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 building"?

Dear Inquirer,

SpacerThanks for the question. You asked for a lay person's Wedding in churchanswer 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.

SpacerWhy? 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.

SpacerBut 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.

SpacerOccasionally 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,



wrote this response,
with a suggestion or two from Fr Paul Francis Spencer, C.P.
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