Marriage FAQs

Do I have to be baptised to get married in the Catholic Church?

For a wedding to be celebrated in the Catholic Church one person in the marriage must be Catholic.  The other person might be baptised in another Christian denomination or may not be baptised at all.

It is not a requirement for a non-Catholic to become Catholic in order to marry a Catholic in the Catholic Church.

Can a Catholic marriage be celebrated outside a church building?

The ideal place for the celebration of marriage is in a church as it is appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion and recognises marriage as a Sacrament and a union before God.  For Catholics, marriage is not just a social or family event, but an event of significance for the Christian community which witnesses and welcomes this new ‘domestic church’, the family.  For this reason, the Church prefers that marriages between the baptised be celebrated in a parish church.

Marriage in gardens, on beaches, etc. is discouraged by the Church because such celebrations can detract from the sacredness of the occasion.
For special reasons, the bishop may permit the wedding to take place in a building or outdoor location which respects the dignity of the occasion, for example, a marriage between a Catholic and Muslim or one with no religious background.  However, permission will not normally be given for a Catholic marriage to be conducted in ‘novelty’ locations.

Are there any guidelines regarding who can be a witness at a Catholic wedding?

The priest who celebrates a Catholic wedding is the church’s official witness at a Catholic wedding ceremony.
You are required to have two additional witnesses who must have be able to comprehend what is happening in the exchange of consent.  They need not be Catholic or even baptised, since their sole function is to attest to the fact that the marriage took place.

They are not required to sign anything, although their names must be inscribed in the marriage register.

Can a Catholic have a second marriage and would this type of marriage have restrictions?

Marriage between a woman and a man in the Catholic Church is a sacrament.  It’s both a sign of the love between Christ and his Church, and also a participation in that love.

If a spouse dies, a Catholic may re-marry.

In the situation of a marriage breakdown, sometimes after an extensive investigation a Decree of Nullity (Annulment) may be granted related to a marriage.   This is a judgement made by a competent Church tribunal that a marriage that was entered into did not meet the conditions of being a valid sacramental marriage.  Such a judgement may be made after a civil divorce has been granted and the annulment process is completed.

If an annulment is granted, the first marriage is not recognised as a valid sacramental marriage by the Church and therefore the parties may enter into another marriage, where this new marriage (in the eyes of the Church) is viewed as a first sacramental marriage.

If an annulment is not sought or is not granted the Church views the first marriage as still current even though there may have been a civil divorce.  In such a situation, the Church views the couple as still married but separated.  People who are in this situation are not free to marry in the Church.

If you require further advice regarding marriage, divorce and annulments, please contact the Marriage Tribunal Office here.  (Opens in a new window)

Catholic Enquiry Centre