Sacrament of Matrimony
“The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism 1660)
Making Wedding Arrangements
A couple should be married in the parish church of either the bride or the groom. Arrangements to be married should be made a minimum of six months in advance. Please contact the pastor as soon as you know that you wished to be married.
“The very preparation for Christian marriage is itself a journey of faith. It is a special opportunity for the engaged to rediscover and deepen the faith received in baptism and nourished by their Christian upbringing. In this way they come to recognize and freely accept their vocation to follow Christ and to serve the kingdom of God in the married state.” Familiaris Consortio #51
A period of private preparation by the pastor is required for all couples wishing to be married. Engaged couples may be required to participate in a Pre-Cana program of marriage preparation through the local territorial diocese. This can be done through programs sponsored by the archdiocesan Family Life Office. Additional information and program opportunities are available from the priest preparing you for marriage.
The Sanctity of Marriage
“The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises ‘an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society.’ The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: ‘Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.'” (Catechism 1639)
“Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.” (Catechism 1640)
Baptized Catholics are obligated by virtue of their baptism to marry in the Catholic Church. It is permissible for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, but because of the Catholic party’s obligation to marry before the Catholic Church, special dispensation must be obtained to marry outside the Catholic Church. This is a relatively simple process which the pastor will assist you with.
Because the marriage bond is sealed by God himself, thus making it irrevocable, it should not be entered into lightly. It is for this reason that the Church states that divorce does not and cannot dissolve the bonds of marriage (i.e., the sacramental nature of marriage). There is nothing sinful in divorce. In fact, divorced Catholics are able to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church and receive the sacraments, with the exception of marriage. For a divorced Catholic to marry in the Catholic Church a declaration of nullity must be obtained. For information about the process for assessing prior marriages, there are resources from the Archdiocese of Washington, the Diocese of Arlington, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.