Will my marriage be valid?

I mean before society, because this is my situation:
Im an undocumented woman (Catholic) ( 10 years in USA)I have lived in the same house with my fiance for 4 years(He is american and nondenominational), we don’t have kids. none of us have ever been married. so far we had not tried to have a civil wedding for obvious reasons, we thought things would get better with time about my legal status, but it has not been that way. I started joining this Catholic Church and explained our situation to the Priest who after a few weeks gave us an option, we could have a Church Wedding, without the civil wedding. Im a little unsure to do it this way, I don’t know exactly why but I feel nervous about it, God forgive me for it. I wanted to know opinions from people out of family, I know the law of God is the most important, I wonder if in a extreme situation our Marriage would be valid to society?, Another thing, the Priest told me this past Sunday that the wedding would have to be small only Him, Me and my Fiance and Witnesses, I agreed and did not ask questions because there was people around. Im still going to meet with Him to talk more but I wonder why was that, is it because We have been cohabitating for so long without being married? or because of my Status problem? or maybe because my fiance is non Catholic?, I don’t know if I should ask the Priest, Im afraid it could offend Him if I question about it. And one more thing. If we decide to go ahead and get married, what would be an apropiate amount money wise that we could give to the Church? The Father has not ask but I think people always give some gift to the Church?. I’m sorry if my theme its confusing, I feel very anxious these days, I hope I explained my issues clear enough. Looking forward to hear your opinions. Thank you!

If you are marrying a non-Catholic, I believe you must get dispensation from the Bishop. He is also the person who could approve what I think is called, in canon law, a “secret wedding”. If he approves and all else is in order, your marriage would be valid. The priest may be breaking the law and might not be allowed to perform future wedding ceremonies, but that’s another issue altogether.

This might also be a problem if you ever decide to try to legalize your residency status.

Hi Sunny76,

Don’t be afraid to ask the priest. He will give you the reasons. I have my own ideas why he would do things this way but just ask. Ask about what the typical offering is for a wedding, too. That can vary from place to place.


I believe you are right about the religious points, but it shoud not be a problem with regards to the the residency as the secular world cares little about what she will do. The concerns might be the fruits of the marriage as one might ask why get married if not for children? If you will not be having them it is no less a sin then co-habitating and yet if you have them you may be asked at a later date to leave them?

By the way my wife is from Peru so I do feel your pain. Chances are the best thing to do is to get married your satus really has little to do with this then go back to your country of origin and have your husband bring you back. It may take some time, but he can do it legally or even bring you back as a fiancee if you decide not to get married until later. Talk to an immigration lawyer before you go back.

Good luck…

I simply meant that INS/USCIS might not take too kindly to such a move in the event that she tried to become a legal resident in the future.

You won’t offend the priest if you ask him questions to clear up honest confusion. Talk to him, and ask him to explain what the issues are in both canon law and civil law. If you don’t understand, keep asking. That is OK. You want to make sure your marriage is valid as far as the Church is concerned. What the priest and the bishop think about the validity of this marriage is important. What anybody else thinks is a) not important and b) impossible to predict. This is America, after all. Everybody has an opinion. As long as the priest is not pretending to get around the marriage policies of the bishop, you are OK. That happens, sometimes well-intentioned but misguided priests do that, but it is pretty rare.

As for money, you never pay for sacraments. Any offering of appreciation is voluntary, and wouldn’t be expected by the priest if you are in dire straits financially.

Your diocese might also have an office for Hispanic issues that could help with your questions. Even if you aren’t from a Spanish-speaking country, they might be more well-acquainted concerning the legal issues you face than your parish priest is. If not, they’d be likely to know someone who is.

You are nervous because you conscience is telling you that what you are doing is wrong. 1. Illegally in the country, for 10 years, 2. Living with a man without the benefit of marriage, 3. Not practicing your Faith, 4. Being somewhat ignorant, and wanting special treatment for that reason, not in the good old USA, 5. Reading the little that you do know, suggests something to others, picking and choosing what you want to know, hiding from the truth, etc. There is the problem that he is not Catholic, for instance, which is rather big as it affects your future. He needs to have proof of his baptism, so, his Pastor will know, his family too, will know, obviously. Is he hiding his past from you? Trust your conscience and your Faith will grow, even if it means separation from this relationship.

What do people here think of her joining up, to be a soldier in the USA? Is that a way to get citizenship in a case such as this? My Dad is a veteran of WWII. I sometimes wonder when more will be expected from our family, as citizens of a really great country. Dad also served his country locally, in city and county government. Citizenship and respect for the US government, our history as well, is extremely important. I don’t think that you are respecting the Church nor our country.

my opinion is worthless because I don’t know you, your situation or either the relevant civil and church law about your situation. Your priest knows all of this, or can get the answers for you, provided you are totally honest with him and give him the information he needs. Your diocese no doubt has an office to help people with issues related to immigration status, ours does. What you cannot do is continue living with someone to whom you are not validly married. your immortal soul is more important than your immigration status. Work with the priest to get the pastoral and practical care you need. We will be praying for you.

My opinion and anyone elses is worthless - it could be that the priest has looked into it with the Bishop has a guide and decided that it is immoral to withold the Sacrament based on man’s law. This is where it gets dicey and you just need to be clear that you and your fiance are on board with his intentions and His intentions (meaning God’s) and that you have all the dispensations you need. Good luck and with love.

I would make a comment, but unfortunately it would be worthless…:blush:

Worthless or not, I have a question/comment:

I thought, in the United States, that priests couldn’t do this. That is, officiate a marriage w/out a marriage license? I thought this has been discussed here before, usually involving senior citizens who want to get married but if they do so “legally” one will lose their pension or social security.

So, if this was done, the OP was asking if it will be valid before “society”. Do you mean, will the government recognize it? I wouldn’t think so, they don’t care if the Church says that 2 people are married (as evidenced by the fact that divorced people can remarry civilly while the Church still insists they’re married to their original spouse), if the civil laws weren’t followed.

I’m not an immigration lawyer or specialist or anything, but I don’t see how this would have any effect on your regularizing your status. The priest could get in trouble, though, if the authorities found out, I would imagine.

In Christ,


I had seen this and at first was confused and had to look at it in the context it was in:

© Civil Power. The civil power has no authority over the bond itself or what is essential to it, and can establish no real impediment, diriment or impediment, to the marriage of Christians. It has authority over the civil effects. The merely civil effects are those which concern the temporal order, and are separable from the marriage contract, as what pertains to the dowry, the right of succession, etc. (Vidal, n. 74). The State has legislative, judicial, and coercive power over these; it may require certain formalities, like registration, as a condition for granting legal value to a canonically valid marriage, and punish the omission of those requirements. But even the purely civil effects should not be withheld without legitimate cause from a valid contract. And those which, although of a civil or temporal order in themselves, are inseparable from a valid contract – e.g., the legitimacy of children or cohabitation — should not be denied by the civil courts to marriage contracted in accordance with the laws of the Church (Cappello, n. 73; Can 1961).

In this case we are not talking about saving money for an elderly couple - we are talking about getting a cohabitating couple - which OK not the best situation but we can probably all see how that happenned and understand that we are all sinners at some point- that is in their childbearing years into a State of Grace so their children will be legitimate which even though it doesn’t mean anything for ecclesiastical authority means a lot for grandparents. :o

Also lets look at the law - Social Security is a law that is designed to help and is given out for elderly people. Immigration Law is something that there are many problems with which is why the USCCB has come down on the side of immigration reform. This is why this priest may be willing to do this.

Knowing all this we can’t be sure what the exact situation is and where exactly it fits into Canon Law - that is between the couple, the priest, the bishop, and the Lord. If she is illegal she is certainly not going to post her real name, address, phone number and life story on her for all of us.

God bless.

If Sunny has a church wedding without a license, she will not be married, under U.S. law. She would be ineligible for any benefits or privileges of marriage in this country.

She would not be a married woman. She would still be single, and living with a man who is not her husband.

As an undocumented rersident alien, Sunny is violating American law, and is subject to arrest and deportation. She might never be allowed to return to the U.S.

a) He would be her husband by the Church not the State. Therefore living with the man would be moral. The same was done in secret in Communist countries such as Russia when marriage was denied.

b) Yes she would still be in violation of American law and yes b would true but depending on her situation which could be immoral depening on her situation - you do not know why she is here immorally - better to leave it to the clergy in this situation. What is she is on of the 1000s of women escaping sexual mutilation for instance? Just a for instance.

As far as I recall, although it was awhile ago, the Justice of the peace…did not ask to see a birth certificate just an ID, so a Passport would do. I believe that in Nevada they Don’t ask and once married her husband can file, although it is easier I think, but she needs to get an immigration lawyer, to get a fiancee visa while she is in her own country.

Good morning everyone, thank you very much for your comments and opinions i really apreciate your good intentions and Blessings towards me and my fiance. I apologize to those I offended. Im not going to say much about why I came here, but I know its against the USA law to be here without documents and is nothing that Im proud of. I can say that I try to be as “good resident” as posible (I do not use goverment help, I help with my donations to American Institutions, haven’t had kids yet trying to wait for better a time, but we plan to have them in the future) not because of what people could think but because I am a believer in Christ and in our Church ( I was born and raised Catholic ) and I am greatful and respect this Country that has given me so much, and in response I try giving It good things.

I thank specially to people that’s been so kind and compassioned in their comments,(joandarc2006,Lypher,puzzleanie,dans0622,Easterjoy) In my place i really find your advice helpful. and thanks to everybody else too. I will be out of town for a few days. But i will check with the forum when I’m back. Thank you and have a very Blessed day!

ps: I will talk to my fiance about maybe seeing an Immigration Lawyer. Thanks again!

Let me add to those who advised talking with an immigration lawyer. I work with international students at a school and I see a pretty good number of them lose their legal status and then eventually marry and get permanent residence. A good lawyer will be able to tell you if you would qualify for this. Also your age when you first came here might make a difference.

Yes, but those students, while overstaying their visas, at least entered the U.S. legally. Entering illegally and remaining illegally for 10 years is another matter altogether. She definitely needs the help of an immigration attorney.

That is exactly what I recommended. Sunny76, you might also want to check visajourney.com. I wouldn’t use that site in place of professional legal help in your situation, but they may at least provide encouragement and some guidance.

I will be checking the website you recommend me, thank you very much for your interest and help, Greetings!

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