Catholics Can Now Marry Outdoors in Two U.S. Cities

For centuries, it's been against cannon law to tie the knot anywhere outside of a Catholic church

Updated 06/19/18

Photo by Meghan Kay Sadler

If you grew up Catholic, there are a few things you know to be true: nuns can be terrifying, nearly everything is a sin, and the best words you'll ever hear in your life are, "The mass has ended, go in peace." But along with those rules (and a long list of others), one big part of the Catholic faith is your commitment to the Church—and that means getting married in one.

Under the Catholic Church's cannon law, marriages are meant to be performed by a Catholic priest inside either the bride or groom's parish church. For years (centuries, that is), this has stood as principle—if a Catholic bride and groom wanted to wed in another venue (a beach or rooftop, for example) the couple would not be considered married in the eyes of the Catholic church.

But luckily, the clergy is starting to make some changes. The Church is now giving permission for couples to tie the knot outside of a church—but only in two cities. The Archdiocese of Montana and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, have recently ruled that a priest or deacon can now officiate a wedding in "another suitable place."

Archdiocese Chancellor Diane Barr told the Baltimore Sun that over 50 couples have requested priests to marry them in venues like hotels and museums, and nearly a third of them have been for outdoor locales. Some other dioceses allow it on a case-by-case basis, but generally don't promote the policy. Barr added that priests can also request to marry a couple in a non-church wedding, as long as one is a confirmed Catholic and resides in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. They also have to go through the Church's marriage preparation.

Naturally, there are still a few venues that won't fly: Weddings cannot take place in bars or clubs, and boats are out of the question as well. "You actually have to list where the wedding takes place—the individual parish, in the parish territory," Barr told the Sun. "It's very difficult to say where exactly a wedding took place if it's on a boat.

Rev. Mr. Charles Warren, a deacon in the Archdiocese of Rockford, told Brides that it's best for Catholic couples looking for alternative venues to work with their parish's priest in order to find a location that will accommodate all of their requests, though there are still certain rules a priest must follow. Additionally, couples can opt to do the actual rite of ceremony inside a church, which can be done very simply, and then have a larger "renewal of vows" in a destination of their choice.

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