Please help! Alternative to Marriage ceremony - as visa has not arrived


Dear all,

Unfortunately due to changes in the American administration my fiancé visa will not be arriving in time for my planned wedding day.
If I get married legally it will void my pending fiancé visa application and my fiancée and I will have to start a new visa application. Meaning up to another 15 month wait.

We do not want to ask the priest to do anything illegal e.g. A not legal marriage ceremony. So we were wondering if there were alternative blessing that he could do for us?

We still intend to be married in the Catholic Church. As we are both Catholic and it’s important to us. But only when the fiancé visa arrives probably in 6 weeks time.

Please help.

Many thanks



I’m sorry Alex, there is not. Only a priest with the proper authority can witness at a wedding ceremony. You have my prayers. Please consider this is a trial God has sent for you and your fiancé and use it as such. God Bless!


Is it possible to delay your wedding until your fiance’s visa arrives?


If I understand correctly you expect the visa to arrive in six weeks. Why is it not possible to reschedule your wedding ceremony to take place in seven weeks?


I would speak to your priest.

I guess your reception is all set up, and postponing that is more complicated.

The priest can probably give a blessing for engaged couples.

When the paperwork comes in, then you can get married. It wouldn’t really matter when the ceremony was, you’ve done the pre marriage prep.

Sorry the bureaucracy has put you in this position.


My wife and I went through something similar.

What ended up happening was the priest discussed the issue with the bishop, and it was decided to conduct the Sacrament of Matrimony, but there was no marriage license. There was nothing illegal, as the Church may dispense the Sacraments as it pleases, and we did not present ourselves as being legally married, I did not change any work\tax records and she did not attempt to legally change her name.

There was no legal marriage, but a Sacrament occurred.

After the visa came through, we contracted with a Justice of the Peace and went through the legal process.

Here is the relevant Canon

Can. 1071 §1. Except in a case of necessity, a person is not to assist without the permission of the local ordinary at:…

2/ a marriage which cannot be recognized or celebrated according to the norm of civil law;

So discuss this with your priest, as it would require him to discuss this with the bishop.


It is not possible in evry countries.
In some, according to civil laws, a civil wedding is absolutely needed before a catholic marriage.


For the marriage to be legally recognized, you are correct. France is an example of that. Priest cannot legally bind a marriage, that is reserved to the civil authorities, But the Church is still free to confer the Sacraments in as she sees fit. Canon 1071 applies in France (and similar countries) no less than it applies in the US.

And more specifically , the OP is specifically looking at just receiving the Sacrament, while specifically avoiding the legal recognition. And to do that requires the bishops permission, not that of a civil authority.


Consult a lawyer before doing ANYTHING. There is a chance anything that could look like you’re trying to do a wedding ceremony could cause issues with the visa.


Yes, Canon laws applies in France too.

But no, for the rest. The priests are not free at all to confer the sacrament of marriage to a couple without a previous civil weeding. The priest will be punished up to 6 mouths of prison and 7500€ of fine.

And until 1994, the third time the priest will be celebrated a unlawfull weeding was considered as a crime.

More than be void, the engagements of catholic marriage are not recognized even at a moral due, because they are contrary to the Human right declaration, and rights of women and children, and liberty of conscience. Such as permanency.

There are no catholic weedings celebrated without civil marriage in France. They are forbidden by the Church in France.
There is still the possibility of a secret weeding, but don’t know if it is celebrated, because it must still stay a secret.



I advised you to ponder a lot before going married sacramentally without a cicil marriage licence, and more without a visa for your husband.

Is that possible that the visa will finally definitely refused by the adminstration?
If it is the case, what will you both do?
Because, as you know, catholic marriage is for life.


Yes, I know. A similar systems existed in the Soviet block during the Communist era. Priests were penalized for conducting a Sacrament without State approval. Or even today in China, where the civil authorities attempt to regulate ALL of the Sacraments, even the Ordination of priests and bishops.

But bishops still offered permission. Bishops in China still Ordain men without government approval

The reason being that God entrusted the exercise of the Sacraments to the CHURCH, not to civil authorities. The Church may choose to co-operate with such authorities, but the civil authority NEVER has control over the Sacraments. Never.

I agree that it would be very difficult to obtain the necessary permission from a bishop in France, but it is not uncommon to do so in the US, or in other countries.

That is why I suggested that the OP discuss this with his pastor, only he can make the determination, not internet posters.

All I was informing him was that the possibility exists.


I’d reiterate discussing it with the lawyer as well. It would be better to wait a few months to do the marriage, than to potentially do something that could block it altogether.


I’d go with the priest first. Lawyers tent not to understand Catholic Sacramental theology all that well. I look at involving lawyers where there are legal claims being made. Per the OP, there are no attempts at a legal contract being attempted, nor will anyone be claiming to be legally married.


It’s possible to marry by proxy. That might be an option.


Thanks you for your answer.
In my opinion, to go to sacramental marriage first is a big risk.
Because they will have to live with earthly and administrative realities.
What if the visa would never been delivered? Or delivered in 5 or 10 years? Is the wife ready to go to the origin country of her husband? Or they will finnaly slipt because they have no legarl bound despite being sacramentally remarried?

Another question (that is nothing to do with theOP situation): if a person married only sacramentally then separated and then decided to remarry catholic, who did the Church will found that he is ever married? Who they can found it without searching it? because what they ask is a civil marriage licence and a baptism certificate? (and baptism and marriage is not always done in the same parish/ diocese?)


They would still be Sacramentally married. There are many who have married, but have to be separated for long periods. Those in armed service, for example. It has been done before.

As to how the Church ‘discovers’ Marriage, they are recorded on the person’s Baptism certificates. When my wife and I were Sacramentally married, a notation was made on the originals of our respective Baptism certificates.

If I had attempted remarriage in the Church during the few months that we were Sacramentally married, but not legally married, all the attending priest would have had to do was look at my Baptism certificate. It would have stated quite plainly that I was already married.

Ask your parish secretary, he\she would be already well familiar with this.


We don’t have a secretary only retired volunteers people that open an permanency a few hours a week. (we have no rectory or resident priest or pastor too).
But it is a goog idea, I will take information when I could.


Immigration law can be fussy, and there are a lot of traps that wouldn’t be apparent the the layperson. While the sacramental marriage is extremely important, the additional trappings are less important than being able to stay together - and those trappings are what is hardest to reschedule. Hence why I would speak to a lawyer before doing anything. It’s better for the couple if the visa is delayed, to get the visa and then have the marriage performed, even if they would lose out on the reception and the guests (which I understand would be disappointing), than to have the wedding interfere with the visa and have to start all over and possibly wait a few years.


If the OP choose to hire a lawyer before, it should be a lawyer specialized in thoses cases only.

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