What are the requirements for a valid marriage?


Specifically would a political marriage like those in the Middle Ages be invalid?


Not necessarily. I would depend on whether the bride & groom were willing participants. If there was coercion involved then it would not be valid.


No, not based simply on the fact that they were arranged.

Consent; intention of fidelity, perpetuity, and fecundy; and no impediments are the minimum requirements.


An arranged marriage wouldn’t necessarily be invalid - to put it another way, the fact that a marriage was arranged doesn’t in itself give grounds for nullity. However, if (as was no doubt the case in the middle ages) the parties (or one of them) were forced to marry or felt they had no choice but that would be more accurately described as a “forced marriage” rather than an arranged one.

Question of due discretion (did they really think it through) and a proper understanding of marriage (did they view marriage in the same way as the Church does) would arise though although these would be case specific.


An unattached member of the opposite sex who is willing to say yes to being married to you, a priest or a deacon and two other witnesses.


Do you have a specific case in mind? :smiley:


I’m trying to think back to my courses in the history of the sacraments. The answer would depend on which period of time the OP is talking about, wouldn’t it?

After all, the Church didn’t get actively involved in regulating marriage until relatively late in the game, and even then, only because spouses were being left behind when their spouse found someone with better prospects…

(On the other hand, the Church did speak out against those who wished to leave a marriage and contract another. But, that doesn’t seem to be the thrust of the OP’s question.)

So, “in the Middle Ages”, wouldn’t the answer be “they would be valid marriages, since there weren’t the same standards for validity that we know of in Canon Law today”…?


You are thinking of form. And you are correct, the Church did get involved due to clandestine marriages and abandonment.

But even when the Church didn’t require church witnesses, it still had decrees of nullity, and they were based on the three elements: consent, intent, and impediment. The way in which this was expressed or codified has changed over the years. And, consanguinity degrees have changed immensely, but these factors have always been considerations in examining a marriage for nullity.

Yes and no. Marriages would be valid if they didn’t have any ecclesiastical impediments as outlined at the time– degrees of kinship, affinity, concubinage, age, prior bond, etc.

Divine law impediments always remain. Consent and intent also remain part of validity.

I wasn’t attempting to say we could compare validity of a historical marriage and a current marriage based on today’s canon laws. But, what makes marriage now, made marriage then: consent, intent, and lack of impediments.


So, quick question, and it’s from wikipedia, so it’s quite possibly not accurate, but it’s something that I have wondered. According to the following paragraph, if one or both parties go into a marriage planning to use ABC, isn’t that an impediment? It would count as “Refusal to have children” - - wouldn’t that be a heck of a lot of people in the modern age (I mean specifically Catholics, of course)?
"### Other factors which invalidate marriage

  • Lack of form . When a marriage of a Catholic takes place without following the laws and rites of the Catholic Church.
  • Coercion . This impediment exists if one of the parties is pressured by any circumstances to enter into marriage. (In order for the impediment to cease, the situation must change so that the party can marry freely of his or her own will.)
  • Psychological immaturity or mental incapacity . To enter into sacramental marriage, both parties must understand and have the capacity to accept the minimum of what it entails.
  • Refusal to have children . One of the goods of marriage is children. A man or woman physically capable of fathering or, respectively, conceiving a child but who intends never to have children may not marry in the Catholic Church.
  • Exclusion of fidelity . Fidelity of each party to the other is a good of marriage. If this is specifically excluded in the mind of either party, the couple may not marry in the Catholic Church."


Not necessarily. It could be. It depends on whether the couple has a permanent intention against children or not. If one party excluded procreative relations entirely, then probably.

But a couple agree to use contraception for a year or two then try for kids, no I wouldn’t say so.

It certainly isn’t automatic that contraception = invalid marriage. See this link, regarding canon 1101 and the bonum prolis.

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