Catholic religious weddings: the most frequent doubts (and the answers!)

The bride and groom who want to get married in church usually have many doubts that are quite common and we will clear them all up for you!

The bride and groom who want to get married in a church usually have many doubts that are quite common. So, if you are thinking of taking the big step in your relationship through a religious celebration, this article will be very useful, we will clear them all up for you! Although there are many details in common with civil weddings, such as sharing this beautiful day with guests, there are also many things that differentiate them and make them both unique and special. For example, the music played in both ceremonies, the rules, the ritual and the readings that are done, etc.  If you want to know more about Catholic weddings, do not miss this article. We are sure to clear up any doubts you may have about it.

Why some weddings have mass and others don’t

This is something that the bride and groom choose, maybe they want a short and simple ceremony or on the contrary a more dense and complete one, although the availability of the church and the priest also plays an important role. We cannot forget that the wedding is a sacrament, so it is not essential that it is accompanied by, for example, a Eucharist. This means that you will be able to celebrate the ceremony without mass if you prefer.

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To be able to marry in church, one must be baptized or not?

The answer to this question is yes, you must be baptized. This is because baptism is the introduction into the Church of those people who want to belong to it. If you are not baptized but want to have a religious ceremony do not worry, nowadays you have the option to prepare for baptism without any problem. However, if one of you has not been baptized, you have another option, which would be to request a canonical dispensation from the impediments to marriage. For this you will have to go to the Archbishopric of your city, to the Notary of Curia of the Bishopric or to the Vicar General, and there they will tell you the papers that you will have to fill out and hand in.

Is it necessary to have received first communion?

It is not essential, although the most normal thing to do when neither of you has done it is to do the ceremony without the mass. On the other hand, if one of you has made the 1st communion, you can choose between doing and not doing the mass. Although in the first option, as you can imagine, people who have not made communion will not be able to receive communion.  

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Is it necessary to have confirmation?

Although it is not necessary to be Catholic to celebrate a religious wedding, the Church advises it. 

Where does the premarital course take place?

You can really do them wherever you want, as long as they give you the document indicating that you have done it and then take it to the church where you are going to get married. Therefore, according to the schedule you will be able to decide the church that interests you the most. Also remember that these courses can be done online, so… Nothing will prevent you from doing them!

Documentation required and how far in advance it must be submitted

If you want to get married in the Church, you will need to have the “wedding papers”, which are basically the ones that make up the Marriage File. 

The documents you will need will be the birth certificate, a photocopy of the ID card, the family book, the family record book, and the certificates of faith of life and state as well as the premarital cursillo.

  • Birth certificate sent by the Civil Registry of the place of birth of the bride and groom.
  • Photocopy of ID card, residence card or passport of both.
  • Family Book (only if you have had children since before 30-April-2021, since this book in physical format no longer exists).
  • Taking of such
  • Certificate of Faith of Life and Status (since it authenticates the marital status of the bride and groom)
  • Certificate of attendance to the premarital course. If you want to know more about these courses keep reading because later we will answer any questions you may have.

There are occasions in which additional documentation is necessary: if you have previously been married by civil law, either together or with other people (where the divorce document will be necessary), if you are a widower or a minor, or if one or both of you do not have Spanish nationality. In addition to the ecclesiastical annulment in case one or both of you had been married by the Church in the past. The priest will tell you which papers you will need in each case.

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What are the formalities required to marry a person of another religion?

In the section of the Notary of Curia of the bishopric of your city they can inform you correctly. In any case, we inform you that there are two main types of marriages. One are mixed marriages, which are formed by a baptized Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic, for example an Evangelist or Orthodox. On the other hand, there are marriages with disparity of worship, which are basically those in which one is a baptized Catholic and the other belongs to another non-Christian religion (such as Buddhist, Muslim or Jewish, among others). In the latter, it will be necessary to present a permit in order to perform the ceremony.

Who chooses the readings in religious marriage ceremonies?

In principle there is usually no problem with you being able to choose them yourselves, but just in case it would be good to consult your priest. Moreover, in some parishes they can even provide you with many readings to make it easier for you to choose them. However, it is important to be aware of these requirements: the texts of the 1st reading must be taken from the Old Testament, while those of the 2nd reading must be from the New Testament. Attention! The readings for this type of wedding may only be read by the parish priest presiding at the ceremony.

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Can you customize a religious wedding ceremony?

Although the rules for a wedding of this type are quite concise, you can customize the songs you want to be played or the readings. But as I mentioned before, it would be best to ask your priest to know what music you can choose. 

The first thing to do would be to tell him if you like modern, romantic, classical music… or directly a mix of all of them. Of course, you will have to tell them this in advance as they do not always allow profane songs (although they are becoming more flexible).

A tip to get it right the first time would be to choose romantic music especially for weddings.

When should these songs be played?

The time has come to choose the songs, but you may wonder… And at what moment should they be played, how can we know which are the most suitable songs? First of all, don’t be overwhelmed! I can assure you that it is not as difficult as it seems. 

There are six parts of the ceremony in which, either by rule or by custom, music must be played: when the bride and groom enter the church, during the readings, after the exchange of the arras and wedding rings, at the end of communion and finally when the bride and groom leave the church. 

In any case, the bride and groom also choose to play songs at special moments such as when the guests enter the church, when the peace is given, the final blessing, the offertory or, for example, the signing of the act of the couple and witnesses.

Now it’s my turn to ask you a question, do you want a singer or group to sing for you or perform the songs you have chosen? If that is your idea… Do you prefer a lyric soloist (tenor, soprano, mezzo-soprano, etc.), or a choir? Whatever you choose, it is important that your pastor is aware of everything you want to do to make sure there will be no problems or misunderstandings on the day of the ceremony.

Photo via Tali Photography

Songs for religious weddings

To make it easier for you to choose the songs you want to play during those six main moments, we are going to recommend you some songs that could fit quite well, you will see how you will find the perfect songs! Also, I remind you that you are going to have most of the work done when you go to choose songs for the wedding videos, since you have the option to choose the same songs that were played the day you said “I do”. Are you ready, let’s go for it!

GROOM’S Entrance

At this moment everyone will be watching the protagonist and his godmother, so the music playing at this moment will increase even more (if it is possible) everyone’s excitement. 

  1. Reading Music Company – Menuet
  2. Henry Purcell – Trumpet Tune in C Major
  3. Leonard Cohen – Aleluya
  4. Jean-Baptiste Lully – Te Deum
  5. George Frideric Handel – Lascia Ch’io pianga
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach – Allegro
  7. Edward Elgar, Ennio Morricone, David Moore y Sir Malcolm Sargent – Gabriel’s Oboe
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach – Air on G String
  9. Antonio Vivaldi – Nulla in mundo
  10. James Horner – Braveheart

-Bride’s entrance

Now both the groom and the guests will be waiting anxiously and expectantly for the arrival of the bride. The music begins to play and it is at that moment when the bride walks down the aisle and tears of happiness will well up in the eyes of those present.

  1. Tomaso Albinoni – Adagio in G Minor
  2. BSO – Las Normas de la Casa de la Sidra
  3. André Rieu – The Rose
  4. Felix Mendelssohn – Marcha Nupcial
  5. George Frideric Handel – Aleluia Benedicat Vobis
  6. Pachelbel – Canon en Re Mayor
  7. Kenny G – The Moment
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach – Aria de la Suite nº 3
  9. Elton John instrumental – Can You Feel the Love Tonight
  10. Elvis Costello – She


Después de las bonitas palabras del sacerdote nos hará falta otra canción que hará, si es posible, más intenso el momento.

  1. Massenet – Meditación de Thais
  2. Johan Sebastian Bach – Quia Respexit
  3. Antonio Vivaldi – Las Cuatro Estaciones – Primavera
  4. George Frideric Haendel – Aleluya
  5. Johan Sebastian Bach – Cantata 147


For the most awaited moment of the whole ceremony you will have to choose a song that really lives up to this great moment, don’t you think? Here below we leave you several quite interesting proposals.

  1. Edvard Grieg – Ave, Maris Stella
  2. Johan Sebastian Bach – Minuet in G Majo
  3. Salve Rociera
  4. Franz Schubert – Ave María
  5. Joaquín Rodrigo – Adagio del Concierto de Aranjuez


During the communion of those who wish to receive communion, appropriate songs will be playing in the background.

  1. BSO – Los Chicos del Coro
  2. César Franck – Panis Angelicus
  3. Mozart – Ave Verum Corpus
  4. BSO – Cinema Paradiso
  5. Domenico Cimarrosa – Siciliana


Usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think of this moment is the Wedding March, but there are many better options, you choose!

  1. George Frideric Handel – Canticorum Jubilo
  2. Marc-Antoine Charpentier – Te Deum
  3. George Frideric Handel – Salomón. Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
  4. Rufus Wainwright – Hallelujah
  5. Wagner – Marcha Nupcial
Alternatives to rice, confetti and petals for the ceremony
Photo by Aljosa Petric

Can a religious ceremony be performed outside the church?

In Spain there is no problem to celebrate it outside the church, you can do it wherever you want! The bad thing about this is that there are few parish priests who do it, although young people, being more accustomed to adjusting to new situations, are usually more willing to do it. If your idea is to have the ceremony in a place other than the church, tell the pastor of the Youth Pastoral Delegation of your church what you want.

However, in order to have your wedding in a special place, you will first have to inform yourself about the rules that you will have to abide by.

If what worries you is not knowing if this type of marriage is legal… Don’t worry, according to Canon 1118, this marriage would be as long as the person officiating the wedding is empowered to do so and that the space in which the ceremony takes place is a place where Masses can be held. But I have a bit of bad news, it is not easy to obtain this permission. 

To get it you will have to ask for an authorization, but… how can we get it? You will have to tell the Ordinary of the place or the parish priest, referring to the former as the bishop of the place or the vicar general.

But if both the bride and groom are Catholic, what happens?

According to the laws of Catholicism, so it is assumed that the best or most appropriate place to get married is the church since God is present in the temple. Although you can ask for a dispensation since the canons of Catholicism have certain exceptions to be assessed by the competent religious authority, so you will have to ask before developing all the ideas you have about the decoration of the wedding.

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Now, what if one of the two is not Catholic?

That the groom is not baptized is one of the main exceptions dictated by the canons. They believe that the Catholic church could become an inconvenience for both the unbaptized and his family. So if this is your case, you could request permission for “impediment of disparity of cults” and get married in a farm, hotel, etc., that has a small chapel.

If what you want is to get married in another type of place such as the mountain, a private estate or the beach, it is a bit more complicated since the bishops usually do not allow it. This type of wedding is usually symbolic and therefore you will only get the parish priest’s blessing.

Although the Church is somewhat strict with these issues and you want to get married religiously, do not let the space where you are going to celebrate the wedding be so crucial. Try to adapt your most original ideas to the wedding or have a symbolic ceremony on any other day, so you can wear your dress and groom’s suit again!

How much does it cost to have a church wedding?

This will depend on the place where you get married and what has been established for it. For example, there are churches that only ask for the donation, which is basically what it costs to decorate the parish for the wedding, clean it afterwards, the music and the administrative paperwork; while in other churches this donation could be more than 1000 euros, when normally it is around 200 and 300 euros.

Bodas catolicas
Photo via Weddings and Events by Natalia Ortiz, Photographer: Nacho Del Rio

Who can be witnesses?

There can be two different types of witnesses, one for the ceremony and the other for the wedding ceremony. The latter must be over 18 years old, not belong to the family of either of the bride and groom and also know them very well because they are the ones who confirm that the union has been made solely for love. While the witnesses of the ceremony do not have to be the same as those mentioned above, but they can be part of it. If they are not, they can not be minors either, but they can be friends or relatives of yours, and at least two of them. 

One of the most important parts when organizing a wedding of this type is the choice of these witnesses, since they will have a very important role both inside and outside the ceremony.  They will be the ones who will be in charge of signing the marriage certificate to attest that the ceremony has been performed without coercion, that is, freely. Would you like to know more about them?

  1. The witnesses to the wedding (usually one for the groom and one for the bride) will be summoned by the priest 3 or 4 months before the wedding to ask them certain questions, such as how long they have known the bride and groom, among others to make sure that this union is for love. They are quite simple, so don’t worry. Normally this is done in the church where you are registered, but there are times when it can be done in the church where you are getting married, even if you have consulted beforehand. However, it is not usually a free procedure.
  2. There must be a minimum of two witnesses at the ceremony, but there is no maximum. However, it is normal for there to be the same number of witnesses on the groom’s side as on the bride’s side. And clearly they must be present at the wedding to prove by signing that the ceremony has actually taken place.
  3. Do the witnesses have to be baptized? It is not necessary that they have been baptized, they can belong to any religion or even be atheists, although it never hurts to ask in your parish just in case.
  4. The witnesses have to be those people who agree with your relationship, support you and are happy for you. 
  5. How should the witnesses be dressed? Men should wear the same etiquette and style of suits as the groom, but always in dark shades. On the other hand, women should wear something that differentiates them from the other guests. If it is a morning wedding, they can wear a hat, and if it is an evening wedding, a simple headdress will be more than enough.
  6. Is there a special protocol for the witnesses? They will have to be located in a specific place: next to the bride and groom at the altar or in the rows closest to the altar. If you choose the second option, according to the protocol, the bride’s witnesses will sit on the left side and the groom’s witnesses on the right.
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What happens after the wedding?

Although the wedding is already over, the paperwork is not yet done. For these to be legally valid, you will have to register the wedding at the Civil Registry of the locality where the wedding took place by presenting the marriage certificate signed by the bride and groom and the witnesses during the following five days after the wedding. This is usually done by the church itself, although there is also the possibility that a close friend or relative will do it on your behalf because… You are probably already enjoying your honeymoon!

When your most frequent doubts about this type of weddings have disappeared, the time has come to bring out your imagination and think about all the details about the organization of this great day. Good luck!

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