Preparing for Sacramental Marriage

Planning Your Marriage

Reserving the Church
As soon as you have chosen a date for your marriage, please consult with your local parish to ensure that the date is available in the Church. Please note: The reservation of the Church is made on the understanding that you are free to marry both in civil law and in the law of the Church. If either of you has ever been married previously, (whether in a Church or in a civil ceremony), or if you are in any doubt about your freedom to marry, please mention this at the time of making your request. This will help to avoid any unforeseen complications.

Three Months Notice to the Parish
A mature decision to marry is not something you arrive at on the spur of the moment. The experience of the Church would suggest that marriages which take place at short notice, or at a very young age, may not be based on a mature decision, and may there­fore be more at risk. For this reason, it is required that each person being married should notify his / her local priest (i.e., in the parish where you are currently resident) at least three months before the marriage.

Minimum Age
To get married in a Church in the Archdiocese of Tuam a person must be 18 years of age or over on the date of the wedding.

Church Marriage and Civil Law
In accordance with the provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004 (Section 51.3c) your marriage may be solemnized by a priest or deacon who is registered within the state as a solemniser. For the avoidance of doubt, in the Archdiocese of Tuam, a priest or deacon, whether of the diocese or otherwise, is authorized to celebrate or solemnise a marriage only:
• in a Church designated for that purpose by the bishop
• with the delegation of the parish priest or administrator (unless he has general delegation in writing)
• for a man and a woman who are free to marry in accordance with the law of the Church
It is the responsibility of the couple to produce the Marriage Registration Form at the Church, to sign it immediately after the ceremony, and to bring it for registration to the office of the civil registrar within one month.

Details with regard to the Civil Registration can be obtained on

The Registration offices:
Galway: 25, Newcastle Road 091 546277.
Castlebar: New Antrim Street 094 9023249
Roscommon: Lanesboro Road 090 6637508

Pre-Marriage Preparation
We generally prepare carefully for anything which is important. Preparation for marriage could be looked at under two headings.
• preparation is about gathering information about married life which will help you to make the big decision, and all the other decisions which follow from that.
• preparation is also about assessing your own personal readiness for marriage, and the maturity of your relationship. Nobody else can prepare you, but various people can help, including family members, friends, and the priest of your parish.

Pre-Marriage Courses
Some formal preparation for marriage must be undertaken. Participation in a pre-marriage course is required by the Archdiocese. Most courses provide a certain amount of input on questions such as finance, home-making, fertility, parenthood, and preparing the marriage celebration. The real value of the courses is probably in that they help to focus your own discus­sion, and provide the opportunity of talking with other couples in a “safe environment.”

It is the responsibility of the Church to assist people in preparing for the Sacraments. We do not normally contract this responsibility out to commercial agencies. Where the Sacrament of Marriage is concerned, Accord is our own diocesan agency and is entrusted with the mission of assisting couples who are preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. They do this in partnership with the priests who will also meet each couple individually to support them in deepening their understanding of the Sacrament and preparing the liturgical celebration. Needless to say, if couples wish to do another course in addition to the above, they are free to do so. There is so much preparation for the day itself, that a little more preparation for a lifetime of commitment would not go astray. For further information see and select by region.

Catholic Marriage Care Service, is an Agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. It has centres located throughout the dioceses of Ireland. Its ministry is primarily concerned with supporting the sacrament of marriage by helping couples as they prepare for marriage and offering support to them in their marriage relationship. ACCORD’s aim is to promote a better understanding of Christian marriage and to help couples initiate, sustain and enrich their commitment to one another and to family life. ACCORD’s core services include Marriage Preparation, Marriage Counselling and Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) though its Schools Programmes. For further information phone your local ACCORD Centre, or ACCORD Central Office, or visit

Church Documentation
Your priest will guide you through the preparation of the documentation required for your marriage in the Catholic Church.

Marriage between two Catholics

Pre-Nuptial Enquiry:
Each person completes this form with the priest in his / her present parish of residence. No other priest is authorised to carry out this procedure without the consent of your parish priest. This is to ensure that someone is seen to be responsible for the process, and to protect you from any complications which might arise if the process were not correctly carried out. The PNE is
• a gathering of personal details for the register,
• a way of establishing your freedom to marry, and
• a statement of your intent to marry in accor­dance with the Christian vision of marriage.
The form is provided by the priest.

Baptismal Certificate:
Each of you will need a Baptismal Certificate which has been issued and dated not more than six months prior to the date of your marriage. This can be obtained by contacting the Church where you were Baptised. It should be given to the priest preparing your pre-nuptial enquiry. It is desirable that you also obtain a certificate of Confirmation. This may be included on your Baptism Certificate, if the register has been updated.

Statement of Freedom:
A letter of freedom is required from the parishes you have lived in. A sworn affidavit or statutory declaration of freedom to marry is acceptable also.

Inter-Church Marriage
Marriage between a Catholic and a Christian of another denomina­tion is quite common. The Catholic partner requires the documents already mentioned above, and will also need to apply for a dis­pensation for inter-church marriage. The purpose of this is to help you as a couple to ensure that you have discussed any issues, related to your difference of religious denomination, which might otherwise be a cause of difficulty for you in the future.

The partner of the other denomination will need a baptismal certificate, and a sworn affidavit or written statement from a parent or other close relative to the effect that he / she has never been married previously, either in a civil or a religious ceremony.

Marriage with a Person who is not a Christian
Arrangements can also be made to celebrate a marriage in the Catholic Church, between a Catholic and a person who is not-baptised. This should be discussed in the first instance with the priest in your parish of residence.
Who prepares the papers with you?
As a general principle the person responsible is the priest or deacon in your present parish of residence. If this is outside of Ireland, the papers, once prepared are forwarded to the Bishop of the Diocese in which you are living, who checks them, and sends them to: The Chancellor, Archbishop’s House, Tuam, Co. Galway, where they will be checked before being sent on to the parish where the marriage is to be celebrated. This process can take some time, so it is advisable to begin no later than three months before the marriage.

Planning The Ceremony
The heart of your wedding day is the making of your commitment to each other, in the presence of your families and friends. Though it may last less than an hour, the marriage ceremony will be the focal point of the day.
You are the ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage, because it is you who give yourselves to each other. The priest is present as witness to your commitment on behalf of the Christian community, and to bless your union. For the celebration of your marriage, there are many options open to you. The priest will help you to plan the liturgy.

A very useful book to help couples preparing the marriage ceremony is A Wedding of Your Own by Padraic McCarthy, (Veritas Publications). It contains a wide selection of Scripture read­ings, as well as the alternative forms for the exchange of con­sent, and the other variable parts of the ceremony. The web site includes similar information, and offers you a tool for designing your marriage booklet.

What Kind of Celebration?
Generally speaking, in the case of two Catholics, the marriage ceremony takes place during Mass, after you have listened to the Scripture readings. This is particularly appropriate, because the Mass is the celebration of Christ’s gift of himself in love for his people. It is also possible to incorporate your marriage ceremony in a celebration of Scripture readings, prayers, and music, but without the Mass. This may be appropriate in the case of an inter-Church marriage, or in the case of a marriage between Catholics who don’t regularly attend Mass.

Music and singing can make an important contribution to the celebration of your marriage. Some couples like traditional pieces (e.g., Ave Maria etc.), while others prefer something more modern. The most important consideration is that the music and singing that you choose reflect the meaning of Christian Marri­age. There is a fairly wide selection available. A member of the parish music team will be happy to advise you.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)
Your marriage is a commitment to one another. Since you are marrying as Christians, it is also a renewal of your Christian commitment. (It may be your first formal Christian commitment as an adult). The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) is an acknowledgement of our human weakness, and a celebration of God’s forgiveness. It is very much the Sacrament of new beginnings, and we encourage you to make it part of your preparation for marriage.

On the assumption that the marriage takes place in your own parish and that you are supporting your parish financially on an on-going basis, there is no fixed fee for the use of the Church. It is normal to make an offering which reflects what can afford, and which you feel is appropriate to the significance of your marriage. If you are not a parishioner, or if you do not contribute regularly, this should be taken into account when considering the nature of your offering.
In the event that a visiting priest celebrates the marriage, any offer­ing you make to him is a separate matter, for your own discretion. Other fees (e.g.; organist, singer, florist, photographer etc.) have nothing to do with the parish and are arranged directly by you.

Wherever you live after your marriage, your life as husband and wife is important to the community of the parish, and to the future of the Church. Remember that the love you bring to each other, and to those around you, needs to be nourished through your own closeness to Christ. Each time you participate in the Mass, you will not only celebrate the self-giving love of Christ, but you will be reminded of your own gift to each other, and you will hear His Word, calling you always to new ways of living that love.

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