The Catholic Church gives members the option of having their marriage legitimized in the eyes of the church if they originally married outside the church. This process, called convalidation, lets couples retake their wedding vows in a ceremony similar to a wedding ceremony. Catholics who plan to marry a non-Catholic also can seek official church sanction that will make the marriage valid in the eyes of the church, even if it takes place in a non-Catholic church.
Before the Marriage
Contact your parish priest and request formal permission for the marriage. He will ask you about any previous marriages and your reasons for getting married. If he is satisfied that you are both free to marry and that you plan to raise to raise your children in the Catholic faith, he will forward your request to the local bishop. If you plan to get married in a non-Catholic church, the priest will also ask the bishop for a "dispensation from canonical form."
Get an annulment if either party had a previous marriage that ended in divorce and the ex-spouse is still living.
Obtain a copy of the baptismal records for the Catholic spouse, You should get these records from the parish in which you were baptized. This is a routine request and you should have no problems getting the records. Give the records to the priest of your current parish.
Attend a Catholic marriage preparation course. Both of you will have to attend.
Invite the priest to give a blessing at the marriage ceremony if the wedding will be in a non-Catholic church. Invite a representative of the non-Catholic spouse's church to give a blessing at the wedding if it will be at a Catholic church.
After the Marriage
Contact your parish priest and discuss your reasons for wanting the marriage to be blessed by the Catholic Church. Tell him about any previous marriages and promise to raise your children according the the Catholic faith.
Obtain a copy of the your baptismal records from the parish in which you were baptised. If only one of you is Catholic, get the records for that person. This is a routine request and you should have no problems getting the records. Give the records to the priest of your current parish.
Get an annulment if either party had a previous marriage that ended in divorce and the ex-spouse is still living
Arrange a convalidation ceremony. This will be similar to a wedding ceremony. You will repeat your vows. You can make the ceremony as simple or as elaborate as you wish.
Go to confession before the ceremony. This aplies only to a Catholic spouse.
Get a copy of marriage certificate and divorce decree of the marriage for which you are seeking annulment.
Get an annulment form from your parish priest. Describe the details of the wedding ceremony and provide the names of witnesses. Your priest will forward the documents to the "diocese tribunal," who will make the final decision. If the previous marriage was not in a Catholic church and was not blessed by the church, the annulment should be granted relatively quickly based on a "lack of canonical form."
Get the name and address of the former spouse if the previous marriage was in a Catholic church or had the church's blessing, You also must supply the names and addresses of witnesses who can share their observation of the previous marriage and courtship. The diocese tribunal will ask you and the witnesses questions about you previous marriage and the reasons for the divorce. The process can take several months or longer.
- Many diocese will have additional requirements for obtaining a Catholic blessing. Check with your parish priest to find out what you will need.
Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.