It sounds like you’re really trying to be loyal to the Church’s rules, so that’s great. I think its pretty common for single devout Catholics to be transitory about where they go to Mass. Most of the young people at my parish found their youth faith community built up around the deanery rather than the parish.
I was involved in a parish where the youth director had a very “deanery” focus rather than a parish focus. Everyone of us from the kids to the volunteers felt the area was too small for each parish to have their own youth ministry. The only way the faith would flourish is if we went past our parish boundaries and built a deanery wide community. There was a lot of resistance to this among the parish and a lot of resentment and anger and petititions over what should be done.
Since I’ve gotten married, though, I’ve come to a greater appreciation for the parish structure. The diocese would rather a youth ministry program draw entire families into a parish rather than just their teenage children. Hense, there tend to be parishes built up mostly of elderly people and other parishes built up of young families.
You see, the parish is seen as an extended family, your home — sort of like if you were a member of a religious order and went down to your order’s chapel for Mass. While when traveling its perfectly acceptable to attend Mass at other parishes (we should), we are really supposed to be striving to build a familial community within our parish.
As such, having your wedding at your own parish is really about having your wedding among your parish family (not just your natural family). This all is actually based upon the affirmation of the family structure within the Catholic Church. In fact, the family unite (father, mother, children) is viewed as a church. The home is supposed to be its own place of worship. These little churches (families) then join together into a parish family, where they come together for Mass and are supposed to grow to love each other as an extended family. The parishes are then connected by a deanery which might have a few deanery events held. The deaneries are connected into the diocese and all the diocese are united under the Bishop of Rome. The role of each higher structure tends to be based on the principle of subsidarity. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_subsidiarity)
Requesting to get married in another parish is like a man asking his ordination happen in the Cathedral of a different diocese. Certainly there are reasons they may be done (maybe the Cathedral at your diocese burned down and there isn’t another appropriate spot to have the ordination), but, generally speaking, requesting needs a good reason rather than a vane or petty reason (like the building is just so beautiful and close to the spot we booked for the reception). Can you imagine if you told your parents that you wanted to celebrate your birthday in another family’s house because that family’s house looked nicer than your parents’ house? That is basically what you are doing if your reason is visual appeal.
So, here’s my recommendation. Do not visit parishes asking yourself, “Is this where I want to have my wedding?” Ask yourself: “Is this the parish I want to build my family into? Is this where I want my children baptized, where I want to attend weekly Mass regularly, etc. If the parish suits your joint and eventually familial needs, then register. If not, register elsewhere. Where ever you register, do not mention your engagement right away. My experience is that they’re so used to people registering at engagement and then dropping out of parish life that mentioning engagement when you register brings out people’s hostilities. As you get closer to the date you want to marry, then schedule a meeting with your parish priest about your desire to get married.
If you’re planning on getting married in a city other than the one you live in, than it is often seen as reasonable for you to get permission to marry elsewhere. This, still, though goes through your parish priest. Your parish priest is still responsible for instruction and formation for the sacrament. Your parish priest has to agree to give you permission to marry at another parish and the priest of that parish has to accept you. Some things are more streamlined. For instance, there is a parish in Rome that regularly allows American Catholics to get married in Rome. It is very costly though. http://www.santasusanna.org/weddingsRome/weddingsRome.html
I hope that helps.
I, honestly, wish I would have known all this when I was planning my wedding. I was so busy trying to appease my mother’s desire for us to marry at her parish, that I ruffled a lot of people’s feather’s trying to figure out how to bring in people to have the Latin Mass I wanted. We would have then recognized that because my parish’s priest had suffered a stroke, we needed to go to go through my husband’s parish. It would have made more sense, too, since my husband’s parish is the parish we both now belong too. Not only that, but they offer the Latin Mass. But No!, my mother had to tell me how it was just too far for my side of the family to travel and how I should have it over there because my husband’s side of the family was small and thus their travel arrangements were insignificant!
Every bride should keep things simply by keeping her parents out of the wedding planning!