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Our readers asked:

Can a Priest Officiate an Outdoor Wedding?

Mike Hayes Answers:

Question: My son is planning a wedding next summer, he was raised Catholic but stopped attending Church after HS, his bride attended the Presbyterian Church, neither have attended Church in the past 5 years, they are planning to have a nondenominational minister officiate their wedding. I have been encouraging them to attend PreCanna classes, they are “too busy” work and college classes. they also are having an outdoor ceremony at a resort. Is there any chance they could have a Catholic Priest officiate ?

The short answer is probably not. They would, at minimum, need to go through marriage preparation in the Catholic church and then file for a dispensation from place to the local bishop who would consider giving permission for the priest to go and give a blessing at a Protestant service. So the priest would not be the main officiant but could assist and give a blessing at the ceremony under those circumstances, but there’s no guarantee. If they go through the preparation (which is sounds like they are unwilling to do), they could be married in the Catholic Church or perhaps have a simple con-validation service later on.

My advice is to be patient, but inviting. You can’t very well make them marry in the Church, but can encourage them to find a spiritual home that suits them. Tell them about your wonderful church and invite them to events that are perhaps not “churchy” at first, but more social in nature and they may be encouraged to pursue it further.

But see if they would be willing to do marriage preparation at your local diocese — that is the only recourse you will have to having a priest there.

Most of all, remember this is THEIR wedding, not yours. And if in-laws are pushy and meddlesome during wedding planning, they are sure to remain on the outside of the relationship looking in. You need to stay in conversation, but not push too hard or you’ll simply push them away.

Check out our Sacraments 101 video series for more on the Sacrament of Marriage.

 
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The Author : Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes is the senior editor for the Googling God section at BustedHalo.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Neil Draves-Arpaia

    Is the bride Catholic? If not, there are some bishops who will grant a dispensation from place to accommodate the non-Catholic party. Also, if the dispensation is given the wedding could very well take place outdoors by a Catholic priest. Next, does the couple have time to meet with the priest for sacramental preparation? That may be an alternative to attending the Pre-Cana. It may have to be stretched out over a few weeks, but it can be done.

  • sct2

    If they are not willing to do marriage prep, and they don’t seem to want to do this, why a minister of any sort? Why not invite a judge or a justice of the peace? I’m not trying to be negative, but if this marriage does not (God forbid) work out, a church wedding would be an easier option in the future. Having a minister of any sort makes it harder to seek an annulment.

  • Sonja Flater

    Very nice response. They will find their path, and the most inviting one is the one they will travel down. In the end, we need to support each other. At a point in our lives, we let our children try their wings, if we are lucky, they fly well.

  • Veronica

    I understand the question and the answer posted here, and I’m sure it addresses the issue of a non-denominational service. But I still would like clarification on outdoor weddings. I’ve understood that Catholic weddings can only take place inside a Catholic church, because a church is considered holy ground. But then I saw the Pope and many bishops celebrating Mass on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. What’s the difference between a wedding and a Papal Mass being held outdoors?

    • Sonja Flater

      Sacraments are celebrated within the Church.

      • Veronica

        My point is: The Pope and bishops blessed and distributed the Holy Eucharist (which is a sacrament) on the beach. And the sacrament of the Eucharist is “meant to be received in the Church itself”, right?

  • Chris

    Good advice. Besides, pressuring someone to get married in Church could be grounds for an annulment.

  • Roseann Wang

    beautiful response! the author writing this sounds v patient :)

  • Mary Ellen Galvan

    and never forget to keep on praying. I am traveling much the same path and agree wholeheartedly with your suggestions. It’s what we’ve been doing also. May God bless you with patience and trust. And shine with the joy your faith brings to you.

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