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J.W. Archerd wrote:

Hi, guys —

My son, who is Catholic, would like a priest-friend of ours to do the blessing before the meal at his wedding reception. The priest said he could not participate in any part of the wedding festivities because the wedding was not performed in a Catholic Church, but in a non-denominational chapel with a minister.

Though he is a long time friend of our family, he would not participate in any fashion.

  • Is this the policy of the Catholic Church? and
  • If so, why?

Thank you,

J.W. Archerd

  { Can a priest bless the meal at a wedding reception if it did not take place in the Church? }

Fr. Jonathan replied:

J.W. —

A priest is not a private person but a public person. There is no such thing as the priest going to a wedding reception just as a friend and not as a priest. Even if it were the priest's brother getting married, the priest's presence symbolizes the Church's presence.

The Catholic who chose a non-denominational wedding for [his/her] marriage could have gone through the proper marriage preparation and could have had a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic in a non-denominational ceremony.

Seeing that the Catholic chose not to do that, it tells the world that they do not want the Catholic Church to be a part of their married life. *(whether that is their actual sentiment or not.)

If it were two Catholics getting married then it is two Catholics deliberately choosing not to be married in the Church. The priest by saying the prayer at the reception is, by his presence, endorsing the couple in their choice. Being a public figure he should not do this.

If you are a Catholic and your friend is a priest and you are not interested in being married in the Church, the kind thing to say to your friend, the priest, is:

"Hey Father, I know you can't come."

Fr. Jonathan

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