(Closed) Civil ceremony and religious ceremony

posted 7 years ago in Catholic
Post # 3
9916 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

Maybe just don’t tell him?   

Post # 6
3696 posts
Sugar bee

Yup, you don’t want to lie to a priest, and it will make a difference whether the legal or the religious ceremony happens first.

If you do the legal ceremony first, you will technically be having a “convalidation” rather than a wedding. If you are open to changing the order around, you could have a very small Catholic wedding with just yourself, the priest, and the required two witnesses, and then have the big party later and have whoever you like as the officiant. Since the first ceremony would actually be both the religious and legal wedding, the big get-together could be done however you want.

If the idea was that you wanted the big family event to also be a church ceremony, perhaps you could talk to a priest about marrying you in a private ceremony and then working out some type of celebration in the church with your families? He may not go for it, because it’s unclear what exactly it would be – not a wedding because you’d already be married, and not a convalidation either, since your marriage would already be valid and wouldn’t need it …

If you do go forward with the plan of having the legal wedding first and a convalidation afterward, talk to your priest about what you’d like to do and how you’d like to do it. Some priests are more open than others to making convalidations “wedding-like.” Some insist that convalidations are not weddings and therefore they don’t allow all the trappings. Sometimes if the convalidation comes close on the heels of the legal wedding and/or is done because of extenuating circumstances (i.e. military deployment, immigration/visa issues, etc.) the priest is more lenient.

If your reason for having the private legal ceremony is just because you want to keep the actual marriage ceremony to yourselves, that might not go over well – the priest may feel like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. Matrimony is one of the sacraments, and ideally is to be celebrated publicly in the Church before the community. You can do it other ways, but kind of have to be prepared to accept the trade-offs.

Post # 7
1041 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@future mrs Q:  Yep, this.  You’d be already married.  The Catholic church won’t marry you again.

Post # 8
2704 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

A priest would definitely not marry you again (and they will know if you’ve been previously married) and you would not be able to have a wedding in the Catholic Church.  What you would have is a convalidation.  You would really need to talk to your priest to see if he’d do one and do one the way you want.  According to my priest, convalidations are most always very private with only the bride, groom, priest, and 2 witnesses and there is no fanfare.  However, some priests are more flexible than others and might do a bigger affair and allow all the bells and whistles.  So it will depend on your priest.  I’ve also heard that convalidations can be hard to get and priests won’t do them simply because you want an outdoor wedding or a private ceremony beforehand. 

So really you need to talk to your priest.  PPs had a good suggestion of having a private/small Catholic ceremony and then a large reception later.


Post # 10
3696 posts
Sugar bee

@Jmr608:  Good luck to you! Yes, if it’s for something like immigration issues, visa requirements, etc, the priest is often really understanding and accommodating. He may even be able to help you speed up the process to have a church wedding if he knows the circumstances. If not, I’m sure he will work with you to get a convalidation.

Post # 11
269 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2013

Actually, in many European countries the Catholic marriage (any religious marriage actually) isn’t legal (Germany and Austria to name a couple). So EVERY couple MUST go to the courthouse first and then a day or a week or whenever later they go to the Catholic church (or their church) and marry in the religious ceremony and have the “white wedding”. The Catholic church believes only that you are married if you marry in their church (or in the Orthodox church) but a courthouse is not a marriage in many countries’ Catholic churches.

This came about by the desire to separate church and state, so I guess it makes some sense. This may be the case if you only have a courthouse wedding (maybe they wouldn’t buy it though if it was another religion). I’d have a chat to your priest about this point – maybe it also applies for the U.S., but I’m not sure.

Post # 12
418 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2012

From my experience, with immigration issues the church typically will convalidate the marriage and won’t speed up the process unless they feel you are truly ready to make a lifelong commitment and not just getting married for the citizenship or whatever the issue is.


I would suggest having the civil ceremony done, but still live as “brother and sister” until the convalidation. This is what is typically recommended. Otherwise you would be living as a married couple without being married in the eyes of the church and would therefore be commitinga mortal sin until the convalidation. 

Post # 13
3696 posts
Sugar bee

@TinaJade:  Good point – this is also true in many Latin American countries. The OP didn’t say where she’s from /where the wedding is held (although she did mention that immigration was a factor). I assumed the U.S., but she should check the specific laws for her jurisdiction, wherever it is. In the U.S., if the couple is not previously legally married then the Catholic church wedding is also the legal wedding. I think priests here would do a convalidation for a couple that had a prior legal wedding, but maybe not – it’s worth checking with her priest, for sure.

Post # 14
2874 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

@TinaJade:  yes thats true here in mexico too! culturally the most important part is the catholic ceremony, but its got no legal standing and you still need to see a judge

Post # 16
1 posts
  • Wedding: April 2013

I am getting married in April in the Catholic Church and we will be having a civil ceremony in February. The reason for this is we found out that we will be moving to Japan because of the military and there are legal things that need to be taken care of sooner than we could get married in the church. I  talked to the Priest about all of this and he was very understanding because of the military circumstances. We will be moving through a “rushed” pre-canna, ect.

That being said there are some technicalities that make this all possible for us. The first being the military, the second is that although I have always gone to a Catholic church, I was actually baptised Lutheran. My fiance is Baptist. When we got engaged I realised that I would never feel comfortable in another church, especially on my wedding day. So on top of getting married I will also officially become Catholic in the process. Not much of one since I don’t have as much “education” to go through as many others going through the church. But at the time of the civil ceremony we will not be bound by canon law. That is the ONLY reason that we are able to have both.

I hope that helps 🙂 God bless and good luck with your wedding planning!! 

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