Been to a Catholic wedding recently?

Alexis and Dan
The number of marriages being celebrated in the Church 
has dropped nearly 60 percent since 1972

It is June — that time of year when many of us will be receiving wedding invitations. One thing that may have changed from years past is the likelihood that the address on that invitation is for a country club, beach or community center rather than a Catholic parish.

The number of marriages celebrated in the Church has fallen from 415,487 in 1972 to 168,400 in 2010 — a decrease of nearly 60 percent — while the U.S. Catholic population has increased by almost 17 million. To put this another way, this is a shift from 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010.

(See the rest of Mark M. Gray's report in OSV Newsweekly)
My own experience as a priest of 38 years bears out the story these numbers tell.

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  1. I think the trend of destination weddings have been the main option for many couples. But for me, the ambiance of the Church with the altar ahead is still a stronger venue for a wedding because of His blessing.

  2. I was told that a ceremony held at the site of the reception is cheaper than what the church asks for as a DONATION. Many reception vendors are pointing out this extra cost at the time the couple is researching their options.

  3. It really is insane how much a Catholic wedding costs, and it's justified by people saying, "Well you'd only spend it on flowers/dress/etc." It's not just the "donation," either: it's the fees for the musicians (which they really push on you, even if you don't want it), the pre-Cana program, the NFP program some dioceses are requiring, etc.

    I can honestly see why a lot of people aren't getting married in the Church, especially if they're older, in a mixed marriage (you wouldn't believe how conversion is pushed), or don't agree with the heavy dose of traditional gender roles that's presented. (Try being a woman who has no intention of being a housewife or giving up her own name.)

  4. Of course practice varies from parish to parish, pastor to pastor and diocese to diocese - so I can only speak for my own situation and diocese.

    In my parish the offering for a wedding is $600. That includes: three or more meetings with me in preparation for marriage; a consultation with the organist and cantor to plan the music; use of the church facility and a $10 stipend for the priest. About half of the offering goes to the two musicians. In a case where that amount burdensome for the couple, I insure that the musicians (who make their living in church music) receive their stipend - sometimes paying them from parish resources.

    No couple is ever made to feel they "can't afford to get married in a Catholic church" in this parish - nor do I believe that happens regularly in other parishes.

    In the average situation, an offering of $600 for the church is quite small when compared to the other expenses most wedding celebrations impose on families hosting a wedding - and that's even when you add on the fee for a pre-Cana program.

    It truly comes as a surprise to me that "conversion is pushed" on couples with mixed religious background. A minister, of course, would want to make sure the couple has discussed and resolved issues around such a reality but "pushing conversion" is something I'm unaware of in these parts.

    I have heard engaged couples report that married couples on pre-Cana panels have spoken about marriage in dated gender terms and while I
    understand the difficulty in that, they are often speaking from their own lived experience.

    I'm not suggesting that my experience is universal but I believe that in the US this would be more the norm than the exception - fully understanding that exceptions do exist.


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and PRAY before you think!