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.


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.


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!)


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?


Mrs. Unicycle

Chicago, IL
Wedding Date:
June 2012
Don't You Just Love a Bargain?

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  1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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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