Full Question

Why can’t a Catholic priest celebrate the sacrament of marriage in a garden? After all, a priest can celebrate Mass anywhere, right? What’s the difference?


I find it a sign of the times that we so often get this question and others like it. No one ever asks if an ordination to the priesthood or the final profession of a religious sister or brother can take place in a garden. These vocations are automatically associated with the worship of God, and it is understood that a church is a building specifically designed for and designated as a place for worship, that is, acknowledging God to be who he is. It is unlike any other place. Like the ordination to the priesthood and the profession of the vows of religious life, marriage is all about God. The bride and the groom are all about God, because everyone who has ever lived is all about God. We are his idea. He created us for himself. Union with God is the goal of every Christian vocation, including marriage. In fact, John Paul II called marriage the primordial vocation because it peoples all other vocations. Our blessed Lord likened the relationship he has with his Church to the relationship of husband and wife.

The further away the wedding wanders from its sublime, God-centered context, the more obscure its significance becomes in society. Certainly, Mass can be celebrated anywhere. But it is most appropriately celebrated in church and for the most part, it is. The Church—in contradistinction to a secular world that relegates religion to the sidelines—wisely insists that Catholic weddings take place in church. It is, sadly, another sign of the times that so many priests and religious of my generation haven’t a clue to all this.


  • Justine says:

    just wondering, are there any exceptions to this?

    • Jina says:

      I can think of only one, and of course this should be verified by a priest, but perhaps on a deathbed where it would be physically impossible for at least one party of the couple to go to the church. And even in this case, it would have to be an extraordinary situation, as most priest would not want to marry someone into widowhood. In a Catholic wedding, there should be a full Mass, including communion. The holy tabernacle is also present in the church, which is where the living body of Jesus resides, and who would not want Jesus present as a wedding guest? It is an honor to have him witness your union and the fullness of your commitment to each other and the church! I say just pick a beautiful Catholic Church, it doesn’t have to be your own parish.

    • Ellen says:

      You can request a dispensation for a number of reasons.

  • DaveW says:

    “It is, sadly, another sign of the times that so many priests and religious of my generation haven’t a clue to all this.”
    This is because it is the modernization of the Church by the “church of nice” crowd, including the so called shepherds of the flock. They have no appreciation of the Holy Sanctity of the Church, the Mass and the teachings of Jesus. They are the “It’s all about me” generation, that need to change things around to make themselves feel good, and let’s just hope no one is offended by any of this. The practices and Traditions have been around for 2000 years and all of a sudden a few people start hemmin and hawin about how they need to modernize, “get with the times”, “all that is so old fashioned”. This is the slow and progressive evil work of satin, and needs to stop, and we need to put an end to it now.
    I subscribe to http://www.churchmilitant.tv and have found lots of solid programming about the Catholic faith, much that I have known about and much that I was not aware of. It has helped to put me back on track. I highly recommend this for all. So much information available for free, as well as additional programming for $10 a month, if you want. I am not affiliated with this whatsoever. I just think it is time that people started getting the truth, instead of this wishy washy nonsense that is fed us, and has been for the last 50 years or so.
    God Bless.

  • […] Full Question Why can’t a Catholic priest celebrate the sacrament of marriage in a garden? After all, a priest can celebrate Mass anywhere, right? What’s the difference? Answer I find it a sign  […]

    • Ruby says:

      I am a catholic and i adhere and revere to the teachings of the church. .i am sharing to you that when we had our church wedding in a small and not good looking chapel which we chose for practical reason that it was near to the reception venue in which place, a family loved property, we had developed a vacation house by the shore (seashore) as a gift to our sickly parents to make them happy as they will give us their blessing to us.., there we were greatly humbled by God… The night before our wedding it suddenly rained heavily until the next day, our wedding day, we could barely move for the occasion due to it. And just as the mass was about to start the electricity was off but we proceeded with only the candles and so much sweat of everyone.. The heels of my shoes suddenly was torn but i dont let anyone notice it as we proceeded to the picture taking, i just whispered to my husband about it and after the photo ops i requested some slippers then next to the reception.. The weather, electricity etc humbled us but we faced it because we knew God has its message that we begun our married life with ripples and we will be facing greater waves ahead for us to handle.. But we have God’s blessings and our parents and lovedones blessing, that we will make it for better and for worse.. Till….our contentment was there and we have no negative issues to what happened, we treated those normal.. And God knows whats best for us couple..
      Just sharing…

  • S says:

    I guess I’m a bit confused…I’m a new Catholic, so please forgive me. But as this sounds like an important issue, I would like to more fully understand it. Why is it (what are the reasons) why a marriage cannot be celebrated in a garden? This article speaks generally about church-based marriages. But more specifically why not?
    I’m wondering because the thoughts running through my brain are: God created nature. Also, if Mass can be celebrated anywhere and God is present in the Mass, why would this not be appropriate still? As I said, I am a neophyte and still just learning the ways of God through His Church. Thank you and blessings.

    • Dear “S”
      First of all WELCOME HOME!
      Secondly here are some points that could help u understand the issue better:
      Requiring a wedding to be performed in church (no matter how ugly people may think that church is!) is fully in keeping with the fundamental spiritual nature of the occasion. A wedding ceremony entails the conferral and reception of a sacrament. It thus involves far more than mere sentiment, beautiful flowers, and romantic wedding photos taken under a rose trellis. It is important to maintain the sense of the sacred, because that is exactly what a marriage ceremony is-a sacred, sacramental occasion. Keeping in mind the central spiritual components of a wedding (as opposed to its cosmetic outward appearances).
      A Catholic parish church may very well be architecturally ugly, but we Catholics know that unlike the loveliest garden, Christ is really present there in that church in the Eucharist. Surely the idea of marrying in the presence of God Himself, Who personally attended the wedding at Cana nearly 2000 years ago, easily outweighs other factors. Marriage is for life, and thus it is crucial that we Catholics do it right.
      1) canon 1118.2 notes that the bishop can allow a Catholic marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
      2) Strictly speaking, therefore, it is not impossible under canon law for two Catholics to get married in a Catholic ceremony in a rose garden; there is nothing intrinsically unsuitable about the location.
      3) Well, that may be implied by the canon, but in actual practice, getting that approval is not so easy.
      4)If the very notion of holding a Catholic wedding outside of church is so objectionable for theological reasons, why does the law even permit the possibility? Keep in mind that the Code of Canon Law is applicable all over the globe, and there may be political or other unique circumstances elsewhere in which holding a wedding in a Catholic church is either impossible or inadvisable. After all, what if two Catholic Haitians have been planning to marry this summer in their parish church, which is now a pile of rubble?

  • Susan Walker says:

    Something to consider S., is that Matrimony is a Holy Sacrament in the Catholic Church. As such, its rightful place is in a Church where Jesus Christ is physically, actually and totally present in the Tabernacle and then too during the Holy Mass. It is also in this context that the couple make their vows – before God and the community to which they belong (typically the Bride’s home parish). This shows that none of us has a “private” Sacrament but marriage is a communal Sacrament in that the many witnesses present are also there to support and help the couple thru their marriage.
    Yes, of course God created nature. So if the question is do we want a marriage in nature (the creation) or in the presence of the Creator, choose the presence of the Creator and the sacredness of the Church which has been consecrated.

  • Thomas A. Guaraldi says:

    it is equally sad that the Church sees an ornate man made building as the “place to see GOD”, and frowns on the places and things GOD has made!- the glitter of a church verses the beauty of the garden does not compare. Did not JESUS go to the garden to pray to HIS FATHER?? was it not amongst the olive trees that JESUS felt good and spoke?? I think the Church is filled with to many human rules and traditions and forgot that we need to be humble and simple,for it is there we truly find CHRIST! celebrating marriage surrounded by the beauty of GOD CREATION, not with the things human money makes,brings a sanctity better then any church. Our church has a history of pageantry and glitter,more emphasis was placed on show and human interpretations then on what JESUS actually said and did! I may not be am important person,or leader,but i will enjoy my LORD IN HIS CREATIONS!!! NOT mans!!

    • hppycamper2@yahoo.com says:

      I agree that the church is filled with way to many human rules. If a couple would like to get married on the church grounds just outside the church, I think that should be just fine. God so created the world, let us be thankful and celebrate with it.

    • Lea Leger says:

      When Jesus was on earth,there is no Catholic Church (Universal ) yet. In 33 AD RCC (moved to Rome by Peter after he fled to Jerusalem) was founded by God-made man Jesus Christ. He said “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock, i will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it Around or about 45 AD, Peter went to Rome and from there lead the Catholic. The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. Pray and ask the Holy spirit to give light on you. Dont twist the truth. Who is not with me, is against me,and he who does not gather me scatters (Matt. 12 v 30) Dont let satan temp you.

    • Margarett RBC Zavodny says:

      You would re-make the Church in the image of man, and not of God?

  • dianne says:

    My pet peeve is when He, Him, His is not capitalized referring to God. I mean our names are capitalized & we are nothing

  • Mary Margaret Sommervold says:

    I, for one, am happy my husband and I were married in our church. What better way to reflect on your marriage vows and the role of God in your marriage then by returning to the exact place you made your vows each week for mass?

  • The Blessed Sacrament is present within the tabernacle in a church, not in a garden, hotel or any other possibly photogenic spot that people prefer to the church. If how the venue and the wedding photographs look are more important to them than having Our Lord present at the blessing of their marriage that why they bother requesting a Catholic priest to marry them is beyond me.

  • susan salman says:

    The Eucharist is the top of the sacraments by far … its being one with god , if that can be outside of the church it makes no sense that marriage can’t be …especially that the marriage sacrament servants and recipients is the brid and the groom . in my opinion that’s a weak answer it didn’t convince me…. after all the church is the people not the building and what makes it holy is god in the Eucharist….Where is the Eucharist its a church its a holy place

  • Maronia May says:

    I do not feel that any of these answers were valid reasons. The simple answers is a priest CAN celebrate a sacramental marriage in a garden, but that the Catholic Church prefers that it be celebrated in a Catholic Church. Jesus, is really and truly present where to or three are gathered in HIS name and truly present wherever and whenever the unconsecrated host is consecrated by a validly ordained Catholic priest.

  • Jessica Arguello says:

    My daughter received all her Sacraments from Baptism to Confirmation. She married her fiancé who only received his Baptism. He was a non-practicing Catholic but is on his way to coming Home. When they got married, a Catholic Deacon officiated their wedding in a Catholic Church, but the Eucharistic celebration was not a part of it because my son-in-law never took his First Communion and Confirmation. I was pretty uncomfortable with that, and had my daughter talk to the Parish Priest about it, but he said that’s the way it is. They couldn’t have a full Mass (full Mass = includes Eucharistic celebration) because Pietro was lacking two of his Sacraments. Is this still considered a genuine Catholic wedding and is it also counted as receiving the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony? This question has been bugging me for over a month now. Eagerly waiting for your answer. Thank you.

  • Lucy Valenz says:

    Because of the Holy Eucharist…It is so holy, the priest cannot travel with the HE. That’s what catholic is.
    But when Pope JP11 was in Toronto, off course he held mass at an open field.

  • ludie says:

    Why can’t a Catholic priest celebrate the sacrament of marriage in a garden? After all, a priest can celebrate Mass anywhere, right? What’s the difference?..Yes..there is a difference, absence of the Blessed Sacrament, it is found inside the Altar of the Parish Church, it is not even placed on the Sub-Parishes or Chapel and not even be brought to the open air or garden…Wedding Rites is one of the sacrament of the catholic faith.

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