I'd like to know what the role is of a witness during wedding ceremony besides signing the wedding paperwork? Is there a spiritual duty of some kind?

A godparent or a confirmation sponsor has a role to be a good example of faith for the child they sponsor during the sacrament. What about the brides or grooms witnesses? Are they obliged to do something when the couple are bringing doubts into marriage?

I was wondering if the witnesses should/could prevent remarriage of Christians who accept divorce? Should the witness prevent "former" catholic from remarrying by approaching their new ceremony and object to the first marriage?

Are these witnesses also approached during the catholic annulment?

I'm looking for the Catholic perspective for now, even though I understand that this role can reach beyond this denomination.

  • 1
    In most weddings, including secular ones, there are witnesses whose function is to bear witness to the fact that the wedding happened. They usually sign the wedding register to this effect. In a specifically Catholic wedding there may be other things they are expected to do. Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


Witnesses are supposed to attest to the fact that a wedding ceremony between two individuals took place. They would be approached in the case of an investigation of a marriage's validity, certainly to attest to whether the canonical form of the marriage was met. If canonical form was not met, a marriage can be deemed invalid and annulled without any additional work.

Since witnesses are also usually close friends or relatives of the betrothed (though they do not have to be), they can attest to any coercion that may have been present at the time of the marriage, which could also factor into a decision to annul the marriage.

Lastly, because marriages are a public affair, witnesses are an essential component to the marriage. The two witnesses are supposed to represent the community observing the public fact that this union between a man and a woman now exists because of the vows they made in front of the community. The presiding clergyman is also needed, as he acts as a witness on behalf of the Church.

Witnesses do not have any particular duties beyond observing the ceremony and attesting to the fact that wedding vows were made. However, if a witness knew that someone was trying to enter a "second marriage" while still married to their spouse, they probably should come forward and remind the community that this individual is already married, attest to that fact as a witness of the vows, and remind the community that a subsequent marriage while one's spouse is alive is impossible (assuming the marriage was between two baptized Christians).

  • This is a great answer but needs some backing by the teaching of the church. Claims like: they probably should come forward sounds like an opinion. How often does this happen? Are witnesses who don't come forward guilty of sin?
    – Grasper
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 15:31
  • @Grasper They probably should is an opinion, but a well-informed one. Anyone who is aware that an illicit marriage is about to take place probably should say something about it.
    – jaredad7
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 16:41

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