Convalidated Marriage but, prior living in sin?

My daughter and her fiancee are both devout Catholics as are both their extended families. They have decided that they are so much in love they cannot wait to get married this weekend by a Notary Public. I keep asking why the hurry? They say the Church expects them to go through such a lengthy process before getting married and they just want to get started with their lives and not wait. They have been “best friends” before ever dating and I have no doubt they are not right for each other. However, I explained that the church has a process for a very good reason hence, to prevent being too impulsive, hasty, or rash. They tell me they know what they are doing and they think they can then have the big wedding they always dreamed of in three to six months at the Catholic Church. I will explain to them (now that I luckily found out on this forum) what a convalidation ceremony is (a blessing of the marriage). My biggest concern is; I know they will not be allowed to receive Holy Communion until the union is sanctioned by the Church but, that leads me to wonder if that is because the Church views premarital sex as a mortal sin? If so, does this then mean that although they would be married in the eyes of the State, they are committing a mortal sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church? I just want to cry and would appreciate your advice on this issue. Thanking you in advance.

Father Anderson, Episcopal Priest

Dear mikkidean,
If a Catholic enters marriage outside of the Catholic Church without the necessary dispensation, then the marriage is considered invalid and is not recognized by the Church. Moreover, this action places the person in a state of mortal sin. For instance, if a Catholic marrying either another Catholic or anyone else just decides to be married in some other Church or by a Justice of the Peace, that marriage is invalid. While such a marriage may have legal standing in the eyes of the state, it has no legitimate standing in the eyes of the Church.

Saunders, Rev. William. “Do Catholics have to be married in the Catholic Church?.” Arlington Catholic Herald.

If your daughter seeks to be married in the church that is what they need to pursue. The RCIA takes a pretty dim view of practicing Catholics and civil ceremonies when there appears to be no real good reason for a dispensation other than raging hormones.

I would suggest counseling with a priest, and patience. The classes are designed to strenghten a couple for the long haul. If they choose a civil ceremony under the conditions you describe it would be difficult for them to get a convalidation at a later date and to try and convince you that this would be the “Big Ceremony” is ridiculous and dishonest for those who claim an adherence to the Catholic Church. You either choose to follow them or you don’t. What ever their decision, they need first and formost to at least make an honest attempt at fullfilling the obligations to their professed faith, and to each other.

Once they say “I DO” it’s done… Catholic or not. Convalidation isn’t the magic bullet to the “Big Wedding” later…

I wish your strength and blessings

Kay and Dennis Flowers

Young love is iso mpetuous and joyful, often blinding couples to the reality of life. As Fr. Anderson has so wisely stated, the Catholic Church provides pre-marriage readiness classes to help couples deal with the questions and situations marriage brings. Who will keep the checkbook? How can we disagree constructively? How will we raise our children?

Granted, these readiness sessions take time but it is not the “lengthy process” your daughter and her fiance seem to think. The Catholic Church tries to prepare couples for the rigors of married life in an effort to avoid divorce or an unhappy marriage in the future.

As Fr. Anderson has pointed out, the Church will not recognize as sacramental and binding any union of two baptized Catholics who choose to marry outside the Church. Any ceremony they may have later will be a renewal of vows or convalidation only. There will be no big wedding with bridesmaids and a huge reception, although they can have a best man and a maid or matron of honor as their witnesses.

You are correct that they will not be allowed to receive the Eucharist until after the convalidation ceremony because the Church views their situation as sinful. As devout Catholics who intend to practice their faith, it is imperative that they rectify this situation as soon as possible.

As your children, they need your love and gentle guidance and most of all, your prayers. Leave them in the capable hands of God, who loves them with an incredible love. The Holy Spirit will lead them onto the right path. Hold on to that promise with both hands.

May God comfort you and give you peace.

Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites, Inc

From an etiquette point of view, remind your daughter that her family and friends will know they are already married and may find it odd that she is now walking the aisle with the fancy white dress, string of bridesmaids, etc. Also, there couldn’t be any shower or bachelorette party of any of the exciting pre-wedding festivities.

If they choose to get married civilly, that choice will have religious as well as etiquette consequences. It’s best that this couple learn early on that they cannot “have their cake and it it too”. Life is full of choices and consequences. Hopefully you can get that lesson to them now.