Steps to the Altar

It is commonly agreed upon amongst dioceses that a couple seeking marriage in the Catholic Church will follow the requirements of the diocese where THEY LIVE (or choose one of their home dioceses if they live in two different dioceses). It is the couple's responsibility to verify that those requirements will be acceptable in the diocese in which they are marrying, if different from the diocese where they live.
The parish they attend where they live will prepare their file to be sent to the parish where they will get married.
In case of doubt about the diocese you live in, find it with your zip code by clicking here.

 
INITIAL CONTACT WITH PRIEST (or Deacon)

Between 6 to 12 months prior to your proposed wedding date.
Meet with your parish priest or deacon, even if they will not be the ones celebrating your wedding.
 
All paperwork will be done at your home parish, and then your file will be sent to your wedding parish, if applicable.


Assessment Process:
An assessment is made at this time of your readiness for sacramental marriage, and necessary documents are gathered.
 
Pre-marital inventory, usually the Foccus Inventory, done at the parish with follow-up sessions, or the Prepare and Enrich Program which can also be done at the parish level.
 
Baptismal Certificate
You need a copy less than six months old, obtainable from the parish where you were baptized. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the parish where you were baptized with your full name, date of birth and parents’ names.
(By "baptized" the Church means baptized inany Christian tradition that baptizes in the Trinitarian formula: in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and with water.)
 
Evidence of Death of previous spouse, or Annulment if you were previously married
(Document explaining what is an Annulment or Declaration of Nullity)
Click here for a list of the possible grounds for a Declaration of Nullity.
 
Freedom to Marry form, provided by the parish. (sample)
         
Dispensations
In case of special circumstances, special forms will have to be filled out and permission required:

  • In case a Catholic person is getting married to a baptized, non-Catholic person, you will need to fill out a Dispensation Form 
  • In case a Catholic person is getting married to a non-Catholic, non-baptized person (Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Mormon, etc..) a Dispensation from Disparity of Cult Form is required.
  • In case a Catholic person is getting married outside a Catholic church (Synagogue, Temple, Christian Church, etc..) it will require a Dispensation from the Canonical Form of Marriage.

If you are not sure what pertains to you, please check this link.
Any of these forms will take time to get approved, so please make sure that you address the issues with your pastor during your first meeting.
 
In brief:
 
CHURCH REQUIREMENTS
·         Baptismal Certificates dated within six months of the wedding date
·         Initial interview with officiating clergy at least six months prior to the
          planned
          marriage date
·         Completion of Pre-Marital Inventory
·         Certificate of Attendance from a formal qualified Marriage
          Preparation Program
·         Pre-Marital Affidavits (in some cases)
 
CIVIL REQUIREMENTS
·         Certified copies of Birth Certificates from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the City and State of your
          birth.
·         Marriage License
 
Presuming you are deemed ready to go forward, you may begin the liturgical wedding plans. You will also be informed of the parish guidelines and of any costs or offerings involved.
In the event that the priest or the deacon believes that you are not ready to go forward, he will give you reasons for his recommendation that you delay your marriage. If you disagree with his decision, he may refer you to another priest or deacon; or you may appeal this decision. The priest or deacon will explain the appeals process at this time.
If the marriage is temporarily delayed, you may appeal to the Bishop through his representative, the Episcopal Vicar, in any given region.
 
FORMAL MARRIAGE PREPARATION

  • A Marriage Preparation Class (you are at the right place for this!) www.CatholicMarriagePrep.com, approved by the USCCB.
  • For more options check your home diocese website.
  • A Natural Family Planning (NFP) Introduction class or Training, depending on your home diocese requirements (check your home diocese website).
  • A weekend retreat might also be required.
  • Reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation 

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