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HowShouldWeMarry wrote:

Hi, guys —

My fiancé and I have been together six years. He was raised Catholic but felt closer to Atheism when I first met him; he now feels more like an Agnostic.

I was raised religious but was never part of one religion. My parents felt it best to let me make my own decisions. I prefer to go to Church so we go to Mass as a compromise, though he prefers to not go at all. We are getting married in April and are currently living together (out of my preference) although we don't have any sexual relations as many assume. His parents are extremely disappointed and don't approve at all of us living together, which I respect.

At this point, we're doing what is right for us and our relationship, and as we live in an area away from any family, we don't have any other option. What hurts them even more is that we plan to have a small wedding ceremony in a state park. They have been invited but refuse to support it. Neither of us is Catholic so we feel it would be wrong to have a Catholic ceremony just to appease them. We've agreed that if I ever decide to become Catholic we could discuss the possibility of having a Catholic ceremony later. I'm really unsure what to do.

I want his parents to be part of our family but I want to stay true to who we are and I feel having a Catholic ceremony to appease them would be hypocritical and wrong.

I've heard that it is possible to have a sacramental wedding after a civil wedding but:

  • Is it possible to have a civil wedding after a sacramental one so that they no longer feel we are living in sin?

My parents are upset and I feel it would be uncomfortable to have them at our small ceremony if my fiancé's parents won't come.

  • What would be the best option for keeping them happy and not offending the Catholic Church?

Thank you so much.


  { What would be the best way to marry that would keep them happy and not offend the Church? }

Mike replied:

Dear HowShouldWeMarry,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. We are in the process of transitioning from one priest-helper to another. Until we have a new priest-helper the best we can do is answer the question the best we can.

If one of our colleagues feels they can give a confident answer you will get a reply.

After reading your e-mail, it appears your marital plans and actions contradict the wishes and desires of your fiancé's parents.

If a Catholic, whether they are practicing the faith or not, gets married outside the Church, it won't be recognized by the Church and the couple won't receive the sacramental graces only a Catholic marriage can bring to both of them.

You said:
At this point, we're doing what is right for us and our relationship, . . .

  • Then why are you concerned with the feelings of your fiancé's parents?

They only want what is best for both of you! You can't have it both ways.

If a couple marries in the Church, the Church will expect the Catholic spouse to raise the children as Catholics. It doesn't sound like either of you have this interest.

You said:
I've heard that it is possible to have a sacramental wedding after a civil wedding but:

  • Is it possible to have a civil wedding after a sacramental one so that they no longer feel we are living in sin?

The short answer: No. I believe under certain circumstances (like when a Catholic marries a Hindu):

  • You can have a civil marriage first, then a Catholic marriage, but
  • you can't have a Catholic marriage first then a civil marriage.

Just my two cents.

[Related posting]

Paul replied:

Dear HowShouldWeMarry,

I am a bit confused about your religious status and that of your fiance's.

  • Were either of you baptized Catholic?

If so, it is my understanding that while a civil ceremony would be recognized by the state, it would not be recognized by the Church as being valid. Perhaps this is another reason why your parents are upset.

As for cohabitating, there are two basic things that are meant to be reserved exclusively for marriage:

  1. sex, and
  2. living together.

Playing house without a sexual relationship is still wrong since it shares a daily intimacy between a man and woman that only spouses should share.

  1. Thirdly, it seems there is presently a difference of religiosity between you and your fiancé.

That may seem non-problematic now, but if there is any movement or growth in the future (and we always grow), that can become a serious problem, not only for raising children, but also for missing out on sharing the most important part of life with each other.

If I were you, I would do some deeper thinking about the bigger picture and invite your fiancé to do the same.



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