From a reader…
Long time reader, first time questioner.
I have a friend that will soon be getting married. On Saturday he will have a traditional Catholic Church wedding. However, on Sunday he is having a reception in which a friend of his is “presiding” at a ceremony. It is my understanding that at the reception he and his wife will exchange consent a second time. I thought this was forbidden.
What is Church teaching on this subject? I can only find one thing in Canon Law that seems to suggest a person should only exchange consent once.
Thanks for any help you can offer. I love reading your blog!
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. T. Ferguson
The presumption of the Church (and of common sense) is that there is and should be one wedding, at which two parties, capable of doing so, exchange consent that perdures until the death of one of the spouses. To hold multiple “weddings” would undermine the unicity of the exchange of consent.
However, the Church recognizes that there are some civil jurisdictions which do not recognize the right of parties to marry except before a civil official, and so (in France and Mexico, for example) there is usually a civil ceremony before the ecclesiastical wedding. Canon law states, in canon 1127 § 3:
“It is forbidden to have, either before or after the canonical celebration … another religious celebration of the same marriage for the purpose of giving or renewing matrimonial consent. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the Catholic assistant and a non-Catholic minister, each performing his own rite, ask for the consent of the parties.”
The situation presented does not appear to be an additional religious ceremony, so it would not fall under that prohibition of canon 1127, but at the same time, it would not seem to be fulfilling any sort of civil requirement.
In short, it sounds like the couple will just be “play acting” their wedding after the fact, presumably for those who chose not to (or were unable to) attend the wedding the day before.
Odd, from a Catholic perspective, but probably not rising to the level of deserving some sort of censure.
I’d tell your friend that you’ll come to the wedding, and you’ll show up the next day at the reception after the play-acting is done, and no matter how many times the couple says “I do,” you’re only bringing one gift.
Fr. Z adds:
This play acting with a friend “presiding” is a bad idea. It could appear to some that this is the real deal. It would be even worse if the friend is some kind of mail-order minister.
There are blessings for marriages on certain anniversaries. However, if there is some kind of “renewal” rite, it should be distinct from the actual wedding vows already exchanged. The couple can renew their commitment to what they have already vowed to God and each other. There are different rites for this in different countries, but they avoid simply repeating ceremony of matrimony.