Sacramental Marraige?

Can someone tell me what conditions are necessary for a marraige to be sacramental? In RCIA, the leaders said that only a marraige in front of a priest during a mass is sacramental. If so, what about those wishing to be married when priests are unavailable?


Two baptized Christians who are in a valid marriage have a sacramental marriage.

Your RCIA leader is mistaken. A Mass is not a requirement for a Sacramental marriage. Even when there are priests available, many couples chose to have the Marriage rite outside of Mass for numerous reasons. And even if it’s not Mass, a priest will often serve as the ministerial witness or it may be a deacon. If neither party is Catholic, a marriage can be sacramental without a priest OR a deacon.


To add on a bit, if either of the parties is Catholic they need to be married by a priest or deacon for it to be a valid (and sacramental) marriage.

Two Protestants can be married in whatever form is acceptable to their community and it will also be sacramental.

There is a discussion on another thread about this too:

scroll towards the bottom…might not be specifically what you are asking about, but it is on the same topic

Note that if either party is Orthodox the marriage must conform to their rules to be considered valid by the Catholic Church.

when two baptized Christians (who are otherwise free to marry and for whom all the necessary conditions are present for a valid marriage) marry that marriage is sacramental. A valid marriage between two baptized persons is always sacramental. For Catholics, there is the additional obligation of conforming to canon law, in that the marriage must be witnessed by a priest or deacon and so forth. Are you speaking of mission territories or some other extraordinary situation where a priest or deacon is not available? that has been addressed in various places and times according to local circumstances. Can you clarify and give an example where this is an issue? No it does not have to me in the context of Mass. It should be in a Catholic church. All of these by they way can be dispensed at the discretion of the bishop if there is no danger to the faith of the Catholic, even to the extent of being allowed to marry a non-Catholic.

Wow. Thanks so much for all the info and detail. This will help. I was asking geralities, but you also mentioned what happens if no priest-deacon is available.

Thanks sooo much.


I was originally thinking of Japan; I heard that there were no priests in that country for a long period. (Close to 100 years, if memory serves…). Anyway, the story goes that, when the church was allowed back in, there were still Catholics, who had be baptizing and marrying without benefit of clergy.

Thanks again.

The “kakure kirishitan.” Probably longer than a century, too.

By the ius commune (common canon law) the consent of the parties before witnesses would have sufficient to establish valid marriage given the moral and physical unavailability of priests.

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