Marriage when both are new in town + Unusual time constraints. Where do we find an understanding priest?


Greetings everyone, this might be a little long but I would like some advice on what to do and the background helps to understand my predicament.

I moved to San Antonio, TX 2 years ago when I landed my dream job at a Catholic hospital. For over a year, I traveled back and forth to my prior home (over 200 miles away) on weekends to transition my mom who has special needs. So, in reality, I only recently “settled in” here. I have begun to look for a new parish here now that I am settled (I didn’t just want to join the closest church like I did before, I wanted a parish where I liked the priest and the community which required some “shopping around”). THEN, something unexpected happened - I have met someone (another Catholic who also happens to have just moved here from out of state) and it is looking like the relationship is headed to engagement this Spring/Summer. Good news, right? Well, yes and no…

Its tricky enough getting married when you are new in town (without ties to a priest or church)… And the normal advice of “pick a church, reigister, attend and in a few months approach the priest” won’t work and here’s why.

  1. My potential fiancee is a single father (previous marriage annulled) and he only has custody of the kids over the summer and alternating Christmas and Spring Break. We would want his children to be present at the wedding.

  2. My work entails assisting hospitals anywhere in the Gulf Coast with patient evacuations for hurricanes so scheduling a wedding for the summer leaves me open to work-related cancellation. That’s out.

  3. That leaves us with Christmas break 2014 as our only viable time-frame within the next 1.5 years. For me, I don’t mind any day within Christmas break (in fact, I PREFER a weekday because it reduces vendor prices) but many parishes/priests have a “Saturday only” policy for wedding which means I have ONE viable date, December 27, 2014.

If we did the traditional “join your closest parish and…” there is a good chance that parish would be booked for that date already and that will leave us with NO options. The priest in my old city is not going to travel, I lived downtown and our closest parish happened to be the Cathedral so those are some busy priests. Further, we are both not young (I am over 35 and childless and already have been warned I am facing infertility issues, and even normal women’s fertility rapidly deteriorates after 35), we have older, sick parents, and other reasons why waiting a few years to marry like 20-somethings sometimes do is really not wise.

I believe that that leaves us with 2 options that I can think of… 1) Find/join a parish or a priest that would be willing to flex their normal rules to help us (by doing a weekday wedding if the 27th isnt free or sending a priest to our hospital chapel or other location). We would give them ample notice and time to do the retreat, etc. (6+ months which is the parish norm here in SA). But, how do I know which parish/priest is flexible/understanding like that? Call and ask? Call the diocese? I WOULD be willing to remain with the parish after the wedding regardless of location if they helped us (and I would include that in writing if needed). The only other option we see is a civil wedding and convalidating later. Am I missing an option? Any advice?


I think you are making some assumptions that may or may not be the case. If you are getting married, then the priority is the wedding, not other peoples schedules. You can take vacation, your fiancée can make arrangements to have the children, and the priest can do more than one wedding on the same day, remember, a deacon can also marry you. If you are serious about getting married then you need to see a priest ASAP and start the process.


San Antonio has resident military bases, does it not? It has been my experience that parishes in any community with a military population is used to people coming in and out and – with good cause and proper documentation and pre-disposition – can turn around and have weddings (or funerals or baptisms or First Communions or Confirmations) with all the whistles and bells in relatively short time periods. Sometimes it means the local priest needs to talk to hometown priests, but everyone I’ve dealt with in those cases have been happy to help. Best wishes to you . . . move forward in the Lord and assume things will work out as they are supposed to under His guidance.


Definitely, as there are pre-cana classes to take also!


Remember that the only person you should marry is your absolute best friend. If you are, marriage should be a joyous experience.
Stop imagining complications that really don’t exist. The fact you are doing so should tell you something.


You might want to just call or email the chancery. Looks like your archdiocese has some folks specifically working on marriage issues, and the chancery folks probably know everybody and can point you towards help.

Scroll down for the phone number and email address of staff people.


Register in a parish and be practicing and visible to the pastor.
Once the pastor knows you, sees that you are a serious Catholic woman, you can (if it turns out) announce your engagement to him.
Everything else flows from there.
There are, as a previous poster stated, Pre Cana and inquiries that must be completed.
Cross the location bridge if it comes up.
Most all pastors want to help their faithful parishioners. that’s their job. They want the best for you and your soul.
Give them a chance and stop worrying about things that won’t work to your plan.
All of the things you list are a long way off.
Find a parish home.




Mintaka, I will try the chancery this week. That was already on my mind, thanks for the confirmation… :slight_smile:

George. I am not questioning my choice of person, I am questioning the logistics.

Claire, I was previously engaged and had a bad experience with an inflexible priest. I won’t go into details but I speak form experience, not all of them are as helpful as others. Well, perhaps that was providence too though since that person was not God’s will for me…

Catholic1954. Arranging for the children to be present is not so simple. Keep in mind that visitation schedules are often legal matters and changing them may require going before a judge. Rather than have an expensive legal and lengthy emotional battle not to mention taking the kids out of state (with a 2 day drive each way) during the school year to accommodate our schedule - we will schedule during normal visitation. Even if it means going civil and convalidating later.

Thanks everyone. And, if you are in SA and know of an awesome parish or priest - now is the time to recommend!


Catholic 1954 — Wait, WHAT!!! Deacons can perform Catholic weddings!!! Really?? Do you offer them a stipend? Where do I learn more about this? That could be a viable plan B!!!



The others have already given some good advice regarding your situation, but as far as choosing a parish goes, I’ve been to two parishes down there that I really liked. The first is one of the Anglican Rite Ordinariate parishes that came over to the Catholic Church, called Our Lady of the Atonement. They have a beautiful church and several beautiful liturgies to choose from (Anglican Rite Low Mass or Solemn High Mass, Latin Ordinary Form of the Mass). The people were also very nice and welcoming when we visited there.

The second church I would recommend is St. Pius X Catholic Church which offers both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Mass (they even have a Lifeteen Mass, if that’s what you’re looking for; can’t say that it’s my cup of tea). I only attended the EF, but again the people were very kind and the Mass, of course, was beautiful.


“The first is one of the Anglican Rite Ordinariate parishes that came over to the Catholic Church, called Our Lady of the Atonement.”

This is one of the inflexible churches I was talking about. The members must be active 6 months before beginning the 6 month prep. process (already too late), no visitor weddings, weddings only on Saturday and not during advent. That’s alot of “no” - looking for a church that says more “yes”…

The other one (St. Pious X) is not far from me and worth a visit for sure…


That’s a shame, because if I lived in SA, that’s likely the church I would attend. I’m guessing they make those stringent requirements because they want to know who it is that they are marrying and that the couple is serious both to the faith and to each other. Your situation is very complex, but I would think that if you became a member, started regularly attending Mass there, and got to know the pastor that he would allow you to marry there. I can understand the marrying during Advent requirement (or Lent), but I don’t see why marrying after Christmas would be an issue.

Does your job not allow you to take vacation during the summer? If you could even get one week off, regardless of hurricane season, then you could plan a wedding for that time. Also, there may be a provision in your fiancee’s custody agreement that would allow his kids to come to his wedding were he to remarry, or have you already looked into that?


This is one of the inflexible churches I was talking about. The members must be active 6 months before beginning the 6 month prep. process (already too late), no visitor weddings, weddings only on Saturday and not during advent. That’s alot of “no” - looking for a church that says more “yes”…

You’re going to find the above stipulations at most parishes. They have these 6 month items in place for a reason. Your perfect plan needs to be scrutinized. A priest can advise you on the things you have yet to consider. And again, it’s not arbitrary that a couple be practicing Catholics at a parish for the Parish priest to want to preside over your wedding. A Deacon will feel the same way and ask the same questions.
Should I marry this person?
Just a thought. I don’t mean to be unkind. But there seems a lot of worry about the wedding and less about the marriage. Plus, your husband to be should be “in” on all of the above. Perhaps because this is an internet forum it’s not possible for you to fill in all the blanks. But it bears being said, since you asked.
I hope all works out well for you.


Claire, you are not unkind. I appreciate it. This thread is purely about logistics. As far as spending 6 months (or more) getting spiritually prepared for matrimony - I am looking forward to it and since our target date is a year from now we have time to meet that deadline. It was during the pre-marriage counseling during my last engagement that the issue came forward that ended our engagement and I am thankful beyond measure that what surfaced came out when it did (what was revealed would have been grounds for annulment but would have been devastating to the marriage). The holy spirit worked through that process. My fear is not this process, its going through the process and finding out in the 11th hour that a logistical challenge related to priest or church availability will derail our plans.

I am not a nominal Catholic. I went to Catholic school and then graduated from 2 Catholic Universities, I currently work and (serve on various ministries) at a Catholic Hospital. I have volunteered (and continue to for various Catholic groups), I am a major donor to one of my Catholic Universities (and yes, I plan to call them about marriage in the Chapel - that remains an option if they have a priest I can use) and give to CRS and I had adverts in my Houston church bulletin, one cannot ever say I am just turning up to church to get married… There will be no question I am a committed Catholic but I also want to commit myself where I will be welcomed - given that I am both transitioning to a new town and potentiall a new married life at the same time.

Larsont, most really beautiful churches like that look upon new couples with distrust because many are just looking for a photogenic backdrop for their wedding and then the couple will never be seen or heard from again. As for my job, its not that I am not allowed vacation - its that what I do is highly specialized and unique and I am really the only one in the region who has the knowledge and relationships in place to manage the situation properly (ideally Id like that to change but thats been a process). It would be unethical and really career-destroying if I refused to cancel my vacation and come in… NOBODY in my profession schedules anything important during the summer…

Good discussion all. :thumbsup:


In that case, the University Chapel might indeed be the best option.


I am disturbed by your idea to “go civil and convalidate later”. This is a grave sin. This should not even be on the table for you. If I were a priest then I would be concerned about your willingness to flout Church law and commit adultery - or even if you merely live in continence, to go through the motions and put your love of man above love of God.

You will need to be flexible in some regard. Either you will find a way to make it happen on exactly the date you wish - and this is possible, because you have time - or you will need to reconsider your parameters, which to me seem to be negotiable in some respect. Work with your priest, not against him. He can be your advocate if you should need to go to court or work out an understanding with your job.

Above all, please remember that you are Catholic and by your baptism, you have put on Christ. Marriage is not a right, and marriage can wait until the right time arrives for you and your families. An extended period of preparation is not the end of the world. For now you may enjoy dating and being with each other in a romantic way without commencing your sexual relations. Perhaps this will mean the end of your fertility, but with God there is always a way. Perhaps you can consider adoption. And you will be a stepmother to your husband’s children at any rate, so even without children of your own, they will be around.


Yes, a Deacon may preside over a wedding with the pastor’s permission. Since a Deacon cannot confect the Eucharist it would not be a Nuptial Mass, but would use the Rite of Marriage Outside of Mass.

I was a little taken aback by your statement that you will have a civil ceremony and just convalidate later if you can’t work things out. Most members of the clergy (and orthodox Catholics) will have a huge problem with that statement. While it might not be your intent, it basically says that the having the ceremony on your time frame is more important than entering into a sacramental union. If this were to come up during marriage prep it would certainly call into question the couples understanding about the sacramental nature of marriage.

You realize that having a civil ceremony is basically just “playing marriage” correct? Skip the justice of the peace, marriage license, etc. and just shack up because it means nothing. To be honest a Catholic that knowingly has a ceremony for an invalid marriage is making a mockery of the sacrament. The ceremony means nothing if you are not truly married. Also think of what example this would be to his kids. It basically sets human desires above doing what one knows is right. Is that the example that you and he want to show his children?

Talk to your pastor or the chancery and see what is possible. If the hospital you work for is truly Catholic then ask them to show that by putting the sacraments above an expectation that no one may be away during hurricane season. If summer is your only option then see if you can get commitment from work for one day free from work and then have a honeymoon in the fall or winter. I know very few people that wouldn’t roll up their sleeves and cover for someone so that they can get married. Try to be flexible and look for solutions rather than entering an invalid marriage.

My apologies if any of this comes off harsh, but sometimes our wants can cause us to do foolish things without fully looking at the repercussions. I urge you to drop even the notion of entering an invalid marriage for convenience.


It is quite pointless to post here speculating on all these crazy obstacles you’ve dreamed up in your head.

What you need to do is simply go talk to a priest. You are making this a lot harder than it needs to be.


It’s tempting to see if your fellow proposes, and then let Divine Providence help you out. It feels to me like you are trying to force it too early. It seems to me that getting the kids to attend their father’s wedding, is not going to take a court order. Isn’t something like early June 2015 (or whenever his kids are out of school an option)? That seems like it is before hurricane season. Maybe your best option is just to plan a small wedding, or even get married during a regular Mass time. I think this can be done, and then it lessens the temptation to become Bridezilla (not that I am saying you are one). It seems like having the kids there would be nice, but it would be worse to have them there for a civil ceremony, than to not have them there for a Catholic wedding.

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