Can a Priest Officiate an Outdoor Wedding?

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.