mass, in other cases there has not. I believe this is something the couple discusses with the priest, and together they make a decision about what they consider best under the circumstances.

It is also possible for a Catholic to licitly and validly marry a non-Catholic in a ceremony at a non-Catholic church. This also requires a special dispensation from the bishop, known as a dispensation from canonical form. My understanding is that this may occur in situations such as when the non-Catholic party has a relative or close family friend who is a minister, and the couple wishes to have that individual perform the ceremony in the non-Catholic party’s church. I have no direct experience with this and have no idea how common or uncommon it may be.

I hope this answers some of your questions and gives you a general idea of the requirements. Keep in mind, there are a number of posters on these forums who discourage anyone from dating (much less marrying) anyone from outside their faith and they may chime in on this thread. Take their views and advice for what they are worth. But personally, I have a number of Catholic friends and family members who have married non-Catholic spouses, and it has generally worked out well for them. Others have a different perspective.


I am a non-catholic married to a catholic. We were married by a Baptist minister on a golf course. We also had a priest present at the wedding who said a prayer and blessed our marriage right before they pronounced us husband and wife. Our marriage is valid. Trust me dh made sure of that. We also went through the Catholic marriage prep classes. I also agreed to raise our children Catholic and I have upheld my end of the bargain. We go to mass every week. My dd goes to a Catholic preschool right now and will go on to Catholic School for Kindergarten. I am not sure about what everyone else was saying. We didn’t have to sign any forms or anything. It really was not complicated at all.


Such is the canon law of the Catholic Church that the requirement of form is to be observed - a priest and a pastor cannot co-officiate at a wedding. Nor can there be two religious weddings one for each Church. If the ceremony isn’t done by a Catholic priest, deacon or other person sufficiently delegated, then a dispensation from the local ordinary (bishop) is needed. Absent that dispensation and absent form, marriage is invalid. Now I’m not saying your marriage is invalid, but rather that your husband should consult his bishop or the tribunal which deals with marriage cases.


If the priest was there odds are pretty good that the marriage was valid, not too many priests I know will attend a ceremony that will produce an invalid marriage. It’s true that the priest can’t officiate with the minister but he can be there and he can offer a blessing. Only one of them can witness the exchange of consent and pronounce them man and wife.


Yup. I’m pretty sure a dispensation was given by the local bishop. What I’m saying is that without a dispensation a Catholic is bound by requirements of form and no valid marriage happens if that form isn’t observed. Part of the process of, “making sure it was valid,” must have been asking for dispensation from form.


I’m not sure that the average couple is even aware that the priest sends the paperwork to the diocese for a dispensation. I think they just say they want to get married in Church X, Fr. does the paperwork and at a subsequent visit he tells them all is a go. In the last several years in my parish I haven’t known one petition to be denied – of course we don’t deal with hundreds of couple.


That’s how it works.


It’s funny, I grew up with the notion of dispensations firmly imbedded in my
brain. My parents required one for reasons of consanguinity. I know that at first the bishop refused: my mom had a congenital hip problem and they were both older, Mom 28 & Dad 39, but their pastor persevered and eventually it was granted.


Hi Mike. As you can see you might need to make a compromise on the Catholic wedding thing. What you will want to explore is all the other aspects of being a catholic in a sacramental marriage such as use of artificial birth control. Methodists are permitted to use it and as you probably know Catholics are not. In reality the wedding might be the least of your issues.


If we’re speaking about birth control, birth control drugs tend to contain the same substance which is in abortifacients. They may harm the child and there’s probably some minuscule chance of aborting a conceived foetus. I’m not a medical expert or a pharmacist, so I can’t tell you more, though. I remember having great headaches in my last relationship over this. I decided if I knew the drug was potentially abortifacient, I couldn’t have sex without having problems in my conscience all the time through. And marital relations aren’t supposed to feel like that.


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