What is Marriage?
If a Catholic is asked what is the teaching of the Church concerning Marriage, the response would naturally begin with the teaching of Our Lord himself. In a short article it is impossible to do justice to the teaching of Our Lord and the Bible on marriage but certain clear points have to be made.
It is the teaching of Our Lord and the Church that he founded, that marriage is a life long bond. To put it another way, the couple on their wedding day are giving themselves one to the other in mutual love for life.
Sometimes people wonder what the Church teaches as regards marriage! I would say, look at the Wedding Service and you will find the answers. From the Wedding Service we can see that for a marriage to be valid, the couples as they stand before the altar must intend to lead a married life together as long as they live. They must intend to be faithful to one another excluding all others. They must intend that the marriage will be open to the possibility of children. If either or both of the parties excludes from their consent any of these essential aspects of marriage, then they commit a serious sin and the marriage would be invalid.
The fact that many people today think differently does not alter the truth. The teaching of the Church is firmly based on the teaching of Our Lord and the Church guided by the Holy Spirit teaches in his name the Good News of the Gospel.
In order that people may lead a full and happy life together in marriage, Our Lord raised marriage between baptised Christians to the dignity of a Sacrament. It is the teaching of the Church that marriages between baptised Christians are sacramental marriages, which means that the love of God is with them in a special way in their marriage not just on their wedding day but throughout their lives together.
Where do we get married?
When a couple are thinking about getting married they should notify their parish priest at the very least six months in advance. They should do so because marriage is a very serious step and the Church through her priests and Marriage Counsellors want to help them prepare for their lives together.
After it has been established that the couple are free to marry then often they will be required to attend a series of talks and discussions in order to help them to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.
For a Catholic to marry validly the wedding must take place in a Catholic Church before a Catholic Priest or Deacon and at least two witnesses. Very occasionally for grave reasons that have to be presented to the Diocesan Authorities permission will be given for a marriage to take place in another Christian Church. Marriages that take place between a Catholic and a non-Catholic in another Christian Church without this permission are invalid. The discipline of the Church is very clear; the marriage of a Catholic must take place in a Catholic Church. Under no circumstances whatsoever should any arrangements be made with anyone until the couple have been to see their Catholic parish clergy at least six months before the proposed day of the wedding.
A final thought
When a couple are thinking about becoming engaged they should not only seek the advice of their families and local clergy but also consider most carefully the serious step they are undertaking. An essential part of this reflection should be weekly worship of God our Father at Mass on Sundays and also private prayer. In prayer we take our lives to God, we place ourselves in his loving presence and seek his guidance and support. If you are thinking about getting married, pray about it and respond generously to the teaching of Our Lord and his Church.
Civil formalities for Marriage
After arrangements have been arranged with the priest, it is then necessary to enter a Notice of Marriage at the register office of the district where the parties live. Register offices operate an appointment system and it is strongly advised a telephone call be made so that the Superintendent Registrar can advise fully on the procedure and any documents that will be needed.
As general guidance it should be advised that every person who wishes to marry in England or Wales must enter a Notice of Marriage for public display. Both parties to the marriage must satisfy a residential qualification of at least seven days in a registration district. If they live in the same registration district they will normally attend together to sign their notices. A statutory fee is charged for this service. If they live in separate districts then each will need to give notice separately in their own area.
Once entered, a Notice must be displayed for 15 clear days before the Superintendent Registrar’s certificate can be issued. It is helpful to note that such a certificate’s validity lasts for one year from the date the notice was entered. This certificate must be personally delivered to the priest / authorised person at the church. Occasionally a church requires a civil registrar to attend and register the marriage, in such circumstances it is strongly advised early advice is sought from the local register office. Again a statutory fee is payable if a civil registrar is required.