sacrament of marriage

First Up... Make Contact

We ask that you make contact with the priest whom you want to have officiate at the wedding as soon as possible and at least six months prior to the wedding.

Whether you are active in your faith at the moment or not, the first person you should see is one of our priests. Be assured that you will receive a warm welcome.

Your priest will arrange a preparation course for you, which is appropriate to your needs. Usually this involves married people preparing you as a couple and the priest officiating. As well, there are some forms to be filled out, and the ceremony to be planned.

Catholic Marriage

Faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ, we believe that marriage is:

– Exclusive

– Permanent

– Life giving

– Between a man and a woman

Marriage mirrors the faithful love of God for his people. At your wedding you will make a commitment to love each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Thus the decision you make to marry is a very important one, because it is a life-long commitment. The preparation, the forms to complete and the ceremony all assist you as a couple to prepare for and appreciate what it is that you are doing. With God’s grace, your bond of love will be blessed and strengthened.

The Ceremony

The wedding ceremony can be either a nuptial Mass or a wedding service. The use of sacred music and scripture readings points to the heart of Christian marriage. Your wedding is a sacred commitment between yourselves and God who calls you to a faithful and life-giving love for the rest of your lives. We believe that God speaks directly to us through the music and words used in the marriage liturgy. So these elements of the ceremony take on a special importance.

The Place of Marriage

The place of marriage contributes significantly to the special nature and dignity of the celebration. The normal place for a wedding is your local parish church. This is where the parish family gathers for baptisms, funerals, weddings and especially the Sunday Mass. The church is the house of God, the most fitting place for such a sacred commitment.

In exceptional circumstances you may request permission to marry in another setting. Talk to your priest celebrant who will work with you on this.


Special Circumstances

Because the marriage rites have such special significance for us, the Catholic Church asks all Catholics to celebrate their marriage in the Catholic Church.

In special circumstances you can seek from the bishop a dispensation from the usual form of marriage. For example if your fiancé’s family are active in another Christian denomination, you may decide you want to be married in your fiancé’s church.

Or if your fiancé has a close relative or friend who is a minister in another church, you may wish to have that minister receive your vows rather than your parish priest. The bishop will look positively on requests for dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage in these situations.

Starting Again

If you or your fiancé have previously attempted marriage, and this has ended in a civil divorce, you may be wondering where you stand in the eyes of the Church. In such a painful situation, and after the example of Christ, the Church desires to walk with you and assist you in this sensitive area.

The Church has processes, which carefully and respectfully assess the validity of any previous union. The healing of past hurts and anxieties becomes a vital first step for moving on. We encourage you to have a talk in confidence with your priest about your situation.


The journey to your wedding day becomes an important starting point for your life together as a married couple. You have much to think about as your big day approaches. Remember that what you are doing is preparing not just for a special day, but also for the whole of your life together. The Church rejoices with you both and joyfully accompanies you over the coming months.

Marriage Preparation is in three parts

For a couple preparing to marry it is important for them to explore their relationship and develop the skills needed to handle the challenges that inevitably arise when people share their lives. This unique relationship is a work in progress, a never ending journey of discovery. The Church wants to assist you in this process.

Meet with your Priest

The priest who will receive your vows will provide part of your marriage preparation instruction. He will also complete the necessary papers and talk to you about what will be required in terms of marriage preparation.

Commit Inventory

Commit is a communication assessment inventory to be used, as an introduction to the programme; Love is a Decision, explained below. It is not a test – it cannot be failed. It raises issues for discussion; highlighting strengths, and areas of growth in relationships. It is a snapshot or the relationship at this point in time. It is an opportunity for the couple to explore their relationship, to discuss results with each other and their possible implications. The Commit inventory covers a broad range of relationship areas. There is a cost of $40, which goes towards materials and training. Commit takes on average two evenings.

Marriage Programme

It is held over 5-7 evenings and are topic based, covering one topic each evening. Married couples and often the parish priest present these topics as well. This programme builds on what has gone before in the Commit inventory, and uses practical exercises to identify and develop skills and knowledge that couples can implement in their relationship as they prepare for the Sacrament of Marriage. The facilitating couple has an important role in modeling relationship skills and providing a useful framework of Catholic concepts to encourage reflection and growth in faith as a sacramental couple.

Topics covered are:

1~ Exploring our Origins. — Family of Origin.

2~ Building our home together—identifying differences, structuring lifestyle, setting goals, managing resources.

3~ Sharing ourselves – Intimate Communication Skills.

4~ Coping with Difference – Managing Conflict.

5~ Giving Love, Giving Life – Intimacy and Sexuality.

6 ~ To Have and to Hold – Sacrament of Marriage

Supporting Courses on Theology of the Body

Good News about Sex and Marriage

This course comprises one evening that explores the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of the Catholic teaching about our sexuality. The material draws strongly on Theology of the Body by St Pope John Paul II.

There is a suggested donation of $30 per couple.

What Am I Saying, “I DO” To?

This course provides an introduction to the “Theology of the Body” for engaged couples.

The input of the course is by DVDs and then opportunities for each couple to have time alone to discuss and share, with no formal group sharing.

The suggested donation is $60 per couple.

Both courses are held at

John Paul II Centre for Life, 88 Idris Road, Bryndwr, Christchurch.

For more information please phone 03-351 3225 or email

“We must first belong to God, offering ourselves to him who was there first, and entrusting to him our abilities, our efforts, our struggle against evil and our creativity, so that his free gift may grow and develop within us"
Pope Francis
Bishop of Rome