Why won't they marry us?


I recently got engaged and currently reside in Ohio. My fiance and I would like to get married in Des Moines, Iowa because we are both from the state and it is a central location for our families. However, we have been suprised to find out that the parishes there are refusing to marry us because we are not current members, one even said “tithing members”. I was baptised Catholic, went through Catholic schools in Iowa, was an altar boy, etc, etc. and now I just want to get married in the church and am facing rejection.

Has anyone else faced this? Does anyone have any suggestions? What would you do in this situation?


have your pastor in Ohio contact the diocese in Iowa and find out what gives

Priests have a right and a duty to guard the sacrament. They don’t know if you’re a good parishoner or just joe shmo who decided it’d be fun to get married in their church. You and your fiance should both talk to your parish priests who know you.

You also have to think about the fact that marriage is the start of family life and the start of your parish life together. It isn’t about the “most convenient” church.

It probably is because the churches in Iowa dont think you will continue to be a member of their church or the church at all. Marriage is also traditionally done in the home parish of the bride. Marriage is a community thing in the church and not seen merely as a private union. That is a reason why a list of new marriages is posted by parishes.

Start by meeting with your priest. You don’t simply call up any church in the phone book. Canon law governs where Catholic marriages may take place.

Marriage is to take place in the parish where you live or your bride lives. To be married elsewhere requires *permission *from your priest, and agreement from the parish in which you want to be married.

You also must complete premarital preparation including all documentation of freedom to marry. If your parish priest agrees to conduct all premarital preparation and investigation of freedom to marry, and the priest in the Iowa parish agrees to conduct the marriage ceremony, then you can be married there.

Many do not conduct out of parish weddings. You may find that you will need to make other arrangements-- either bringing your own priest with you or marrying in your home parish.

Start by sitting down with your own priest and discussing what you wish to do. He can guide you from there.

And, don’t get your heart set on anything until you’ve received all the proper permissions and a parish in Iowa has agreed to allow usage of their churhc for your wedding.

Figure out where you’re going to live after you’re married, join a church there, and marry there.
It’s a whole lot easier for your relatives to pack up and make the trip to your wedding for one day, than for you to go back and forth for a solid year losing your mind with all the pre-marriage requirements and dealing with multiple people in multiple places and getting permission and paperwork and notes back and forth and driving 300 miles each way, just to get back to your home church that is convenient for your relatives. It is a year, a solid year… and it’s a nightmare…
when 3 months before the wedding the priest you’ve been dealing gets transferred and you’ll have to start all over… because they lost your paperwork…
but that’s ok… because we’ve got a new guy…
who has to start all over with the pre-marriage counseling because he likes to do things his way and he didn’t know that other priest…and he needs to get to know you…
but he doesn’t bother to mention that he’ll be away on vacation during your wedding day… until a month before your wedding… because it slipped his mind…
but not to worry… after 11 months of counseling and running back and forth getting everything arranged and re-arranged to their satisfaction… everybody agrees you’re just fine to marry… he will simply write you a note and send you to the next parish over…
and they’ll see when they can do it…
but they’re booked…until 3 weeks after you and your fiancee’s apartment leases both expire.

Figure out where you’re going to live after you’re married, join a church there, and marry there.
It will keep you sane.

Thanks for the many answers so far.

The majority of the responses have said to figure out where we are going to live after we get married and get married there. We are going to live in Ohio. Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to ask 200+ of our friends and family, many of which are elderly to travel 10 - 12hours for a wedding.

I also want to point out, I am not just picking up the phone book and calling random churches. I used to live in Des Moines and attended mass regularly at 2 of these parishes.

We are planning on taking the pre marital counseling here in Ohio as we have been advised by the Des Moines diocese.

I was in the same boat somewhat when I got married. Because of DH’s grandparents and their health, we decided to get married at DH’s parish he attended growing up, DH was in college, my parish was an hour in the opposite direction from his school so the best choice was his childhood parish. DH’s grandfather was our connection because he was still very active in that parish. Do you happen to have a close relative that could intervene on your behalf in one of the two old parishes back in Iowa?

Though are you sure your family wouldn’t travel? Is a majority of the older, dearly loved relatives physically unable to travel or are you assuming they won’t? Family has a way of surprising you when you least expect them to do something, they do exactly that.

The only other solution I could see suggesting is if the parishes in Iowa definitely say no, get married in Ohio, invite the people you know will attend and then have a small reception back in Iowa for all the family that couldn’t travel.

Most of the other posts told you to “get married where you live.” I completely understand that you want to get married where your families are at. And, it IS unreasonable to ask all your families to travel to where you live now.

I had a similar situation. My husband and I live in Virginia (and did before we got married). My family lives in Indiana and his lives in Mississippi. I am a civilian working for the Army on post. I live off post and attend and am registered at a church off post. But, I wanted to get married on post because I wanted the reception at the Officer’s Club, and it just made sense to have the ceremony and reception close together so that guests didn’t have to travel far in between since the majority would be from out of town.

The Post Chapel was very receptive of the idea, and all I had to do was get a letter from the pastor at my church saying that I was a participating member, giving both time and money to the church.

I have heard of parishes that are not as receptive to performing ceremonies for non-registered members of that parish, but I’ve heard it helps if either your parents or your fiancee’s parents belong to that church. Are they registered anywhere close by?

Also, just wanted you to know…I’ve been denied membership at a parish because I didn’t live in the area. I honestly think it is a monetary thing. They would rather not spend the money on marrying you if they are going to get nothing in return…but that’s my opinion.

And, I challenge the poster who said that it’s Cannon Law that you have to get married in the specific Parrish that you belong to. Put the quote up and I’ll believe you.

I forgot to mention in my original post that there is one parish that is willing to marry us but wants to charge us over $1,600 to do so. Am I the only one that thinks this is outrageous coming from a non-profit, tax-exempt religous organization? I mean we are certainly more than happy to pay a reasonable feee of a couple of hundred dollars. Honestly, that is likely where we will go if none of the other parishes come around, however, it doesn’t feel right if you know what I mean.

Thoughts on that?

I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. At my parish, that my fiance and I are getting married at, they require a year membership prior to the wedding. I think it has to do with making sure people realize the seriousness of the sacrament. So it’s not like some non-practicing Catholics choose to get married in a random church for the heck of it. Because there are some people who want a church wedding, but don’t want to be active.

To the OP, I agree with the suggestion of talking it over with your local priest. You’d have to do the pre-cana with him anyways, so see if he could call the Parish you want to have your wedding at and work things out. He’d be able to talk of your faith and character. From what I understand you’d have to get permission to marry not in your Parish anyways, so you’d have to talk with your local priest either way.

Depends, you’d have to tell us what the $1600 covers for me to give an opinion. I think if you truly want advice, you should be forthcoming in as many details as possible.

You will likely not be the only person to think it is ‘outrageous’ but I am not one of them.

I am on the parish council, and also involved in sacristan work. I see first hand how many people leave the church-- a big mess.

The fees are for expenses including electricity/heating, insurance, cleaning, a person who has to be there to unlock/lock, set up for mass, etc. It also may pay for other things like an organist, a day-of coordinator, etc, or it may not.

Many parishes charge non-parishioners a much higher fee than a parishioner. This makes sense because parishioners are supporting the church through regular contributions, and a person who is not a member and simply wants to ‘drop in’ for their wedding is not supporting the church. That fee is equivalent to paying a little over $100 for one year-- the average length of time a parish would expect you to be registered before marrying there.

Some churches-- the particularly beautiful ones-- charge large fees to discourage church shoppers who just want to get married some place “pretty.”

No, it’s not unreasonable at all.

And, last but not least, you do not have to have private use of the church (for which a fee is charged) but can get married during any scheduled mass. You simply recite your vows at the specified time. No hoopla, and no fee other than the usual stipend paid to the priest. If you want a private ceremony, with processions, special music and readings, bridesmaids and groomsmen, flower girls, and all the rest-- yes, you will pay for private use of the church.

I don’t think you’ve spent much time on a parish finance council or paying church bills.

Read 'em and weep.

Can. 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile, quasidomicile, or month long residence or, if it concerns transients, in the parish where they actually reside. With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere.

Can. 1110 By virtue of office, a personal ordinary and a personal pastor assist validly only at marriages where at least one of the parties is a subject within the confines of their jurisdiction.

Believe it now?

Note the word “valid”. If you get married in another location without dispensation, the marrigiage could be found to be invalid.

That being said, my now husband and I were both living in Michigan and got married in NY. We married at my parents’ parish with the complete approval and permission of both pastors. It’s not that it can’t be done validly; it’s just that special permissions are required.

edit: oops someone beat me to it - two different canons, same result. :wink:

Please be careful in practicing canon law.

Canon 1100 does not seem to apply at all.

The parties are not seeking to marry before the personal pastor of canon 1100 but the territorial pastor of canon 1109: Unless through a sentence or decree they have been excommunicated, interdicted or suspended from office or declared such, in virtue of their office the local ordinary and the pastor validly assist within the confines of their territory at the marriages of their subjects as well as of nonsubjects provided one of the contractants is of the Latin rite.

If they were getting married before a personal pastor and were not his subjects, he could always get a delegation of faculty to validly assist anyway.

Getting married in a different Catholic parish does not involve a dispensation, but a permission.

As to fees, I always wonder how much the secular aspects of the wedding will cost in proportion to them (e.g., the wedding dress that will only be worn once) but it’s not really my intention to comment on that.

In any case, there is a right to the sacrament for those who are not impeded by law and fees can be waived if there is financial burden.

First of all, you should understand where the various parishes are coming from and their point of view. The mentality has developed in this culture that people can get married whereever they want, be it the beach, or a beautiful bascillica the bride has visited, or the local contry club etc. But a marriage is a sacrament that entails a public committment to one’s community. Therefore, ideally, people should get married in their parish, because that is their community. The church is, as usual, counter-cultural, in this respect.
What the parishes in Iowa are saying is simple (And this gets lost in their policies which get spuouted out by the parish secretary when someone calls): why do you want to gett married here and not in the parish where you are an active member? It is also possible they are booked full marrying their own parishioners and simply can’t fit anyone else in.
Talk to your pastor first and use his guidance about where to get married. If he agrees that you have a valid reason for wanting to be married in Iowa, I am sure he will help facilitate it.

Please do not make the mistake of relying on anybody to phone and work things out on your behalf…
you will need to go to both your own parish and to the other parish personally and talk to the parish priest(s) and staff and get to know them yourself and work things out and coordinate it yourself between the two and get them to agree and get everything in writing and properly permissioned and the church reserved for the date and keep it all together in a file. You are supposed to officially present yourself a year in advance of when you wish to marry… in your case, you will really need to officially present yourself to both parishes a year in advance of when you wish to marry because their requirements may differ and you need to find out up front what each requires, and it is your responsibility…
please do not make the mistake of relying on anybody to phone and work things out on your behalf… it is your responsibility. People forget… priests get transferred… people go on vacation and leave things on their desks… priests don’t necessarily agree on the way other priests and/or other parish administrators do things… priests are not obligated and do not feel obligated to marry you just because you were an altar boy and you’ve got permission from another priest, and especially if it is a priest they don’t personally happen to know or perhaps agree with…paperwork gets lost…personal calendars of parish staff don’t always coordinate with the parish’s official calendar scheduling. It’s not like the military, where the chapel is nondenominational and the paperwork and procedures are routine and standardized to deal with the fact that people continually ship out with the military.
Please do not make the mistake of relying on anybody to just casually phone anybody and work things out on your behalf… not if you’ve got 200 people you are intent on inviting…
Drive safe! You’ll be doing an awful lot of it…

Hi Greg,

Congrats on your engagement!

I know it seems like these Churches are “rejecting” you, but really they are not. I agree with the PP that said it’s most likely miscommunication. That parish policies are spouted without explaining the “Why’s” behind them.

I think most of the “why’s” have been explained here by other posters. I agree that they best way to proceed is to consult with you or your fiancee’s local pastor and see what he has to say.

I got married in my childhood parish, to which no one in my family belonged at the time of my wedding. They were very gracious, but they did make me jump through a lot of hoops, LOL! I had to have my current local pastor write me a letter, had to get all my pre-Cana done locally and got that in writing, and we also had our own priest to celebrate the Mass! (My husband’ s family has a dear friend who is a priest, he kindly agreed to officiate).

As to the cost – well, keep in mind that we had a priest we brought, and had musicians that we hired, and the “suggested” donation was still $500.00 for the use of the church. We happily paid it…and that was 15 years ago, so I don’t think the amount you were told is necessarily excessive.

I have talked with several couples who get their backs up when asked for the donation, saying that there shouldn’t be an “Admission fee” for church…but I remind them “How much are you spending on the reception? $15K? I think you shouldn’t begrudge the church the fee that provides heat and lights, the cleaning person, the musicians, the time that it takes for a parish rep to have it all ready for you, etc.”

I have also reminded them that I doubt your local parish, where you regularly attend, would charge you the fee if you just wanted to be married but TRULY didn’t have a dime in your pocket. I’ll bet they would waive the fee for someone who really, truly couldn’t afford it – but why should they work for free when your caterer won’t?

the reason for everything that seems like pointless rules, regs, hoops and hurdles, is that the pastor and the priest who marries you have the canon law obligation, and the pastoral obligation, to assure that you are both free to marry, and have the capacity and intent to enter into marriage and fully embrace its rights and duties. That takes time, and it requires a relationship with the couple and the parish. yes, it can be done long distance, we do it all the time, but the place to start is always with your local pastor. A contact from him to the other parish will accomplish a lot more than a call from you to a secretary in another state. For every thread like this one where people complain about all the work and time the Church takes to insure people contract valid marriages, there are a dozen threads complaining that too many people enter into marriage lightly, as proven by high rates of annulments.

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