Getting Married in the Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church getting married is a commitment made by a man and a woman to share their lives together in a permanent and faithful relationship. Part of this commitment is being open to having children.

It also involves maintaining essential Christian values of love and fidelity in the face of challenges a couple will face at some stage during their marriage. Amongst other things, these can involve money, careers, children, in-laws, death, sexuality, religion and conflict in lifestyles. Often these challenges come unexpectedly.

Couples wishing to marry in the Catholic Church are expected to attend a pre-marriage course. This will provide a couple with skills and knowledge to work through problems and to make their marriage the best possible. If a couple is unable to attend, they should spend time in marriage preparation with the priest who is to celebrate the marriage or with a lay person trained in marriage preparation.

Pre-marriage education helps build strong foundations for a lasting marriage. It encourages couples to communicate with each other about issues that may not otherwise be raised in the busyness of courtship, engagement and wedding plans.

Each diocese offers a pre-marriage programme, such as FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding and Study). All programmes are presented by trained facilitators in a relaxed and confidential setting. They provide couples with knowledge and skills to help create depth in their marriage vows, allowing them an opportunity to explore their own individual relationship and help them recognise and build upon its strengths.

Programmes are based on the principles of adult education, and involve couples drawing on their own experiences and family background to identify the issues they see as important in their marriage. The areas covered by the courses may include:

  • personality differences and personal issues
  • communication and problem-solving
  • values and preferences
  • parenting
  • sexuality
  • friends and interests
  • two-career marriages
  • budgeting (of time and money)

There are also skill enhancement courses offered following the FOCCUS course, and some dioceses offer post-wedding events for couples who have been married for one-two years to reflect on their journeys as a married couple.

An Engaged Encounter Weekend is also offered in some dioceses. This involves married couples and a priest sharing their experiences and observations of marriage, and allows engaged couples to spend time focusing on their future together.

For information on marriage preparation in your area, contact your diocese.



Do we need to be Catholic to get married in a Catholic Church?

To get married in the Catholic Church at least one person must be Catholic, but the other person can be any other Christian religion.

What documentation is needed?

Both people need documentation of baptism.

How do I obtain a copy of my Baptism certificate?

You need to approach the parish in which you were baptised, as this is where baptism and other documents are stored. For parish contact details go to the parishes section of the relevant diocesan website.

If the parish no longer exists, the documents may be at another parish or at the diocesan archives. In this case you should contact the relevant diocese.

If you don’t know where you were baptised, contact a diocese to access baptism records.

What if one of us is not baptised?

If the non-Catholic is unbaptised or of a non-Christian religion a special dispensation from the local bishop is needed. This can be obtained by the priest marrying you.

What do I do if I want to get married by a Catholic priest outside of a Church?

A special dispensation is needed, which can be obtained by the priest marrying you. You will need to provide reasons for wanting to get married in a venue other than a church.

How much does it cost to get married in a Catholic Church?

There is no set fee. Usually a couple will give a donation to the priest marrying them and the amount is up to the couple. Factors to take into consideration when deciding how much to give are the time spent by the priest with the couple – for example, in marriage preparation and on the wedding day – and how much time the priest has dedicated to the wedding outside of these times. It will also depend on the couple’s financial circumstances.