Congratulations if you have made the decision to marry.
Please be aware that Catholics must approach the Parish Priest at least 6 months prior to their intended wedding, and before setting a wedding date.
Arrangements for marriage
Firstly, you need to speak to Fr. Liam and arrange a time for you both to meet with him. He will then be able to fix a date for the wedding once he has met with you. This is the first step – please do not do anything before meeting with Fr Liam.
After you have met and when we have fixed a date for your Wedding, there may be a long time to wait before the actual event, and it seems a good idea to give you a check-list of things that will need to be done between now and then.
The most important things
Marriage preparation course
It will be necessary for you to attend a Marriage Preparation Course, conducted by an organisation called Marriage Care. If either or both of you live in another area this can be done where you live. Fr. Liam can give you a contact number if you need it. This involves you as a couple, working with your own professionally trained facilitator – at a time to suit you both.
Please make arrangements to start the course immediately as it is designed to help couples learn more about themselves and their unique relationship. Although many couples feel apprehensive or even reluctant before the course, they nearly always find it has a very positive effect on their relationship. In addition to this course, it will be necessary to have some meetings with Fr. Liam for the filling in of forms and the preparation of the Marriage Service, as well as to discuss your intentions concerning marriage. With this in mind it is suggested that you begin to talk together – as honestly as you can – about:
- What marriage means to you both.
- Why you want to marry in Church
- Your intentions regarding the religious upbringing of your children.
- Your understanding of the Catholic Church’s doctrine concerning the permanence and indissolubility of marriage, and the meaning of fidelity in marriage.
(On this last point let me summarise the Church’s teaching: that Marriage is a Sacrament: an intimate, permanent and lifelong (i.e. indissoluble) partnership between one man and one woman, (in other words, it is also exclusive of other partners) established by God and intended for their mutual support and for the procreation and education of children. (All this implies certain obligations with regard to faithfulness, mutual love, and shared life.)
As I am sure you will see, there is a lot here to unravel and to discuss among yourselves, but I think that when you get talking together you will find your understanding of marriage enriched, and you will have a deeper understanding of the fact that marriage is a Sacrament, in which you jointly have an encounter with God – who will be a third party in your marriage, and the strength and support you need to keep the very solemn promises you will make in the presence of God and of your families and friends. Please talk these matters over before your next meeting with either Fr. Liam or Deacon Des, when we can see what has transpired in your discussions.
Giving notice to the registrar
This is the most important thing you have to do on the practical side. Our Church is registered for the celebration of weddings. But before a wedding can actually be celebrated this is what you have to do:
Any time up to twelve months before the date of your wedding, you need to go to the Registry Office where you live, and “Give Notice.” Since a recent change in the law it is necessary for both parties to do so – and please note that no one else may do so.
If neither of you has an address or a domicile in Uttlesford Registration District, in which this Church is situated, and this Church is not the usual place of worship of one of you, then the only way in which you can establish your right to marry here is by one of you actually living here for 7 days before giving notice, and leaving 16 clear days after that before the day of the wedding.
The Registrar will want to know on what basis (i.e. Residence or Usual Place of Worship) the priest has agreed to marry you. It will normally be on a Residence basis. (Please do not give notice on a Usual Place of Worship basis unless this has already been agreed with Fr. Liam).
For anyone who is under the age of 24 it will be necessary to take a Birth Certificate to the Registrar – and a fee is payable by each of you when giving notice.
Fifteen days after giving notice, you return to the Registrar(s) and obtain the form which is the Priest’s authorisation to proceed with the wedding – and it is essential to bring this here immediately. Without such documentation the marriage cannot take place.
This whole process (in Churches other than Anglican Churches) takes the place of the Proclamation of Banns.
Please be assured that if one of you is not a Catholic, or is not baptised, this is not an obstacle to marriage. But it highlights the need to discuss religious differences in advance, and the opportunity it offers for both of you to try to grow together in faith, for your own benefit, for the enrichment of your own marriage, for the strengthening of the mutual bond between you, and for the good of your children.
If one of you is actually a practising and active member of another Christian community you have so much in common, so much in your favour which you can turn to good account by having a common prayer life, and by sharing in each other’s Church life and worship.
Other documents you will need
Before we meet to complete the Marriage Enquiry Form you will require some documents:
For a Catholic:
- A recent copy of the Certificate of Baptism. (i.e. not the one issued at the time of Baptism, but one issued afresh, not more than six months before the date of the wedding.) For anyone baptised in the Church in which the Marriage is taking place, this is not a requirement, since the original entry in the Register of Baptism is accessible.
- Certificate of Confirmation. (Again, not necessary if you were confirmed in the Church in which the Marriage is taking place.)
- Letters of Freedom: (Declaration that you have not been married in a particular place) from any parish in which you have lived for 6 months or more since the age of 16. (Again, these should not be obtained more than six months before the date of the Wedding – but from that point on you should begin collecting them, since they may take some time to obtain if you have lived in several places in that time.)
For somebody who is not a Catholic:
- Certificate of Baptism: This may be the certificate issued at the time of Baptism. If this has been mislaid please contact the Church in which you were baptised to obtain a fresh certificate. If you have not been baptised, please do not worry – I will talk with you about this.
- Letter of Freedom: A letter from one or other or both parents stating that the candidate for marriage has never been married before.
We hope that this is not too formidable: it does cover quite a lot of ground. I will be grateful if you will read it carefully, and if anything in it gives rise to questions, or causes a problem, please get in touch with me as soon as possible, so that all questions can be answered, and difficulties can be ironed out.
Fr. Liam Hayes