I am going to get married next summer, but I had wanted to do the ceremony outdoors. Is it possible, as a Catholic, to get married outdoors? At first I was told it depended on whether the bishop in your diocese allowed it, but now I’m told its not allowed by the church. Do you think you could help me find out what is allowed? If it is allowed, I would like to be married like that. Anonymous
That’s a fairly common question, especially considering the picturesque outdoor weddings often depicted in movies and on television. The answer is that Catholic weddings should take place indoors, in a church.
Canon Law states the norm: “A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church.”
It is not the practice in this diocese to grant outdoor exceptions. This rule exists for both practical and theological reasons. Practically speaking, the participants in the wedding ceremony do not have to make last minute provisions for unpredictable weather, which can easily spoil any outdoor event.
And theologically, wedding vows are ideally exchanged within the holy Mass as celebrated before the community in a church, the house of God. Marriage, like all the sacraments, flows from the Eucharist. Holy Communion is the ultimate sign and reality that lends context to the nuptial union of a man and a woman, emphasizing that matrimony is a profound sharing in Christ’s marriage with the church.
“Communion,” after all, speaks of unity, and of the free gift of Christ’s humanity and divinity for us — a total gift reflected in the sacrament of matrimony.
This is also why “unity candles” are strongly discouraged as inappropriate for wedding Masses — they draw the connection and focus away from the true source and symbol of unity, the Eucharist.
Brian MacMichael, the diocesan director of the Office of Worship, answered this week’s question.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.