Marriage is a beautiful commitment of love: publicly, you declare your gift of yourself to your spouse, and commit to a partnership of life and love. If you are reading this because you have decided to get married, congratulations on your intention to make this commitment, and be assured of the Church’s continued prayer and pastoral support as you seek to begin a new life together.
Marriage as a sacrament is a reflection of God’s love for us and of Christ’s love for the Church. Since it is public, and blessed by the Church, it is crucial that you understand what you are consenting to when you make your promises to one another.
Marriage is a sacrament when both partners have been baptised. The sacramental character of marriage elevates the natural bond of marriage to the symbolic status it shows to the world as a sign of God’s love, and a means by which the disciples of Christ grow not only their own families, but the family of the Church herself.
A minimum of 6-months’ notice is required in advance of a marriage, so please don’t make any arrangements until you have contacted the Cathedral Office and started the 3-fold marriage preparation requirements listed below. This applies if you are marrying in the Cathedral or elsewhere.
There are three important preparatory things we need to do together before your marriage:
- Catechetical and Liturgical Preparation: in order to get married, two preparation courses are required. Details of both these courses will be given to you by the Cathedral Office when you make your initial enquiry. Seeing an accompanying priest, and proceeding with your paperwork will take place separately to the catechetical programme, so don’t worry if the programme seems far away.
- A four-week long course to attend which takes place in the parish with the priests and a team of adult catechists.
- A communication-in-marriage course is required, which can be done online with our teaching partner, Smart Loving.
- Planning the actual liturgical ceremony of the day itself, which is done in conjunction with your accompanying priest and the director of music.
- Civil Paperwork: if you are not already married in civil law, you are required to give notice in your local registry office. If neither partner is resident in the civil jurisdiction of Norwich city, one of you is required to give notice in Norwich city registry office. If you both or one of you lives abroad, you need to make representations in both your own country, and in Norwich city. If you are already married in civil law, then you will need to provide your civil marriage certificate. For Catholics, marriage must take place within the Catholic Church, and so the correction of a civil marriage which has already taken place is called a convalidation. If you were intending to get married in a civil location first, and then in the Church afterwards, please do not make any arrangements, and speak to a priest first.
- Church Paperwork: in addition to the above, the Church requires certain declarations and information from yourselves. We will initiate this paperwork when you make contact with us. A priest will accompany you in your paperwork, as it is can seem quite complicated, and it is all necessary for marriage to take place. This includes:
- Pre-nuptial information form: including your details, but also, if necessary, any permissions, dispensations or declarations which need to be made.
- Statutory declaration of freedom: this is a declaration in civil law, stating you are free to marry. It is witnesses by a commissioner of oaths. It is not required if you are already married in civil law, and are preparing for convalidation.
- Baptismal certification: for a Catholic, a baptism certificate issued within 6 months is required. You can write to the parish of your baptism and request a new one. An old copy is not sufficient. A person who is not Catholic, but who is baptised in another Church or Christian community is required to provide some evidence of baptism, which can include an old copy of a baptism certificate. If a certificate is impossible to provide, a legal affidavit is required. This will be explained if it comes up.
Can we get married at the Cathedral?
At least one partner must be a Catholic [that is, baptised and in full communion with the Catholic Church], and ideally you should be resident within the parish itself. If you are not resident in the parish itself, permission may be given by your own parish priest for this to take place.
I am a parishioner, but I want to get married somewhere else.
Permission may be given for you to be married in another Catholic Church, in this country or around the world. Since this is your parish, we are responsible for your preparation for the sacrament. Please contact us as soon as possible, as with some countries, the paperwork takes a long time because of communication difficulties.
My partner is not Catholic; can we still get married?
Yes, even if your partner is not baptised. The sacrament of marriage is a reality between two baptised persons. If one partner is not baptised, the bond of marriage is natural alone, but nonetheless witnessed and blessed by the Church in your marriage ceremony.
What will our marriage look like?
If both partners are baptised [even if only one is Catholic] a Nuptial Mass is preferable. This is because the Mass is the highest form of prayer the Church might offer, and so the best way to begin your married life, at the altar of God, not only offering yourselves to one another, but also to the Lord as a newly-married couple. Even if many guests – or even one of the marital partners – are not themselves Catholic, all are welcome in the House of God. In our experience, for many guests any religious ceremony is often quite alien to their own daily experience. Witnessing the full ceremony of the Mass is often joyful and thought-provoking, no matter the background of those present.
A Nuptial Blessing without Mass is also possible. If one partner is not baptised, this is the only possibility.
A wedding, Mass or otherwise, may be a very grand occasion. But it may also be quiet and simple. We all have different circumstances, and these are respected. What is important is the commitment, the promises you make to one another, and the blessing of the Church. This is just as good, true, and beautiful at a solemn liturgy at the high altar, as it is at a quieter celebration of the Mass at a side altar. These pastoral needs are unique to yourselves, so they are things to be discussed with your accompanying priest before making any final decisions with him.
I have been married before.
When you make your initial enquiry, and when you meet with your accompanying priest, this will be asked and discussed. Before any future intention of marriage may be finalised, the priest will accompany you in an exploration of any previous marriages which may have taken place. This applies to both partners, including a partner who is not a Catholic. We will not able to make any final plans until any previous marriages have been explored.
How much does it cost?
The use of the Cathedral Church will possibly be one of the smallest expenditures in your wedding planning, especially if you are planning many celebrations. Our basic fees are:
- Resident within the parish: £250
- Not resident within the parish: £350
This cost only includes the use of the Cathedral itself, and also of the garden for photographs afterwards. If you intend a social gathering in the Narthex afterwards, you’ll need to contact the Cathedral Co-ordinator to make those arrangements separately [email@example.com]. Also music, printing of booklets, flowers [if using our own flower arrangers, but you may use your own], and any gracious donation to your accompanying priest or the priest-celebrant would be separate to that initial cost. If the wedding is recorded or live-streamed, music has a surplice charge. This can be discussed with the director of music when you meet in the course of our planning together.
What should we do now?
Please contact the Cathedral Office [firstname.lastname@example.org] to begin preparation and planning.