Free Weddings for Cohabiting Couples

Intriguing idea from Parkcrest Christian Church: offer a free wedding and reception for cohabiting couples. Pastor Mike Goldsworthy preached at his Sunday service:

If your only barrier is the cost of a wedding, we will remove that.

High school sweethearts Angel Lewis’s and Christopher Woolbridge’s story, in brief:

(They) had lived together for years and were raising families. But the couple’s plans to marry kept getting stalled, partly because saving money has been a struggle while raising five children. And last year, wedding bands they had purchased were stolen from their home.

On two weeks’ notice, four couples jumped at the chance. Groom James Delgadillo, who proposed this wedding to his fiance in writing on the back of a church bulletin:

Opportunities like these are a blessing. To me, this is a wedding gift they are giving us.

We Catholics certainly couldn’t do this on two weeks’ notice. But our parishes could make the offer. What about yours?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgy, Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Free Weddings for Cohabiting Couples

  1. crystal says:

    I’ve never been to a Catholic wedding – does the church charge people for this? Is it expensive? I’d always thought that the church part of the wedding was free, for some reason.

  2. I’m assuming the costs are more for the reception, cake, decorations, etc., so that it can be a “proper wedding” and not something perceived as a “get it done” technicality.

    My question: Why wouldn’t two weeks be enough time? I can see scheduling possibly being a problem. If it’s regarding counseling, is there a legal reason in the church that it couldn’t be done after the wedding? I ask out of my ignorance: what am I missing?

  3. Todd says:

    Every parish has different rules. Speaking for mine, we don’t charge people for weddings and funerals, but we accept donations.

    If a couple were unable to pay wedding musicians, I would play any wedding (or funeral or baptism, etc.) gratis. Our clergy do not charge fees for these either.

    Most dioceses have a waiting period for engaged couples, requiring participation in some form of preparation, either by the local priest, or run on a regional basis. Pastors may dispense with this requirement and validly marry a couple.

    Suppose two couples, the first in their early 20’s and the other in their 30’s approached a priest and said,

    “Father, we’ve been living together for six months and we want to make it legal. Can we sign up for your free wedding next weekend?”

    “We’ve been together for 15 years and have 3 kids. We want to be married in the church.”

    Would he treat them the same?

  4. MJM says:

    The cost of my Catholic wedding:

    $1200 for the Church, which included the Priest’s stipend.

    This did not include the thousands of dollars spent on musicians. It was at an hold historic church with a membership of just a few hundred families that somehow is booked for weddings nearly every Saturday (there were two on the Saturday we got married).

    Somehow it seems like my scenario and the scenario above are complete opposites… Free weddings for couples who are in financial hardship, expensive weddings at Churches who are in financial hardship.

    I think both scenarios are fine.

  5. underemployed bride says:

    It’s not just the “donations,” but the fees for the pre-Cana program, the FOCCUS test, etc. And if you honestly can’t pay the “donations,” you’re told “Well you’ll just spend it on the reception/flowers/dress, anyway.” It adds up to hundreds of dollars some couples don’t have. I think a lot of parishes don’t understand just how strapped some people are these days, and if you bring it up, they get defensive, as if it’s your fault for not having the money to spend.

    Not everyone gets married right out of high school anymore, and I think the RCC in this country needs to take a good look at marriage prep, the costs involved, and the ages/maturity level of the people getting married. I can honestly understand why more and more couples aren’t getting married in the RCC.

    • Todd says:

      It is true that clergy and staff look at the general extravagance of wedding celebrations and make assumptions–sometimes incorrect ones–about the priorities of particular couples. My wife and I spent about $2500 on our wedding 16 years ago, including our rings, dinner, photographer, and the usual trimmings. In the same parish, another family spent 500 times that amount–I do not exaggerate.

      Would it help if a couple got to know the parish and vice versa–as more than just commodities: a couple to marry, a building to get married in? Is the Church right to be concerned about marital break-ups and insist on counseling? Is getting the marriage just right as important to a couple as getting the celebration just right? How much of the costs of a wedding are cultural expectations that are not really requirements at all?

      • underemployed bride says:

        Your last paragraph is exactly the attitude I find so frustrating. I wish we had $2500 to spend (we’d probably get some bills paid off.) Most parishes automatically assume the couple wanting to be married knows nothing about each other or themselves and is only interested for the “big day.” A couple who’s been together for 10 year or longer is a very different thing than a fresh relationship of 20-somethings, barely out of college. I wish the RCC would quit treating them the same.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s