Who officiates at the wedding?
In order for your wedding be validly celebrated in the Catholic Church, it must be witnessed by a Roman Catholic bishop, priest or deacon who is in good standing. You should consult with him in advance of selecting your date to determine his availability for the date(s) time(s) you will be trying to schedule. If it is a priest of the DCC whom you want to officiate, or If it is someone else other than a priest at the parish where you will be married, you simply need to contact him and then provide the Church where you are being married with the contact info of the officiant. The officiant will need to submit a Letter of Suitability from his diocese indicating that he is in good standing. Then the priest at the Church where you are being married will issue him a Letter of Delegation indicating that he has permission to perform a Catholic Wedding in his parish.
Scheduling the Wedding and Rehearsal
This takes place at least 6 months prior to the wedding and not longer than one year prior to wedding date. This may vary depending on the church where you are celebrating your wedding. Know that Catholic weddings are not permitted outside of a house of worship (special permission can be sought when a Catholic is marrying a Jewish person for whose family being in a Catholic Church may be problematic).
Once your date and time have been secured, contact the DCC immediately to inform us of your wedding. Indicate if you have a priest/deacon who will be officiating, or if you are asking a DCC priest to officiate, and schedule your first meeting with Fr. Mike.
Wedding Ceremony with Mass or Outside of Mass
The sacrament of Marriage may take place during Mass or outside of Mass. This decision is made between the couple and the priest/deacon who is officiating. If one of the spouses is of another tradition, it is usually recommended that the Marriage take place outside of Mass. If one of the spouses is not baptized, the wedding is always a ceremony outside of Mass.
Your wedding preparation will require 3 meetings, plus one full-day seminar (Pre-Cana Class). Two meetings to review the nature of the sacrament of Marriage, discuss issues of married life, and review/collect the paperwork necessary; and one meeting to plan the ceremony. If the officiant of your wedding is someone other than Fr. Mike, this last meeting will take place with him.
The Pre-Cana Class is a one day workshop that is required for your marriage preparation. It is important for two reasons that you register for this program almost as soon as you notify the DCC of your wedding. First, the workshops can fill up quickly, and early registration eliminates scheduling problems later on. Secondly, when you attend the workshop you will receive a workbook with materials that can be very helpful in your preparation for the sacrament. As part of the workshop, you will also be required to participate in an online inventory called Fully Engaged. When you take this inventory, it will ask for the name of the priest to whom the results should be sent – indicate Fr. Mike and his contact information. He will review these results with you at one of your meetings.
What if we don’t both live here? If you both live in the same location outside of the Durham area, I would suggest that you approach a catholic priest in your location to carry out your wedding preparation. If that is the case, refer to the directions below entitled “Preparation elsewhere for a Wedding at Duke Chapel”
If you both live in different cities, we will plan times to meet when you are together in Durham. We can also meet via Skype if that is helpful, however, at least one of the 3 meetings must take place in person so that we can fill out some of the paperwork.
Marriage between a Catholic and a person of another faith
If one of the parties is a member of another faith tradition or of no faith tradition, there are permissions or dispensations for which there is a need to apply to the diocesan authorities. While this is in no way a major obstacle, it does require some paperwork, and more importantly some conversation regarding how the Catholic party plans to live out the faith and share it with your children.
If the party who is of another faith desires to have a member of their clergy present for the ceremony, they are welcome and can work with Fr. Mike to determine what role (if any) they will play in the ceremony, remembering that it is a Catholic ceremony.
Given the fact that this is an important moment in your life as well as a ceremony with civil law ramifications, there is paperwork to be filled out. Fr. Mike will submit all of the appropriate paperwork, but only after the couple has taken care of the paperwork they need to obtain. Once all of the paperwork is complete, Fr. Mike will submit the paperwork to the Diocese of Raleigh, who will then forward the paperwork to the diocesan offices where the wedding will take place. They in turn will forward the paperwork to the parish where your wedding will take place.
Catholics need to contact the parish where they were baptized no sooner than 6 months before the wedding date to obtain a Baptismal Certificate indicating that they were baptized and that they are free to marry (are not still married to someone else, have been ordained, etc.). While many Catholics may have the certificate from the actual day of their baptism, this is not what is needed. A certificate issued from the parish within 6 months of the wedding date is needed. When contacting the parish, have them forward the certificate to Fr. Mike directly.
At the completion of the Pre Cana Workshop, the couple will receive a certificate indicating that they have finished the program. That certificate is to be forwarded to Fr. Mike as well.
A Marriage License must be obtained within a certain amount of time prior to the wedding date. Different jurisdictions have different rules/laws in this regard. Contact the local jurisdiction where your wedding will take place to find out what steps you need to take to acquire your marriage license.
Planning the Ceremony
The ceremony will require the attention of both of the spouses as you prepare for your wedding. A reminder that no wedding ceremony is perfect, and more importantly, this sacrament is a religious service that should reflect a decorum that is different from other types of celebrations. Please check with the Church where the wedding is taking place to understand specific guidelines for a wedding at that location. To prepare for the ceremony, we will issue you a book entitled “Together for Life” which has all of the prayers and readings from which you can choose.
Music is an important dimension of a liturgical moment such as a wedding. You will need to coordinate the music through the music director at the parish where your wedding will take place.
You will need to select a Lector(s) to read the following during the ceremony regardless of whether it is within a Mass or not: 1st Reading, Responsorial Psalm (unless sung by the cantor), 2nd Reading, and Prayer of the Faithful (Intercessions). You can have a number of people or just one person read these, taking into consideration that it may be unwise to ask someone to read in public who has never done that before.
The Church where your wedding will take place may have other guidelines regarding lectors, Eucharistic ministers, altar servers and music.
Other specifics of the ceremony you will review with the priest or deacon officiating.
Consult the church where you will celebrate your wedding as there may be a fee structure for use of the Church. There is no fee for a sacrament in the Catholic Church. If you would like to make a donation to the DCC in honor of your wedding day and if you would like to make an offering to the priest/deacon who officiates, that is much appreciated and at your discretion.