Published by SimplyCatholic, written by Fr. Francis Hoffman

On the one hand, they want to show their support for family and friends, but on the other they want to be faithful to Christ and His teachings on marriage. Sometimes, the two seem to come in conflict and difficult choices must be made.

However, if we are faithful to Christ, this will always benefit our loved ones. We are called to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

Jesus blessed marriage with His presence at the wedding feast at Cana, but He also spoke very clearly about the inviolable properties of unity and indissolubility of marriage when He said: “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery” (Mt 19:9, RSV).

May I attend the wedding? Yes, if it’s a real marriage. You may attend, but you are never obliged to attend.


Before examining five wedding scenarios, it’s helpful to clarify some terminology. A wedding (or nuptial Mass) is not the same thing as the reception. And “to attend” is not the same thing as “to assist.”

Technically, only one person “assists” at the wedding: the pastor (or his delegate) who witnesses the marriage. But in addition to the spouses and the pastor, two witnesses are necessary: the best man and maid of honor.

All five (two spouses, two witnesses and pastor) are required to sign their names to the official documents for legal and canonical record. If the wedding ceremony will not constitute a valid marriage, no practicing Catholic can be part of this “group of five.”

To “attend” a wedding usually means to show up in the congregation. No one is impeded by canon law from “attending” wedding ceremonies or receptions. However, natural law dictates that we should do good and avoid evil, and never condone evil by our words, actions or omissions.

If your attendance at a wedding ceremony or reception would somehow condone an invalid marriage, then you would be partly culpable for the sin, whatever that sin might be.

A Catholic may attend any wedding held in a Catholic Church. But often, Catholics face more difficult choices. Let’s take a look at five scenarios.

For the Five Marriage Case Studies, click here.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mike from NJ

    There is a slight problem in Fr. Hoffman’s description of one of the cases. In case 3 he says in part “one or both having been baptized as Catholic and not having formally defected from the Catholic Church”. The formal defection process was removed in 2009 with Omnium in mentum.

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