Ask a Priest or Deacon to Officiate Your Wedding

In order for your wedding to 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 Fr. Juan José whom you want to officiate, inform the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator to check Fr. Juan José’s availability.  If it is someone other than a priest at the parish where you will be married, you need to contact him and then provide the Church where you are being married (and the DCC) with his contact information.

Schedule the Wedding and Rehearsal

This takes place at least 6 months prior to the wedding. The scheduling process 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 (although special permission can be sought when a Catholic is marrying a Jewish person).

Once your date and time have been secured, contact the DCC immediately to inform us of this information. Indicate if you have a priest/deacon who will be officiating, or if you are asking Fr. Juan José to officiate, and schedule your first meeting with the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator.

Wedding Ceremony within Mass or without Mass

The sacrament of Marriage may take place within Mass (ie: including the celebration of the Eucharist and receiving of Holy Communion) or may take place without Mass.  This decision is made between the couple and the priest/deacon who is officiating.  If one of you is of a different faith tradition, it is usually recommended that the Marriage take place without Mass. If one of you is not baptized, the wedding is always a ceremony without Mass.

Marriage between a Catholic and a Person of Another Faith

If one of you is a member of another Christian denomination or faith tradition, or is of no faith tradition, there are permissions or dispensations needed from diocesan authorities.  While this is in no way an obstacle, it requires 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 be a part of the ceremony, they are most welcome and can work with Fr. Juan José or the priest/deacon who is officiating to determine their role in the ceremony, remembering that it is a Catholic ceremony.

What if We Don’t Live in Durham?

If one or both of you both live in different cities outside of Durham, the DCC will plan times to meet when you are together in Durham or meet via Zoom. Please know that at least one of the meetings must take place in person in Durham so that we can fill out some of the paperwork together.

Marriage Preparation

Your marriage preparation will require a number of meetings (in-person or via Zoom), plus one full-day class (sometimes referred to as a Pre-Cana workshop or Pre-Cana retreat) at a location of near you or online. 

  • Meetings with the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator will cover topics including: the nature of the sacrament of Marriage, adult Christian discipleship, important issues of married life, and particulars to plan the ceremony.  If the officiant of your wedding is someone other than Fr. Juan José, this last meeting will take place with that priest/deacon.
  • The Pre-Cana Class is a one-day seminar required for your marriage preparation. 
    You may either attend this seminar in person or online.
    • In-person Pre-Cana Workshop through the Diocese of Raleigh.
      This in-person workshop is ideal for couples who are local. These workshops can fill up quickly, so it is important that you register early in your engagement. At the workshop you will receive a workbook with materials that can be very helpful in your preparation for marriage.  You can register here:  Diocese of Raleigh Engaged Couple Workshop.
  • Survey. You will also be asked to participate in an online inventory called Fully Engaged.  This is a helpful tool for discussion of dozens of topics related to married life, and will be a launching point for conversations during your marriage preparation meetings with the DCC.

Paperwork

Given that your marriage will not only be a glorious celebration, but also a ceremony legally recognized by both civil and Church authorities, there is paperwork to be filled out.  The DCC will guide you through this process, asking you to obtain certain items and submitting all necessary documents on your behalf. Some of the items you will be asked to obtain include:

  • Baptismal certificates. Catholics and baptized Protestants are asked to provide documentation of your baptism. While many Catholics may still have the certificate from the actual day of their baptism, this is not what is needed. Catholics are asked to contact your church of baptism within 6 months of the wedding date and request a new copy of your Baptismal Certificate, which you can then you forward to the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator.
  • Pre-Cana certificate. At the completion of the Pre-Cana Workshop, you will receive a certificate indicating you have finished the program. Please forward this to the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator.
  • Marriage license. 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.
  • If the officiant is not Fr. Juan José or one of the priests or deacons from the Church the wedding will be celebrated, there is additional paperwork that the DCC can help you obtain. The DCC and the Church where you are being married will need the contact info of the officiant.  The officiant will then 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 at this parish.

Planning the Ceremony

The ceremony will require the attention of both of you 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. Guidelines regarding readers, Eucharistic ministers, music or altar servers may vary slightly from parish to parish. To plan your ceremony, we recommend using a book entitled “Together for Life” which has all of the prayers and readings from which you can choose. Here are some general planning guidelines:

  • 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 is taking place.
  • You will need to select between 1 and 3 Readers to proclaim two Scripture readings, plus to read the Prayers of the Faithful (General Intercessions).  You can have a different person read each selection, or have the same person read all three. When considering who you might ask, please take into consideration that it may be unwise to ask someone to read in public who has never done that before.
  • Other specifics of the ceremony you will review with the priest or deacon officiating.

Fees

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 receiving 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.

For More Information

Contact Liz Riegel, Marriage Preparation Coordinator, at liz.riegel@duke.edu.