Weddings: Where Matters

In order to take up your question, we are going to have to assume certain things since you do not include them in the information given. For example, in your question, you say that your partner is non-Catholic, but then you do not say if you are. So, let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion, that you do consider yourself to be Catholic. If that is true, it is difficult to understand why you would not want to be married “in a church,” as you put it, and yet desire that it be blessed by God. Something is missing here.

In wanting to get married in a restaurant, you are essentially leaving God out of the picture and failing to recognize Christian marriage for what it truly is. Christian marriage is a sacrament — a bestowal of grace for the man and woman. Just as Christ united Himself to the Church at the Cross by dying for her in order to save her, so a man and woman unite themselves to each other in order to save themselves, to help each other on the journey to heaven. The ultimate purpose of this sacrament is the salvation of married Christians. This is why it is called a sacrament of service.

Unfortunately, many couples get married hastily. Often, we hear them say simply that they love each other and want to be married. And they do not want to wait. You say that it’s important to you to have God’s blessing. But, I ask you, how important is it? You must realize that Christian marriage is a union between three persons — a man, a woman, and God. God is the author of marriage. It was He who created man and woman and gave them to each other. The Catholic Church’s requirements regarding the way that marriage is to be celebrated are not based on something the Church made up — they are based on God’s divine plan.

Let us look at what two of those requirements are. Canon law states that “marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic party is to be celebrated in a parish church; with the permission of the local ordinary [bishop] or the pastor, it can be celebrated in another church or oratory” (canon n. 1118). In order to be valid, it must also be celebrated in the presence of the local bishop, pastor, priest, or deacon and in front of two witnesses (Canon n. 1108).

Thus, you see that a marriage ceremony in a restaurant is not permitted under any normal circumstances. However, at some later time, and if certain conditions are met, it might be possible to have the marriage validated in the Catholic Church. This would require a special permission or dispensation by the local bishop and the proper preparation on the part of both parties.

It is so crucial to your spiritual life that you consider with great care what you are planning to do. God loves you beyond all measure, and He wishes to bless you, but in order to be able to receive that blessing, you must conform yourself to His will for you and your life. By wanting to marry outside His Church, it is you yourself who are saying no to His blessing. This is something to think about and ponder deeply.

© Copyright 2004 Grace D. MacKinnon

For permission to reprint this article, or to have Grace speak at your event, contact Grace MacKinnon at

Grace MacKinnon holds an MA in theology and is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: You may also visit her online at

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