Time between civil and church marriage

In my country, you are required to have civil marriage BEFORE church marriage. Now, many couples will have a frugal civil marriage, that is invite only a handful of people, go directly to a restaurant after the ceremony, have lunch and that’s it. Then, they will start saving money and begin to plan for their HUGE church marriage plus celebration afterwards with 200 guests, a band and whatnot. Typically, this will take place months, if not a year later due to preparations.
My question: Is this frowned upon by the church? Obviously, 99% of those couples live together, being newly civilly married.

The two are not married in the Church so should not live together yet. The pastoral solution allowed by the Catholic Church in some situations (Familiaris Consortio, 1981) has conditions and it applies to those remarried with children that can not separate, that repent and are living merely as brother and sister, and not receiving the Eucharist where people know them.



Why can’t the couple do both around the same time? If they want to have enough money for the church wedding, save and then schedule them both within a close amt of time. The civil marriage can just be there to fulfill the government requirement. I wouldn’t worry about spending money on it since it is the sacramental marriage that matters in the church. That is when I would celebrate.


Is there a reason that they can’t get the civil ceremony done closer to the wedding? In the state where I was married, you had to have your witnesses sign your marriage license within five days of the court issuing it or it was considered null and void. Since they aren’t married prior to the nuptial Mass, they shouldn’t be living together as if they are.


I always thought in countries that did this you just did the legal bit the night before or early morning of a church wedding. I had a UK friend who did this because her church wasn’t authorised to do legal weddings but they wished to have a church ceremony.

It seems a bit cheeky for a couple to effectively have 2 weddings.

Of course, it would be technically possible to have the two marriages within the same week or even on the same day. I just find that many couples do it the way I described. There may be different reasons for that. For example, I know a Catholic couple who married civilly because the bride was pregnant and it is much easier in terms of paperwork if you are married at the time of birth. They have not yet decided on a specific date for the church marriage, but intend to marry in the church in general. Also, the pregnant wife would not “look that good” on photos.
Also, having the civil marriage on the same day eats up time: You need to switch locations and in total a civil marriage may easily take two hours away from the special day.

I’d feel pretty put out travelling to a “wedding” of a couple who had married months before to be honest, surely its a marriage blessing or convalidation rather than a wedding.

Yes, convalidation is the correct term, I think. I guess it’s better for them to marry in the church with a delay than not at all. This approach has become pretty common, nobody seems to question it. In the end, if the couple stays together, it doesn’t make any difference. If they break up, they may be glad they didn’t marry in the church in the first place. No annulment required, saving a lot of trouble.

It is more than “frowned upon”. It is grave matter.

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What country are you in and what are the directives of your Bishop’s Conference on this matter?

I am German and I am not aware of any directives of the German Bishop´s conference on this subject - likely there are none. I can say that most German Catholics delay their church marriage for a substantial amount of time after the obligatory civil marriage. As a matter of fact, I cannot seem to remember a single couple who had both ceremonies on the same day and I have been probably to a dozen Catholic weddings.

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Yes Germany is interesting - with the State intentionally attenuating the role of the Catholic Church in the late 1800s.

You need to speak with a priest, it is clearly quite a complex a question idiosyncratic to Austria and Germany.

Obviously, 99% of those couples live together, being newly civilly married.

I think you can see the illogic in doing this yourself regardless of how many “Catholics” do this.
If one is deeply Catholic one will likely not regard the civil marriage as the moment when one’s vows are made before God. Just as Catholics who are forced to get civil divorces after a failed marriage regard them merely as a separation not a licence to remarry.

Having said that cohabitation inbetween weddings is not exactly fornication either. But it is not good. What is good is to consider the Church Wedding as the real one before God. That would mean not doing what 99% of Germans allegedly do beforehand I suggest.

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Is it even permitted for a Catholic priest to do a “wedding ceremony” on a couple that have been married long term? I’m sure that wouldn’t be allowed in the UK.

Well, the Church definitely ‘frown’ on it. They are not married sacramentally. The Church marriage seems more like an after thought to validate it.

They have to choose one, which should be the Church marriage. They can always get civil marriage as formalities, since that’s required by the government, but they should become husband and wife only after the Church’s marriage.

Thus all their saving for marriage ceremony can be used to celebrate the Church’s marriage.

This is a more traditional view which is rarely found here.
In general, the reasoning here would be that the couple is at least having a civil marriage, i.e. not shacking up without any commitment. So, more conservative (i.e. mostly older) people will be glad that they at least took that step. Church marriage is mostly seen as a beautiful ceremony where everything has to be perfect and less considered a sacrament. People marry in the church mostly because it is tradition and inseparably belongs to their idea of a dream marriage, not really because they want to be married before god.
Mind that I am not judging or offering an opinion here, it is just observations. Times are changing and the concept of church marriage also underwent substantial development over the centuries, so this is nothing unusual.

Grüß Gott! :pray:t2:

You will find further information from the deutsche Bischofskonferenz below:


And a link from the above to "Everything about marrying in the Church"

This should help you immensely! :tulip:

Grüß Gott!
Thanks for the links.
Those are great for a general overview, if you are planning to marry in the church and don´t know much about it in general. It does not go into any details about time span between civil and church marriage and/or living together when only civilly married.
Those are hot button topics and you do not want to risk the one-time chance of people returning to the church for marriage. You do not want to deter them with rules which affect very intimate parts of their life.

Further digging has uncovered:

Müssen wir zuerst standesamtlich heiraten?
Seit der Änderung des Personenstandsgesetzes vom 01. Januar 2009 ist es in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland nicht mehr verpflichtend, dass der kirchlichen Trauung eine standesamtliche vorausgehen muss. Paare können also kirchlich verheiratet sein, ohne es nach staatlichem Recht zu sein.
Eine kirchliche Trauung ohne eine standesamtliche hat dann entsprechend ausschließlich Auswirkungen für den kirchlichen Bereich. Vor dem Staat gelten die Partner als unverheiratet. Dadurch haben sie auch keinen Anspruch auf die staatsrechtlichen Regelungen für Ehepaare (gesetzliche Unterhaltsansprüche, gemeinsamer Familienname, Rentenansprüche, Steuervorteile, Auskunftserteilung bei ernsthaften Erkrankungen etc.)
Wenn Sie kirchlich heiraten wollen ohne vorher standesamtlich zu heiraten, müssen sie Ihrem Pfarrer deshalb mit einer Unterschrift bestätigen, dass Ihnen das Fehlen staatsrechtlicher Rechtsfolgen bewusst ist. Dieser bittet dann beim zuständigen Bischof um eine Unbedenklichkeitserklärung (“Nihil obstat”).

From here https://www.ehebriefe.de/haeufige-fragen-faqs/haeufige-fragen-faqs.html

So you can marry in the Church first, and then later Standesamtlich because of the changes in the Personenstandsgesetzes on 1 January 2009.

Was kostet die kirchliche Trauung?
Als Eheleute spenden Sie sich das Sakrament der Ehe „im Angesicht Gottes und vor seiner Kirche”. Deshalb ist die kirchliche Trauung kostenlos. Je nachdem können jedoch Gebühren beispielsweise für den Organisten oder Kosten für einen besonderen Blumenschmuck anfallen. Dies klären Sie mit dem zuständigen Pfarrer.

And because you are most likely paying the Kirchensteuer, it’s free! :blush:

That´s true in principle. However, few people actually do this because it means all kinds of trouble with additional paperwork and complications. It really makes your life so much easier if you marry before the law first.

Sure, but if you are looking to minimise the “frowning” from the Church, you can do this.

You can make the Standesamtliche Hochzeit (civil wedding) the big one, as the Church wedding is essentially paid for by your Kirchensteuer / Church levy taxes.

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