Can You REALLY Have a Catholic Wedding Outside?


Outdoor wedding with water feature in center

The Catholic Church has always been stringent with its rule that all weddings must occur in the Catholic Church. However, in the present day, most couples prefer outdoor weddings considering Non-Christian or Non-Catholic wedding guests; an outdoor wedding may be more comfortable for them to attend. Given the natural setup of such weddings, some people may find it better than church weddings.

So, can you really have a catholic wedding outside? It is possible to have a Catholic wedding outside the church, as long as the venue is suitable, and the parish priest allows it. For instance, some church leaders of some dioceses will be more liberal to allow having a wedding in another venue. Although the canon law dictates that the wedding has to occur in God’s dwelling place, most couples with their leaders’ permission may opt for an out of church wedding. 

We aim to determine whether you can have a wedding in a venue outside the church, say the beach. We also wish to determine whether the priest can officiate the wedding and if it will still be a valid union. Read on as we tackle these and more questions.

The Church’s View on Outdoor Weddings

A valid Catholic wedding takes place inside the church because the sacrament of matrimony is sacred according to the church’s canon laws.

The Catholics also believe that the Holy Communion is the body of Christ. Therefore, He is present in the ceremony to bless the event and give the couples sufficient grace to survive their solemn union. The sacred nature is why it is necessary to have a Catholic wedding inside the church.

Thus, a Catholic believer should ensure that a priest presides his/her wedding within the church’s walls. Doing so ensures that the wedding is in God’s presence so that He blesses the marriage and gives them the grace to face challenges that await them in their lifelong commitment.

In contrast, some believers argue that there is recreation through marriage, so having a wedding outside the church helps understand and appreciate God’s creation (due to the natural environment setup).

There are so many places that one can decide to tie the knot as long as the location respects the Catholic Church’s stand. It will violate the church’s guidelines if the couple does their wedding in a bar or any other ungodly or risky place.

Before choosing to have your wedding outside your parish church, you must seek permission from your local priests at least six months before your D-day. This time is crucial to give him ample time to consider your request, and if he is liberal, he may allow it then to obtain special approval from the diocese bishop.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, for instance, has approved out of church weddings, provided that you have permission from your priest or bishop. However, the wedding ceremony must occur within the couple’s resident parish to ensure a structure to guard people against unexpected bad weather. Even so, the church still observes other Catholic norms such as pre-cana and pre-marriage counseling.

Significantly, any wedding that takes place outside the Catholic Church has to be a wedding ceremony and not a typical nuptial mass. The nuptial mass must be in the church, and the attendees must take part in the liturgy of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), but when it comes to an outside wedding, the priest may have to do away with the mass altogether; unless he consults with the bishop and he approves of it.

Reasons for an Outdoor Catholic Wedding

Certain circumstances may prompt the couple to opt for an outdoor wedding instead of a church wedding. Some of these circumstances are so grave that the wedding may otherwise not proceed. Let’s have a look at some of these instances.

1. Interfaith and Ecumenical Marriages

When a Catholic wishes to marry a baptized Christian, the wedding may take place outside the Catholic Church as long as it is at an appropriate place. If the Non-Catholic partner wants to have a Non-Catholic priest officiate the ceremony, the couple must obtain a dispensation from the bishop first.

Unless the church agrees to it, the union may not be valid according to the Catholic canons. The same case applies to ecumenical marriages where one party is a practicing catholic, and the other is from a different religious affiliation.

2. Sickness

In the unfortunate incident that one of the partners falls seriously ill, impeding the ability to show up at the church for the wedding, then the Catholic Church may allow the wedding to occur at the most convenient place.

Here is where you find weddings taking place at home or in the hospital. If the church otherwise insists on the wedding being in the church, then the wedding may never occur, especially if it is a serious illness with low chances of survival.

3. Special Requests

Nowadays, many people seek the permission of the church to have their wedding outdoors. The following are some reasons why a couple may obtain such a request.

● Attractive and Colorful Environments

The bride and groom should enjoy a special moment together with their guests and make the most out of it. An outdoor wedding provides a serene environment that sends people into a relaxed, romantic mood.

The choice to have a wedding in such an environment may be wise since it makes the ceremony more memorable for both the newlyweds and their guests. The sound of singing birds, the fresh air, and the beautiful plants are scenes that will, for sure, make your wedding ceremony stand out more than an indoor wedding.

● Bigger Space

The number of an individual’s family and friends may influence the wedding venue in one way or another. If they invite more guests than the church’s usual capacity, then the wedding minister may suggest a suitable place that can accommodate everyone.

The event being a momentous occasion would be unfair to force other people to miss out on the wedding. Thus, the church can provide an outdoor alternative to involve all the guests in witnessing the ceremony.

● Photo Sessions

The photographs you take at your wedding ceremony will forever remain in the archives to remind you of one of the most special days of your life. An amazing photoshoot session will bring your memories to life whenever you look at the pictures.

While some couples have no qualms with Indoor photos, others find the photos taken outside more attractive and livelier, maybe because there are the natural light and a natural backdrop. We have to agree that the photos taken out in nature look better and are of better quality.

● Decorations

Finally, an outdoor wedding may allow the couple to develop customized decorations for the event creatively. Together with the trees, flowers, and the natural background, these individual decorations make the best décor for such an occasion. Using nature as décor is cheaper. Hence you can put the leftover money to budget for a different aspect of the wedding.

However, the Catholic Church dwells much on the spiritual side of the marriage than the environment’s appearance; a wedding is more about the sacrament than the decorations. As long as there is God’s presence, then the union is already blessed, regardless of the ceremony’s outlook.

Is an Outdoor Marriage Still Valid?

According to the Catholic Church’s Laws of Matrimony, marriage is seen as valid when it is sacramental; that is, a marriage between couples who are both practicing Catholic believers. Therefore, any union between two baptized Catholics is already a valid marriage according to God and the church. The case is different for other marriages.

An interfaith marriage (between a Catholic and a Non-Catholic Christian) and an ecumenical marriage (a marriage between a Catholic and unbaptized individual) is deemed valid before the church, only with permission from the Bishop of the Catholic Church.

Since it is also in the canon laws that the wedding must take place in the church, the couple (regardless of the form of their marriage) has first to gain dispensation from the church if they want to have an outdoor wedding. Otherwise, the union may not be valid.

Can a Priest Conduct a Catholic Wedding Outside the Church?

The Catholic Church’s canon law states that a Catholic wedding has to occur in the parish and the resident priest has to be the official celebrant and witness. Similarly, the marriage can occur in any other place convenient for the church and the couple; but there has to be clear permission from the relevant Catholic Church authorities.

Therefore, it is ok for a priest to officiate an outdoor wedding as long as it follows the Catholic Church’s norms and traditions. The church may also give a dispensation to allow the priest to lead in partaking in Matrimony’s Sacrament during the ceremony.

Note that obtaining such authorization is not easy since most bishops are reluctant to accept certain requests against the church’s canonical form. Most bishops are conventional and strive to maintain a sacramental marriage’s sanity to ensure that it is as sacred as the Law of Matrimony requires. Thus, it may be challenging to gain their permission.

The bishop can only grant authority to have an outdoor wedding if there are pressing issues such as; safety, political problems, and cultural orientation. Any considerate bishop will put the needs of the congregation before anything else. For instance, if there is a safety concern for the believers, the bishop can allow the wedding to occur elsewhere.

Once the priest gets the go-ahead to marry a couple outside the church, he can help the bride and groom find a suitable venue. The main concern is that the venue has to be within the couple’s parish’s jurisdiction.

Can You Have a Catholic Wedding on the Beach?

Having a Catholic wedding inside the church gives grace to the couple and unites them as they fulfill God’s covenant with the human race. The marriage will also manifest God’s everlasting love and faithfulness to the church. Your family will grow and nourish in Christ; through this, procreation and continuation of humanity in the church by the married couples through God’s blessing.

Since the wedding has to occur in a church, there are exceptions that the bishop can make; if it is an emergency or wants to have the wedding at the place of your dreams (a beach, for instance).

For most Catholic Churches, the inconvenience must present grave effects or danger to allow you to carry out your wedding outside the church, a rare occurrence. For some Catholic Churches worldwide, like the Archdiocese of Baltimore, accept outdoor matrimonial ceremonies once you secure a valid dispensation from the Priest or Bishop.

Beach wedding

This rule has made it possible for you to have the wedding ceremony at any other place of interest, but you must first discuss it with the officiating priest. Consulting ensures that the venue is safe and is within the boundaries of the couple’s parish.

Clergy reached this decision in these particular churches after recording an increasing number of requests from people who want to celebrate their matrimony outside the church building. Therefore, it wise to consult with your priest about your wedding for it might be possible to fulfill your dream of a beach wedding.

Contemporary Issues

For centuries, the Catholic Church has been so tough when it comes to issues of marriage. This act ensures that the marriage institution remains sacred, just like other sacramental ceremonies like baptism. Over time, there have been so many dynamics that bombard this ritual. Such include interdenominational marriages where a Catholic marries a Non-Catholic Christian or a union between a Catholic and a Non-Christian, among other factors.

These situations have forced the clergymen to find common grounds to feel left out of the ceremony, be it parents, family, or relatives of the couples. Having a common ground may arise when relatives or family of a particular couple are Non-Catholics; hence, not comfortable sitting in the Catholic Church for the ceremony.

In this case, the couple may say liaise with the priest before the wedding to find a place that will be common ground for both parties. The wedding can probably be outside the church but within its compound.

Recently, some dioceses, especially in the United States, do not give dispensation unless for unavoidable circumstances; a sigh of relief to couples who would want to have customized their wedding in unique grounds such as the rooftop.

However, the permission to have an outdoor wedding must come from the diocesan bishop. But even if he grants the dispensation, the wedding cannot occur in certain places like bars and casinos.

Like other Christian churches, the Catholic Church may lift restrictions that force people to wed only in the church according to the marital Laws. This law is evident in places such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Montana. Later on, more dioceses may adopt this trend to allow weddings outside the Catholic Church.

Another concern for the church is the recent outbreak of Covid-19. Many Catholic Churches have revised their matrimonial Laws to ensure that their believers’ interests and safety are a top priority. For instance, to minimize the pandemic’s effects, social distance is necessary, an option that may not be possible for some smaller parishes.

Since a wedding ceremony attracts many people, the church has to find an alternative venue to conduct the ceremony. Some dioceses have presented venues that are appropriate for celebrating matrimony for approval by their bishops.

These grounds include venues such as the Museum. This location is fantastic, and you and your guests can revel in the majesty of God’s creation while you make your special memories. Your friends are likely to carry home these special memories; such a unique location will leave them talking for days to come.

There are other historical places which can be good wedding destinations for a Catholic who wishes to have a memorable matrimonial ceremony. Other couples (especially in Baltimore) also go for school chapels while others go for school impounds, as long as they obtain a dispensation from the local priest.

Finally

The church does not recognize marriage in another venue other than the church; such unions are canonically invalid. Therefore, the couple has to plan the wedding in strict adherence to the church’s canonical laws.

Nonetheless, for other parishes such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore, a wedding on the beach is possible since all you may need is a dispensation from the bishop to give you the go-ahead and, at the same time, make your matrimony valid before the church’s eyes.

The priest and bishop of the Catholic Church are, in most cases, reluctant to accept an outdoor wedding ceremony. However, they can marry a couple outside the church where a certain situation forces the couple to have the wedding outside the church.

However, in normal circumstances, it may be challenging to have a priest officiate your wedding unless it is within the church walls. If you really want a smooth matrimonial ceremony ministered by your local priest, you must play by order of matrimonial Laws.

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