You're Getting Married! Congratulations!
If you are planning on getting married in the Church, your first point of contact should be your parish priest. He will advise you on marriage preparation, which is designed to help couples thoughtfully and prayerfully prepare for their upcoming marriage and lives together. Marriage is a beautiful vocation, a reflection of God's love for us and of Christ's love for the Church. It is crucial that you understand what you are consenting to when you make your wedding vows, and so the importance of good Catholic marriage preparation cannot be overemphasised.
What do I do first?
Arrange to see your Parish Priest. The Diocese of East Anglia requires 6 months notice of intention of marriage. Please do not arrange venues, flowers etc without first talking with the Parish Priest and fixing a date. If one of you has been married before you MUST disclose this to the Priest before making any arrangements. If there is not an authorised person in the Parish there will be a need for a Registrar to be present. The Civil Registrar also needs to be given notice of the intention to be married in a Catholic Church The Parish Priest will make the necessary arrangements to publish or dispense the marriage banns.
Are there any days when we cannot marry?
Marriage cannot be celebrated on Good Friday or Holy Saturday (ie the Saturday before Easter Day.
What Services are available?
Wedding Service - this consists of hymns, prayers, psalms and reading from Scriptures, exchange of vows and nuptial blessing. Nuptial Mass - a special Mass for marriage including the marriage ceremony as above. The Church has recommended readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel. You may choose your readings. Music should be sacred in character but may be modern or traditional. The main factor that needs to be considered is how many of the congregation will be familiar with a Catholic Mass.
What Preparation Does the Church Require?
Normally the Priest will want to see the couple himself on several occasions and, depending on local resources, may be assisted in this by a Marriage preparation team. All Couples are encouraged to attend Marriage Preparation Days run by Marriage Care. The job of the Priest is to ensure that the couple fully understands the obligations and sacred nature of the sacrament of Marriage. This will cover topics such as, the nature of the sacrament: its obligations, the indissolubility of marriage, the unity of marriage, and acceptance of the gift of children.
What information is needed?
The Church also requires certain information from the couple. If Catholic - they will need to produce a new (ie less than six months old) Baptismal Certificate from the Church where they were baptised. The Parish Priest will often be able to find the contact details for you. If Christian, but not Catholic they will need to provide an original or photocopy of their Baptismal Certificate. If under 18 years old the couple need written permission from either parents or guardian. They need to show that they are free to marry and that the parents or guardians can vouch for them. If there has been a previous partner, who is now deceased, the priest needs a copy of that death certificate.
If there has been a certificate of nullity issued the priest needs to see the Decree of Nullity and whether any conditions were attached to it. If a person is unbaptised - the Diocese needs to give permission for the marriage and the Priest will apply for this.
There is a useful publication called How To Survive Being Married to a Catholic by Redemptorist Publications
Practicalities for the Day
Organist needs to be contacted via Parish Priest. If you want to provide your own organist this can often be accommodated Servers - depending on the Services you can ask for servers, the parish will normally have a rate of recompense for the servers subject to local agreements. Choir if there is one again there is often a fee payable and plenty of notice is usually required. Individual churches may have particular policies towards the use of confetti, please check with your Priest Flowers - there is often a team who arrange the flowers, again the Priest can usually put you in contact with the co-ordinator Order of Service - the Priest will be able to help you with putting this together. There is no charge for the Service in most parishes, although Donations to cover costs are always welcome.
Priests or Deacons
It is normal to be married in your own Parish by your Parish Priest. If another priest is going to conduct the Service (eg a relative) this should be arranged with your parish priest well in advance. If one of the parties is from another Christian Denomination the Parish Priest is often happy for their Minister to be present and share in some aspects of the Service. Please advise on this well in advance.