Your Wedding at Saint James Church
Stages of Marriage Preparation
Congratulations on your engagement. Engagement is a special time – a time of love and preparation. We at Saint James seek to do all that we can to help couples prepare for marriage. Due to its very special nature, this type of serious preparation cannot be accomplished overnight.
The first step in the marriage preparation is for you, as a couple, to meet with the parish priest. By diocesan policy, couples planning to marry in the Church should contact a parish priest at least four to six months prior to the wedding. No wedding date can be set until this initial contact has been made.
Once you have spoken with the priest, who will witness your marriage, you need to begin your preparation for marriage.
Preparation for Marriage Takes Three Forms
- Pre-Cana – A program which takes the couple through a series of topics emphasizing the importance of communication, in either one all-day session or two afternoon or evening sessions.
- Engagement Encounter – A weekend experience where the couple takes a look at their relationship honestly and lovingly.
- NOVA – Designed to meet the needs of the couples who are free to marry for a second time in the Catholic Church.
your first priority!The parish priest will provide you with a schedule for these sessions. Reservations are required. Ideally, Pre-Cana should be made as a couple, although in some circumstances it can be made individually. Pre-Cana can be taken outside the Erie Diocese.
Do not delay in making Pre-Cana, it should be your first priority!
In Some cases, a couple may be required to receive counseling at Catholic Social Services before entering a sacramental marriage – the priest will advise you if this is necessary when you meet with him for the first time.
Upon the conclusion of Pre-Cana, NOVA, or Engagement Encounter, it is your responsibility to set up another meeting with the priest. He will review with you what has taken place in your marriage preparation, fill out the necessary paperwork and check on necessary documents. A second meeting will be necessary to review plans you have made concerning the wedding liturgy.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
When can marriages be scheduled?
- There will be ONLY ONE wedding on any given Saturday. Marriages are celebrated at either 12 noon or 2 PM. Weddings are NOT scheduled during Lent. Weddings are not performed on holiday weekends (i.e. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year). Weddings may take place on days other than Saturday; this should be arranged with the priest. Weddings are not permitted on Sundays, Holy Days, and during Holy Week.
What about Interfaith Marriages?
- When one of the parties to the marriage is not Catholic, both parties need to understand and respect the role that the Church plays in married life. We assure you at the same time of our respect for other religious traditions. In the conversation with the priest, the Catholic partner will be asked to make a commitment to have their children baptized in the Catholic Faith and to share his or her faith with their children. The non-Catholic partner will be asked to be trusting, open and understanding about the Catholic Faith and traditions. We welcome ministers of other faiths to participate in your wedding ceremony; arrangements should be made with the parish priest. Your witnesses may also be persons of another faith.
How do we choose between having a Nuptial Mass or Nuptial Ceremony?
- When both parties in the marriage are Catholic, a Nuptial Mass is most appropriate. Choosing to be married within the Mass is particularly appropriate if the couple is active and regular in the practice of their faith.
- When only one party in the marriage is non-Catholic and many people attending the wedding will be non-Catholic, we strongly recommend a Nuptial Ceremony where the wedding takes place in the Liturgy of the Word. Since there is no inter-communion in the Catholic Church, a Nuptial Ceremony will make all feel welcomed, at home and part of the celebration.
What if one of the couple was previously married?
- If one of the parties has been married previously (regardless of whether it was in a Catholic Church or not), he or she must present a Decree of Nullity from the tribunal or the certificate of death in the case of a widow or widower. If an annulment is in process, no wedding date can be set until the annulment has been granted.
What documents are required?
- Any baptized person will be asked to obtain a recently issued Baptismal Certificate from the church of their baptism. This applies to both Catholics and non-Catholics. For Catholics, old baptismal certificates CANNOT be used. You MUST present a certificate less than six months old. First Communion and Confirmation Dates should also be included. You can get a certificate by contacting the parish in which you were baptized. If you were baptized at Saint James, no certificate is required since we already have the information in our records.
- A personal information sheet filled out by the priest for both the bride and groom at the second meeting, which you arrange with the priest. (Form M-B)
- A close relative or friend of the bride and groom may also be required to fill out a witness form in the presence of the priest. (Form M-B)
- In the case of an interfaith marriage, the promise to have the children baptized and raised as Catholics must be signed by the Catholic party. This should be discussed an agreed upon by both parties during the Marriage Preparation.
- For those entering a second marriage, a death certificate for a deceased spouse or an annulment decree for a previous marriage. For all marriages, a wedding license issued by any County in Pennsylvania.
What about the use of the Church?
- Members of the parish and visitors to Saint James are asked to remember that our church is a house of prayer and the home of this faith community. We ask that the conduct of visitors reflect the dignity and respect you would like afforded in your own home. Smoking is not permitted anywhere within the Church structure,including the restrooms and bridal room. The presence of alcoholic beverages within the Church, or on the grounds of the church is expressly forbidden. Members of the bridal party who have visibly consumed alcohol or drugs before the ceremony will be asked not to take part in the celebration.
What about music?
- Music is one of the most visible signs of the liturgical celebration and should be chosen carefully. The priest and organist can help you in selecting appropriate music, which should express the faith of the couple and the common faith of the whole church. Secular songs may be moving or a particular favorite of the couple, but when they do not express faith, they are not appropriate in the church and should be saved for the reception.
What about photography and videos?
- Your photographer, family or guests MAY NOT take photography requiring flash during the ceremony. It is YOUR responsibility to inform the photographer and guests of this regulation. Time exposures may be taken by the photographer from the rear or side aisles of the church. After the wedding, pictures may be taken in the church – the time is limited to approximately twenty minutes. Videotaping may be done from the Balcony and one additional STATIONARY camera in the area adjactent to the sanctuary. There are to be no traveling tripods, bright spotlights, extraneous cords or other distracting equipment. Your videographer MUST consult with the priest concerning placement prior to the service.
What about flowers and other decorations?
- When setting a date for your wedding, take into consideration the special nature of the liturgical seasons (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time). The Church’s celebration of these seasons will affect the decoration of the Church. When a wedding takes place during such a liturgical season, the liturgical environment will remain in place and will NOT be removed. This includes a photographer moving things for pictures.
- Arrangements for flowers, candelabras, candles, etc. are to be made by the bride and groom with the florist of their choice. Flowers should be considered a gift to the church and should not be removed at the end of the ceremony. It is your responsibility to caution the florist against stapling, gluing or taping floral arrangements to the Church pews or carpets. Aisle runners are not permitted due to insurance regulations as they pose a tripping problem, especially to the elderly.
Also Please Keep in Mind the Following
- The proper place of a receiving line is at the reception. If you choose to have a receiving line at the church, keep in mind that it diminishes the time you have available for pictures.
- Brides and Bridesmaids may use the ladies room down stairs at the front entrance of the church.
- You may wish to have bottles water available for those in the wedding party.
- The throwing of rice, confetti, or birdseed is forbidden on church grounds.
- Rehearsals are usually held the night before the ceremony. The time is to be scheduled with the priest. Rehearsals generally last 45 minutes. Musicians need not attend the rehearsal.
- Please ask everyone to arrive on time!
Fees and Offerings
There is a $50 fee for registered parishioners or their sons and daughters who have contributed for at least one year, in order to reserve the church for their wedding date. This fee covers heating, lighting, air conditioning, and clean-up following the wedding.
The fee for non-parishioners and those who have belonged to the parish for less than one year is $250 and is due when the wedding is booked in order to reserve your wedding date.
The fee for the Organist and Cantor is between the musician and the couple. This fee is to be paid in CASH before the day of the wedding.
If you wish to have altar servers at your wedding, the customary offering is $10 per server.
The appropriate fee for the Clergy-officiant is $100.
Please bring the following to the rehearsal if you have not already given them to the priest.
- Wedding planning sheet and a copy of your program
- The marriage license
- Unity candle, stand and tapers (if applicable)
- All fees for the church, officiant, and altar servers.
You must remember that you are receiving a Sacrament. It is necessary that you be in the state of grace. It is vital that part of your preparation for marriage includes receiving the Sacrament of Penance. Please plan ahead to make a good confession prior to your wedding so that you may reap the full sacramental benefits of this special day of yours. Please check our sacramental schedule for confession times at Saint James.
A Final Thought
Individuals reading these regulations are sometimes offended. It is not our intention to offend; it is our intention to provide all couples with equal and fair treatment. If you cannot or do not wish to accept them, please do not hesitate to locate another parish church for your wedding.