FAQ About Marriage

Marriage11.jpgWho can be married in the Cathedral Parish (at Holy Redeemer Church or St. Patrick Church)?
Since our purpose is to establish sacramental Christian marriages in the context of the community of the Church, our responsibility is to celebrate marriages in which at least one party is an active, practicing parishioner. Minimally, this would be someone who has been regularly attending Mass here for at least six months prior to beginning marriage preparation. Please remember, our churches are not wedding chapels. They are the home of a parish community in which people are invited to encounter Jesus Christ through His Word and the Sacraments so that they might be strengthened by His grace to live out the Christian Faith. Therefore, they are generally available only for the weddings of those persons who are actively living their faith within this community.

The only exception would be a case in which both the bride and groom live more than one hour from Madison, and at least one parent of the bride or groom is an active member of our parish (and has been for at least six months before the beginning of marriage preparation). In addition, either the bride or groom (or both) must be an active, practicing Catholic in his or her local parish, and the pastor of that parish must certify that the couple would be eligible for marriage in that parish.

We also understand that God calls engaged couples to live chastely until they exchange the sacred vows of marriage – the giving of the body seals and celebrates the giving of the life in the marriage vows. Though it may be increasingly difficult in our culture, we ask all engaged couples preparing for marriage at the Cathedral Parish to live as faithful disciples of the Lord by abstaining from sexual activity during their engagement. To this end, we also ask all couples preparing for marriage to live separately until marriage.

If you do not meet these requirements and think that you may have circumstances that merit special consideration, please contact Marc Laudonio, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis, at marc.laudonio@gmail.com or by telephone at 257-5000.

When can weddings take place at the Cathedral Parish?
It is necessary to take into account the regular life of the parish community when scheduling marriage ceremonies. On Saturdays, we have confessions, Masses and baptisms to take into account – in two languages at Holy Redeemer. As a general rule weddings may be scheduled at anytime between 11 am and 2 pm on Saturdays. Other days and times are possible, but should be discussed with Marc Laudonio, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Should the wedding be celebrated with or without Mass?
Typically a marriage between two Catholics takes place within a Nuptial (Wedding) Mass. However, if many relatives of the couple are not practicing Catholics (or if there are other considerations that lead you to think it might be better to have a wedding liturgy outside Mass), that is certainly permitted. The Nuptial Mass is a privilege, never an obligation.

A marriage between a Catholic and a person of another Christian denomination usually takes place in a liturgy outside Mass. A Nuptial Mass is not permitted for the marriage of a Catholic and an unbaptized person.

How do we arrange a wedding date at the Cathedral Parish?
Please contact us at least six months before your intended marriage date. This minimum period of time is required in order to provide an adequate period for discernment, and to give sufficient time for the various components of marriage preparation. When you call the Cathedral Parish, the secretary will put you in contact with Marc Laudonio, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis, to schedule your first appointment. At that appointment, Marc will explain the marriage preparation process and reserve a date for your wedding and rehearsal. Plans such as securing a reception hall or printing invitations should not be considered until after the date has been set at the church. By making your arrangements at church first, you will avoid disappointment and inconvenience. Lastly, please note that all arrangements for weddings are made directly with the parties themselves, not through parents, relatives, friends, or wedding planners.

Can we have a priest from somewhere else officiate our wedding?
Monsignor Holmes or Deacon Chris Schmelzer ordinarily preside at weddings here. Exceptions to this norm are possible, especially when a member of the family or a very close friend is a priest or deacon. If you wish to invite another Catholic priest or deacon to preside at your wedding, you should submit a written request to Msgr. Holmes, giving the name, title, address, and phone number of the priest or deacon you want to invite. Ultimately, it is the pastor who grants permission for a visiting priest or deacon to preside at a wedding in his parish. (Of course, if Bishop Morlino wishes to witness a marriage anywhere in the Diocese of Madison, he needs the permission of no one.) Please remember that if you do have a visiting priest or deacon witness your marriage, there will be an extra $100 charged to compensate a member of our parish staff who will be on hand to help with practical details at your rehearsal and wedding.

What documents are needed to get married here?
Catholics are asked to provide a recently issued baptismal certificate. (The original copy is not sufficient because it does not carry notations – as, for example, information about a prior marriage. Getting a newly issued baptismal certificate is one way of establishing a Catholic’s freedom to marry.) A recently issued certificate may be obtained by contacting the church of your Baptism. We can assist you in finding contact information if necessary. In the event that there are absolutely no baptismal documents available, Marc can help you to obtain an Affidavit of Baptism.

Non-catholic Christians are requested to bring any information or documentation they have regarding the date and place of their Baptism – including an original baptismal certificate if available.

Marriages between a Catholic and a non-catholic person require a dispensation or permission from our diocesan bishop. We take care of obtaining this document when the Catholic party makes the necessary promises: to maintain the practice of the Catholic Faith, and to have the children born of the marriage baptized and raised as Catholics.

Affidavits (statements under oath) will be taken from the parties – and usually from a parent relative or longtime friend of each – vouching for their freedom to marry and intention to enter a true Christian marriage.

If either party has been married previously, written evidence that the previous spouse has died or that the previously married partner is now free to marry according to the norms of the Catholic Church must be presented. A date cannot be set and marriage preparation may not proceed until this step is completed.

A valid marriage license from the state of Wisconsin must be presented to the priest or deacon at the rehearsal. After the wedding, he will sign it and mail it in.

In the exceptional case that neither of the parties to the marriage is a registered parishioner at the Cathedral Parish, we must have the written permission from the pastor of at least one Catholic party to have the wedding here.

What kind of marriage preparation must be completed?
Flowers, cake, photographer, reception hall – it can all be so overwhelming! Alas, when it is all said and done your wedding is just one day and your marriage is a lifetime. So while planning for the ceremony and reception is an acknowledged reality, it is preparing for married life that is far more important. In order to have sufficient time to prepare for marriage, you must arrange your wedding date and begin the preparation process at least six months before your wedding date.

  1. The first aspect of preparation is an initial meeting with Marc Laudonio, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis, to discuss the marriage preparation process and schedule a wedding date.
  2. Every couple will also have a meeting with Monsignor Holmes to fill out their affidavits of freedom to marry.
  3. The FOCCUS program is facilitated by various married couples within the parish. These couples have been married for varying lengths of time, and desire to help newly married couples start their lives together successfully. FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study) is an aid for marriage preparation. The FOCCUS questionnaire consists of over 150 statements to which the bride and groom are asked to respond (“agree” or “disagree” or “undecided”); it takes approximately one hour to complete. The engaged couple meets with a married couple to review their responses. FOCCUS results can help couples communicate openly about many issues that are important in a relationship. The questionnaire is not a pass-fail test, nor is it a way to predict the future. Most couples meet two to three times for two hours each time with the married couple to review areas of strength, and to explore areas where more discussion seems advisable. More follow-up sessions are scheduled as needed. Follow-up sessions are intended to be learning experiences, not professional counseling sessions, and should be completed within two months of the assessment date.
  4. REAL LIFE, REAL LOVE is a marriage preparation program conducted in the Diocese of Madison. It is a sort of practicum – a day of dialogue and reflection about important aspects of married life. The program is held on select Saturdays from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm, at various locations throughout the Diocese of Madison. It is also available in a multiple weeknight form. For more information or to register, visit www.madisondiocese.org/mp or contact John Joy at (608) 821-4517 or john.joy@madisondiocese.org
  5. GOD'S PLAN FOR A JOY-FILLED MARRIAGE is another part of the marriage preparation program conducted by the Diocese of Madison. The program focuses on Catholic marriage as a visible sign of the Holy Trinity and of the relationship between Christ and the Church. The program is held on select Saturdays from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm, at various locations throughout the Diocese of Madison. It is also available in a multiple weeknight form. For more information or to register, visit www.madisondiocese.org/mp or contact John Joy at (608) 821-4517 or john.joy@madisondiocese.org.  If your schedule permits, it is recommended that the Real Life, Real Love program be taken prior to God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage.
  6. Catholicism 101 is a three-session overview of the Catholic Faith offered at our own Cathedral Parish. One of its purposes is to help couples preparing to be married in the Church know what the Faith says about the mystery of life, and the place of the Sacrament of Matrimony in that mystery. Catholicism 101 meets for three consecutive Tuesday evenings at St. Patrick Church. Please see the Catholicism 101 webpage for more information on the dates, times, and content of Catholicism 101. Again, if your schedule permits, it is recommended that Catholicism 101 be taken before God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage.
  7. The Diocese of Madison offers informational talks on Natural Family Planning along with classes and sessions that teach couples how to practice NFP. Natural Family Planning gives couples the tools to plan their families effectively and in accord with God's plan for marriage through an individualized, easy-to-use method of monitoring a woman's fertility. We require all those preparing for marriage at the Cathedral Parish to attend an NFP 101 session to learn more about NFP and how it can strengthen your marriage. To find dates, times, and locations for NFP 101 and all other NFP sessions, please visit www.madisondiocese.org/nfp or contact the Family Planning Coordinator for the Diocese of Madison at 821-3134 or nfp@straphael.org.
  8. At some point before your wedding you will arrange a Liturgy Planning Session with the priest or deacon witnessing your marriage. Earlier in the process, you will be given a booklet describing the liturgical options. In a meeting with the officiant, you will finalize the Scripture readings, prayers, songs, and so on.
  9. In order to be in a state of grace and so be truly receptive to the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony, Catholics should receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation shortly before their wedding day.

How much does a wedding cost at the Cathedral Parish?
A non-refundable $100 deposit is required at the time a date is set and the church reserved. Of course, you never have to pay to receive the Sacraments of the Church. In order to help defray the costs of utilities, maintenance, the pre-marriage preparation process, and the officiant’s stipend we do ask a fee of $500. (In a case of genuine financial hardship where the wedding must be celebrated on a minimal budget, this fee may be reduced.) In the exceptional case where neither of the parties is a member of the Cathedral Parish the fee is $1,000. If you are having a visiting priest, we ask an extra $100 to compensate a member of our staff who will be at the church to help with practical details for the rehearsal and wedding.  All payments should be submitted no later than one month before the wedding date.

The two days of marriage preparation offered by the diocese have separate fees, payable to the diocesan office. We will gladly provide you with a resource list of organists and cantors but any fees for musicians are separate, and subject to agreement among the parties.

What about wedding rehearsals?
Except in the case of the simplest ceremonies, a rehearsal for the wedding is conducted to familiarize all participants with the liturgy and their involvement in it. Rehearsals are usually scheduled the day before the wedding is to take place. Wedding rehearsals typically begin between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, and usually last about 30 to 45 minutes (depending on whether there is a Nuptial Mass). Please remember that rehearsals are taking place before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament residing in the tabernacle. All activity in the church should be reverent and respectful of the sacred space.

What about flowers, decorations, etc.?
Please review the following guidelines with your florist and/or those decorating.

Flower arrangements that obstruct the view of the tabernacle or the action on the altar are not allowed. Flowers are not to be placed on top of the tabernacle or the altar. Flowers and other decorations may be placed in the sanctuary near the altar, or in other locations.

The main altar is a consecrated object and should not be used as a worktable or convenient shelf while the church is being decorated.

If the florists want to decorate the church more than one hour before the wedding, they cannot expect the air conditioning to be run in the church for extended periods of time before the ceremony for the sole purpose of keeping floral arrangements cool.

After the wedding, we would certainly appreciate your leaving us your flower arrangements for the weekend Masses in the church; but they do of course belong to the couple.

Tape, tacks, and staples are not allowed when attaching decorations to pews. Pew decorations are easily attached by means of ribbons or plastic hooks.

Aisle runners are not allowed for safety reasons.

Since the Eucharist is the primary and most excellent sign of both Christian and marital unity, there are no unity candles allowed in the celebration of a Nuptial Mass (wedding within the context of Mass).

If candles are used (even the so-called "dripless" candles), you need to provide sheets of plastic underneath them, to catch dripping wax. Candelabras are not permitted.

During the Liturgical Seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, the decorations and the colors used in the church are to be considered permanent. During Ordinary Time (essentially the entire summer and fall), you still must consult the priest, deacon, or Director of Evangelization and Catechesis before moving any parish decorations or furniture. Any decorations or furniture that is moved must be returned to its former place once the wedding is over. Weddings during the Lenten season should be modest in their festivity, in keeping with the penitential spirit of the season.

Rice, birdseed, confetti, or flower petals are not to be thrown inside or on the grounds of any of the isthmus churches. This is to ensure the safety of all and to respect the sacred space.

Someone from the bridal party, the family or the florist is to be appointed ahead of time by the couple to be responsible for removing flowers, candles, bows, empty floral boxes, trash and wrappings from the church after the ceremony. Please make sure everything is cleaned up before everyone has left the church.

The church is not responsible for anything left after the wedding nor is it legally responsible for musical instruments rented by the wedding party and used in the parish.

Visiting priests or deacons are to abide by these guidelines, the provisions of Canon Law, and the approved Rite of Marriage.

How do we determine what music to use in our wedding?
The ceremony in which the Sacrament of Matrimony is received is an act of worship in the Catholic Church. Therefore, music selections need to reflect the common faith of the whole Church. If you wish to use a particular piece of music or have a visiting musician perform in your wedding ceremony, please consult well in advance with the priest or deacon officiating at your wedding or the Music/Liturgy Director, Glenn Schuster, who can be reached at (608) 712-3302.

Do not overlook the effectiveness of congregational hymns as a part of your ceremony. The singing of hymns by the congregation draws your guests into more active participation in the celebration.

Music for the ceremony is your responsibility. We will be happy to give you names and phone numbers of organists, pianists, and/or vocalists, but it is up to you to arrange with them for your wedding.

Musician fees are entirely between you and your musician. Pre-recorded music or accompaniment tapes should not be used in the public liturgy of the Church.

What do we need to observe regarding photography and videography in the Church?

Photographs or videotapes of a wedding can bring back memories for many years to come, but they can also serve as a distraction for everyone involved if proper etiquette is not observed. If you plan to have photographs taken or to have the ceremony videotaped, we ask that they take care not to interfere with the religious nature of the ceremony.

All photographers (still and video) should clarify expectations with the priest or deacon prior to the ceremony. Photographers are not allowed in the sanctuary (the elevated floor area at the front of the church) at any time during the wedding liturgy and are to remain at a respectful distance so as not to distract the congregation. They may also not interrupt any part of the ceremony including the procession.

No extra camera lights may be used during the liturgy. This includes flash lighting. Extra lighting is permissible prior to or following the liturgy.

Photographs can be taken before or after the wedding ceremony. In all cases St. Patrick must be vacated by 3:30 pm and Holy Redeemer by 4:30 pm on Saturdays.

If the couple would like pictures taken with the officiating priest or deacon after the wedding, these should be taken first to allow him to get on with other duties. Please maintain reverence while taking pictures in order to respect the sacredness of the sanctuary area. Photos intended to be comic or risqué should never be taken in church.

What do we have to do regarding a marriage license?
Please visit http://www.co.dane.wi.us/coclerk/marriag.htm for all the details you will need to know about obtaining your marriage license.

Please give the marriage license to the priest or deacon at the rehearsal. After the wedding, he will sign it and mail it in. The marriage license is a civil document; it is not signed in the course of the ceremony, nor on the altar afterwards.

What’s this all about?
Our policies come first and foremost from our desire to invite all couples to the fullness of Christian marriage. Many of the practical details come from our previous experience with weddings. We hope to anticipate many of the most common issues that arise during the planning and celebration of weddings. While it might seem a bit tedious to go into such detail, we think it is helpful to you to have as much information as early in the process as possible.

We know that you want your wedding to be perfect and that you have probably been planning this day in your imagination for many years. We are also aware that some of the things you may have imagined may not coincide with the expectations proposed in these marriage preparation and wedding policies. We ask you to remember, though, that while your marriage ceremony is an intensely personal moment for you, it is also a public celebration of one of the seven Sacraments given to the Church by the Lord Jesus.

So, while Monsignor Holmes and the rest of the staff and people of the Cathedral Parish want you to have the most wonderful wedding day possible, we want more than anything else that you encounter Jesus Christ in your wedding liturgy and in your marriage. And it is that very desire for all persons to truly live out their life with Christ that inspires all of our marriage preparation and wedding policies. If you have any questions about any of these policies, please feel free to speak with anyone listed below.

Contact Information
Marc Laudonio
Director of Evangelization and Catechesis
(608) 257-5000

Monsignor Kevin Holmes
Rector of the Cathedral Parish
(608) 257-5000

Glenn Schuster
Parish Organist and Wedding Music Coordinator
(608) 712-3302