CD 287: Blessing after civil marriage?

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My partner and I have planned our wedding at a seaside hotel. Can the priest give us a blessing afterwards?

A Catholic must marry before a priest and two witnesses according to the form prescribed by the Church. A marriage entered into by a Catholic according to a civil ceremony is not considered valid by the Church. A priest cannot “bless” such an attempted marriage, though he can arrange for the marriage to be convalidated. This is essentially a ceremony in which the couple take the vows of marriage anew in the canonical form. This is not something that should be planned in advance but a remedy for a situation entered into perhaps through ignorance.

If you have made some preparations already, the best thing to do would be to ask the priest to arrange for the celebration of your marriage quietly in the Church. He can also arrange for your marriage to be registered civilly, either by the presence of an authorised person (himself or another person who holds this office) or, if the Church is not registered for marriage, by arranging for the registrar to attend. In either case, the expense would in fact be less than the civil arrangements in a hotel. You could then go ahead with a family party in the hotel –the priest could even attend to give you and your family and friends a blessing in view of the marriage that you have celebrated validly in the Church.

You speak of your “partner” which presumably means that you are already living together as a couple. Although very common nowadays, this way of living is contrary to the law of God and you need to celebrate the sacrament of penance, and live chastely before being married in the Church. If nobody has ever made this clear to you, that is not your fault but part of our failure of catechesis. Try to arrange things properly in the eyes of God and the Church and come back to your practice of the Catholic faith so that if, please God, you have children, you will be able to bring them up in that same faith.

Catholic Dilemmas column published originally in the Catholic Herald
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