Frequently Asked Questions About Weddings

Why are there fees for a Priest to perform my Wedding?

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Our parish priests do not take a salary from their ministry work in order to help us grow and remain stable. Therefore, they actually earn a living by helping couples, like you, have a beautiful ceremony!

When you give them the requested stipend, along with any travel expenses and optional gratuity, you actually help them place bread on their own table…literally! And, they spend well over 22 hours in designing, meeting, and traveling for each wedding on average. So, a lot of detail work goes into each ceremony, and it one of the most important elements to making a beautiful day even more special. Also, your deposit is retained by the church to offset costs associated with hosting weddings and services and overhead, that portion is not given to them; they earn from what balance is given at the wedding, plus any gratuity.

It should be noted that the average area Rabbi stipend is $1200 and average Officiant is $595-625; Our priests have 17 years experience and great reviews and they are ordained priests, so not civil only officiants.

A Recent Note From WeddingWire and Thumbtack Reads:

Civil Wedding Officiant Fees: A standard fee for a wedding officiant usually ranges from $500 to $800. Some civil officiants charge more for add-ons such as custom ceremony scripts, premarital counseling and/or a rehearsal.


Why does the Roman Church not allow weddings outside of a church? Do you permit weddings outside of a parish setting?

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes marrying in an outdoor setting as celebrating a legal marriage, but not necessarily a sacramental marriage. This is primarily due to a long history of ‘custom’ rather than any particular true religious or sacramental reasoning and has no basis in church law (Canon Law). And, it is nearly impossible to perform a Nuptial Mass in an outdoor setting. Therefore, since historically most weddings contained the Mass, the custom was easily enforced. However, today, many couples do not avail themselves of the Mass and, therefore, any setting is truly usable and destination weddings are highly sought after for a variety of reasons including costs and logistics. Most Roman Church dioceses in our area still insist on holding to an ancient custom, over accommodating the couple on their special day, although there are many exceptions even to their rule.

We believe, however, that God is everywhere we are gathered in His holy name. Therefore, our priests have the endorsement of our Archbishop to performed a valid and sacramental wedding ceremony outside of the confines of the parish setting. However, when a couple wishes to hold a Nuptial Mass, we would honor their request within the the traditional parish venue.

There are a few couples who wish to maintain to the rules and regulations of the Roman Church as their ‘validity’ is of prime importance to them. We honor tis, but remind them that they must, then, follow the rules and regulations of the Roman diocese to which their marriage will take place. We honor the rules of our brother and sisters within the Roman Catholic Church, despite our not adhering to the same custom, but those who wish to maintain that custom should not attempt to skirt the rule and simply comply. Most diocese require the following: membership within parish, meeting and approval of the parish pastor, successful completion of PreCana, and scheduling the wedding event normally at least six months to a year in advance at the parish itself. 


Are Old Catholic Priests valid in other jurisdictions or denominations like the Roman Catholic Church?

7360689Validity is a highly politicized and loaded term. After all, does anyone ever ask, ‘Is she a valid Methodist Minister?” Once one is ordained, they are valid ministers of the Gospel of Jesus. However, as the Roman (Latin) Rite Church has often deemed itself to be the only true church in the world, this question comes up quite often.

Despite the fact that most of our Priests and Bishops were actually ordained within the Roman Catholic Church, we also realize that the traditions of the Greater Catholic Church Universal, and the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, as they relate to the validity of Old Catholic orders, can weigh heavy on the seeker’s spirit. Therefore, we offer these references from various reputable Roman Catholic sources. (Please note that there are no Canonical (Church Law) or Biblical (Sacred Scriptures) reasons for marriages not to be performed outside of a parish.) That said, it has become simply the custom of many Dioceses to demand that Marriages take place within the parish. Therefore, if you wish to be certain that your marriage is in tradition with the Roman (Latin) Church, please follow the rules of your particular diocese. [These steps often include: membership in a local parish in good stranding, attendance at Pre-cana classes, holding your ceremony within the parish itself, receiving your pastor’s permission.] While our Diocese and church does not hold to the location rule, we support any diocese is setting their own expectations.

That said, despite the unlearned protestations the Roman Catholic Church fully recognizes the validity of the Old Catholic Holy Orders (Priesthood) and Sacraments, although we remain outside their jurisdiction due to political ramifications after Vatican I. We are, therefore, deemed by them to be “valid, sufficient, and elicit”, that is, validly ordained and our sacraments are real, but we are outside their communion.

Please see below for additional information:

Ancient Validation: Utrecht receives Rights of Autonomy from Blessed Pope Eugene III in 1145. This Right is confirmed by Pope Leo in 1215 and becomes known universally as the Leonine Privilege. Privilege subsequently reconfirmed in two Church Councils in 1520 and 1717.

More Recent Validations: Dominus Iesus issued by the Roman Catholic Magisterium in the year 2000, signed by John Paul II on June 16, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on August 6, states:

“The churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by Apostolic Succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular churches.”

A Concordat was signed between the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, and Archbishop Glazmaker of Utrecht in 1976, recognizing the Catholic status of one another and the validity of one another’s Sacraments.

“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and Sacraments.” 1974, Catholic Almanac, Our Sunday Visitor

“The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, possess a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen

“…Catholics may receive the Eucharist, penance or anointing from sacred ministers of non-Catholic denominations whose Orders are considered valid by the Catholic Church. This includes all Eastern Orthodox priests, priests of the Old Catholic and the Polish National Church.” A Catholic Guide to the New Code of Canon Law, Thomas P. Doyle, OP

“…Ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholic Church are considered valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Rev. Stanislaw Woywood, OFM, LLB

Additionally:

From the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Declaration: Dominus Jesus

“Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches, which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.”

Other Quoted Reputable Sources:

“A validly consecrated bishop can validly confer all orders from the minor orders to the episcopate inclusively . For this reason the ordinations performed by the bishops of the Old Catholics are consider valid.” A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, revised and enlarged edition, by Rev. Stanislaw Woywod, OFM, LLB. Vol. 1, Sec. 881 P. 558.

“Every validly consecrated bishop, including heretical, schismatic, simonistic or excommunicated bishops, can validly dispense the Sacrament of Order, provided that he has the requisite intention, and follows the essential external rite (set. Certa). Cf. D 855, 860; CIC 2372.” 1952 Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott, pp. 456.

“The Old Catholic Church has received valid episcopal consecration”, Christian Denominations, by Rev. Konrad Algemissen.

“We have no reason to doubt that the Old Catholic Orders are valid. The Apostolic Succession does not depend on obedience to the See of Peter but rather on the objective line of succession from Apostolic sources, the proper matter and form, and the proper intention . likewise Old Catholic bishops are bishops in Apostolic Succession . The Old Catholics, like the Orthodox, posses a valid priesthood.” Separated Brethren, William J. Whalen, pp. 204, 248.

“The Roman Church recognizes the validity of Old Catholic Orders and other Sacraments.” 1974 Catholic Almanac, by Felician A. Roy, OFM, page 368. “Our Sunday Visitor.”


Fees for Pre-Cana and Marriage Counseling Services:

Our wedding packages include a Marriage PREP/Pre Cana option and a free-will offering to the parish is always encouraged to help us offset the time of our staff, priests, and parish community resources. Our priests do not earn a salary at the parish so your additional donation helps them to meet their expenses.


Why is a deposit required? Why do you charge a non-refundable deposit to hold a date?

We charge a deposit donation to the parish to hold a date because, otherwise, other couples may come along and book their wedding on your preferred date and time. Only when a deposit is made, can a date be blocked out in our calendars for you. The best way to secure your wedding, is to choose a date and wedding package, then pay the required non-refundable deposit to the parish, which varies by package. When you do this, you will have held a date, and booked a package with its price frozen from the date the deposit was made. The donation deposit is non-returnable because even if you cancel your date, we most likely lost other wedding couples during the time the date was held. If you release a date where a deposit was held, and we book another wedding, we will refund the amount of your donation at our discretion.


Are there any restrictions to the types of ceremonies you will perform?

We believe that this is your special day and will make every effort to accommodate your ceremony requests. However, as Catholic clergy, we will not perform any rituals or ceremonies that may violate our tenets of beliefs, Creeds, or instructions of our Church or See. This primarily means that we must always begin with some form of an invocation and end with a blessing. Any ceremony that intentionally avoids the use of ‘God’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christ’, ‘Holy Spirit’ and thereby makes the ceremony devoid of a Higher Power will most likely not be compatible with our belief system and deemed to secular. While we are not required to use all of these terms, we must endeavor to ensure that our belief in God is maintained. In the past, we have accommodated many couples – of all faith traditions – and even a few who had limited beliefs. In each instance we were able to find a way to accommodate them and are always willing to try to reach an understanding.


Marriage Counseling/Pre-Cana

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Our parish believes that couples should have the option of engaging pre-marraige counseling sessions known as PreCana/Marriage PREP.  Marriage rates are declining worldwide, and we all know that a full half of all marriages end in divorce. It is essential that we do all we can to promote healthy, happy, permanent relationships. Our process of counseling creates and fosters better communication, as well as a relationship with our priests.

Overall, marriage reduces the likelihood of illness, both mental and physical, and speeds recovery from trauma. Parents in a healthy marriage are a protective factor against childhood risky behavior and model kindness and respect for children’s relationships. The home is the center for teaching children values. The Church is the center of all life. With this in mind, we offer two approaches to marriage preparation, encouraging our couples to discuss a broad range of important topics can help them understand the meaning of their union, discover their individual styles, and learn communication and conflict  resolution skills that will enhance their lifelong relationship. These options are found in our Marriage PREP Classes. We welcome your inquiry.


Do I need to be a Member of Saint Miriam?

No. We do not require membership in our parish. We do, however, welcome you and your family to join. We have even baptized many children as a result of those couples that we have married in the past, which we enjoy very much! If you are interested in membership, please click here.


Are there any agreements, etc. that we need to honor?

Since we recognize Marriage as a Sacrament, it is very important to us. Therefore, we only ask that if your marriage is ever in trouble that you will contact the priest that married you to set up a counseling session and to try to gain some assistance to save your marriage from failure.


I would like my Marriage to be ‘valid’ in the Roman Catholic Church, What do I Need to do?

You will need to be a member of a Roman Catholic parish, meet with the pastor and gain his approval, complete the required Pre-Cana process, and have the marriage ceremony within the confines of that local parish.


Is my marriage valid in the eyes of the “Catholic” church?

0049Well, our first question is which Catholic church? Most people do not realize that there are actually three main groups or denominations: Roman, Orthodox, and Old (sometimes called “Independent” Catholics) Church. All are validly ‘Catholic’ and each has its own legal structure called Canon law. You need to understand Canon law, and its requirements, for your particular polity before one can answer if a Marriage is valid. We are available to assist you in determining the best course of action based on your individual circumstances and desired outcome.


After the Deposit is paid, When is the remaining Balance due?

If you scheduled a rehearsal, you can settle any remaining balance at that time. If not, please simply have the balance at the wedding when the marriage license is signed.


How do I get a Marriage License?

License Overview: In Pennsylvania, all you need to do is to appear together and apply at any court house in the Commonwealth and then you may use that license anywhere in the State. You will need to get the license before your marriage (they are only valid for 60 days, and you must possess the license for a minimum of 3 days.) The license MUST be at the marriage ceremony.

There is normally a small waiting period after application so plan early. And, there is a fee (varies by jurisdiction and often must be paid in cash) By way of example, Click Here to link to the Montgomery County site.

Notes

  • Licenses in Pennsylvania are valid for 60 days from the Issue Date that appears on the License. If not used within the 60 day period, the application process must be repeated in its entirety to obtain a subsequent license. This includes the payment of the license fee.
  • License can be used in any County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. An out-of-state marriage license CANNOT be used in Pennsylvania nor can a Pennsylvania marriage license be used out-of-state. You should acquire the License where you will be married.
  • An Applicant, who has one, is required to provide his/her Social Security Number. It is not necessary to present the Social Security Card. Federal and State law require the Social Security Number. It is confidential and not public record. If either applicant refuses to provide his or her Social Security Number, the application will be denied.
  • Applicants must provide identification that shows their current legal name and date of birth. Photo ID is required. We reserve the right to require any further identification as deemed necessary.
  • If either applicant was previously married, the date of the most recent divorce, legal annulment, or death of previous spouse must be provided. If the divorce or legal annulment was final within 6 months of the application date, a Certified copy of the Final Decree must be presented. This document will be photocopied and the original will be returned to the applicant.

Disclaimer of Liability

Applicants are advised that persons who have been ordained over the Internet may not be persons permitted to perform marriages in Pennsylvania. A recent Court decision held that persons ordained over the Internet are not ministers as defined in the marriage law of Pennsylvania IF they do not regularly preach to a congregation that regularly meets at a place of worship. You are advised to consult an attorney concerning the legality of such marriage. 

This office will not determine what is/is not a church and/or congregation.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: If you choose to be married by someone other than the officiants specifically listed as authorized by PA law, the burden of proof will be on you regarding the legality of your marriage – should future issues arise that require a determination of the marriage’s validity.

To be recognized as legal by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, marriages must be performed under a valid marriage license duly issued by a Clerk of Orphan’s Court & MUST BE OFFICIATED by one of the following individuals specifically recognized under PA law as authorized to officiate, to wit:

§ 1503. Persons Qualified to solemnize marriages.

(a) General Rule.–The following are authorized to solemnize marriages between persons that produce a marriage license issued under this part:

  1. A justice, judge or district judge of this Commonwealth.
  2. A former or retied justice, judge, or district judge of this Commonwealth who is serving as a senior judge or senior district justice as provided or prescribed by law.
  3. An active or senior judge or full-time magistrate of the District Courts of the United States for the Eastern, Middle or Western District of Pennsylvania.
  4. An active or senior judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit who is a resident of this Commonwealth.
  5. A mayor of any city or borough of this Commonwealth.
  6. A minister, priest or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation.

(b) Religious organizations.–Every religious society, religious institution or religious organization in this Commonwealth may join persons together in marriage when at least one of the persons is a member of the society, institution or organization, according to the rules and customs of the society, institution or organization (Amish & Quakers if you are a member)

(c) Marriage license needed to officiate.–No person or religious organization qualified to perform marriages shall officiate at a marriage ceremony without the the parties having obtained a marriage license issued under this part.

EFFECTIVE 01/01/05 – Common Law marriage is no longer valid in Pennsylvania.


Do You Need Liability Insurance?

Some venues request insurance, or liability coverage, from all their vendors who access their facilities. Oftentimes they will request this from the wedding couple.  Please note that we are not vendors, we are priests, and no such overage is needed or provided to any venue.


Do You Attend Rehearsals?

We will always try our best to accommodate your rehearsal needs. Please note that the fee structure allows us to be on-site for no more than 30 minutes for scheduling purposes. If we run over 30 minutes from our arrival, an additional fee will be owed. (Any rehearsal over 25 miles from our parish address will also be assessed an additional mileage fee.) Please also note that we allow ourselves a 15 minutes margin of travel error as rehearsals normally do not start promptly and being right on time is not normally an issue. Rehearsals on Fridays are placed secondarily to official Wedding Ceremony bookings to allow every couple the opportunity to have us present for their special day. We will make every effort to accommodate a rehearsal request, even when we have a wedding booked, or we will try to arrange for someone to ‘stand in’ for the primary officiant such as a Deacon. Please see our rehearsal policy by Clicking Here.

If you requested a Rehearsal:

PLEASE NOTE:  We, as a common practice, do NOT accommodate Friday rehearsal requests unless we have no weddings booked, and any rehearsals for a Friday will take a secondary place to wedding ceremonies. We can offer to send someone in the place of the chosen priest who will serve as celebrant (officiant), but they do not personally cover rehearsals on Fridays due to their very busy wedding and parish schedules at Saint Miriam.

Please be sure to complete Wedding Rehearsal Request form as soon as possible, BUT AFTER you have booked and received confirmation from us for the actual wedding ceremony. All rehearsals are scheduled separately from the actual Wedding Registration. Also review the rehearsal policy here. If a rehearsal is added to an existing package as an after thought, the normally requested stipend will be added to the final amount.


Do You Perform Wedding Ceremonies on Sundays?

We do not perform wedding ceremonies on Sunday, or and designated Feast Day or Holy Day of Obligation within our Catholic Church. As parish priests, our primary responsibility during these times is to our parishioners and the Church. Only in very rare circumstances will this policy be abrogated. Thank you for your understanding.


Do we need to do anything in order to secure a priest from Saint Miriam to officiate at our wedding?

Yes. Since we view marriage as a Sacrament, it is held in high regard. As such, you need to honor a covenant whereby if your marriage is ever in trouble, you will seek counseling from the priest that married you in order to try to preserve your marriage before separating. We are not just someone legally allowed to officiate at weddings, we are priests and hold our vows as sacred.


How do I Ensure an On-time Start for my Wedding Ceremony?

That’s simple! Back the time by 30 minutes! For example, if your planned start time is 5:30 pm, just place 5:00 pm on your invitations. Guests almost never plan for traffic, unexpected delays, etc. and many arrive late. If you back the time up, you are almost always ensuring a proper start time!


Are Gratuities Acceptable?

As our priests do not take a salary from the parish, they earn a living through weddings. Therefore, any additional gratuities or travel stipends are appreciated greatly, but never required. For recommendations, please visit WeddingWire’s Spring 2014 Magazine.


Why do the Priests normally not Stay for the Reception?

0044Our priests walk the journey with every couple with great care. They take the Sacrament of Marriage very seriously and endeavor to make it one of the best days of your life, and one that will last a lifetime! They meet with all their couples, help them plan their perfect wedding ceremony, attend and support them in any needed rehearsals or family gatherings, guide them through any issues, recommend the structure to create a perfect day, coordinate with the onsite support staff, and instruct them with PreCana and Marriage PREP.  However, after the ceremony is completed, the focus should be on you! So, they often will stay for a drink and a quick refreshment, or to converse with the gathered friends and family, but then quietly and unassumingly make their exit with nary a word! It is always about you and our priests recognize that the reception is a celebration of your life together, it is not about them.


Do you need anything at the ceremony? Like a Microphone or table, etc?

For most ceremonies, no table or any special set up is needed. Our priests prefer microphones to be lapel type mics, or on a stand. They do not like to hold a microphone please, as it interferes with their blessing movements! If you have any special items that require a table, such as Unity Candles, the table may be placed behind the priest celebrating. Any questions, just reach out!