Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. This is a wonderful and exciting time for not only the couple but the whole family. To help make the preparation for your marriage easier, below are some guidelines from the church’s perspective and help with preparing the ceremony.
“The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ . . . ” ( 2, 18). These words of the book of Genesis are basic to the Church’s understanding of the sacred character of Marriage. Our Lord raised this natural union to the dignity of a sacrament. In beautiful words the Second Vatican Council refers to this sacrament of marriage as a covenant sealed by an “irrevocable personal consent”; and Richard McBrien reminds us that the “new community signified and effected by marriage is also a sign of what the Church is, a community of love” (Catholicism p798).
Brief as they are, these few quotations show how important this sacrament is in the mind of the Church. That an opportunity be given to prepare couples for this sacrament, the following guidelines are enunciated for our parish:
- At least six months notice of intended marriage should be given.
- The priest is both witness for the Church and for the State. Certain documentation is required — the essential items being a Birth Certificate and a Baptismal Certificate. The latter must be less than six months old.
- Couples will be required to attend a recognised premarital education course usually either one conducted under the auspices of Centacare, or one of the other courses which the church runs. An alternative would be to follow an Engaged Encounter weekend. Fr. Thu Nguyen has full details.
- Nuptial Mass is encouraged for practising Catholics. Non-Catholic partners are welcome to have their own clergymen share in the ceremony.
One final point that needs to be made. The incidence of divorce is so widespread that many people are likely to meet formerly married persons and may eventually wish to marry them. The former marriage cannot simply be ignored. An annulment of the former marriage may be possible. This takes a certain amount of time even in the simplest case. Long before such a marriage is even seriously considered, the priest should be contacted. Remember too that a marriage of persons who are not Catholic is a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church. The fact that they are not Catholics does not give them the right to divorce in the Church’s understanding of the sacrament.
Since this sacrament is so important each couple is dealt with individually and it is up to the priest to assess how well a couple is prepared. The aim is not only to celebrate the sacrament well but to ensure that the couple is able to live up to the difficult demands of the modern world.