You are your partner are already engaged and you are both baptized Christians…at least one of you is a baptized Catholic.
Each year roughly 700-800 couples are married in the 148 Catholic parishes within the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. Why would you want to be among those who marry in the Catholic Church when it would be much simpler to elope, go to the Justice of the Peace, or talk to the non-denominational pastor down the street about a wedding in his/her church?
Increasingly and for various reasons, Catholics are feeling the crunch of cultural and social pressures to get married outside the Catholic Church. Technically speaking, for two Catholics engaged to be married, there is an obligation to be married in the Church. But greater than that, there is the opportunity for those two Catholics to receive the sacramental grace that God offers through the blessing of Holy Marriage.
Marriage is a Sacrament
Just like the Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick…Marriage is a BIG “S” Sacrament for a couple where both are baptized. Even for couples where one is not baptized, the Church recognizes that marriage between a man and a woman is something that God ordained. All sacraments are “instituted by Christ the Lord and entrusted to the Church, as they are actions of Christ and the Church” (CIC 840). They “stand out as the signs and means by which the faith is expressed and strengthened, worship is rendered to God and the sanctification of humankind is effected” (CIC 840).
Health Marriages = Healthy Families = Healthy Society
The Church recognizes that healthy marriages serve as the cornerstone foundation for society as a whole (CCC 2207). A family is the most basic human social structure we know. The Church has a great responsibility to serve the greater good of society as whole, and one of the primary ways in which She does this is by upholding and defending the dignity of the family which begins with marriage. The grace of the Sacrament of Marriage is the best way the Church knows how to help couples to persevere through difficult times, to rejoice in times of joy, and to remain faithful in love to one another until death.
For these reasons, the Catholic Church takes marriage very seriously. At first glance, it may seem like the Church imposes a set of rules on couples that they have to follow in order to get married in the Catholic Church. However, at the most fundamental level, the Church says that marriage is a sacrament, and therefore if a person is “properly disposed” and “is not prohibited by law” from receiving a particular sacrament, then the couple cannot be refused and excessive burdens should not be placed upon them (CIC 843). In other words, if a baptized Catholic couple desires to be married in the Catholic Church, and there is no civil or ecclesiastical legal impediment standing in their way, then they should be married.
Okay, so can I just get married then?
Still, the Church and her ministers are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that a couple seeking marriage is, in fact, prepared for the lifelong commitment. There are various ways in which this can happen, but the Church must uphold the dignity of the Sacrament that Christ provided to the Her, and so must do Her due diligence in helping to guide a couple through moments of evangelization and catechesis toward the place at which they can express a pure desire of the soul for the Sacrament of Marriage. (CIC 843)
It is important to meet with the priest or deacon at your local parish to begin this process of preparation. They are ready and eager to guide you toward a fuller and more meaningful understanding of what the Church desires for you in your married life together. To learn more, visit some of the other places within this site.