Why are Catholic weddings
held in churches?
We are taught that the church is NOT the building; it is the people
who are IN the building. We were always told that if the building burned
down, the church would still be here because the people would be here.
Why then do Catholics have to marry in a church building? Why can't
the Church be a park, a beach, a mountainside, or any one of a number
of places where many people feel closer to God than they do in a "church
for the question. You asked for a lay person's answer
and, in some ways, I guess I am uniquely qualified to respond to your
query. More than twenty-five years ago, my husband and I married in a civil
ceremony; a few years later, when I became Roman Catholic, our marriage
was blessed at my parish church.
From a legal standpoint, my husband and I were well and truly married
and in a place that was more comfortable for us, at the time, than a
church building would have been. Yet Christian marriage is a communal
event and, for our marriage blessing, we went to my pastor at the parish
church. Although the Sacrament of Marriage is ministered by the bride
and groom to each other, the priest or deacon and the Christian community
serve as important witnesses to the event. The marriage begins with
the prayerful support of the community. Usually, then, the wedding is
held in the place where the community normally gathers.
you are quite right that the people of God comprise the Church. For
most of two thousand years, these people have gathered in a particular
place: their parish. It is a space made sacred by the regular presence
of the worshiping community. Much more than a structure of stones and
beams, the church building represents both the Christian community which
inhabits the building and the "House of the Lord" referred
to in the Psalms, and it is a place where the Blessed Sacrament, the
Real Presence of Christ, is reserved.
someone complains to me that a priest or deacon has refused to officiate
at a wedding ceremony outside his parish church. In such a situation,
I hope the couple is able to continue talking with the priest or with
whomever is available in the parish or diocese to help with prayerful
and thoughtful preparation for marriage.
With my best wishes,