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Joel wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 28 year old male living the United States. My father is Jewish and my mother is Muslim so, as you might imagine, my religious views are mixed. After dating for over seven years, I recently proposed to my girlfriend. We are engaged and very much in love. She was raised Catholic, but she is not particularly devout. Her parents, however, are devout Catholics and I greatly respect their beliefs. They would like us to get married in the Catholic Church, but my parents, who are paying for the wedding, would like an outdoor wedding. I want to honor her parents and my fiancée's beliefs, and I am desperately seeking some sort of compromise. Unfortunately, we are not having any luck finding one. I have two main questions:

  • Would the Church validate a marriage between a Catholic and a Non-Christian?
  • Secondly, would a priest officiate an outdoor wedding outside of the Church setting?



  { Would the Church validate a marriage between a Catholic and a Non-Christian plus? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Joel —

Thanks for the question.

Let me answer your question, then give you some suggestions and advice.

You said:
Would the Church validate a marriage between a Catholic and a Non-Christian?

Any baptized Catholic who wishes to enter into a valid sacramental marriage has to marry according to a Catholic form.

What does this mean?

  • This means they have to be married in the Church.
  • If their spouse, you, is a non-Catholic, the Catholic spouse needs to get a dispensation from their local bishop, and
  • the non-Catholic spouse has to promise to:
    • not interfere with the Catholic spouse raising the children of their marriage Catholic.

      It's important to note: the Catholic is making the promise; the non-Catholic spouse is only witnessing the promise being made.

    • both parties also have to enter the marriage with the proper understand of the marriage consent and the purpose of marriage.
      See the quotes from the Catechism under Matrimonial Consent.

You said:
Secondly, would a priest officiate an outdoor wedding outside of the Church setting?

No, not to my knowledge due to the first bullet in my list of bullets above.

  • This means they have to be married in the Church

You didn't say how your Jewish father and Muslim mother feel about being married in the Church.

Assuming they would not want this, but you wouldn't mind, it really comes down to having a friendly conversation with them about this. Family cohesion is important but can be tough at times. Nevertheless, they have to respect your free will to do what you and your fiancée thinks is best for their marriage and future life together.

If you are seeking a truly life-long commitment with your fiancée in marriage, the grace from the sacramental life of the Church is an extremely helpful source, especially during the future tough times both of you will have together.

Living a sacramental life will help both of you to:

  • stay committed
  • help in difficult times and
  • when one falls, help each of you to forgive each other and get back together again.

The underlying assumption is that the Catholic spouse practices her faith and follows the teachings of the Church including those against artificial contraception. The Church does promote natural contraception — also known as Natural Family Planning (NFP).

It is sad that your spouse doesn't appreciate her faith as much as her parents do. In order to give you some insight in what her parents cherish so much about their faith consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Hope this helps,


From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Mixed marriages and disparity of cult

1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.

1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple's obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.

1637 In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task: "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband." It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this "consecration" should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.

Matrimonial Consent

1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free" means:

- not being under constraint;

- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage." If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

1627 The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I take you to be my husband." This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one flesh."

1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.

1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed. In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.

1630 The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church's minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.

1631 This is the reason why the Church normally requires that the faithful contract marriage according to the ecclesiastical form. Several reasons converge to explain this requirement:

- Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act. It is therefore appropriate that it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the Church;

- Marriage introduces one into an ecclesial order, and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children;

- Since marriage is a state of life in the Church, certainty about it is necessary (hence the obligation to have witnesses);

- The public character of the consent protects the "I do" once given and helps the spouses remain faithful to it.

1632 So that the "I do" of the spouses may be a free and responsible act and so that the marriage covenant may have solid and lasting human and Christian foundations, preparation for marriage is of prime importance.

The example and teaching given by parents and families remain the special form of this preparation.

The role of pastors and of the Christian community as the "family of God" is indispensable for the transmission of the human and Christian values of marriage and family, and much more so in our era when many young people experience broken homes which no longer sufficiently assure this initiation:

It is imperative to give suitable and timely instruction to young people, above all in the heart of their own families, about the dignity of married love, its role and its exercise, so that, having learned the value of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to engage in honorable courtship and enter upon a marriage of their own.

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