There are thousands of Catholic dioceses stretching across the globe, and each can set its own requirements regarding the paperwork that must be completed before a wedding can proceed.
Furthermore, each individual church can set additional requirements of its own.
Thus, it is crucially important for couples to get clear instructions regarding required paperwork from the particular church where they will be getting married.
What follows is a brief description of several common forms and certificates required by churches around the world.
It is a near universal requirement that couples attend a marriage preparation course and obtain a certificate of completion from the course instructor.
It is a universal requirement that couples meet with a priest or deacon for a formal pre-marital interview. In some dioceses, this interview is called a pre-nuptial investigation.
The purpose of this interview is to certify that the couple is free to marry in the Catholic Church.
The priest or deacon will complete a pre-marital interview (PMI) form during the interview. Here is a sample PMI form:
Baptismal Certificate – Current Copy
Baptized Catholics are asked to obtain a “current copy” of their baptismal certificate from the church where they were baptized. These certificates must be dated within six months of the couple’s wedding date.
A “current copy” of your baptismal certificate is required as it serves as more than mere proof of baptism. A current copy of your baptismal certificate will note any subsequent sacraments you have received, most significantly, if you have been married in a Catholic church before.
When you get married in a Catholic church, the church where your wedding takes place mails a notice to the church where you were baptized, allowing that church to keep accurate records.
To obtain a current copy of your baptismal certificate, call the church where you were baptized, and they will mail one to you. This is a routine request that churches are very familiar with.
Non-Catholic Christian baptisms are generally presumed to be valid. Non-Catholic Christians are often asked to obtain notarized letters from family or friends testifying to their freedom to marry.
Witness Affidavit Form
If the priest you are working with does not know you, he may ask you to have Witness Affidavit forms completed by family members or long-time friends. The purpose of these affidavits is to verify that you are free to marry in the Catholic Church. You can find a sample affidavit form here:
For Couples of Mixed Faith
Catholics marrying a non-Catholic are typically asked to meet with a priest or deacon to have additional paperwork completed.
When a Catholic marries a baptized non-Catholic Christian, a Permission for Mixed Marriage form is usually required. Catholics marrying non-Christians usually must have a Dispensation from Disparity of Worship form completed.
You can find a sample of these forms here:
Permission to Marry Outside the Parish
In the eyes of the Catholic Church, marriage is not purely a private matter. A married couple is expected to contribute to the life of the broader community. The broader community, likewise, is obliged to be supportive of the married couple and the new family they will start.
Thus, in the Catholic Church, it is required that couples get married in their home parish. Couples getting married outside their home parish are often asked to get a letter of permission from the pastor of their home parish granting the couple permission to marry outside the parish.
For Weddings Taking Place Outside a Church
It is also required that weddings take place inside a church. Couples wishing to marry outside a church are generally asked to have a priest complete a Dispensation from Canonical Form.
You can find a sample Dispensation from Canonical Form here:
If either of the prospective spouses has been married before, additional paperwork is generally required. Please note that paperwork may be required even if the prior wedding did not take place in a Catholic church and even if the prior-married prospective spouse is not Catholic.
Where to Complete Wedding Paperwork
You should clarify with the church where you are getting married where you should have the required paperwork completed.
Some churches will ask you to send your documents directly to them and to meet with a priest or deacon at the church.
If you live far from the church where you are getting married, they may ask you to meet with a priest or deacon in the parish where you currently reside. This priest or deacon will collect all your documents and have them forwarded through appropriate channels to the church where you are getting married.
For More Information
Please note that the above information cannot be considered authoritative in any way. It can’t be stressed enough that each individual church can set its own requirements, and each diocese can use different terminology to describe what are essentially the same forms.
In providing the above information, I have tried to be as helpful as possible. Authoritative information, though, can only be obtained from the church where you are getting married.
If you would like to clarify any of the above information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.