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

  1. When can marriages be scheduled?
    • There will ordinarily be only one wedding on any given Saturday. Marriages are celebrated at either 12 noon or 2 PM. Weddings are ordinarily  scheduled during Lent. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 can’t 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.
  5. 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.
  6. What about music?
    • Music is one of the most visible signs of the liturgical celebration and should be chosen carefully. The priest and organist will 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. Ordinarily, the parish organist and soloist are to be used for all weddings. If you choose to have someone other than the parish organist and soloist, that is permitted. However, you must have Fr. McCormick’s approval and understand that the parish organist and soloist must be paid their normal fees even though you have chosen to have other musicians. 
  7. What about photography and videos?
    • These are permitted, but must not be done in an obtrusive manner. 
  8. 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  be removed. 
    • 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; 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

The fee for non-parishioners and those who have belonged to the parish for less than one year is $100 and is due when the wedding is booked in order to reserve your wedding date.

The fee for the organist and soloist is $125.00 each. 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 $125.

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)

Confession

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.