Does a Catholic Wedding Need a Registrar?


Wedding registrar shaking brides hand after successfully completing civil wedding ceremony

From the religious perspective, a Catholic wedding is a sacramental union in Holy Matrimony between two people under God’s laws. Legally, however, marriage is a consensual, legal contract where the two are married according to their respective countries. For legal and religious cohesion, we endeavor to determine whether there is a need for a registrar at a Catholic wedding.

So, does a Catholic wedding need a registrar? Given that a marriage is legally and religiously binding, the couple needs to register their marriage according to their country’s laws; hence, the need for a registrar. While most of England’s churches do not necessarily require one to be present, one is mandatory for the Roman Catholic Church. Still, the couple may need to get advice from the parish priest or bishop on the best way to go. 

We investigated civil registry roles in matters of catholic marriages to find out whether a couple needs to have a registrar present at their wedding. We also delved into the fundamental laws to establish the Catholic Church’s standing regarding marriage as a law. Read on to learn the essence of a registrar at a Catholic wedding.

What Are the Functions of a Registrar?

A registrar is a civil servant who collects and keeps accurate records of vital data of all country citizens. They register marriages, births, deaths, and partnerships in the assigned locality. Typically, a registrar works at the civil office, but in other cases, they preside over various marriages in different locations.

They can also personally attend weddings as the celebrants, especially in remote areas where there’s no official figure to officiate the ceremony. Due to their tasks’ nature, people working in this field need to have excellent customer service, exceptional communication skills, and vast knowledge of civil law.

If a couple decides to have a small civil wedding or sign a temporary contract before having a grand celebration, they can contact the registrar. They need two witnesses to make their union official; doing so allows them to wed anywhere on a different date.

A registrar’s functions at a wedding may vary depending on the country or the state, but you may need to contact them earlier and book an appointment if you need one present during the wedding. How fast you can get them depends on several factors, with some countries requiring days and others requiring months.

The Roles of Marriage Registration

For two people to be legally and officially married, they need to possess a marriage certificate. This identifies their union wherever they go as a couple. It is a requirement for a couple to register even before marriage because as much as they are married in the church’s eyes, they still need legal proof.

Whether the couple is married religiously or traditionally, they still need the country to legalize their marriage. This registration is vital data for the country since it records the marriage for easy tracking of the subsequent occurrences such as the birth of children, divorce, or death of a spouse.

The following are some reasons why a marriage certification is essential.

  • Obtaining a marriage certificate enables the couple to apply for passports, especially when they wish to travel together in the future or for use during their honeymoon. The documentation proves that the two are indeed a legally married couple.
  • In case the couple wants to have joint bank accounts or invest in an asset, they need to show the certificate as proof of marriage. Similarly, if there is any issue of asset sharing during divorce, the couple can quickly settle it (the Catholic Church, however, strongly opposes divorce cases)
  • Whenever the couple wants to register each other as nominees for insurance policies such as health and life, the document comes in handy. The other partner can, therefore, obtain insurance benefits.
  • In case one partner travels abroad and wishes to carry along the other, the certificate can help them quickly obtain a work permit for the other spouse.

These are some reasons why a couple needs to have their marriage legalized; however, the key reason is for them to be legally married according to their country’s laws.

The Law, the Church, and Marriage

A marriage is a legal entity in almost every country. A man and a woman are deemed to be bound together unless they dissolve their union in an annulment. To date, marriage is still a legal contract only broken by divorce. This is different from the religious or traditional set up where the two take an oath with the intention of a lifetime commitment.

With a legal marriage, both men and women enter a marriage contract; hence, obtain a different legal status as husband and wife. This way, they are bound together, and none can marry another unless the contract is broken; (by death, divorce, or annulment).

Since the church recognizes marriage as a legal entity, they also comply with the law to ensure that the couple’s union is legal. Before planning a wedding, the church must ensure that the couple meets both the civic and religious requirements. For instance, the church can only allow the union to occur if both partners are of legal age, according to the country’s laws. 

However, the church and the law can clash regarding marriage dissolution. While the law allows a married couple to divorce, the church maintains its strong standing that marriage is a lifetime commitment (only broken by death).

Does a Registrar Have To Be Present at a Catholic Wedding?

Before the wedding, most couples believe that the church is in charge of all the paperwork involved; this may be true in some churches such as the Church of England. In most cases, the couple needs to consult with the registrar before they can have their wedding. This is a requirement to have permission to proceed; however, it varies depending on the country.

The couple can contact the registrar’s office some months before the wedding, upon which they can get the go-ahead to proceed. They get a confirmation to present to the priest, who then joins them during the ceremony; once the registrar receives the notice, he/she does not have to be present during the wedding.

Most churches also have an appointed person who acts as a registrar for the wedding; hence, you don’t need another present. However, if the priest or vicar officiating the ceremony is doing so outside his jurisdiction, you require the registrar’s presence.

If the registrar is needed, the couple must contact the office early and book an appointment since they are often busy and in high demand. Similarly, they may have to dig into their pockets to pay a fee for the services.

Final Take

Some churches have appointed persons that act as the church’s registrar; hence, you don’t need the presence of another. However, when there’s no such person, the registrar has to be present. Generally, the best option is to get notification from the registrar’s office then present it to the priest as a go-ahead for the wedding, which mostly happens in other denominations.

In paperwork matters, the couple needs to confirm with their respective church’s leaders on the best way to go since it varies based on the particular church. The church will then advise the couple accordingly; some churches take care of the licensing while others leave the couple with the task.

Note that different countries have different rules in handling marriage legalization, so the way you license your marriage depends on your country or that of your spouse.

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