denominational situation is a little confusing to me. Though I would very much like to be married in a Catholic ceremony, I feel as though it would be awkward and cause tension, since no one in either of our families is Catholic and his father is a non-Catholic pastor. I know there is Church law on “mixed marriages” and all, but I also know there are exceptions and nuances in certain cases. What would be the best course of action for someone in my position?
I’m so glad to hear you’re considering converting!
Unfortunately, there is no one “best way” to handle a complicated situation like this.
First, it might help to consider your situation some more:
In order to be married in the Catholic Church, at least one party must be Catholic. One or both of you would need to convert, complete RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and receive the sacraments of initiation. If you are already validly baptized, that would mean First Communion and Confirmation. Then, there would likely be a six to nine month waiting period as you complete, as a couple, whatever marriage preparation program is required in your diocese.
If both of you convert, you would have two options for your wedding: the full Catholic wedding mass, complete with celebration of the Eucharist; or, the Catholic wedding ceremony without mass (no celebration or distribution of the Eucharist.) This second option is sometimes chosen by couples in your position. For example, I know a Catholic man who converted from an entirely Protestant family, and his wife converted from an entirely Buddhist family; they chose not to have mass celebrated at their wedding.
If only you convert before your wedding, then having mass will not be an option, because that will be a “mixed marriage.”
Please note that if you do convert, go through RCIA and receive the sacraments of initiation, it would be a grave sin to get married outside of the Church. Catholics are required to have their marriage witnessed and solemnized by a priest according the norms that apply to them. Also, if you get married and later convert, you would need to have your marriage blessed by the Church. (As long as there are no other factors, such as prior divorces, regularizing a marriage in the Church for converts is not usually a difficult process.)
Second: Only you are in a position to know whether it would be unnecessarily harmful and divisive to ask your families to attend Catholic wedding with mass (assuming you have both converted before the wedding and it’s an option.) However, here are a couple of things to consider:
- You will be living and practicing your faith anyway, and bringing your children up in it. If left unaddressed, the issue of your faith might cause tensions and divisions down the road as other important issues come up, especially regarding the children. For example, baptism. Catholics have a grave obligation to raise their children in the faith, and to chose godparents for the children who are practicing Catholics. Preparing to have a Catholic wedding with mass, as is the norm for Catholic couples, could be a good way to ease your families into the transition of your conversion and help them to accept your decision, even if they don’t agree with it.
- Introducing non-Catholic family members to the mass through a wedding is a great opportunity for evangelization and education. They may not convert, they may not like that you’ve converted, but when someone you love is explaining why they love something, why it’s not the terrible thing the other has always imagined, if both parties are patient and generous with each other, that’s the kind of encounter that changes hearts.
- It’s vitally important that you consider the state of your own souls. Deciding not to get married in mass solely because of what other people think could deprive you of a great spiritual opportunity. There are manifold graces and blessings for you individually and as a couple that come from receiving the Eucharist, and especially from receiving the Eucharist as part of a sacramental wedding. Beginning your marriage, your new life as one flesh, together in the One Body of Jesus Christ and His Church, is very powerful and beneficial both to you and as a witness to the world.
Beyond all this, though, what I would recommend first and foremost is finding a trusted priest you can talk to about all this. If there is a parish you attend regularly, or you hope you might get married in, start there. Talk to him about all your questions. I would imagine that he would recommend you begin the RCIA process first, since most dioceses have set times for that; and while you’re going through the process, remembering that should you change your mind there is no obligation to enter the Church at the end, continue to discern your relationship and wedding questions with your significant other and trusted spiritual guidance.
I hope that helps. You’re in my prayers!