Catholic Marriage

Marriage, also known as matrimony, is a sacrament in the Catholic Church; it is the union of one male to one female in order to come closer to God and is the appropriate venue in which to bear children. Marriage is a sacred covenant between each spouse with each other and with God.

A sacrament is an outward expression of inward grace. Sacramentally speaking, each spouse in the marriage acts as a conduit of God’s grace to the other spouse, hence the reason it is a sacrament. Christ is the source of this grace and the spouses serve as Christ to each other.

Conditions for a Sacramental Marriage

In order for the marriage to be considered a sacramental marriage, it must meet the following conditions:

  • Each person must be baptised.
  • Each person is entering into the marriage upon their own free will; neither person could be coerced into marriage.
  • Each person must not be impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

Prior to marriage, a couple will be required to undergo marriage preparation. This is not wedding planning, but rather it is to help couples lay a strong foundation for their marriage.

A Catholic is permitted to marry a baptised non-Catholic and is referred to by the Church as a mixed marriage.

In a marriage ceremony, it is not the priest who marries the couple, but rather it is the man and woman who marry each other. The two joining in matrimony are the ones conferring the sacrament upon each other and not through the priest or deacon.

A marriage is considered consummated upon sexual intercourse of the married spouses. Sexual intercourse is considered the full physical expression of the joining of the man and woman in marriage and is analogous to God’s expression of love for us.

Children are often considered fruit of a marriage, but the ability to bear children is not a prerequisite to marriage. A married couple is not required to have children, but the Church teaches that if there is no reason not to have children that married couples should have children. Having children allows us to participate as co-creators with God and is one of the greatest gifts given by God.

Marriage is intended to be a union that lasts until the death of one of the spouses. It is a union that God has brought together and no person is able to dissolve that union. The annulment process is not a Catholic divorce, but rather it is a process that determines if the marriage was ever really a marriage (meeting the conditions above for a sacramental marriage).


  1. Kishore says

    I’m a Catholic from my childhood. I loved a girl. She too is a Catholic. But our first names are same. My family and me don’t have any relations before with their family. Can we get married in Catholic Church?please help me.

  2. Cindy says

    Thank you for your work here. It is very helpful to those of us trying to live our faith and survive after years of rocky “marriages” ending in divorce for reasons which only we and Our Lord fully understand. Please advise proper procedure for a now divorced fully initiated RCIA Catholic who was not baptized at time of marriage. I had not even accepted Christ when I naively married a baptized non-practicing Protestant in non-Catholic wedding ceremony that would have been a justice of the peace if groom had his way. The marriage was never blessed by a priest for a multitude of reasons. Is an annulment or decree of nullity proper procedure?

  3. Christina says

    I got married sixteen years ago. My husband was an abuser, alcoholic, drug user, and had many mistresses. I stuck by him through all of it, even after he broke my leg. But then after my eighth year I found out that he molested my daughter (from a teenage romance) from the time she was six he molested her. And from the time she turned eleven he had sex with her. It devastated me. I promptly left him, separated and pressed charges. I get so confused and can’t find anything in the Bible on this, does this mean that I am wrong? Am I doomed to be alone for the rest of my life? And yes, my husband does not show any changes. He is still the same way.

  4. Izzy says

    I was married through the Catholic Church about 3 years ago to an older man, about 6 years older than I was (I met him when I was 17 and he was 24). We were together for 5 years before we decided to get married. Though we had our ups and downs we still decided to go through with it because we thought we loved each other. About 1 year almost a 1 and a half ago we were having extreme problems in our marriage. We were fighting constantly and there were some rumors that were circulating that he was cheating on me. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was my husband. I needed to trust him. The problems got worst. I had suggested going to counseling and he did not want to. He made every excuse not fix whatever we needed to fix. After months of fighting I walked out and went to my parents house and never went back. A week later I filed for divorce. My divorce finalized 3 months after the initial separation. About 1 month or 2 after the initial separation, I found out that he had gotten another woman pregnant. When he had called me about some financial situations, he let me know that she was about 1 almost 2 months pregnant. After the divorce was finalized, he remarried through the court in a civil matrimony and had their baby in April of the following year. My questions are: can I accept communion at church even though that I was in this situation? Am I even able to remarry through the church if I wanted to (knowing that I am sure about the person that would want to marry)? Is this grounds for a marriage annulment through the church? If so, what can I do to get the process started? I do not live with anyone and I am not expecting a child either. Please help. I really want to put this part of my life in the past and move on to have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with somebody that I truly love.

    Thank you

  5. RPM says

    My husband and I are separated after being married for 3 years. I returned to my Catholic faith and our marriage is not recognized by the church. I also do not trust him and believe he was cheating on me with other women and pornography. He is in fact cheating on me now at this very moment with a woman who he has living with him at his parent’s home. At this time he is living with his parents in another state. He is seeing this other woman whom he does not think I know about, but I do. She is not aware that this is a sin and that my husband is still my husband, despite our complications with my faith and his constant infidelity. My husband is financially supporting me by paying for my education and my living expenses for me and my children from a former marriage until my formal education is completed in about a year and a half. His parents are in reality paying the bill but he continues to take their money to pay me as well as some of his military disability without fail. He gave me his word that he would do this for me, but I think he is going to divorce me and not support me financially anymore. This worries me and I don’t want to have to find other means of support when he made this promise to me. This other woman is causing trouble and she is part of the sin, though not the cause of my husband’s choice to be unfaithful and dishonest. I don’t know what to do about any of this, but I might file for divorce so that I can get spousal support. I read your article and I think any woman who dates a married man is destroying the man and the marriage as well as the relationship they have together. I wish I could do something about this.

  6. Jim says

    we want to get our marriage blessed by our priest. i got my annulament and my wife husbands are decesed. How do we get a blessing short and sweet ? We both have been married 2 times and want to get our marriage blessed. please tell us how to go about doing this ? Do we need witness ? We had a big wedding and want to keep this small. Thanks hope you can help us.

  7. Vi says

    I am not a Catholic, I am trying to become a Catholic. Currently I am an Elect. I was married in a Catholic Church 30 years ago, my x is a Catholic. I have remarried my a Judge.

    Does this 1st marriage need to be annulled? My x won’t get it annulled, can I or do I need to get it annulled, I am not a Catholic yet?

    • Fr.D. says

      u have to get an annulment-even if she wont- i have helped people do this in front of the metropolitan tribunal in atlanta —-u cannot become a catholic at all until this is all behind u.
      the tribunal will send out many letters to all the people you both knew asking many questions about u both. they will read the letters and discuss them among themselves- you should have a priest representing you who is on your side-and he will plead your case. Meanwhile you can take the 2 1/2 years of Catechism so you can be ready IF Rome grants your annulment. If you cannot get an annulment, you are considered divorced( all of them count-catholic or not, and in Sin) and you will not be able to take sacraments or marry in the church. I would suggest that if u cannot get the annulment- you become an Episcopalian – it is close- and less strict.

  8. Ramona says

    My son is a Catholic. He fathered a daughter & his girlfriend is not Catholic & has never been baptized. She is divorced but was never married in a Christian church. He would like to marry her in a Catholic Church but does she need an annulment?

    • Nathan Dion says

      I am quite certain the answer is no. Since it was not a Sacramental marraige, the it fact had nothing to do with any church made it purely a civil union. Therefore the church would see no reason to nullify that which was never recognised as a sacrament anyway.

    • Fr.D. says

      The church recognizes all divorces Catholic or not so she does need an annulment as well. She needs to be baptized,as does the child, (and any baptism will count) She needs to take the 2 1/2 year classes called Catechism, and after all of that- if Rome nullifies the non catholic marriage-she is baptized as is the child,and she has completed the Catechism- she can get married by a Catholic priest in the Catholic church.
      Many people are stunned when they see that civil unions needs to be nullified-but they do. I have represented many people in front of the Metropolitan tribunal in Atlanta on this. I had one couple who were both married in civil unions other spouses,and thought that it did not count. It counts! He was a Catholic, she became after completing her 2 1/2 years of Catechism. She was Baptized a Christian in a different faith- but the Catholic Church recognizes that, so she was safe on that front. After making the case to the Tribunal in Atlanta, it is sent to Rome, and they decide if it is ok to proceed. In this case they also had 2 children that were baptized as Catholics. Rome takes all of this into account- plus reads all the letters that i sent out to people that knew them in their ‘previous lives’. He was a non practicing Catholic,and she was a Presbyterian. It took some time and-i might add- this is NOT CHEAP to do,so you need to be sure you both want this. She loved Catechism( I taught it) and it was 1/2 years- so about 3 years after the initial inquiry- we had everything set-and Rome ok’d the union. Even though they had been civilly married to others- those marriages were annulled. The were also civilly married to each other-but he was considered as living in sin as he was a non practicing Catholic. I married them-and at that point they could now take communion. Before that- no communion for either.

  9. Claudia says

    Hi… I get married few years ago, but it was just civil marriage. . We get divorced…. and now I have a boyfriend and we are thinking in getting married in the church. .. he never married. .. is that possible? Thanks

  10. Stuck and Need Help says

    I was married in a Catholic Church 15 years ago and we divorced about 8 years ago, we had 1 child. My parents had me Baptized when I was young but I never had classes or went to church. So when I married I had no idea how important it was, I just thought it was would you did after dating soon long. I am older now and active with my church and understand what a marriage and wedding are suppose to be included the relationship in that wedding to god. My girlfriend and I would like to be married in the church. Is there anything I can do?

  11. james w khan says

    Hello im non religious and i have a child with another person and in love with a woman who is catholic can we be together or not we not yet as we dont know if were allowed to be

  12. says

    I was married for 20 years; I was married on the side of a moutain by a justice of the peace.
    I am now divorced and considering marriage in the catholic Church.
    Both me and my boyfriend are very involved in our Catholic Church. We are also both Catholic.
    NOW I have been told by the Church I dont need an annulment, I have read; in fact I do. I do know he was previous married in the catholic church and definately does require one. DO I require one?

    • Sandra says

      Hi Colleen. If you were not married in the Church but divorced, you only need a Declaration of Nullity which is not the same as an Annulment. If your boyfriend was once married in the Church and now divorced, he WILL indeed need an annulment. I know the answer to your question about you because that happened to me. I was not married in the Church and my ex “husband” was married in the Church but never receive an annulment. So my “marriage” to him was never valid in the eyes of God; one, because I didn’t marry in the Church. And two, because he was married in the Church and never received an annulment.

      • Catherine McFadden says

        I believe if you said vows before God no matter where you are you ate married. Now on the other hand. Who have step outside that marriage first broke the union between y’all two there for committing adultery. Lean not ti your understanding but God law when it comes to marriage in God eyesights. Remember God is every where

    • Louise says

      If a Catholic marries outside the Church, without the proper dispensation, then the Church does not consider that a valid marriage. It is different for non-Catholic Christians, in that case it may be a valid marriage that needs to be annulled. The best way to find out is to initiate a conversation with the Priest you want to marry you.

  13. Mark says

    My current spouse and I were married in a civil ceremony-no priest or religious person was present. We are both baptized Catholics. I had one previous marriage that ended with the death of my spouse. My current spouse divorced her first husband (also not married in the church although both were baptized Catholics) who subsequently died. Is there anything impeding us from entering into a Catholic marriage?

    • Louise says

      Since your spouse’s ex-husband is now deceased there should be no impediment to a Catholic wedding in the Church, though you should double check that with the Priest you want to marry you.

  14. Mark says

    I am Catholic have never been married. I have 3 kids in a common law relationship that has ended 6 years ago. Can I marry another woman that is non Catholic but baptized a Christian that has never been married but has 2 kids from a common law relationship that ended 4 years ago?

  15. Andrea says

    I am a former catholic who was previously married in a civil union and then divorced. My current fiance is a catholic who was married in a civil union and later through the church and is now divorced. We also have a child together. His former spouse was adulterous, addicted to drugs, and neglected their children after they separated (he now has full custody). My former spouse was an alcoholic and an addict. I feel we divorced our former spouses for very valid reasons. Can we ever get married in the catholic church?

    • Sandra says

      Hello Andrea, you can indeed get married in the Catholic Church but he will need an annulment first which could take months even up to a year. But what you will need is a Declaration of Nullity. It only takes two witnesses to sign and after that, the diocese will grant you the Declaration of Nullity and it only takes about two weeks after the witnesses sign.

  16. dee says

    Question…I am a divorced Catholic who recently had a child out of wedlock with a man other than my ex spouse. Can my child still be baptized in Catholic church?

    • Brandon says


      There should be no impediment to having your child baptized in the Catholic Church since it is no fault of the child in which circumstance he/she was born. All that is needed is the desire to have the child baptized. However, a requirement of the Church is that you intend to raise the child in the faith and that the Godparents do the same. If you are currently not registered with your local parish, I would recommend doing so as this may pose an obstacle, since some pastors see the neglect of registering as someone who is simply coming for the sacrament but has no intention of actively engaging in the faith.

  17. Re-marry says

    My fiance and I have both had non-church civil ceremony weddings previously and are now both divorced. We are both Catholic and whilst he has always continued with his faith I am only recently finding mine again. We would like to wed in a church – whilst it will be a second marriage for both of us it will be a first marriage in a church under God. Is this possible? Would we be able to wed in a Roman Catholic Church?

    • Katie says

      Was a Catholic priest present or was anything signed during that civil ceremony that can be linked to the Catholic church (I can’t think of the actual name of it but you’d know if you had it done as it is an extra step). If not then it wasn’t considered a Marriage in the first place. You’ll have to talk with the Priest first and make sure you have all the info he might ever need but it sounds like you and your fiance have a pretty straight forward shot at getting Married in the Catholic Church. There is a marriage and then there is the Sacrament of Marriage. It sounds like you two were never truly Married, so you shouldn’t have an issue getting Married.

    • Sandra says

      Hi “Re-marry”… you will both need a Declaration of Nullity. It’s not an Annulment. I was married in a civil ceremony but then got divorced. I asked my Parish pastor what I would need. He told me about the Declaration of Nullity. It only took about two weeks after two witnesses signed saying that I was not married in the Church. Go to your Parish and talk to your Pastor. He will give you the forms you need to fill out and have signed by witnesses.

  18. questiob says

    I am Catholic unmarried man and have met someone.I would like to marry. My girlfriend was married in. Romanian orthodox church and remained so for 7 years. During this time, mostly, they shared separate rooms by the hustbands choice. For at least the last 3 of those 7.years the husband was being unfaithful with a work colleague, who is now his girlfriend since he is divorced. He in turn would like to marry her. My girlfriend got the divorce because eof his infidelity, not hers.

    Now, we would like to mEet, in the future, but when she asked a Hungarian Catholic priest today she was told definately not and that she would always be married to her ex in the eyes of God . Truth is, we are both closer to God for being together and her ex is absolutely agnostic. But neither of us wawant to offend God, not lose each other.

    Any help or advice please?

    • says


      In my opinion, unless your girlfriend gets an annulment of her previous marriage you can’t marry her. I would recommend you go to your local Catholic priest and ask him for guidance.

    • Katie says

      The Catholic Church holds any Christian Marriage as lawful, so no matter what Catholic branch the Marriage took place in it will hold true in all of them. It does sound like she needs to get an Annulment to Marry at this point. I agree with the previous comment, you should talk to a priest for guidance. I find that praying before hand and speaking very openly about everything with a priest is best for getting guidance and understanding it. I will be praying for you and her and I hope she can get an Annulment (God willing) because staying married to a man like she was is a very hard Cross indeed.

  19. Establishing a family says

    My husband and I just found out that we can’t not have children and we are unable to have a family. I’m open to adoption but he is not. Would this fall under unwillingness to be open to children even though it’s not our biological children. We said i do in our vows to accept children. Would this qualify for an anolment?

    • Patrick says

      One I thing I know about guys is that our egos are very fragile when it comes to reproduction. We like to act tough, and we’re pretty good about brushing things off. But some things really hurt deep. And when they do, we tend to get ourselves stuck in a downward spiral of negativity; making us feel weak, helpless, alone, and incapable of ever climbing back up .

      So if this is a fairly new development, my recommendation would be to give it some time. This kind of news is likely heartbreaking for your husband. He may still need time to process it, before he can discuss the idea of starting a family without be pulled back down into that rabbit hole of despair.

      My advice is this: When the topic comes up again, try to boost his spirits a bit! Remind him of why you married him. Remind him what a remarkable Dad he’d be. And remind him of how your son or daughter are going to love him like crazy! Because what he may be lacking right now is faith in the power of love. And that love can easily brush away fears he may have, regarding his ability to love and care for your/(his) future child.

      Either way, I wish the absolute best for you and your husband. I hope you find yourselves happy, fulfilled, and at peace; no matter what you two decide in the end.

    • Katie says

      It sort of sounds like you might be experiencing something more in your marriage than just adoption problems. Some couples are given the Cross of being barren but that doesn’t mean they can’t adopt or maybe instead devote their time and money to children/others in need. It is a very special Calling to be barren but also very difficult. If you feel that you are called to care for children then I’d say go ahead and start caring for children. You and your husband might need to sit down and have a talk with a priest as well to better help understand one another and strengthen your Marriage at this difficult time. The devil loves to tear apart Marriages and destroy homes, especially when things get difficult.

  20. Kit Yeager says

    I was married in 1973. I was 19. I did not understand what marriage was all about. I I married a catholic boy. We were married in a Catholic Church. By a priest. I am not catholic, I have never even been baptized ( in any church). We had 4 children , which I (by myself) raised catholic. I tried to be a good catholic wife and mother. We stayed married for 24 years. After years of physical and emotional abuse and neglect. I left and got a divorce. My children are all grown and doing well. I meet another person and we are now married. Through all my contact with the church while raising my children as Catholics I grew to love the church. Now I feel a very strong desire to convert to catholism AND a very strong need to have my marriage be blessed and performed by a priest. Is this just a desire or is it in any way a possibility?

    • Sandra says

      Hi Kit, whoever performed the ceremony was wrong in doing so. You were never really married in the Church because you were not baptized at the time of the wedding ceremony. I don’t know how the Priest didn’t say anything about that. In order for you to be married now is for you to get a Declaration of Nullity. Go to a Catholic Parish and ask a priest about what you need to have your marriage blessed. He needs to know that you were not baptized at the time of your first marriage. See what he says.

  21. Katie says

    My fiance is Lutheran and I am Catholic. We wanted to get married on the beach that we got engaged on. However, my parents want us to get married in the church. My dad brought up that he thought that unless we get married in a Catholic church that the marriage won’t be recognized by the Catholic church therefore our future children won’t be able to be baptized due to being born “out of wedlock” despite being born after the actual marriage. Is this true? Is there any difference if the ceremony is still outside but performed by a Catholic priest?

    • Katie says

      I know that for things like Civil Marriages, as long as a priest is present it will actually still count. So idk maybe it might be frowned upon but as long as the Catholic priest is there it will be a true Sacrament. The Priest is the one to say yes or no…not your parents. You’ll have to talk with the Priest about this and if he gives you the green light then that’s great, if not then having your reception party at the beach would be pretty cool too with a shimmering tent under the stars and tiki torches and lots of candle lights with maybe floating lanterns to lift off or set out to sea and … I lost my train of thought now lol but all of a sudden I’m really liking the idea of a reception at the beach!

  22. Vivianna Tristan says

    I know some people at our church, who are not married in the Catholic faith. We have asked them that they are not to receive the Eucharist they have ignored us and Iam a Eucharist minister. How do I handle this ,

    • Katie says

      Unless the priest told me not to and I knew 100% that someone had a mortal sin on their soul I wouldn’t give them Communion. I’m not placing my Jesus in that pit of pain.
      You should probably ask the priest first though, maybe he might know a bit more about their unique situation. But ultimately if they are sinning by receiving Communion that goes on them and if they don’t listen when you are trying to tell them about the conditions to receive Communion then what can you do? You tried. I’d pray to the Little Flower about it, especially because she loved being a Eucharistic Minister in her Enclosed Community (if I’m remembering correctly).

    • Sustainer says

      This is not a simple question. The best practice is never to judge another, and in many cases to even go about as if you did not notice the infraction. Prayer is sufficient. We all sin, and therefore we also lack the authority to determine sin in another, especially because each Christian has their own personal and unique love with Christ. However … making corrections is essential to guide others in a community. So if you do choose to correct another, never press the issue, and then ask for forgiveness for creating conflict. When we correct another in public, we commit slander. When we correct another in private, we are judgemental. We must strive for humility.

  23. jlake says

    Hello Jon,

    I was wondering if there was a way to find out if my ex-wife has filed for an annulment through her church. We were divorced in August of last year and she was unfaithful to me on at least two occasions I can think of, among other things I will not take up your time with but she had expressed to me at one point that she thought she would never be able to get an annulment. She is Catholic and I am not but we were married in a Catholic church in a Catholic ceremony. I am just wanting to find out for personal and other reasons. Could I contact my local church here? The divorce was last year and I have never heard anything from her, as I do not want to talk to her. Thank you.

    • says

      It is my understanding that both parties to the marriage are involved in the annulment process. In other words, if she had proceeded with trying to have your marriage annulled you would know about it since you would have been part of the process. If you were never contacted by the parish or the diocese, given any paperwork related to an annulment, or contacted about it in any manner, most likely she did not start the process.

  24. says

    My parents were marriedin the Catholic Church,my Mom divorced my father although he refused to sign divorce papaers for 12 years as they both were devoute catholics. My Mother divorced my father,and her true blood sister passed away from Cancer. One year later, her sisters husband married my Mom at a courthouse becsuse the catholic church refused to marry them in the church. So can my Moms husband have a service or a mass or my Mother in a Catholic Curch. ? What can we do to stop this especially on hef birthday,

  25. justthefacts says

    So, no matter what the other spouse does it cannot be dissolved? When unchastity is brought into the issue as Christ spoke .”but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, EXCEPT FOR THE REASON OF UNCHASTITY , makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery”..the wording “Chastity” …Christ said it about DIVORCE making UNCHASTITY Be applied to a “real marriage” not just a “natural marriage” which would be a non sacramental marriage someone unchaste can be removed! Again he spoke of Unchaste in the same passage he spoke of DIVORCE and the Divorce he spoke of was about the marriage God intended since UNCHASTITY was mentioned in relation to a God made marriage “real marriage” If you are Unchaste a marriage can be dissolved in this instance ….To further back up that being unfaithful to your spouse grants a divorce and shows what the wording of being unchaste meant is this ….adultery was a death penalty even when Christ walked the earth ..there would be no need for papers! death would be the result and the person who HAD been married was free to remarry because their unfaithful partner was dead ..So what being unchaste meant cleared up it is infidelity cheating on your spouse ..this allows divorce ..and makes sense that it is the exception because christ did not come to void the law ..since death was the penalty ,so now the one who is unfaithful and leaves is considered dead to the marriage

    • Katie says

      This sounds like your own interpretation and the Catholic Church has devoted her 2,000+ years clarifying the Word of God so that our own interpretations don’t get in the way of what is actually being said as Truth. Not our truths, but the Truth.
      It is horrible when one spouse leaves the other but that doesn’t mean they are dead or dead to the marriage. They were unfaithful and need to do some repenting, but they are still bound to the marriage as their spouse is still bound. Divorced Catholics are not living a life of sin by being divorced. Trying to get remarried after a divorce is only possible with an annulment or a death. The Church will need to look at marriages on a case by case basis to determine if an annulment is actually possible. If it is, then woohoo, but until that time comes and the unfaithful spouse is still alive…they are still an unfaithful SPOUSE.

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