Catholic Marriage, Weddings, Divorce and Annulment

Home | Category: Christian Marriage and Family Practices / Catholics


Catholic wedding

Catholics made marriage a sacrament, declaring the bond between man and wife is insoluble. The Vatican emphasizes the unity, indissolubility and commitment to raising children. This belief is based on it role as a sacrament of the church and because if this sacrament is not honored it can produce a lot of unhappy people.

Official Catholic doctrine regarding marriage: “1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises "an institution, confirmed by the divine law. . . even in the eyes of society." The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love."

“1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptised persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom. — Catechism of the Catholic Church . A catechism is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians.

See Christians.

Websites and Resources Holy See ; Catholic Online ; Catholic Encyclopedia ; Lives of the Saints: ; BBC on Christianity ; Candida Moss at the Daily Beast Daily Beast Christian Answers ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Sacred Texts website ; Internet Sourcebook ;

Catholic Teaching on Marriage to Non-Catholics

Couples that try to raise their children with two faiths find that the children get confused. It is possible to be baptized a Catholic and convert to Judaism. According to the BBC: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognises that mixed marriages can pose difficulties but it also points towards the importance of growing together through dialogue and a common faith in Jesus Christ.

“1636: Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple's obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church

wedding in The Philippines

The Catechism also makes a distinction between a mixed marriage and a marriage with 'disparity of cult' (a marriage between a Catholic and non-baptised person). Priests are required by the Church to ensure that such marriages will not endanger the faith of the Catholic partner. In practice, priests will judge each situation on a case by case basis. If difficulties arise, it is the pastoral duty of the priest to raise questions and initiate a frank discussion with the couple. He would use the same logic as any other situation in life where the faith of a Catholic could be in jeopardy. While the Church urges caution in the case of marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics, it does not prevent a Catholic from marrying the person of their choice. |::|

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church sets out the position: 1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptised non-Catholic) often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and non-baptised person) requires even greater circumspection. |::| “1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from that fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise. |::|

Preparing for a Catholic Marriage

According to the BBC: “Before a marriage takes place, a couple must spend time with the priest to talk about the sanctity of marriage and their role within the church in preparation for their life together. Questions concerning family and children, money issues, lifestyle choices and religion will be asked. [Source: BBC |::|]

“These marriage preparations are known as pre-Cana. It is an educational and maturing process for married life. Pre-Cana can take place over six months or an intensive weekend course and is mandatory for Catholics wishing to get married. |::|

“Whilst a couple is engaged but not yet married, they are expected to refrain from sexual activity: "They should reserve for marriage the expressions of affection that belong to married love". This is because the Church teaches that sex is part of the procreation process and should only happen within the right framework, which is marriage. |::|

Engagement Period

wedding communion

According to Canon 1062 of the Canon Laws of Marriage, engagement is a more than promise of marriage, it is a rational choice and a spiritual commitment. It is a time of mutual discovery and a deepening of faith. It is likewise a period of special supernatural gifts for personal and interpersonal spirituality.[Source: ^]

The successful outcome of the engaged couple's deepening in the faith is also conditioned by their previous formation. On the other hand, the way in which this period is lived will certainly have an influence on their future life as spouses and as a family. From this comes the decisive importance of the help offered to the engaged by their respective families and the whole ecclesial community. This also consists in prayer. In this regard, the blessing of the engaged which is foreseen in the De benedictionibus is significant, in which the signs of this initial commitment are mentioned: the ring, the exchange of gifts and other customs. In any case, the human depth of the engagement should be recognized and saved from any commonplace approach.

The Church reminds us that the engagement period should be made a preparation period for the marriage and not only for the wedding. If you are serious enough to bind yourselves by a covenant, it is best for you to attend packaged marriage preparation courses. This is aside from the so-called pre-marriage seminars required by government agencies and pro-choice institutions (which give anti-life and counter-Catholic teachings, anyway). There are many available marriage preparation programs, but make sure that the one you are attending not obsolete and is approved by your Parish Priest.

Confirmation and Marriage

In the Philippines, parishes require Catholic couples to be confirmed (before getting married. Confirmation is the application of a small amount of holy oil on the head of a believer that acts as a reaffirmation of baptismal vows to remain in the church The sacrament of confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ. Parishes encourage Catholics who are about to get married to be confirmed first because this sacrament is said to "confer a character. By it the baptized continue their path of Christian initiation. They are enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are more closely linked to the Church. They are made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith." (Canon 879). [Source: ^]


In any Roman Catholic church, you have to recieve the previous sacraments before recieving Confirmation, these include Baptism, Reconciliation (confession), and First Holy Communion. For children, this is often spread out over a decade or two, but often when people convert as adults the rites will be performed as one. One must have a certificate of baptism first, and at age ten , he must have his First Confession followed by First Communion. These are done in the Roman Catholic church. The deadline for registration is one month before the Confirmation date.

Confirmation Requirements: 1) Candidates must be twelve (12) years old and above. 2) Candidates must attend all the required seminars. 3) A copy of recent baptismal certificate for confirmation purposes. Required Seminars: 1) Parents’ Recollection & Meeting for Confirmandi (scheduled three weeks before Confirmation). 2) First Seminar of Confirmandi (three weeks before Confirmation). 3) Second Seminar of Confirmandi (two weeks before Confirmation). 4) Godparents’ Seminar & Practice (two weeks before Confirmation). 5) Second Rehearsal (a week before Confirmation). 6) General Rehearsal of Confirmandi & Godparent (scheduled a day before Confirmation).

Canon 1065 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church states that "Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience." In the Philippines, parishes require Catholic couples to be confirmed before getting married. The sacrament of confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ. Parishes encourage Catholics who are about to get married to be confirmed first because this sacrament is said to "confer a character. By it the baptized continue their path of Christian initiation. They are enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are more closely linked to the Church. They are made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith." (Canon 879). [ ^]

Parental Consent for Marriage in the Philippines

In many places, couples need their parents' blessings before getting married. The legal requirement states they can get parental consent or parental advice. In case both or either one of the couple is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, he or she is required to submit to the local civil registrar the consent of the father, mother, surviving parent or guardian, or persons having legal charge over you, in that order. The parental consent is written in form and the parents or guardian should appear personally before the civil registrar. The consent could also be in the form of an affidavit made in the presence of two witnesses and attested before any official authorized by law to administer oaths. These will be attached to the application for the marriage license. [Source: ^]

marriage certificate

Should one fail to procure the parental consent, the marriage is deemed voidable or annullable, that a petition for the annulment of the marriage may be filed by the parents, guardian or person having substitute parental authority over you, in that order. Though after attaining the age of twenty-one, and the couple has lived together as husband and wife, the marriage is ratified. ^

In case both or either one of the couple is between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five, he or she is obliged to ask parents or guardian for the parental advice. This is also written in form, and accompanied by a sworn statement by the couple that such advice was sought. These are attached to the application for the marriage license. Should the parents or guardian refuse to give any advice, this fact shall be stated in the sworn statement. If parents refuse to give advice or if the advice is unfavorable, then the marriage license will not be issued until after three months following the completion of the publication of the application for the marriage license.^

In addition to the parental consent or advice, if both or either one of the couple is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, he or she need to procure a certificate issued by a priest, imam or minister authorized to solemnize marriages or a duly accredited marriage counselor to certify that he or she have undergone marriage counseling. Failure to provide such shall also suspend the issuance of the marriage license for three months from the completion of the publication of the marriage license application. ^

Catholic Wedding Ceremony

Catholic wedding in Wisconsin

According to the BBC: “There are two types of Catholic marriage ceremony. One is with Mass and celebrates the Eucharist, which lasts for about an hour. The other is without Mass and only takes about 20 minutes. In a wedding without Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is missed out. [Source: BBC |::|]

“The ceremony including Mass is as follows: 1) Entrance rite: there is a procession, which may include a hymn. The priest greets the congregation then the Penitential rite and opening prayers are said. 2) Liturgy of the Word: Bible readings, one from the Old Testament, a responsorial psalm, a New Testament reading, a Gospel acclamation, a Gospel reading and a homily (a practical sermon, not a theological one) 3) The rite of marriage: questions are asked about the couples' faithfulness to one another and their willingness to bring up children. Then the vows are made and the rings are exchanged.

4) Liturgy of the Eucharist: gifts are presented and the altar is prepared. Then the Eucharist prayer is said. Then the following are sung: Sanctus Sanctus, Memorial acclamation and Great Amen. 5) Communion rite: The Lord's Prayer is said which is followed by a nuptial blessing. Then follows the Sign of Peace, Agnus Dei and Communion Hymn (sung). 6) Concluding rite: The final blessing is made, there is a dismissal and the couple kiss. There is a recessional hymn which accompanies everyone out of the church.

Matrimonial Consent

As the bride and groom recite their wedding vows, they affirm their love for each other in the eyes of the church and God. For the Church, this exchange of vows or consent is the indispensable element which "makes the marriage." Part III, Article 7 of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" is all about matrimonial consent:

(1625) The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free" means: not being under constraint; not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

Catholic wedding in India

(1626) The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage." If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

(1627) The consent consists in a "human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other": "I take you to be my wife" - "I take you to be my husband." This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two "becoming one flesh."

(1628) The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid. [ ^]

Divorce and the Catholic Church

Catholics view marriage as a covenant with God. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he said: "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." Catholics can legally get divorced and remarry like everyone else but in the in accordance with church dogma, if a man and woman remarry without getting an annulment they are not allowed to receive holy communion. In the United States, most couples get divorces and don't seek an annulment until they want to remarry. Couples who get divorced but don't get an annulment and remarry are not supposed to receive communion or go to confession. Until recently among Catholics there was a great stigma attached to divorce. According to the BBC: “The Catholic Church has strict guidelines on divorce. The Church considers the bond of marriage to be a sacred bond, one that is based on life-long love, fidelity and family. Marriage is both a legal bond on earth and spiritual bond which God has witnessed. The latter cannot be broken using temporal laws. [Source: BBC]

“A Catholic is not permitted to receive the Eucharist if s/he remarries. The Catholic Church maintains that all of its members are welcome to attend Mass. A remarried Catholic can take part in Mass but is barred from receiving Holy Communion. This causes pain to many remarried Catholics because the Eucharist is central to their faith. A remarried Catholic may receive Holy Communion only if a marriage has been annulled by the Church. |::|


Annulment proceeding are presided over by a marriage tribunal. An annulment differs from a divorce in that it does not end a marriage but rather declares that it was never valid to begin with. The decision however does not mean that children born during a marriage are illegitimate after it has been annulled.

According to the BBC: “An annulment, known also as a Decree of Nullity, is not the same as a divorce. It is a declaration that the marriage was never valid in the first place. An annulment will be considered if there is reasonable proof that the bond between the two parties was invalid from the first day of marriage. The annulment process can take between 9 - 24 months or sometimes longer. Over 50,000 annulments are granted every year throughout the world. [Source: BBC |::|]

“Grounds for an annulment include: 1) Psychological incapacity to understand the commitment marriage entails; 2) One of the partners has hidden information such as a previous marriage, impotence or infertility |The annulment process is not arbitrary. There are strict Church guidelines which must be followed as part of a tribunal to establish whether marriage was present from the beginning or not.

There are four main phases: 1) Petition: A divorcee (petitioner) approaches a minister saying why they want an annulment. They give all the circumstances as to why they think their marriage was invalid. The previous partner (respondent) has the opportunity to put their story across. 2) Evidence: Having collected the statements from each party, evidence for and against the argument must be gathered from family members, close friends and other interested parties. 3) Discussion: An argument is made for the nullity of marriage on behalf of the petitioner and one is written on behalf of the marriage by a minister. 4) Judgement: The diocese and bishops meet and read all the evidence to come to a decision. If the marriage is declared invalid, a second hearing will take place. |::|

“If the bond was not fully established when the marriage commenced, then the holy bond granted by God was not there to be broken. Reasoning behind this doctrine stems from the teachings of Jesus: "What God has united, man must not divide". (Mark, 10:9). Even if a couple separates legally, they are still joined together spiritually: "He who made man from the beginning, made them male and female. And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-6).

“Divorce is not a new issue for the Catholic Church. In the 5th century AD, one of the most famous Catholic thinkers, St. Augustine of Hippo, made his and the Church's position clear. In his work, Of the Good of Marriage, Augustine was explicit: "The compact of marriage is not done away by divorce intervening; so that they continue wedded persons one to another, even after separation; and commit adultery with those, with whom they shall be joined, even after their own divorce." |::|

“Adultery is a sin, according to the Old Testament: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). Therefore, using Augustine's reasoning, if a man and woman have been separated legally but not spiritually, they are still married in God's eyes. — Augustine wrote about divorce over 1,600 years ago. His ideas on the subject are still pre-eminent in today's Catholic doctrine. |::|

Annulments in the United States

In 1910, only around 100 annulments were granted worldwide. Of the 72,744 annulments granted worldwide in 1994, 54,463 were given to American couples. Even so, nine of ten Catholic couples who get a divorce in the United States don't bother with an annulment.

In the United States in the 1990s, annulment proceedings generally cost between $300 and $1,000. The parties seeking an annulment filed a petition and then waited between six and 18 months for a decision. There is no assignment of guilt or innocence and spouses can chose to cooperate or not cooperate but they can not stop the process.

Couples appear at a marriage tribunal where they are asked a lot probing, invasive personal questions. Couple are usually psychologically evaluated and witnesses are asked for statements. If one spouse its abusive or has a drinking or drug problem they may not be allowed to remarry.

The tribunals are generally more likely to grant annulments to couples that have been married less than five years than those who have been married a long time and have children. In 1968, the Catholic church granted only 450 annulments to American Catholics. By 1995 the figure was around 50,000 and about 90 percent of all the petitions for annulment received were approved.

Discussions About Divorce at the 2005 Synod Bishops

altar and the Cana Wedding church in Israel

According to the BBC: “The subject of divorce was discussed at the Synod of Bishops in October 2005. There were 50 propositions to come out of the discussion. Proposition 40 was unequivocal in defining what it is to be a divorced Catholic: "According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, they cannot be admitted to Communion, finding themselves in conditions of objective contrast with the Word of the Lord who returned marriage to its original value of indissolubility." [Source: BBC |::|]

“With regard to those who have remarried without an annulment, Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass but should refrain from consummating their new union. Proposition 40 explains: "Blessing these relationships should be avoided, so that confusion does not arise among the faithful regarding the value of marriage." Those who do so are committing an act of adultery, because in God's eyes they are still spiritually married to their previous partner. |::|

“The Synod has drafted and redrafted the language used to describe Catholics who may no longer receive the Eucharist: ‘We know the sadness of those who do not have access to sacramental communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the commandment of the Lord. Some divorced and remarried people sadly accept their inability to take sacramental communion and they make an offering of it to God. Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with an internal frustration. We reaffirm that, while we do not endorse their choice, they are not excluded from the life of the Church. We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and devote themselves assiduously to listening to the Word of God so that it might nourish their life of faith, of love and of conversion. We wish to tell them how close we are to them in prayer and pastoral concern. Together, let us ask the Lord to obey his will faithfully.’ — General Synod

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Sourcebook ; “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) , Frontline, PBS, Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time,, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.