Many Churches will not let you get married in their church if you are not a member of the parish or you have no connection to it. But there are some flexible denominations that allow non-members to marry in their churches.
Below is a quick guide on how to get married in a church you don’t belong to, including marriage requirements of various churches.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Get Married In Church?
There’s no law in the US and most countries that require people to get married in Church. Couples have civil weddings outside the Church all the time.
Some churches, especially protestant churches, also allow their members to hold wedding ceremonies outdoors or in another venue other than the Church.
In addition, the Bible doesn’t require christians to be married in a Church.
But there are many reasons why many people prefer to have their wedding in a church.
- They feel that the church is a sacred space that’s perfect for a holy matrimony.
- Even if you don’t go to church, you may be religious and feel that getting married in a church adds special importance to the ceremony.
- You have a connection to the church. Maybe you were baptized there or you went to a particular church when you were young.
In some cases, the local church might be the only suitable wedding venue where you are.
Can You Get Married In A Church You Don’t Belong To?
Typically, you have to be a member of a particular church to get married there. Either both or one of you has to be a parishioner.
In that case, you can also have your wedding officiated by the pastor or priest of that church.
If, however, neither of you are members of that church, you may have difficulty getting married there.
Some churches are also hesitant to allow a wedding within their walls if the bride or groom is not a member of that church and is also a non-believer.
I’ll get into the rules that specific churches have. But since I can’t cover all churches, my general advice is to inquire from the church officials.
Make a call or pay the church a visit and ask if non-parishioners can get married there and whether there are specific conditions you have to meet.
Some churches may be cool with it, while others will demand that you first become a member of the church before you can get married there (usually by going to church for a certain period).
Can Non-Parishioners or Non-Catholics Get Married In A Catholic Church?
Let’s start with the Catholic Church.
If both of you belong to the Catholic Church but different parishes, then you’ll have it easy. You can choose either the groom’s or the bride’s parish to get married in.
You can also get married in a parish where neither of you belongs, though you’ll need permission from one of your priests.
Here’s the relevant Canon Law (1115):
Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile, quasidomicile, or month long residence or, if it concerns transients, in the parish where they actually reside. With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere.
What if neither of you are Catholic?
In that case, you cannot get married in a Catholic Church. The Catholic Church requires that one or both parties be baptized Catholics.
A Catholic can marry a non-Catholic or even a non-Christian in the church, though both cases require special dispensation.
But two non-Catholics cannot get married in a catholic church.
That said, some Catholic Churches rent out their buildings or chapels for events. So two non-Catholics could rent a Catholic Church as a wedding venue and technically hold their wedding in a Catholic Church.
However, in that situation, the church is just a building that you are using. Your wedding will not be a valid Catholic wedding and you can’t have the priest officiate it.
If you really want to have a Catholic wedding, one or both of you should join the Church and get baptized.
Wedding requirements vary widely among protestant and non-denominational churches.
For instance, the Anglican Church is very flexible when it comes to allowing marriages in their Churches. You don’t have to be a regular churchgoer to get married in the Anglican Church.
They only require that you be connected to the Parish in some way. For example, if one of your parents or grandparents got married in the Parish, you can also get married there even if you don’t belong to that church.
The Anglican Church in the US also allows catholics to get married in their churches and even involve a priest in part of the ceremony.
Many protestant churches also allow non-members to hold their weddings there with certain conditions such as you have to use their pastor, you have to agree to a christian wedding, you have to go through premarital counseling and so on.
Others have no problem as long as you are christians or you belong to a sister church.
There are also those, like Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, that only allow church members to get married in their church.
As I said, the best way to find out is to contact the church you are interested in holding your wedding in. If you can reach the pastor, priest or a deacon, even better.
Can You Have A Church Wedding Outside Of A Church?
If you really want to have a church wedding but can’t find a church to get married in, you can also try having a church wedding elsewhere.
This will require asking a pastor, priest or bishop to officiate your wedding.
In the Catholic church, weddings are almost always held in church. You can get dispensation to have a church wedding outdoors, but it’s hard. But that’s starting to change since the pandemic.
More and more dioceses are allowing their members to hold outdoor weddings.
That said, the same requirements for an in-church wedding apply. One or both of you have to be baptized Catholics to hold a valid Catholic Church wedding.
Many other churches have the same requirement. Even if you won’t hold your wedding in the church, you have to be a member of the church for the pastor or priest to officiate your wedding in another venue.
But you may find some protestant and non-denominational churches that will willingly offer their pastor to witness your wedding at a fee and with certain conditions (e.g. it has to be a christian wedding).
Again, contact the church priest, pastor or another official to find out whether they can work with you to have a church wedding outside the church.
After going through the wedding requirements of many churches, one thing is clear. It’s hard to get married in a church that both the groom and bride don’t belong to. It is even harder if both of you are non-christians.
My advice is that you identify the church you want to get married in early on. Give yourselves several months to become recognized members of that church.
Then you can get married there without jumping over numerous hurdles.