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Kim Jones wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. If my fiancé and I get married civilly, can we still have a real wedding in the Catholic Church?

I do not see this as our wedding. I simply see this as a legal measure that needs to take place in order for us to have safety. We already live together and have children which I know the Church frowns upon. We are members of a local church and they are wonderful. I recently went through RCIA to received my sacraments and are children are all baptized Catholics.

We have been slowly planning to marry in the Church in the Fall of 2016. Because of health insurance and other legal issues, (such as my daughter having a different biological father), we really want to be legally married so that, God forbid, anything should happen to either of us, the other would be protected. If something happened to him, I would be able to collect his insurance and social security and, if anything happened to me, the same would hold but my daughter would also be able to stay with him.

We both very much want a real wedding in the Church with our families, a white dress, the vows, etc., and I know a few people who have done this with no problem though I am not sure if they were Catholic ceremonies.

I've been reading online and keep seeing differing opinions. Some say the Church would not let us have a wedding but simply a blessing, others say that they have done both with no problems.

I was wondering if you could please clear this up for us.


  { If we are living together with children, can we marry civilly and still have a real Church wedding? }

Bob replied:


Fr. Jonathan is the expert on these matters, so I would defer to him. If you can line up both a civil and Church wedding, together, that would be the best thing but I would like to see what he says on this issue.


Bob Kirby

Fr. Jonathan replied:


Congratulations on finding your spouse and for discovering your faith.

You have observed differences in practice on this one. That is because there is no set answer to it so you need to work it out with your priest.

Here are some guiding observations:

  • There is a difference between:
    1. people who get civilly married for benefits etc. who are not living together or are not having sexual relations with each other, and
    2. those who are getting civilly married for these reasons and are living together and/or having sexual relations with each other.

  • In the case of a couple that gets civilly married only, the Church really has no problem with that. Many countries around the world require that couples get civilly married first and then later married in the Church. Couples in this first category truly in no way consider the first marriage as their true marriage but only as a civil contract that needs to be done. The Church validates their marriage in a Marriage ceremony like any other marriage ceremony and the couple considers that their true Marriage covenant.
  • In the second case, the couple that is living together and having sexual relations with each other, by that civil marriage, are excluding themselves from Holy Communion until they get the marriage validated in the Church.
  • Your case, it would seem falls somewhere in the middle but is closer to the second example.

    • I wonder reading this why you are waiting until the Fall of 2016?

  • Long engagements are not a bad thing but with the civil marriage and the living together perhaps you should consider getting married sooner. In saying this, I am assuming that there is no hesitancy about the decision to marry — if there is, and that is the reason for the delay, then you have a different problem altogether.
  • Priests are reluctant to schedule validation weddings such as yours until after you are civilly married. It is akin to going to Confession and saying your future sins.

Talk it out with your priest. In the end, I am sure the Church will rejoice when you get married in the Church and will welcome all of your guests and your beautiful white dress but you need to think about this as a Holy thing from God and not something that would be nice if it fits into your schedule.

Fr. Jonathan

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