Diocesan Policy for Marriage

The policy of the Church states, “We the faith community to which you belong, care about you and your future success in marriage; we want to help you in growth of your relationship to each other and to God. Our goal is to assist you to prepare not just for your wedding day, but for your married life together.” This policy establishes definite diocesan norms and guidelines for marriage preparation. This common policy for marriage preparation is not intended to make it difficult for couples to marry in the Catholic Church. Rather, it recognizes the seriousness of marriage and the responsibility of a caring Church to help couples prepare adequately for a community of life and love together.

  1. NOTIFICATION TO THE PARISH PRIEST  As a minimum requirement couples must contact the parish priest at least 6 months before their wedding date.
  2. THE PARISH PRIEST The parish priest who will witness the marriage has the responsibility to make a two-fold assessment:
    1. The couple’s readiness for marriage.
    2. The level of faith of the Catholic parties. A wedding date may be scheduled during the initial meeting with the priest. However, the couple is advised that if serious reasons surface later, the priest may delay the wedding until the matter is resolved.
  3. THE PREPARATION PROCESS The proximate preparation for marriage consists of three steps:
    1.  One initial session with the parish priest.
    2. Participation in one of the available marriage preparation Programs.
    3. Final session with the priest. A minimum of 8 hours is to be spent in the formal preparation for marriage. Couples seeking to validate their marriage or who seek to enter a second marriage should follow the preparation.
  4. REASONS FOR DELAY OF THE MARRIAGE The Church holds that the right to marry is an important natural right. However it is not an unrestricted one. There can be serious reasons for delaying the marriage:
    1. Refusal of the couple to take part in the process of preparation for marriage.
    2. Non-practice of the Catholic faith by the Catholic party or parties with no intention of returning to the practice of the faith. This may also include the lack of intention to provide religious education in the Catholic faith for children of this marriage.
    3. Inability of the couple to contract a valid marriage (e.g. denial of permanence of marriage, or other canonical impediments).
    4. Serious lack of maturity as assessed by the priest.
    5. Teenagers under 19 years of age: such couples must receive individual evaluative counseling before the marriage can be arranged in accord with the policy of the Diocese of Fresno.
    6. Separation of the couple for an extended period before the wedding.
    7. Not fulfilling the requirements of Church law.
    1. Couples may enter marriage with major problems that can lead to possible marriage failure. This could even render the marriage invalid. It is the responsibility of the priest to be sensitive to such a possibility.
    2. If a major obstacle to marriage is discovered, the priest will make the decision if there is to be a delay of the wedding after proper consultation and evaluation.
    3. If the wedding is delayed, the couple has the right to appeal the decision to the Bishop.
  6. POSTPONEMENT OF MARRIAGE In the event that the marriage is postponed by the decision of the priest, every effort will be made by the priest to help the couple overcome the specific circumstances that made the delay advisable. If the couple decides to marry outside the Church, they must be advised that the Church cannot approve of their action. However every effort should be made to insure that the doors of communication be left open for future reconciliation. A priest may not proceed with a marriage postponed by another priest without the approval of the Bishop
  7. INTERFAITH MARRIAGES Faith and religious practice are meant to be a source of unity in marriage. When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, special attention is required so that the difference in faith does not become a cause of conflict and division. An interfaith marriage may not have two religious ceremonies or use both rites in a single ceremony celebrated jointly or successively. With the permission of the Bishop, a non-Catholic minister may be invited to participate in the Catholic marriage service. The Catholic party in an interfaith marriage will be asked to make an explicit promise that everything possible will be done to see that the children of the marriage will be baptized and educated in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic party will be informed of the Catholic party’s obligation to preserve and practice the Catholic faith.
  8. NON-PRACTICING CATHOLICS The same procedure as for an interfaith marriage is required when a nonpracticing Catholic requests the sacrament of marriage.
  9. PREGNANCY Pregnancy before marriage does not mean an exception to the norms of marriage preparation as outlined in the policy. It is even more important to the success of such marriages that the established procedures be followed. The priest should discuss the situation with both sets of parents in all cases of this kind if it is possible to do so without violating confidence. While the Church views such situations with great compassion it should not be presumed that marriage is the only appropriate solution.
    1. A certificate of Baptism must be submitted for each baptized party. The certificate for the Catholic must be issued within 6 months of the date of marriage.
    2. A certificate of First Communion and Confirmation must be submitted .
    3. If either party is a widow or a widower a certificate of the death of the former spouse must be submitted.
    4. Banns of marriage should be announced in the proper churches. Banns may be announced for interfaith marriages if there is no danger of scandal.
    5. Certificate of civil marriage and/or Marriage License.
    1. Marriage should take place in the parish church of one of the parties.
    2. Weddings in private homes, “out-doors” or in wedding chapels are not permitted in this Diocese.