Wedding Sadness, Looking for insight


I found this site by searching for some answers to my huge dilemma. I have read many thoughtful and knowledgeable answers to other questions here and hope that some of you can help me with this seemingly insurmountable issue I’m having.

I am 27 years old and have been engaged to a wonderful man (he is 28) for three months. We dated for over three years prior to our engagement, and our courtship has been a Christian one. No premarital sex and no living together (I live with a girlfriend and he has his own apartment.) I am crazy about my fiance and think he is going to make the most loving, responsible husband and father ever. We share the same values, goals and desires for our future family life.

So this all seems great, right? Wrong. I was raised in a Catholic home. I wouldn’t say we were super strict Catholics, but we were fairly devout. When I was in college I felt called to explore other faiths. There was so much about the Catholic church that did not make any sense to me and just seemed plain wrong. I loved a lot about my upbringing but as I grew older things just weren’t adding up and I found it more and more difficult to call myself a practicing Catholic. I just couldn’t get on board.

I went to a few different churches and fell in love with the Methodist one in my area. There, I felt so close to God and renewed my passion for Christ and doing His work. I found a fellowship of people that really invigorated my love for Jesus and supported me in seeking Him in all I did. I made lots of friends there. They welcomed me! Within a month I was being greeted by my first name - something I never had at my Catholic parish (not that being greeted is the be all end all - but it was really nice!) I started in earnest working on my prayer life and found myself joyfully attending church on Sundays, prayer group, women’s retreats and volunteering events.

Of course, my parents rolled their eyes and told me I’d “get over it” and come back to The Church. Over the years their devotion has increased. They thought I was going through a phase, and even when I respectfully tried to explain myself, they said that the Methodist church I was attending was fake and that I’d eventually see the light and return to Mass. They said they were praying for me to do so and I happily accepted their prayers that if it was God’s will for me to return that I would be led to. But I wasn’t.

That was 8 years ago. I am still attending the same Methodist church. I have NEVER wavered in my conversion away from Catholicism. I have no ill will toward the Church at all, but I feel at home with the Methodists. My fiance attends there as well and we really support each other in our spiritual lives. Of course we plan to be married in our church by our long-time pastor who is also a dear friend and a true spiritual guide to us.

My parents are incredulous. They have been trying to convince me to have a Catholic wedding for my entire engagement. They have used every argument in the book and I do realize that this is important to them. They say I am denying God’s grace, and that I will NEVER be truly married unless I marry in the Church. I know they believe this, but I just don’t. I do not think that I am obligated to marry in the Church if I don’t believe in it! How can I promise to raise a Catholic family and live by Catholic doctrine if I no longer call myself a Catholic? I do not want or need the Church to make my marriage a sacrament because I am having the sacrament in my own church of many years, where I worship with my fiance.

My parents have said they will not put a dime towards a non-Catholic wedding. I said that I understand their perspective and that it’s fine. My future-in-laws (Methodists) are happy to pitch in and we’ll have a small wedding. Since that didn’t work, they are now threatening not to come and my father has said he could NEVER walk me down the aisle in a Methodist church because it would all be a “ruse” since I will not really be getting married. The latest thing is that it would be “giving scandal” to my siblings if they attended and will avoid my wedding to protect the younger kids.

They have also said that they will consider us to be “shacking up” after our wedding and fornicating when we have marital relations since our marriage will be technically invalid. Nice, huh?

This is killing me. I am so sad and this supposedly happy time is becoming miserable and a huge family feud.

I have said that just because they don’t think my Methodist wedding is real - is is, actually real and is very real and sacramental to us. I do not see how they could feel I was bound to marry in a Church that I don’t attend or consider myself a part of. What am I to do? Not marry at all? That is silly. Every former Catholic who leaves the Church HAS to be married there or never marry?

Of course I adore my family and this is breaking my heart. I want them all there. I want my daddy to walk me down the aisle. I want them to be happy for me and I want this time to be joyous. I have offered for them to invite their priest to our wedding and let him say the blessing at the reception dinner. I have tried so hard to explain things to them in a way that is non-offensive and respectful of their faith. They just don’t respect mine. They are constantly telling me that the Methodist church isn’t “true” and that my minister has zero authority and is just “some guy” who thinks he knows about Jesus.

I am not sure what I should do… I am sick about this and losing weight and sleep. I have never fought with my family like this. If I were your child, what would you do? What can I do to fix this?? I’d appreciate some honest feedback because I think my parents are being really unfair. I have found my home in my new church and it’s NOT a phase. But I love my family and want them to be happy and support us. So sad.

Thank you!!

You parents are both right and wrong at the same time. They are right in their understanding of what the Church is and what a sacramental marriage is about. However, that does not mean that all their behaviors are right and I would say that some of those are not Christian/catholic at all. Love is what should guide us in our relation with other people and love implies truth. It looks to me that they are just focusing on truth but disregard love.
You decided to leave the Catholic Church and live as a Methodist, that is your choice. I am not going to lecture you on all the implications of being a Catholic, it looks like your parents are already investing a lot of time in that.
I think that considering what you truly believe now it would be wrong for you to be married in the Catholic Church. It would only be an hypocritical way to pay lip service to your parents.
My suggestion is that you encourage them to talk to their priest to seek understanding on the best way to deal with your plans, and then you also let them know that you will accept the suggestions of the priest without holding any resentment toward them. Probably the priest will say something that will go against the grain for all of you, something like go to the weeding but do not participate in the ceremony (e.g. do not give away the bride). The priest could also say that the parents should not go to avoid scandal to the young ones. The suggestions depend a lot on your attitudes and your parents attitudes, maybe you should be ready to participate in the discussion with the priest without making false promises.
Just remember that when you were confirmed you made a solemn promise to God and then you broke it. Do you consider marriage a solemn promise to God too?

That sounds like a very difficult situation to be in, indeed.

Before proceeding further, could you please clarify:

  1. What did you find difficult to “get on board with”?

  2. What did you understand about the Sacrament of Confirmation when you were confirmed?

Apparently, after eight years, they didn’t get it. I cannot see you getting married in a Catholic Church if you have no plans to practice Catholicism. Why don’t you go to their priest and ask him to talk to them?

Someday you might see things differently but no one can hit you over the head to get you to be a Catholic. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I think you’ve done a good job by remaining chaste and wish you and your groom the best. Sorry your folks are acting this way but when were they going to get it that you are a Methodist?

It’s a delicate topic.

Hard to say that your parents are being unfair: they simply know what’s best for you. And - as you yourself know well as an adult - what feels good is not always what is best.

It is my understanding that if one of two parties is a Catholic - as you are, though you now follow another Christian community, since one never ceases to be part of the Catholic Church - you can request from the Church a dispensation to marry in a Methodist church.

I guess you may want to talk to a priest as soon as possible, because it probably takes a few steps, such as verifying your baptism etc. (I am no expert on this).

It is also my understanding that if both of you are baptized (we know the Methodist baptism is valid) and if you marry in the Methodist church with a proper dispensation from the Catholic Church, then the marriage is considered to be valid and sacramental.

So the simplest thing to do is: talk to any Catholic priest about this. He will know the details about how to obtain the dispensation (this Ask an Apologist answer and this link may help) and confirm that the marriage will be both valid and sacramental in the eyes of the Church.

Once you begin these steps and the priest confirms this information, perhaps the best thing to do is to arrange a small meeting with the priest and your parents, that the priest may confirm that everything is fine in the eyes of the Church. Don’t be too upset, clearly your parents do not know much about the Methodist church, so they deserve to be forgiven. That’s why arranging the meeting with the priest will be very helpful.

All of the above you may feel uncomfortable doing, however it is very praiseworthy in the eyes of God because it is done, if not out of love for the Church, at least out of love for your parents, who - honestly - only want the best for you, no matter how harsh their words may sound. It is the intention what matters, not the way in which it is expressed. The day will come when you will have, with God’s blessing, your own children - then you’ll understand.

3. What is the difference between a valid and an invalid Catholic marriage?

Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
4. If a Catholic wants to marry a non-Catholic, how can they assure that the marriage is recognized by the Church?*

In addition to meeting the criteria for a valid Catholic marriage (see question #3), the Catholic must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a “permission to enter into a mixed marriage.”

6. If a Catholic wishes to marry in a place outside the Catholic church, how can he or she be sure that the marriage is recognized by the Catholic Church as valid?

The local bishop can permit a wedding in another church, or in another suitable place, for a sufficient reason. For example, a Catholic seeks to marry a Baptist whose father is the pastor of the local Baptist church. The father wants to officiate at the wedding. In these circumstances, the bishop could permit the couple to marry in the Baptist church. The permission in these instances is called a “dispensation from canonical form.”

8. When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, must the non-Catholic promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith?

The non-Catholic spouse does not have to promise to have the children raised Catholic. The Catholic spouse must promise to do all that he or she can to have the children baptized and raised in the Catholic faith.

Pray that the Holy Spirit may grant you wisdom, because you have to be very careful in your discernment…God wants your joy to be full, but you do not want to offend Him by hurting your nearest and dearest just because you want your will to be done.

You know, I think it would be a good idea, without telling them, to make an appointment and go see the Bishop of the Diocese they live in. I don’t think this is at all the Church’s position. After you get a good grounding in what the Church does say, then you, your fiance and your parents can meet with their Pastor and your Pastor in a nice group meeting to discuss the issues.

Enough is enough.

This is a difficult situation. As a Catholic, albeit lapsed, you are bound to abide by canon law, which says that Catholics must marry in the Catholic Church.

Definitely speak to the pastor of the Catholic parish nearest your home as soon as you can.

**OM GOSH - I see this is your first post and you are asking for comments on a difficult situation.

My question to you is…why if you were raised Catholic - and now call yourself a Methodist - what happened for you to leave the Catholic Church? I will pray that you seek out the truth to your questions…they can all be found in the Catholic faith.

One of the main differneces in the two religions is the Holy Eucharist. I will pray that you can search what this means.

Have you seen Matthew Kelley’s book - “Redisover Catholicism?”

If you PM me I promise to get you a copy.**

It has been suggested you talk with your parents priest. I think this is a good idea. Tell him what is happening, and how it is making you feel. Make sure that you tell him that it is ripping apart your relationship with your family. I really think this is your best route, because the priest can sit down and talk with them.

I will pray for you.

What do you think the priest will talk to them about?

What you have forgotten in your post is that a Catholic is required to follow Church rules. One of which is to have a Priest or Deacon as witness for the Church or a dispensation. If that is not done the Marriage is doubtful.

The advice from R_C is very good. Your Methodist pastor probably knows a priest or two if you don’t want to speak to the priest at your parent’s parish.

On the other hand, certainly many lapsed Catholic marry outside the Church. Some to their sorrow later when they return to the Church. We have many threads about this here. Others very likely go on as contented Methodists (or whatever) for the rest of their lives.

The concern however is the the Catholic Church has the fullness of the faith and those who leave the Church may be doing so to the peril of their immortal souls. That’s why your parents are so upset. Although some of their actions/words are not the best witness.

I will be praying for you.

Your personal opinion about doctrine does not matter, what it matters is what the Church teaches and commands and that people should behave in accordance to them. Catholics are bound by doctrine and Canon Law. Just because a person decides that does not want to participate in the life of the Catholic Church that does not mean that others are exempted from obedience and that does not mean that the Truth has been changed.

You linked an article and a blog. Hardly official Church vehicles for teaching doctrine.

If you want “official” try the USCCB

What is the difference between a valid and an invalid Catholic marriage?

Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.

If a Catholic wants to marry a non-Catholic, how can they assure that the marriage is recognized by the Church?

In addition to meeting the criteria for a valid Catholic marriage (see question #3), the Catholic must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a “permission to enter into a mixed marriage.” If the person is a non-Christian, the permission is called a “dispensation from disparity of cult.” Those helping to prepare the couple for marriage can assist with the permission process.

or go straight to canon law

Can. 1108 §1. **Only those marriages are valid **which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. ⇒ 144, ⇒ 1112, §1, ⇒ 1116, and ⇒ 1127, §§1-2.


Thank you so very much for your replies. Let me answer a few of your questions

–What made me leave the Church? Well, first of all I guess some of it just started to be really hard for me to believe. Impossible, really. I do not believe that bread and wine can be literally transformed into Jesus’ flesh. I do not believe that we must go to confession to get forgiven for our sins. I don’t think that wearing medals or scapulars or having Mary statues confers any special graces on people. I don’t think the Pope can speak “Ex Cathedra.” I don’t think we can pray for deceased people to get out of purgatory, if there is such a place. I am not sure that using contraception is always wrong. If God is God then He knows my heart and soul. For the last 8 years I have had a really close relationship with Jesus - not based on obligation, rituals, fear of mortal sin or laws - but on His goodness and grace and light and love for humanity and my love for Him. There is no middle-man! I love it.

–When I was confirmed I was 16. A child. I did it because my parents wanted me to and I was “supposed to.” I honestly do not recall very much about my confirmation program other than that is was dull and corny and I had no choice in the matter. My parents would have flipped if I’d refused to go. Now, I didn’t refuse to go. I went and didn’t give my parents trouble about it. But at 16 I was quite immature and not ready to make a decision about my faith for the rest of my life. Most 16 year olds are unprepared for such a far-reaching decision. Having said that, since I do not see confirmation as a binding sacrament anymore, I am not troubled by having left the Church.

Many of you keep referring to me as Catholic, but I no longer call myself Catholic since I have definitively converted to another religion. In my opinion, if I were to ever want to return to the Catholic Church (and I am not saying it couldn’t happen with God’s will!) I would go through RCIA again because right now I am most certainly a Methodist and not a Catholic. I KNOW this is hard for my parents to hear and I ache for their disappointment. I never wanted to disappoint my parents at all and I love them to bits. I have always been a “good girl” and I know this is hard for them. But what am I to do? Marry in a Church that I do not believe in just to make them happy? Never marry? I have respect for the Catholic Church enough not to lie my way into making a priest marry me.

You really are in a pickle!

Your parents remind me of mine. My parents used to say, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” My soul was more important than anything to my parents. I hope you know that what your parents are doing is because they love you. They wouldn’t be risking so much otherwise. I’m sure it is killing them to have to be so uncompromising about something so important to you. It is a real testament to their commitment to God. You have to at least respect that.

God gave you your parents. I listened to my parents and I left two men I planned on marrying. It broke my heart but I trust my parents. There is a love far more important than anything and that is God’s love and His real presence in the Eucharist. It’s worth dying for.

I will pray for you and your family.

If you ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Remember that with Mary and Joseph, “He was obedient to them.”

I can’t really offer any advice other than what various people have said (speak to a priest/pastor and get together with your parents, etc.), but I can certainly offer prayers. I can see where you’d definitely want your parents to be there for your wedding, but, as a Catholic, I can also see where they are coming from and why they are reacting the way that they are (maybe not ALL of it, but most of it). My prayers are with you!

How can parents force their daughter to be married in the Catholic Church if she has no understanding of what the Church is about, and doesn’t want to be married in it? that would be hypocritical.

It would not be sincere to do so. The parents should pray for their daughter to come home to the Church some day, and fully understand what the Church teaches and why.

Meanwhile, they should reconcile in peace with their daughter.

A talk with the priest would be a very good idea, as I don’t believe that the priest would insist she get married in the Catholic Church. Her intention is not to be a good Catholic following the marriage ceremony.

The parents need to pray much, and be in a loving peace with their daughter.

This might also be helpful -

As a Catholic, of course I would love to see you come back to the Faith and the reasons you left be addressed by good Catholic people in a true meeting of hearts/minds/spirits, but I’m not saying that to be harsh or anything - the opposite in fact. God has His timing for everything.

Peace be with you!

The question you should ask yourself is what are you hoping to get out of this?

  1. Is you goal simply to get married? It sounds like you have a plan in place for that.

  2. Is your goal to make your parents happy? If your parents are still practicing their faith, they want you to enter into a valid marriage. Several posters have explained how you could do that. It’s likely that if you decide no to do that, your parents will be unhappy. Many people feel they cannot attend invalid marriage ceremonies even though there isn’t a law that forbids it. There is the question of appearing to support something they disagree with.

From the standpoint of the Church and, evidently of your parents, you are Catholic. You don’t become “un-Catholic” simply by calling yourself something else. It is possible, based on what you have shared, that you are not going to be able to both have the kind of ceremony that you describe **and also **make your parents happy. They can’t force you to get married in the Church but neither can you force them to participate or to be “joyous”. I know you feel you can’t in good faith do what is required for a valid Catholic marriage. At the same time, even if you don’t agree, you need to respect your parents feelings on the matter.

BTW, if you were ever to decide to return to the practice of the Catholic faith, as a fully initiated Catholic, you wouldn’t need to go to RCIA - just Confession.

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