Marriage Guidelines

  • In the Diocese of Grand Island, couples are required to contact their pastor, or those who assist them, at least six months prior to the ceremony.
  • Support programs for marriage preparation programs during the immediate preparation period, provided by either the Diocese of Grand Island or another Diocese are strongly recommended.
  • Pastors, or those designated to assist them with marriage preparation, will discuss the results of the Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding and Study (FOCCUS) instrument (or other diocesan approved program), will address the faith, spiritual and moral issues of marriage, and will complete other pastoral and canon law requirements for marriage.
  • The priest or deacon who officiates at the marriage ceremony has the final responsibility for: Checking on and verifying the readiness of the couple for marriage.
    • Completion of all marriage preparation documentation.
    • Pastoral instruction and encouragement for the couple to celebrate and practice the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Sunday Mass.
    • Do everything possible to encourage Catholics to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to the marriage ceremony.

Documents required for a Catholic marriage

  • Baptism certificate. This must have been issued in the past six months and is available from the parish where baptized.
  • If either party has been married before: Death certificate of former spouse or Decree of Nullity (or other process) from the Catholic Marriage Tribunal.
  • Certificate of completion of the Natural Family Planning Introductory Session (Effective date September 11, 2011) Your parish priest can give you a list of all the providers in the Diocese.

Liturgical issues and requirements

  • The celebration of marriage is a public liturgy of the Church.  It has its own proper rite, The Order for Celebrating Marriage for the Roman Rite.
  • The public and religious nature of the marriage covenant and vocation should be evident in the ceremony.  This is particularly important in a sacramental marriage, i.e., when both parties are baptized.
  • The exchange of marriage vows and the nuptial blessing are the two principal moments in the marriage ceremony.  The wedding vows may never be individual creations or improvised versions of the couple or the priest.  Local or ethnic customs (e.g., processional of the wedding party, unity candle, procession to a Marian altar, etc.) may be incorporated into wedding ceremonies but may never overshadow or distract from the central acts of the Rite or the Eucharistic Liturgy.
  • The wedding of two Catholics is to take place in a parish church where the bride or groom has domicile or quasi-domicile. (Domicile, i.e., existing physical residence with no intention of leaving or five years of actual residence; quasi-domicile, i.e., existing physical residence with intention for remaining three months or three months of actual residence.)
  • Permission for weddings out of doors or in a non-parish chapel is not granted in the Diocese of Grand Island.
  • Saturday weddings are to be determined by the pastor of the place, but the time should not interfere with the time Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered.  Weddings during the week may be scheduled at a suitable day or evening time as the pastoral schedule of the parish permits.
  • Mixed marriage (i.e., a Catholic marrying a baptized non-Catholic Christian) may not be celebrated with a Mass unless permission has been obtained from the Chancery. 
  • The Eucharist may not be offered or shared with the non-Catholic spouse or with non-Catholic persons in the assembly during the wedding celebration.
  • Non-Catholic persons at a mixed marriage wedding within a Eucharistic liturgy, even ministers of others denominations, are not permitted to read the Scriptures during the Liturgy of the Word.
  • Non-Catholic persons at a mixed marriage wedding apart from a Eucharistic liturgy, lay or clergy, may read the Scriptures during the Liturgy of the Word.
  • The celebration of marriage may take place during the seasons of Advent or Lent.  However, the special character of these seasons must be explained to the couple so that the preparation for and the celebration of the wedding ceremony respects the liturgical season.
  • Parish guidelines regarding the use of music for the celebration of marriage should direct couples in the selection of music appropriate to faith and worship.

Liturgical issues and requirements

  • Individuals should not be permitted into the immediate preparation process unless they are free to marry. This will be demonstrated by the individual's own statement of personal intention, capacity for marriage and absence of impediments.
  • When the pastor, or those assisting in marriage preparation, does not know an individual then a knowledgeable witness must complete diocesan freedom to marry form. These forms are provided by the parish.
  • Parish registration is not the same as domicile or quasi-domicile.  If a person is seeking to marry and is not registered in the parish, this factor alone may not be used to exclude him/her from the preparation process if he/she actually resides in the parish.
  • The pastor may permit those who do not belong to the parish (because of domicile, quasi-domicile or registration) to celebrate the marriage in his parish church.  This may include college students whose parents are parishioners, those with family ties to the parish, those who may be from another city or state with local work or school association.  Permission from proper pastors, when contact is possible, should always be sought.
  • Dispensations from Form (permit a valid marriage before a non-Catholic minister as the official witness without presence of a Catholic priest or deacon) should be presented to the Chancery at least one month prior to the date of the intended wedding.
  • For mixed or inter-faith marriage couples, if the Catholic party does not have domicile or quasi-domicile in the Diocese of Grand Island then a Permission to Marry in Mixed Religion or Dispensation must be obtained from the bishop of domicile or quasi-domicile of the Catholic party.
  • If the Catholic party has domicile or quasi-domicile in the Diocese of Grand Island, but will be married in another diocese, then a Permission to Marry in Mixed Religion or Dispensation is granted through the our Chancery.

Teen-age marriage

  • When one of the couple will not be 19 at the time of the wedding ceremony, special permission is required in the Diocese of Grand Island for the wedding to be celebrated.
  • No date for the wedding ceremony can be set until the special preparation procedures have been completed and permission in writing has been granted from the Chancery.  Only after the Permission to Marry has been issued can a date for the ceremony be set in the parish schedule.
  • The documentary process includes the following elements.  Upon completion of the process, the appropriate documentation is to be forwarded to the diocesan bishop:
    •  Interview with parents of each party; 
    • Statement of recommendation from the preparing priest; 
    • Administration of the FOCCUS, or other diocesan approved pre-marital preparatory instrument, followed by subsequent pre-marital counseling


  • Pre-marital pregnancy is not an impediment to marriage nor a sufficient reason for marriage in the Church.
  • A parish priest, or anyone assisting in the marriage preparation process, may not shorten or dispense the ordinary length of the preparation process or any other aspect of preparation based upon pregnancy alone.
  • All the ordinary requirements of the preparation process apply in the case of pre-marital pregnancy.


  • The marriage of a Catholic before a non-Catholic minister without dispensation or before a civil official is an invalid union.  The validation of a marriage is necessary when an existing impediment was not dispensed or when consent was defective or canonical form was not observed.
  • In the validation ceremony the priest or deacon must obtain new consent from the couple.  The validation is not merely "a blessing."  The couple must be informed of this fact during the marriage preparation process.
  • Validation of a marriage in the diocese may not take place until the four months of marriage preparation are completed.
  • All ordinary requirements of the preparation process apply even when couples may be elderly in age.

Second marriages

  • The parish priest, or those who assist in the marriage preparation, should interview the couple before beginning any preparation session.
  • If an annulment or other process is necessary for either party, the parish priest may not set a date in the parish schedule or begin marriage preparation until there is a decree of nullity in hand.
  • All ordinary requirements of the preparation process apply regardless of the ages of the couple.


  • Cohabitation is not an impediment to marriage in the Church.
  • It is the responsibility of the pastor, or those assisting in marriage preparation, to seek an honest and non-threatening discussion with the couple about the reality and risks of cohabitation.
  • Cohabitation is not an acceptable practice of condition of life in the Church.
  • Pastoral marriage preparation sessions must build upon discussions with the couple.  Additional support includes and draws upon special relationship counseling, mentoring by a married Catholic couple, involvement and support of respective families or members within the parish community, and renewed sacramental faith practice.  The purpose of these pastoral actions should be to assist the couple's progress in maturity and their decision regarding a lifelong marriage.