Guidelines for Couples Wishing to be Married in the Catholic Church

The Sacrament of Marriage

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1601)

The Church holds “the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that ‘makes the marriage.’”  (Catechism, n. 1626)

Initial Contact

At least six months prior to the anticipated date of the wedding, the couple should contact their parish priest. (864 576 1164).  Couples are required to engage in a marriage preparation process.  Such preparation allows the couple to come to a deeper knowledge of each other and of the sacrament they will receive, including the reasons for its indissolubility.  It is even advisable to contact one’s pastor at the beginning of the engagement.

Marriage Preparation

You will be required to attend an approved marriage preparation program (such as Foccus), which should be completed well in advance of the wedding date.


The process begins with an initial interview with your priest.  Your faith experience, relationship as a couple, and your understanding of Christian marriage will be addressed.  There will be documents and some pre-nuptial papers to be assembled and completed.

There may be special circumstances that will need to be dealt with.  Please discuss with your priest if:

  • Either or both of you have been married before
  • Either of you are in, or have been in, a common-law union
  • You are now civilly married (to each other) and wish to have your marriage blessed (Convalidated) in the Catholic Church
  • You are presently living together
  • Either you or your fiancé is a teenager
  • A pregnancy is involved
  • One of you practice another faith or does not follow any particular faith.

Place of the Wedding

“A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic Baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.” (Canon 1118.1)

  • The wedding of two Catholics is a Sacrament and takes place in the parish church of either the bride or groom
  • To be married in another parish, it is required that permission be received from the parish in which you wish to be married, and also from either of the parishes where you reside.
  • A wedding in which only one of you is Catholic should take place in the parish of the Catholic party.
  • As the celebration of marriage is an act of worship and a Sacrament for two baptized Christians, gardens, secular wedding chapels or settings outside of a church are not appropriate.
  • For special situations, such as, marriage in a Catholic monastery, oratory, university chapel, private residence, etc. please discuss this with your parish priest. (See Diocese of Charleston Policy Regarding Marriage).

When the Celebrant is a Visiting Priest

If a priest other than one of those assigned to the parish where the wedding will be celebrated is to witness the exchange of vows, he must receive permission from the pastor of the parish in order to officiate at the ceremony.

Required Documents

  • Copy of Baptismal Certificate, both sides, made within six months of the wedding date.
  • Photocopy of Marriage license (three copies needed)
  • Copy of certificates from any diocesan prenuptial program (such as Foccus) or Natural Family Planning (NFP).
  • Arrange for two witnesses (may be same people for each person) to meet with priest or deacon to fill out the Affidavit Regarding the Free Status of Bride or Groom to Marry.
  • Completed Prenuptial paper work or Questionnaire
  • Applications for Marriage Dispensation/Permission (if needed) must be sent to the Office of Matrimonial Concerns and Dispensations no later than one month before the wedding date.
  • If previously married: Official copy of Marriage Certificate and Baptismal Certificate and may need Declaration of Nullity or Invalidity.

Your priest will assist you in filling out the various forms to make a permanent record of your marriage.  Should one of you be a non-Catholic, the documentation will be part of the priest’s request to the Diocese on your behalf for permission for a marriage of mixed religion.

Celebration of the Sacraments

The Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist should prepare Catholic parties prior to the wedding, ensuring that they are in a state of grace at the time of the wedding.

It is highly recommended that Catholics entering marriage should have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  If you have not been confirmed, the time of your preparation for marriage can be an opportunity to prepare for Confirmation also.  Your priest can assist you in this if necessary.

Planning the Wedding Liturgy

The care you put into the choice of Scripture readings and music will help to make your liturgy as meaningful an expression of yourself as possible.  Your priest will help you with this task and advise you of the ability to have the ceremony with or without a Mass.

Useful Resources:

Wedding Program Template

Wedding Readings