How to Get Married in the Catholic Church: Part 1

Mr. Unicycle and I had our first meeting with our priest this weekend, and as we got closer the appointment time, I got more and more nervous. I’d heard horror stories about priests separating the couple and asking them questions in separate rooms (the ol’ divide and conquer!), making them sign a document promising never to use birth control, and badgering them about how often they attend church. I was basically shitting bricks rocks.

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Image via IMDB

I’m not sure why I was so nervous. We’re basically moral/ethical people. We’re “pure” for all intents and purposes (and that’s the last I’ll say on that topic…), we don’t live together, we’ve never been married before, and neither of us are atheists. But yet, the more I think about it, the more I feel like I’m not devout enough to get married in a church.

Let me back up: I’m a former Catholic school girl.

I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic university, and used to go to church every week. Mr. Unicycle is Lutheran, and neither us of has any intention of ever converting to the other’s faith. We’re getting married at the parish I’ve belonged to my whole life, the one affiliated with my old grade school, where I was educated from kindergarten through 8th grade.

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Image via Laurie Peacock Photography

I found this picture of a wedding at my church. It looks HUGE with this lens…kind of like Kris Humphries’s hand…

But here’s why I feel bad:

  1. Neither Mr. Unicycle nor I go to church regularly anymore. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It’s not like I went to college and became an atheist like a lot of people do (no judgment if this happened to you. To each his/her own!). We merely don’t plan it into our weekly schedule.
  2. In order to get married in the Catholic church, you have to promise to raise your kids Catholic. I have no qualms about this, and Mr. Unicycle doesn’t really care too much either. But the reason we don’t care either way is that we don’t go to church. We need to snap out of this apathy real quick.
  3. I don’t even know the difference between Lutherans and Catholics, so how can I choose Catholicism for my children? Or myself, for that matter?
  4. I was afraid the priest would ask us questions that would out me as a derelict parishioner. All he would have had to ask is “how many priests do we have?” and I would have been a goner. Even “when’s the last time you went to mass?” would have ruined me!

Turns out I had nothing—well, I had little to worry about. When we sat down with the priest, he first exclaimed how great it was that we’d found each other and wanted to spend our lives together. (You know what? It is great.) He had us fill out some paperwork (our names, addresses, birthdates, etc.), and then he made us answer a few questions on a form. The first question scared me a little bit—whether we were active participants in our faith or not. I’m not sure what qualifies being an active participant. We also had to say whether we’d use birth control or raise our children Catholic, whether we’d been married before, whether we had a history of mental illness or impotence, and whether we were related to each other. The good news is, the wrong answers were marked with asterisks! I’m not sure what was on the other end of the asterisk because we moved through the forms too quickly, but I’m guessing it wasn’t good. (And don’t worry, we answered truthfully!)

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Image via The Guardian

We also had to take a few forms home with us for “witnesses” to fill out, assuring the diocese that we weren’t already married to other people. Since Mr. Unicycle is not Catholic, I had to sign a dispensation promising to raise our children Catholic. We also need to provide the church with copies of our Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion (I think) certificates, as well as a marriage license once we get one.

The priest gave us a book to keep that lists all the readings and songs we’re allowed to choose from at the wedding ceremony. We elected to have just a ceremony and not a full mass (most of Mr. Unicycle’s family is Lutheran, and most of mine is Atheist, so basically no one would have received communion!). He also gave us some information on Pre-Cana, which is the Catholic church’s required pre-marital counseling. After answering our questions, he shook our hands and told us we were required to have at least 5 children. He was joking. I think.

And that was that. See? Not too scary. I’ll let you know how the rest of the process goes in subsequent posts!

Note: my experience is with the Archdiocese of Chicago. I’m not sure how this differs from other dioceses.

Hive, be honest: are any of you nervous about getting married in the church? Do any Catholic brides have advice to share about the process?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Unicycle

Location:
Chicago, IL
Wedding Date:
June 2012

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Lauren, Guest @ 11:22 am

    I am a lifelong Catholic school girl as well, and will be getting married in my home church as well. Both of us are Catholic, but he’s not practicing.

    I love working with my priest! He has been so flexible (we’re both in the military are apart for the year of our engagement – our priest recommended some online pre-cana courses!), nonjudgemental, and wonderful. What many people do not realize is the that Church’s teachings on birth control are not “from the Chair of Peter,” meaning that you are allowed to disagree and still be Catholic. He has also served to keep us focused on what really matters in the ceremony – the marriage. Our church has rules about music, photography, etc., but only because the whole focus should be on the committment we are making before God.

    I have met a lot of priests, and I have never met any who would judge me or turn me away. That’s not what the Church is for. The Catholic community, and any religious community, is just that – a community and family.

  2. Member
    Bias 98 posts, Worker bee @ 11:28 am

    I laughed out loud when I read that one of the questions are whether you’re related! Really?! Anyway, more to the point, I’m in kind of the same boat. I was raised Catholic and stopped actively practicing when I went to university, but for some reason, even before FI and I were engaged, it occurred to me that it was very important (and significant) for me to get married in the church. Interestingly, FI was raised Catholic and only practices occasionally these days but we were on the exact same page about it. So, we’ve done our marriage prep (lots of fun, actually!) and met with the priest and filled out the papers and didn’t get any crazy questions (thankfully). I’m still slightly nervous to walk down the church aisle, but I think that will go away in the next few months. The truth is that we’re two honest people embarking on a new path together and everything in the church always seems so grandiose and important, which is the slightly scary part. But, deep down, I feel that the sacrament of marriage IS grandiose and important and that’s why I’ve decided to take this step. So we are trying to approach it lightly and happily and we’ll see how it goes on the actually day!! Best of luck to you guys. That church looks lovely!

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Godzeela, Guest @ 11:30 am

    So you’re a virgin, right?

  4. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 11:37 am

    Our priest was AWFUL. Seriously, just horrible. We live together, and he lost it, and told us we need to move out immediately or at the very least my fiance needed to sleep on the couch and we needed to go to confession every week until our wedding or he wouldn’t let us marry in his church. When I mentioned that my fiance isn’t Catholic though, he told us that it didn’t matter then since we weren’t doing a full mass anyways, but he still strongly suggested moving out. I just… the Church is dealing with a huge loss in participation and membership, and then they’re going to be so judgmental? All it did was make me want to NOT marry there, or encourage me to lie to him! We also needed to meet with him 3 times before he would let us even see what days were open for us to get married (we already had a contract done with the hall so this was worrysome :S) and he isn’t even performing our wedding since my uncle is a deacon. He also talked for a FULL HOUR about how pornography is ruining society and the world. I’m not sure why, since we weren’t talking about the topic/he didn’t ask us about it… he got so worked up he almost started crying at one point ugh. Just awful.

  5. Member
    aardvark 1129 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:38 am

    Oh my goodness! I was SUPER nervous for our first meeting with the priest! We are both Catholic, Mr. Aardvark and I are living together and I was sure we’d be kicked out all together but when the time came to give our addresses the priest didn’t even blink at them being the same. I was SO relieved the rest of the meeting was a blur.

  6. Member
    MaggieL 494 posts, Helper bee @ 11:47 am

    I’m somewhat terrified about meeting with our priest! My FI was baptized and had first communion way back when, but that’s the last time he has been involved in the church and doesn’t really care at this point. I was raised Catholic but don’t go to church on a regular basis…if I’m at home or staying with my brother, I’ll go. I’m really worried to see how things go!

  7. Member
    LadyW1nger 43 posts, Newbee @ 11:50 am

    I was definitely nervous going in because we are kind of in a unique situation. My fiance had a son when he was right out of high school and he is a single dad (mom is pretty much out of the picture). On top of that, we are living together, and I haven’t really been a practicing Catholic since college. It was really important to my fiance to get married in the Church so that is what we decided to do — but I was so nervous about everything we were doing “wrong” — I have a severe case of Catholic guilt – haha!

    But our priest has been nothing but helpful, supportive and understanding. I don’t know what I was so worried about. We did our FOCCUS test last Friday and taking our engagement enrichment class next month. Sure, there are a few questions that have been a little out there or uncomfortable. But overall, our meetings with the priest have been great and really beneficial. Religion aside, it has been nice to focus on our relationship and marriage a bit, and not just on “the wedding.”

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience, @zippitydoodah. I guess it really depends on your priest, sadly.

  8. Member
    daybyday 2637 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:09 pm

    LOLOLOLOLLLLLLLL. Christmas Vacation. Why are you so funny? Must be a Midwest thang. :)

  9. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 12:15 pm

    @LadyW1nger:

    Well, this priest has had at least a dozen complaints to the schoolboard for sending kids home crying their eyes out because he told them they were going to hell for reading harry potter and other silly things like that. My mom is a very active member of the church and even she said that there is NO way he is doing out wedding ceremony. So yes, he’s just a ball of fun! haha. We had some problems with my uncle as well sadly (he told us he was worried about doing our wedding because he doesn’t think we’re good role models for the rest of the family), but I think we’ve crossed that hump now. Seriously, I was all for eloping, but my fiance wants the huge party haha (and I would probably regret not having one too).

  10. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:52 pm

    Lol, you should start working on those 5 kids!

  11. Member
    jaguar 6145 posts, Bee Keeper @ 1:44 pm

    I was scared of the catholic church wedding too – Mr. Jaguar practices, I don’t. Thankfully, I DO believe in the values of marriage that the church holds, so it made it less daunting for me. I’m glad we got married in the traditional sense. :)

  12. Member
    Chrissymari 26 posts, Newbee @ 1:48 pm

    We pretty much had the same experience as you with the exception of the birth control question, history of mental illness and impotence. We were nervous too, mainly because we live together and have for 4 years. I thought for sure we were going to be lectured about that. But not at all. Our priest even made a joke about it. So it was pretty much laid back. We attened the pre cana classes, which weren’t bad either. We chose to go to 2 day classes on two weekends. My finace’ didn’t feel comfortable staying overnight at a retreat. The pre-cana class was helpful, focused on your family orgin. The way you are now is because of your family and how you were raised. Explained how to argue efficiently, knowing and understanding how the other person resolves issues and working with that to resolve the problem. I hope that makes sense. Talked about finances, and kids – starting a family. Go into the classes with an open mind, and participating makes the class worth while.

  13. Member
    pinkfrog 1141 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:10 pm

    I’m on the opposite side, I was raised sort of Evangelical/Methodist/notCatholic, FI was raised very Catholic. We’re getting married in the church he’s done all his sacraments in, and I was super nervous. But our priest is really awesome, the parish is pretty liberal (no one batted an eyelash when we said we live together, no one was judgey about my not being Catholic, and the priest asked me one time if I wanted to convert, and when I said no, the only other thing he said on the matter was “if you ever feel like you want to explore your faith and talk in depth, please don’t ever hesitate to call me and I’ll do anything I can to help you on your journey.” That really made a good impression on me). We had a false start with our pre cana, having had an abysmal enough situation at a retreat that we actually left halfway through the first night, but we’re doing another weekend soon where we go home at night, which will be much better for us I think, and other than that the experience for me has actually been pretty good. And I still don’t intend to convert or start going to church. Ever.

  14. Member
    msdoe 639 posts, Busy bee @ 3:28 pm

    I don’t have much to say on this because I am not catholic, other than you seriously make me laugh out loud sometimes….you’re hilarious :)

  15. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:12 pm

    Y’all are of the same faith (Christianity), just different denominations. My parents have made Catholic and Episcopal work for 30 years!

  16. Member
    Miss Jenks 45 posts, Newbee @ 7:50 pm

    Oh my gosh, thank you SO much for this post (and all you other ladies for all the responses)! My FI was raised Catholic and still goes to church whenever he visits his family, though he rarely goes on his own and is very open-minded, but I wasn’t raised in a church of any kind and am best classified as ‘neutral on the religion issue’. I’d never expected to get married in a church, let alone a Catholic one, and now I feel like I have no idea of what I’m getting myself into! This post was very enlightening. :) I look forward to any future posts on the topic!

  17. Member
    roberts2b 140 posts, Blushing bee @ 12:56 am

    We are getting married in a Catholic Church in the UK.
    We are both Catholic, In fact we met on a Catholic Pilgrimage to Lourdes where we went to support disabled pilgrims but since those days we just don’t go to church a lot.
    That’s not to say our faith has changed, its just I work every other weekend and so I just cant go, I cant even go to the Saturday night mass as I work then too. As for the other weekend, we go sometimes but at others I just don’t want to, I have no excuses for it. If i don’t feel that I want to go, then I don’t, I don’t see the point of going for the sake of going and spending the whole time wishing the mass would go quicker, I think that’s worse than not going really.
    Before we sent out our invites I was thinking about backing out of getting married in a Church but now I’m glad I didn’t. Okay so I don’t go to church as much as I should (or as much as I’m expected to by the church) but when I really thought about it I do want to be married in the eyes of God, i do want to bring up my children as Catholics in the same way that we were and I do still enjoy sharing my faith with my future husband.
    We are not able to attend the usual Marriage Preparation classes as I work such random shifts so we have been enrolled on a new scheme where we have each had to answer 180 multiple choice questions online. We are due to meet with a lady from my parish (who incidentally is a friend of the family-not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing!)with whom we have to discuss the ‘wrong’ answers and the questions we answered differently. We live together and use birth control so not sure how well that chat will go. We shall see!

  18. Member
    unicycle 476 posts, Helper bee @ 6:40 am

    @Lauren: I totally agree that the wedding ceremony should follow the church’s rules on music/readings etc. That’s why I really want to get married in the church, despite feeling like I might not be “good enough”!

    @Bias: I like the idea of the ceremony being “grandiose and important”! I think marriage is bigger than just me and Mr. Unicycle, so it’s probably normal that I feel a little overwhelmed with this!

    @zippitydoodah: I’m so sorry you had to go through that! :( I think that’s what I was afraid of too. I think I’d cry if I had to talk about pornography with a priest. I literally can’t think of anything worse.

    @LadyW1nger: I just realized this whole post was about Catholic Guilt hahahah! I should have just said “I have Catholic Guilt” and spared you guys the long summary.

  19. Member
    unicycle 476 posts, Helper bee @ 6:46 am

    @Coffee cup: hahaha I’ll get right on that. Literally.

    @Chrissymari: I’m actually excited about the pre-cana classes, though a little nervous too! But I would love to learn how to argue effectively because I think I’m doing it wrong…

    @pinkfrog: oh no! I’m sorry it didn’t go well! I hope round 2 is better.

    @Miss Doe: aww thanks!

    @Future Army Wife: that’s comforting! I don’t know a lot of married people with mixed faiths/denominations, so it’s good to hear that it can work!

    @Miss Jenks: I’m glad I could be helpful! I’ll share more as I go through the process more. I hope my experience isn’t too unique to my church.

  20. Member
    zippitydoodah 210 posts, Helper bee @ 11:18 am

    @Miss Unicycle:

    I should clarify, we didn’t have to discuss the pornography, he lectured at us for an hour haha. I guess it’s just a topic that really gets him going! Luckily he didn’t care that my fiance wasn’t Catholic and didn’t even ask him to convert… he said we’re pretty much the same religion anyways, which I think is funny cause I have had aunts and uncles come up to me and ask if I’ll get my fiance to convert to “be a good role model to their children and show that marrying outside the religion is wrong and not allowed”. Seriously.

  21. Member
    TiffanyJen 220 posts, Helper bee @ 11:26 am

    I am right there with you on being a bit nervous about getting married in a church. Currently, I am in RCIA. I was never raised with much religion, other than once in a while going to the temple like during Chinese New Years (non-practicing Buddhist, I guess you would’ve called me). I didn’t really care about religion or ever converting to anything… however when my fiancé and I had become more serious, he wanted to go to church more and more. I agreed to go with him, but I wasn’t intending to ever convert. I guess after a few years of going to church, I had an epiphany of some sort and decided that I wanted to learn more about the church’s teachings – hence being in RCIA, but I had warned my then BF/now fiancé to not get his hopes up until I am fully wanting and willing to be Catholic. After several months, he proposed… and the whole “getting married in a church” thing came up. I decided to put my dreams of getting married in a “field of tall grasses” aside and agreed on marrying in the church (I guess it wouldn’t make sense if we got married elsewhere). Now my worries are more focused on how my family will react when everyone on his side heads up the alter to receive the Eucharist and all of my family… are sitting and waiting…

  22. Member
    TiffanyJen 220 posts, Helper bee @ 11:32 am

    Oh, and I forgot to mention our experience with our first meeting together with the priest. We were given homework to work on separately. It was an only compatibility test of some sort and were called back into another meeting to go over our test results. My fianc̩ and I were told that we have a 76% compatibility, immediately, we both thought Рa C?! Our priest was very kind and told us to not think about it like that and we went over our answers that stood out to him. Most of everything we discussed with him, we already knew about each other and have discussed with each other numerous times, however, I do see how that test can be beneficial to others.

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Kerry, Guest @ 5:38 pm

    I am getting married in a catholic church in London in just over 4 wks- your posts have kept me laughing- through the vivid realistic dreams- thank you

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