ASK FATHER: Repeat a wedding ceremony with a friend presiding?

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

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.

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7 Responses to ASK FATHER: Repeat a wedding ceremony with a friend presiding?

  1. TonyO says:

    I would suggest asking the couple “what, to you, is the purpose and significance of the second ceremony?” Presumably, by going out of their way to do it, it must have some importance. to them. What? I cannot think of one that makes enough sense to bother, except some intention that is in some way contrary to the spirit of the uniqueness and perdurance of the original religious vows. For example, maybe they want to recognize the “validity” of some friend’s so-called “minister” piece of paper from the state or from a diploma-mill. Or they want to be “married” at the beach or in a garden or a forest because they feel Nature is so important that She should be involved. Or… whatever. The point is, if we peek under the covers for the motive, we are likely to find something highly objectionable.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Are they in the SCA or some historical reenactment group, or do they do some other kind of roleplaying? I have run into people who got married the normal way for themselves, and then did a pretend Klingon or reenactment ceremony later, as a play marriage for their role-playing characters. If people are clear about what they are doing, it seems to be a good way to prevent scandalous ceremonies being enacted in church.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I forgot to say that in some reenactment circles, a secondary fictional character marriage is often used as a way to keep a separation between friends or acquaintances who would pout if not invited, but who might not have the manners, wardrobe, or sense for attending a real wedding. I have seen some real doozies at weddings, and I would not have wanted those people around my grandparents doing their “fun”, but a lot of them had done amazingly nice things for the couple and had to be fit in. Even very sensible young people can get overexcited at formal weddings when they attend without their parents for the first time, and I can recall at least one stupid thing I did at that age.

  4. byzantinesteve says:

    I have a friend who married a Methodist intent on having a beach wedding so they compromised. Being a devout Catholic, he insisted on a church wedding and they followed that with a ceremony (I.e. renewal of vows) on the beach. His wife has always attended mass with him and they are raising their daughter as a Catholic. Personally, I see no problem with what he did being that it avoided a huge controversy and got the buy-in from his wife to have a church wedding.

  5. APX says:

    The compromise for having a beach wedding is to get married in Mexico, since you have to have a civil ceremony before a religious ceremony. Have your civil ceremony on the beach and then have your religious ceremony in one of the many old beautiful churches. Bonus: Weddings in Mexico are not expensive.

  6. TonyO says:

    Of course, getting everyone to Mexico can be expensive.

  7. abasham says:

    Actually, this raises the EXACT question I was starting to go over in my mind. I realize my comment is a bit late so I might not get any answers but here goes anyways…

    I think marriage might be in the future for my girlfriend and I, both Catholic. We both live here in the USA, where my extended family and her parents also reside. The rest of her large family live in South America (I’m actually down there/here meeting the family now!).

    If/when we do have a wedding, there’s no way to avoid leaving some people out: most potential attendees would be in South America, but my aging grandparents, for instance, probably wouldn’t be able to make it down there. Likewise, hers wouldn’t be able to make it up to the USA, and while some family members would have the means to travel here not all would.

    My thought was that we would get married in the US. Our friends and both of our Parents are here. My extended family could attend, as could some of hers. But then we would travel to South America and renew our vows in front of the rest of her family. I know there is an approved rite for that and, even though it’s usually for silver and golden jubilees and such, it seems like a good way to include everybody since they are two distinct ceremonies (to make it better, she has a priest in the family in South America who could perform the ceremony).

    Is this sort of arrangement allowed or am I way off base?