Outdoor Weddings


How would one go about getting an outdoor wedding recognized by the Church? I’ve been wondering this for a while because I’ve always wanted to get married overlooking the mountains at sunset yet I still want a sacramental marriage.


It probably won’t happen, Gisella. A Catholic wedding is a sacrament, and sacraments are held in sacred spaces. . .consecrated spaces like a church.

May I suggest that you hold the wedding in a nice chapel–there are many ‘outdoor’ type chapels that are Catholic–you could check out, for example, St. Anne’s Shrine at Isle La Motte in Vermont–and then have a reception outdoors. Or honeymoon in the mountains.

Remember, as beautiful as you may find the mountains at sunset, nothing can really compare with the Presence of Our Lord in His Church. Yes, He is ‘everywhere’ in nature, but He is sacramentally present in His Church at the Eucharist.

God bless you and may you have a wonderful marriage and a blessed life.


Well start by picking a validly baptized Christian (Catholic, Episcopalian/Anglican, Lutheran, United) to marry or it won’t be a sacramental marriage.

If he’s Catholic, forget about the above scenario. Two Catholics are unlikely to be granted a dispensation to marry anywhere but in a church.


I first want to clarify that I’m not engaged. Sorry if I gave that impression. This subject popped up in another thread, and it gave me the idea to ask about it. I really like the idea about a chapel. Are there rules about having the wedding at sunset/night?


That is up to the individual parish church, and some diocese set rules regarding when weddings may take place.

Many establish times when weddings can occur for logistical reasons-- not interfering with the evening Mass schedule, only so many priests available, accomodating other things like funerals, baptisms, etc.


You might have an “ideal” setting already in your mind,please remember that weather is on its own schedule.What if you planned your ideal setting and there was a storm (blocking out your view of the mountains at sunset)? Would you be so terribly disappointed that it would “spoil the effect” so to speak,and you would feel cheated?

Really,while the ideal setting is something you might find extremely important now,all that matters is the sacredness of your vows and the person you are marrying.The rest is just icing on the cake.
I wanted a Goldilocks wedding (not too hot,not too cold,but juuuust right) so we chose a nuptial Mass at 7:30 (I was a night person back then) in the middle of May.It sounded perfect.Truth was,it was hot/humid and stormy all day but it didn’t alter the fact that I was marrying the best guy on earth.Nothing could spoil that :).
Your future husband might have some different ideas and a compromise might be in order.Remember the old saying, “a wedding is one day;a marriage a lifetime” and let holiness be your guide.


I know this isn’t the question you asked, but as a function musician I’d pose the same question when booked for a secular wedding, out of concern a couple may be setting themselves up for disappointment. We’ve seen many “idyllic” outdoor weddings end up anything but, and with most of the guests peeved as well as the happy couple a bit deflated.

Can a marquee be on stand-by as a back-up? Couples may pay the full fee for that even if it isn’t used, or have a desperate scramble to get one at short notice at the same time as everyone else in town will want one too. In some locations it mightn’t be possible to have one delivered anyway.

Elderly guests need seating - next thing your dream outdoor setting has chairs everywhere, which have to be lightweight, so they’ll all be plastic or a mismatch of folding camp chairs. Will nicely-dressed guests have to tramp cross-country/over rocky or soft ground/through sand in evening dress? Or stand for long periods with expensive high heels sinking into grass or mud? Or get covered in wet grass clippings from the lawn mowing and rain shower the day before? Is the couple prepared to specify “Dress: mountaineering” on their invitations? :stuck_out_tongue:

Are there flies? Mosquitoes? Ants that will be up everyone’s trouser legs before the opening prayer? Are you under a flight path? (Nothing like the whole ceremony grinding to a halt for 40 seconds while a plane flies overhead.)

Does the bride want to make “an entrance”? Can she at the site, or will her cars and hence her egress, dress adjustments etc be in full view of the gathered guests?

Some musicians refuse outdoor gigs unless you provide proper shelter, and if you don’t, may reserve the right to pull out on the day - a nearby tree will not do as “cover”. The hint of two spits of rain, and they and their valuable instruments are outta there. Will the sun be right in their faces as it sets? And there’s no power or sound system for mics for a singer or the celebrant. (That’s not a show-stopper but sometimes someone brings a battery-powered PA which, just like plastic chairs, detracts from the wild woods, back-to-nature atmosphere. Or worse, a battery-powered keyboard. IMO a keyboard of any kind is incongruous outdoors.)

Wind messes up guests’ hairdos. Trying to keep a pristine white wedding veil off your makeup and lipstick in wind is tricky. (I worked that out the first and last time I ever wore makeup, even just getting from house to church.) Woodwind players can be bothered by wind and we even had a gig where the violinist’s bow was blowing off the strings. Pegging the music to the stands was a waste of time because the stands kept blowing over, so we had to anchor them with our feet while playing. (That was an extreme case, though, I will admit. :wink: )

Lots of these things can be worked around and not everyone is upset by them but let’s just say I’ve seen some glorious disasters.

I suppose where outdoor weddings go wrong is where people want the outdoor setting and all the indoor trappings. If the couple and their guests dressed in jeans and hiking boots and toasted marshmallows round the fire afterwards, there’d be very few hitches!


Can. 1118 §1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.
§2. The local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
§3. A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.

Generally, a sacramental marriage, both parties have been baptized, must be held in a church or oratory. While the bishop can permit marriage in another suitable place, such permission is rarely given and only for the gravest of reasons.


There are outdoor shrines you can get married at. I almost got married at this one in Vermont. It’s absolutely gorgeous and is right on the lake.

Here’s their website: saintannesshrine.org/index.html

And this website has more pictures of it: historiclakes.org/explore/ste_anne.htm

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the chapel is RIGHT on the lake. We’re talking like 30 feet. The pictures really don’t do this place any justice.


As pretty as an outdoor wedding might sound to you… The only sure way to avoid rain, bugs and other “natural disasters (to a wedding)” would be an indoor wedding. For a sacramental Catholic wedding… count on the parish Church.

As others have suggested… have the reception outdoors if you want that. But do remember that bands and DJ’s require electricity for their equipment.

I was married in my parish with a very formal Nuptial Mass, but our reception was held at a reindeer ranch… indoor w/ AC for the adults and the DJ set up in there… go carts, corn maze and outdoor fun for kids. My wedding and reception became pretty famous in my area… it was awesome… Most adults walked around touring the place outside too… visiting the reindeer, checking out the gift shop, seeing the authentic Indian teepee…etc then came in for drinks, dinner and dancing… the kids spent most of the time outside playing, came in for dinner and had an absolute blast!

Everyone (except my mom) wore jeans. 3 weeks after the event I overheard Theresa Grentz (U of I girls basketball coach and former Immaculata bball player) asking about my wedding… so I walked right up to her and said it was my wedding she was asking about. She and I chatted about it for quite a while…what a great way to meet a person like her… after that we met up several times and found out she volunteers at a convalescent home for nuns that my mom works at…in PA (We all live in Illinois).
Formal Wedding
The outside sights
The indoor area


matrimony is a sacrament which means it derives its grace from the fount of the Eucharist, which means it is celebrated in the church or oratory, unless there is a grave, compelling (not frivolous like OP) reason to do otherwise. suggest you begin your marriage preparation with the meeting with the priest and work on an understanding of the sacrament, so these questions will become self-explanatory


I agree. It doesn’t get much nicer than St. Annes Shrine in VT. They have a huge outdoor chapel and if i’m not mistaken, a large welcome center (that may be available for functions?)



But…don’t give up all hope yet! H.Mass can be celebrated ANYWHERE, in Holland and Belgium we have an annual Mass ON THE BEACH for the ‘Sea Mission’ (those who work on big boats). Mass is said on the beach, and it’s just as ‘sacred’ as in a church! It’s televised every year, and personally -when I was living in Holland- it was the highlight of my year, at Zandvoort, wind in my hair…hearing Mass with the waves roling behind the priest! In Lourdes there is the open-air ‘chapel’ in the trees…many places of pilgrimage have ‘outdoor’ places for Mass! And for that reason, because Mass can be celebrated ANYWHERE, in some countries they DO give permission to celebrate a nuptual Mass outside a church. Ofcourse, you need to find a groom first…but…if you don’t mind marrying outside the US, you could look at places where a nuptual Mass ‘outside’ or semi-outside is possible

Anna x


Does anyone have a picture of the outdoor chapel?




hope this helps




[LEFT]Requests to be married at Saint Anne’s Shrine:
The Marriage ceremony normally takes place in the home parish of the bride or groom, but some weddings are permitted in the Shrine Chapel. Those wishing to celebrate their marriage in the Chapel must meet the following requirements:[/LEFT]
*][LEFT]The couple should have good pastoral reasons for being married in the Shrine Chapel, rather than in their home parish. [/LEFT]
*][LEFT]There should be a formal relationship between the couple and the Shrine. At least one party must be either a parishioner of St. Amadeus Church or St. Joseph’s Mission; a student, member of the faculty or staff of the Shrine and/or St. Michael’s College; or a benefactor of Saint Anne’s Shrine. [/LEFT]


Hollywood has done young women a great disservice by creating a false illusion that the perfect romantic wedding MUST be in some senic outdoor spot (this is second only to the illusion that 3 year olds can be perfect flower girls/ring bearers).

In real life, outdoor weddings are a nightmare. Bugs and rain, wind and humidity, cold and pollen, sand and dirt and rocks in your shoes or all over the hem of your dress. Weddings are stressful enough, without adding huge sweat stains from the 99% humidity to the mix.


The Shrine’s policy isn’t quite that strict because none of that applied to me and I was allowed to get married there. The only reason we didn’t ws because I didn’t want to get married at 10 in the morning :slight_smile:


I suggest avoiding buying Bridal magazines first. They will just give you unrealistic ideas. Your perception of marriage surround a worldly view whether you realize it or not. There are many things that are “romantic”. But what can be more romantic than wedding the love of your life before God in a beautiful sacred place consecrated to God with the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the Tabernacle?

I tried and was denied many years ago. You’re not likely to get it. You really should do more research on why. Trust me it could become a stumbling block for you later. Pray about it. But don’t plan something that is not likely to happen. You’re just planning to fail unless you do the illicit thing and end up convalidating your marraige.


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