Marriage in the Catholic Church, also called matrimony, is the “covenant (which is more than a contract) by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” The covenant always expresses a relationship between persons. The marriage covenant refers to the relationship between the husband and wife, a permanent union of persons capable of knowing and loving each other and God. The celebration of marriage is also a liturgical act, appropriately held in a public liturgy at church. Catholics are urged to celebrate their marriage within the Eucharistic Liturgy.
Sacramental marriage rests four pillars that give it definition:
- Faith-filled:It is a union between a baptized man and a baptized woman;
- Free consent:It is knowingly and willingly entered into by a man and a woman who understand what they are doing and have the capacity to follow through;
- Indissoluble:Both believers recognize that this is a lifelong, exclusive and monogamous union because it is a “marriage in the Lord”;
- Fruitful:Being believers, the couple models the generative love of God as seen in the Blessed Trinity in willing that their love for each other will bear fruit in the procreation and education of their children.
There are three basic requirements for a valid Catholic wedding:
- The couple must be capable of being married—that is, they must be a woman and a man who are free of any impediment that would prevent marriage.
- The couple must give their consent to be married — that is, by an act of their will they irrevocably give and accept one another in order to establish marriage (Canon 1057).
- They must follow the canonical form for marriage—that is, they must be married according to the laws of the Church so that the Church and the wider community will be certain about the validity of their marriage.
The requirements listed above are only a partial rundown of the laws governing marriage in the Catholic Church; additional rules deal with special circumstances and administrative details. However, each diocese (the region administered by a bishop) also has its own rules regarding marriage. Moreover, individual parishes may have policies regarding marriage preparation and the wedding ceremony. You will need to check with your pastor for details about any of these additional requirements.