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 at Duke ChapelIf it is Fr. Juan José whom you want to officiate, consult with the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator to check Fr. Juan José’s availability.  If it is someone else, you need to provide the DCC with the contact info of the officiant. 

Schedule the Wedding and Rehearsal

This takes place at least 6 months prior to the wedding and typically one year prior to month in which you hope to be married.  The availability of Duke Chapel is not controlled by the DCC. 
For information on how to reserve Duke Chapel and the rules that govern the use of Duke Chapel, please consult https://chapel.duke.edu/visit-events/reservation-requests/weddings

Once your date and time have been secured, contact the DCC immediately to inform us of the details. Indicate if you have a priest/deacon who will be officiating, or if you are asking Fr. Juan José to officiate.

Wedding Ceremony within Mass or without Mass

The sacrament of Marriage may take place within Mass (i.e.: 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 to determine their role in the ceremony, remembering that it is a Catholic ceremony.

What if We Don’t Live in Durham?

If you both live in the same location outside of the Durham area, we suggest that you approach a Catholic parish in your location to carry out your wedding preparation.  If that is the case, refer to the directions in the 3rd section entitled “Preparation Elsewhere for a Wedding at Duke Chapel.”
If you each live in different cities, the DCC will plan times to meet when you are together in Durham or meet via Zoom. However, 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 Class or Workshop, you will receive a certificate indicating you have finished the program. Please forward this to the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator.
  • A Marriage License must be obtained within 60 days before the wedding from Durham County since that is where the wedding will take place (regardless of where the you live now or will live in the future).  This can be done by visiting:  Durham County Marriage License Application
  • (or one of the priests from Immaculate Conception parish), the officiant will need to submit a Letter of Suitability from his diocese indicating that he is in good standing.  Then the DCC will issue him a Letter of Delegation indicating that he has permission to perform a Catholic Wedding in Duke Chapel.  The DCC will also work with the priest/deacon whom you have selected to provide the materials needed for the wedding ceremony (Mass materials, etc.)

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.  The DCC requires that you conform with all of the policies and procedures of Duke Chapel as stated in the paperwork that they will give you when you reserve the date.  Duke Chapel will also assign a Wedding Director who will work in conjunction with the priest or deacon who will be officiating.  To plan the ceremony, we will use a book entitled “Together for Life” which has all of the prayers and readings from which you can choose.

  • is an important dimension of a liturgical moment such as a wedding.  You will need to coordinate the music through the DCC Music Director, Andrew Witchger.  If the wedding will take place within the context of the Mass, you will also need to reserve a Cantor through the Music Director at an additional cost to you.
  • 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.
  • you will review with Fr. Juan José or the priest or deacon officiating as well as with the DCC Marriage Preparation Coordinator and the Duke Chapel Wedding Coordinator.

Fees

Duke Chapel charges a fee for the use of the Chapel and for the organist.  The DCC is not consulted in the determination of that fee, nor does it receive any amount of that fee.  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