Marriage is a Sacrament of the Church and the decision to marry is one of the most important choices of anyone’s life.
The Church teaches that marriage is a life-long partnership between one man and one woman, established by God and ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children.
When asking to be married in the Catholic Church you are accepting the Christian and Catholic understanding of marriage.
Marriage is an exclusive and indissoluble union;
Spouses have an obligation to one another of faithfulness, mutual love and support;
Spouses must be open to the possibility that God will bless their marriage with children.
A marriage is formed when a man and woman freely and irrevocably give and accept one another as husband and wife, according to the rites and laws of the Church. God joins the spouses together in an irrevocable covenant, and gives them His grace to help them love one another and be open to the possibility of having a family.
Notice for Marriage
Due to the life-long significance and gravity of marriage the Church requires a minimum of six months’ notice for a couple to marry. This gives the opportunity for you to make proper preparation for marriage, as well as allowing time for the necessary paperwork to be completed. The first step is always to speak to one of the priests of the parish.
Choosing a date
Setting a date for your wedding ceremony is always done in consultation with the priest. This is a busy parish, so it is best to do this as soon as possible.
Weddings are mostly held on Saturdays in the afternoon; for another day you need to consult the priest.
In some circumstances it may not be possible for a date to be set immediately. This is always the case when either partner has been through any kind of previous marriage.
The date and time of your wedding service is always provisional until all paperwork, Church and civil, is in good order.
The parish suggests a donation of £100 for the wedding ceremony, which includes the fee for the priest to act as civil registrar. This should be paid before your wedding either by cash or by cheque. Cheques should be made payable to “St Peter’s Church, Woolwich”.
If you are a tax-payer please remember to fill in the Gift Aid form which is on the Stand at the back of the church, as this allows the parish to claim an extra 25% from HM Revenue & Customs at no cost to yourselves.
In cases of hardship, please speak with the priest.
Depending on your situation or circumstances marriage preparation can take a very long time, if it involves annulments, permissions and dispensation. So it is always important to start early and give yourself enough time to sort out such issues.
A necessary part of the preparation for marriage is attendance of a pre-marriage course. There are a number of courses that run regularly throughout the diocese. There is usually a fee. An up-to-date list can be found on the diocesan website . Follow the links for “Marriage, Family and Life”, then “Marriage Preparation”. Or phone the South East Area on 0208 690 9310 or email them at email@example.com
Church Law Requirements
To marry in the Catholic Church both parties must demonstrate their freedom to marry.
If you have been through any kind of marriage in the past, whether civil (including civil partnership), religious, tribal, traditional or custom, it is essential that you declare this to the priest.
The priest will assist you in completing the necessary Church paperwork for marriage, and inform you what documents you must provide. These need to be original documents and not photocopies.
For a Catholic
- Baptismal Certificate, issued within six months of the date of the wedding. Older or original certificates cannot be accepted.
- Confirmation Certificate, if you have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- Permission from your Parish Priest, if you do not live within the boundaries of your parish.
- Statutory Declaration of Freedom, signed and witnessed by a Commissioner of Oaths (ie a solicitor), parents or a guardian.
- Dispensation, from Disparity of Cult or from Canonical Form
- A letter of consent if you are a minor.
For the Non-Catholic
- Baptismal Certificate – if you have been baptised. For a non-Catholic there is no six month rule, so either the original certificate or a more recently obtained copy are acceptable.
- Statutory Declaration of Freedom, signed and witnessed by a Commissioner of Oaths (ie a Solicitor), parents or a guardian.
- A letter of consent if you are a minor.
Marrying a Non-Catholic
A Catholic who wishes to marry someone who is not a Catholic requires either permission or a dispensation from their bishop, depending on the circumstances. The priest will explain this to you.
The Catholic party is asked to sign a promise to continue living their own faith and to do all in their power to have children of the marriage baptised and brought up in the Catholic Faith. The non-Catholic partner needs to be aware of the promise, and agreeable to it.
If one or both of you is under 18 you must obtain a letter from your parents giving you permission to marry. The person you are to marry must be mentioned by name.
Close family or blood relationships
Permission or dispensations are required for certain intended marriages between first cousins, or other close family or blood relationships. The priest will provide more information. Permissions and dispensations are normally given by the Archbishop’s office.
Civil Law Requirements
The Catholic Church is only permitted to celebrate marriages that are also recognised in Civil Law. At the wedding ceremony the civil Marriage Register is signed by the couple, their witnesses and the priest. The priests of the parish are recognised by the State as Authorised Persons entitled to act on behalf of the Registrar.
No marriage can take place without a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate having been issued for each party. It is your responsibility to obtain these and give them to the priest.
Twenty eight days’ residence in the Registration District is necessary prior to giving Notice of Marriage to the Registrar.
Each party to the marriage must give notice of their intention to marry in person, to the Superintendent Registrar of the Registration District where they reside. A fee is payable for each notice, currently £35 per person.
The Superintendent Registrar can issue the Marriage Authority certificate after 15 clear days of notice has been given.
The Register Office will advise as to what identification you will need to give Notice of Marriage. Often this is a civil Birth Certificate or Passport. If you are under 23, your Birth Certificate must be produced.
GREENWICH REGISTER OFFICE
If you live in the Royal Borough of Greenwich you can make enquiries to the Royal Borough of Greenwich Register Office online, and by email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit or contact the Register Office:
Woolwich Town Hall,
Woolwich SE18 6PW.
Telephone 020 8921 5015 Opening Times: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
If you are not both British citizens you are advised to contact the relevant embassy or consulate as special rules may apply.
You can also get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau. The Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau can be contacted at:
Old Town Hall, Polytechnic Street, London SE18 6PN
Phone Number: (020) 8853 9499
Marrying outside the country
Marriages that are celebrated outside the country but prepared in the parish are usually channelled through the Archbishop’s Office. The documents and marriage papers are therefore sent to the parishes where the marriage will be celebrated. There is a DHL postage cost for the marriage papers that are sent directly to the parish. This payment must be given to the parish where the papers are being processed.
Preparing the Wedding Ceremony
The priest will discuss all the details of the wedding ceremony with you.
NUPTIAL MASS OR WEDDING SERVICE?
Holy Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life, and it is customary for weddings to be celebrated with a Nuptial Mass. That means Mass is celebrated in the usual way, including the Eucharistic Prayer and the distribution of Holy Communion, but with the addition of the Rite of Marriage.
However, in some circumstances the priest may advise against a Nuptial Mass, for example if one party is not Catholic and therefore unable to receive Holy Communion. In these cases, a Wedding Service is celebrated instead. In a Wedding Service there is no Eucharistic Celebration or distribution of Holy Communion.
For most of the year a team of volunteers decorates the church with flowers.
If you wish to have special flowers in the church, you are welcome to engage a florist. We ask that any altar arrangements be left in the church after your wedding. It may also be necessary for the florist to contact the parish to arrange times of access.
During the summer it is not uncommon for the parish to have two weddings on a Saturday afternoon. In that case you may wish to arrange the flowers together with the other couple and share the costs. The priest will put you in touch with each other.
If you have flowers affixed to the pew-ends please arrange to have them removed after the wedding.
During the season of Lent it is not permitted to decorate the church with flowers even at weddings.
During the wedding ceremony, as at Mass, there are readings from the Scripture. Please note that only readings from Scripture are permitted in the wedding liturgy.
At the wedding there is a choice between two or three readings. The priest will explain and help you to choose. The selection of readings to choose from can be found here.
FOR TWO READINGS
Choose one reading from Old Testament readings
Choose one of the New Testament readings
This is usually indicated by the choice of First reading. The priest will help you get the right one. The Psalm may also be sung.
Choose one of the Gospel readings. This is always read by the Priest.
FOR THREE READINGS
Choose one of the Old Testament readings
This is indicated by the choice of first reading. The priest will help you get the right one. The psalm may also be sung
Choose one of the New Testament readings.
Choose one of the Gospel readings. This is always read by the Priest.
CHOOSING HYMNS AND MUSIC
Sacred music is important in Catholic Liturgy. At most weddings there is an organist and hymns.
Please note that only “religious” hymns are permitted in Church. Secular music does not have a place in Catholic liturgy, and should be used at some other occasion.
The priest will discuss the possibilities for hymns and music with you. All music must be agreed in advance. For a Nuptial Mass, two or three hymns are recommended. For a Wedding Service, one hymn is recommended.
Our parish organist is Louis Da Silva. You should contact him through the parish office as soon as possible once a date has been set for your wedding.
If you are unsure of what music you would like, Louis will be happy to advise you. You will need to agree music with him at least one month in advance of your wedding.
Our parish does have the facility to play music CDs, but the music must still be “religious”.
INVOLVING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The most important “involvement” anyone can have in the wedding liturgy is their presence and prayers. This prayerful presence, listening and responding to the liturgy is the means by which the congregation commend you and your new married life to the Lord.
There are certain elements in the Mass in which you may ask your guests to be further involved.
One or more people may be involved in reading during the wedding service:
- First reading
- Psalm (though this is often read together with the first reading)
- Second reading (if you chose to have three readings – option 2 above)
- Bidding prayers (this may be shared between two people)
Please note that the Gospel reading is always read by the priest.
If a Nuptial Mass is celebrated, two people may be chosen to present the gifts of bread and wine. These may be the bride and groom.
Two official witnesses should be chosen, one to represent the bride and one to represent the groom. The witnesses will sign the civil marriage register together with the couple.
Please arrange the date for your wedding rehearsal with the priest. As well as the wedding couple, it is helpful for the following to attend where possible.
- Best man
- Father of the bride, or whoever is giving the bride away
- One of the bridesmaids
- One of the ushers
The rehearsal is also an opportunity for the readers you have chosen to practice their readings should they wish.
Within reasonable limits this is permitted during the service by a photographer you appoint. A video camera is allowed at a fixed and agreed position in the church.
Please inform your guests that the throwing of rice and confetti, or anything similar, is not permitted in the church or outside. Please save it for later in the day elsewhere.