The journey to your wedding day becomes an important starting point for your life together as a married couple. You have much to think about as your big day approaches. Remember that what you are doing is preparing not just for a special day, but for the whole of your life together. The Church rejoices with you both and joyfully accompanies you over the coming months.
Make contact with the priest whom you want to have officiate at the wedding as soon as possible and at least six months prior to the wedding.
Whether you are active in your faith at the moment or not, the first person you should see is your local parish priest. Be assured that you will receive a warm welcome. Your priest will arrange a preparation course for you which is appropriate to your needs.
Faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ, we believe that marriage is:
Marriage mirrors the faithful love of God for his people. At your wedding you will make a commitment to love each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Thus the decision you make to marry is a very important one, because it is a life-long commitment.
The preparation, the forms to complete and the ceremony all assist the couple to prepare for and appreciate what it is they are doing. With God’s grace, their bond of love is blessed and strengthened.
For a couple preparing to marry it is important for them to explore their relationship and develop the skills needed to handle the challenges that inevitably arise when people share their lives.
Marriage preparation courses in the Christchurch Diocese are run at a parish level. Parishes use various marriage preparation programmes, however the Commit Programme is the standard.
Marriage preparation programmes are held over 5-7 evenings with a trained couple or priest and cover topics such as:
The wedding ceremony can be either a nuptial Mass or a wedding service and the use of sacred music and scripture readings points to the heart of Christian marriage.
Your wedding is a sacred commitment between yourselves and God who calls you to a faithful and life-giving love for the rest of your lives. We believe that God speaks directly to us through the music and words used in the marriage liturgy. So these elements of the ceremony take on a special importance.
The place of marriage contributes significantly to the special nature and dignity of the celebration and thuis, the normal place for a wedding is your local parish church where the parish family gathers for baptisms, funerals, weddings and Sunday Mass.
The church is the house of God, and so is the most fitting place for such a sacred commitment. In exceptional circumstances you may request permission to marry in another setting. It is best to talk to your priest celebrant who will work with you on this.
Because the marriage rites have such special significance for us, the Catholic Church asks all Catholics to celebrate their marriage in the Catholic Church.
In special circumstances you can seek from the bishop a dispensation from the usual form of marriage. For example if your fiancé’s family are active in another Christian denomination, you may decide you want to be married in your fiancé’s church.
Or if your fiancé has a close relative or friend who is a minister in another church, you may wish to have that minister receive your vows rather than your parish priest. The bishop will look positively on requests for dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage in these situations.
If you are planning to exchange your vows in another country, please make contact with your local priest. He will assist you with a marriage preparation course and organise the Church’s paperwork to be sent to the place where you are marrying. The local Church in many overseas countries can be very strict about proper procedure, and so early contact with your local priest to attend to these matters is important.
You may be reading this having already been married outside the Church. If you wish to look into having your marriage blessed so that you can receive Holy Communion again, have a talk with your parish priest. He will be happy to receive you.
If you or your fiancé have previously attempted marriage, and this has ended in a civil divorce, you may be wondering where you stand in the eyes of the Church. In such a painful situation, and after the example of Christ, the Church desires to walk with you and assist you in this sensitive area.
The Church has processes which carefully and respectfully assess the validity of any previous union. The healing of past hurts and anxieties becomes a vital first step for moving on.
We encourage you to have a talk in confidence with your priest about your situation.
The Tribunal For the Catholic Church in New Zealand deals with situations of nullity.