For engaged couples making wedding plans, most are typically concerned about reserving a date and venue, hiring a photographer and DJ, and sending out save the date cards and invitations. However, if they plan to have a Catholic ceremony, those who wish to adhere to these practices have other things to plan out.
Last month, three diocesan priests answered some common questions about wedding venues, whether people need to get married in their home parish, and misconceptions about Church weddings.
Msgr. Salvatore Manganello, STL, JCL, judicial vicar of the tribunal of the Diocese of Buffalo, answered questions regarding canon law since priests of the tribunal deal with these matters on a daily basis.
"First of all, they're mostly interested in settling a date. One of the things, before we can set a date, is to make sure that neither one of them were married before. If one of them had been married before, they may have to have an annulment. We can't schedule a wedding unless we know that they are free to marry," said Msgr. Manganello.
"There are a couple of other questions regarding if they've ever been treated for psychiatric, alcohol or drug problems. Sometimes that (may) affect a marriage, which makes it unsuccessful. When people are planning a wedding, they have to meet with whomever's doing the wedding, priest or deacon, and then there's what's called a marriage investigation."
If a person has been married before, he or she must show that the previous spouse is deceased, or that he or she has received an annulment for the previous marriage, in order to be able to get married in the Catholic Church. There are several grounds under which the Church will grant an annulment, he said.
Church law requires people to get married in the parish in which they are registered. If they wish to get married in a different church and do not belong to that parish, they need to have a letter of permission from the pastor of the church in which they have been registered.
Msgr. Paul J.E. Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, explained that while it is a common wedding venue, the basilica grants only requests for marriages from people who have been active parishioners "in good standing" for at least nine months, or employees of the Homes of Charity or Baker Victory Services. In a given year, he estimated that between 35 and 50 weddings typically take place at Our Lady of Victory Basilica.
"We have requests from all over the place from people who want to get married here. In fact, I've got two on my call list for today who are asking to get married here, but we only take registered parishioners and employees," Msgr. Burkard explained. "We don't have a lot of people from the outside requesting it, but we don't take a lot of those."
When asked about common misconceptions or sources of confusion related to canon law, Msgr. Burkard said people will also ask him if both spouses need to have already been confirmed in order to get married in the Catholic Church. He agreed that it is not mandatory, but strongly recommended, so the basilica meets these needs.
"We offer adult confirmation classes here twice a year. Usually, people will call to reserve a date a year ahead of time, or nine months at the latest. We certainly have time, in one or the other of our adult confirmation classes, to get a person prepared for confirmation. I know a lot of parishes don't do adult confirmation preparation apart from their RCIA, but we do it here twice. We have special classes to get them ready, so we will offer that to the non-confirmed party."
St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, another popular venue for weddings, is called the "bishop's church" and the bishop is the pastor of the whole diocese. "Really, anyone has a right to be baptized, married or buried here," Father Charles E. Slisz, its rector, said. "With weddings, we always do the courtesy of having the pastor of one or the other of the couples, the Catholic pastor, sending an OK letter, but that's pretty much done across the board."
Father Slisz, who has served as rector of the cathedral since August, said 60-70 weddings take place there annually. The $500 fee to have a wedding there includes the venue and services of the priest, organist and the person who helps coordinate rehearsals and ensures everything continues to run smoothly.
People who get married at the cathedral are often Buffalonians who have moved outside of the area for school or work, so it is often easier for them to complete the Church's requisite premarital process in the parishes where they live, Father Slisz said. The resulting record is then sent from their priest to the chancery of the Diocese of Buffalo.
When asked why a couple might get married in the cathedral, Father Slisz commented, "Hopefully, because they are Catholic, this is an important part of their spiritual life and has a deeper meaning than just the social or civil bond. They might like to get married at the cathedral because it's a magnificent church. Also nowadays, truth be told, with the downtown area developing so much, there are so many venues for receptions and so on. It's a very convenient place to have it, and sometimes we get new parishioners out of it."
Msgr. Manganello, similarly, noted that many couples who are not parishioners of St. Louis Church in downtown Buffalo, or the cathedral, often request to get married at one of these venues, at least partly due to the close proximity of many popular reception venues.
"A lot of people are holding their receptions downtown, or they might be living out of town, so themselves and their guests coming in from out of town are staying downtown," he said. "That's what we see at St. Louis quite a bit. A lot of people who are originally from the area are coming back to do their wedding, so they can get the permission of their pastor."