Arrangements for Marriage

First, you need to speak to a Parish Priest and arrange a time for you both to meet. We will then be able to fix a date for the wedding once we have met with you. This is the first step – please do not do anything before meeting with a Priest.

After you have met with a Priest and we have fixed a date for your Wedding, there may be a long time to wait before the actual event, and it seems a good idea to give you a check-list of things that will need to be done between now and then, and to read through commonly asked questions with answers.

Marriage is a Sacrament: an intimate, permanent and lifelong (i.e. indissoluble) partnership between one man and one woman, (in other words, it is also exclusive of other partners) established by God and intended for their mutual support and for the procreation and education of children. (All this implies certain obligations with regard to faithfulness, mutual love, and shared life.) There is much to unravel and to discuss among yourselves, but when you get talking together you will find your understanding of marriage enriched, and you will have a deeper understanding of the fact that marriage is a Sacrament, in which you jointly have an encounter with God – who will be a third party in your marriage, and the strength and support you need to keep the very solemn promises you will make in the presence of God and of your families and friends. Please talk these matters over before with a Priest, when we can further explore what has transpired in your discussions.

It will be necessary for you to attend a Marriage Preparation Course, conducted by an organisation called Marriage Care. If either or both of you live in another area this can be done where you live. A Priest can give you a contact number if you need it. In Chelmsford, the course is called FOCCUS, this involves you as a couple, working with your own professionally trained facilitator – at a time to suit you both.

Please make arrangements to start the course immediately as it is designed to help couples learn more about themselves and their unique relationship. Please call 0800 3893801 and they will help you make local contact. FOCCUS enables you to get a marriage preparation course that is individual to your needs. Although many couples feel apprehensive or even reluctant before the course, they nearly always find it has a very positive effect on their relationship.

In addition to the Marriage Preparation course, it will be necessary to have some meetings with a Parish Priest, both for the filling in of forms and the preparation of the Marriage Service, as well as to discuss your intentions concerning marriage. With this in mind it is suggested that you begin to talk together – as honestly as you can – about:

  • What marriage means to you both,
  • Why you want to marry in Church,
  • Your intentions regarding the religious upbringing of your children,
  • And your understanding of the Catholic Church’s doctrine concerning the permanence and indissolubility of marriage, and the meaning of fidelity in marriage.

This is the most important thing you have to do on the practical side. Our Church is registered for the celebration of weddings, and our Priests are 'an Authorised Person for the registration of marriages'. But before he can actually perform a particular wedding, he needs to be authorised to do so – and this is what you have to do:

Any time up to twelve months before the date of your wedding, you need to go to the Registry Office where you live, and “Give Notice.” Since a recent change in the law it is necessary for both parties to do so – and please note that no one else may do so.

If neither of you has an address or a domicile in Chelmsford Registration District, in which this Church is situated, and this Church is not the usual place of worship of one of you, then the only way in which you can establish your right to marry here is by one of you actually living here for 7 days before giving notice, and leaving 16 clear days after that before the day of the wedding.

The Registrar will want to know on what basis (i.e. Residence or Usual Place of Worship) the priest has agreed to marry you. It will normally be on a Residence basis. Please do not give notice on a Usual Place of Worship basis unless this has already been agreed with your Priest.

For anyone who is under the age of 24 it will be necessary to take a Birth Certificate to the Registrar – and a fee is payable by each of you when giving notice.

Fifteen days after giving notice, you return to the Registrar(s) and obtain the form which is the Priest’s authorisation to proceed with the wedding – and it is essential to bring this here immediately. Without such documentation, the marriage cannot take place.

This whole process (in Churches other than Anglican Churches) takes the place of the Proclamation of Banns.

Please be assured that if one of you is not a Catholic, or is not baptised, this is not an obstacle to marriage. But it highlights the need to discuss religious differences in advance, and the opportunity it offers for both of you to try to grow together in faith, for your own benefit, for the enrichment of your own marriage, for the strengthening of the mutual bond between you, and for the good of your children.

If one of you is actually a practising and active member of another Christian community you have so much in common, so much in your favour which you can turn to good account by having a common prayer life, and by sharing in each other’s church life and worship.

Before you meet to complete the Marriage Enquiry Form you will require some documents:

For a Catholic:
A recent copy of the Certificate of Baptism. (i.e. not the one issued at the time of Baptism, but one issued afresh, not more than six months before the date of the wedding.) For anyone baptised in the Church in which the Marriage is taking place, this is not a requirement, since the original entry in the Register of Baptism is accessible.

Certificate of Confirmation. (Again, not necessary if you were confirmed in the Church in which the Marriage is taking place.)

Letters of Freedom: (Declaration that you have not been married in a particular place) from any parish in which you have lived for 6 months or more since the age of 16. (Again, these should not be obtained more than six months before the date of the Wedding – but from that point on you should begin collecting them, since they may take some time to obtain if you have lived in several places in that time.)

For somebody who is not a Catholic:
Certificate of Baptism: This may be the certificate issued at the time of Baptism. If this has been mislaid please contact the Church in which you were baptised to obtain a fresh certificate.

Letter of Freedom: A letter from one or other or both parents stating that the candidate for marriage has never been married before.