My fiancee and I are not believers or members of any Christian church. Consequently, we are planning a civil wedding ceremony. That said, our parents and most of our guests are either Catholic or identify as Christian. To make our guests comfortable, we thought of inviting a Catholic priest or minister of some other Christian denomination to preach.

Google makes clear that Catholic priests aren't allowed to officiate at weddings where neither party is Catholic and the wedding takes place outside a Catholic church, and I expect most other churches follow similar restrictions.

What's less clear is whether a Christian minister is allowed to preach at a civil wedding. From what I understand, ministers are allowed to preach anywhere to anyone and have a Biblical mandate to do so when given the opportunity. So would a Christian minister be allowed to preach at a civil wedding if somebody else officiated?

  • Hope you are able to discern between ' preaching' and ' speaking '. Priests are allowed to speak in functions organised by anyone including atheists. But that does not translate to preaching. No Catholic priest with self- respect will preach or speak in a function involving civil marriage of believers, especially because wedding of a Catholic to non- Catholic is allowed subject to certain conditions, in a church. Why then, go for civil marriage ? Oct 13, 2023 at 1:34
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    The questions in the Title and body are significantly different. "Can a Catholic Priest preach" vs. "would a Christian minister be allowed to preach". They need to be changed so that they ask the same specific question. Oct 13, 2023 at 13:27
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    What country will your wedding be in? Different jurisdictions have differing rules on what can take place at a civil ceremony (separately from what the Church might permit or forbid her clergy to do). Also, are either you or your fiancée Catholic, or neither of you? Oct 13, 2023 at 19:27
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    @KadalikattJosephSibichan Forgive my ignorance, but I wasn't aware of this difference between "speaking" and "preaching". There are so many different denominations with different rules that I'm not versed in the nuances of each. Neither my fiancee nor I are believers, which is why we are having a civil marriage.
    – David
    Oct 14, 2023 at 12:32
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    @AndrewLeach, perhaps the question is really more like "Which denominations do or do not allow their ministers/priests to speak at civil weddings?". Oct 14, 2023 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


Speaking as a Roman Catholic deacon: I can lead a marriage in church between at least one catholic and someone else. So for marriage I have more or less the same possibilities as a priest, details are not that relevant for your question.

I have never been confronted with a question like yours, so I have no active knowledge of a specific rule for this situation. But as a more general rule: the clergy of the church, deacons, priests and bishops, should not create any possible misunderstanding or confusion about the sacraments. Marriage is, in the Catholic church, one of those sacraments.

I can imagine that I would speak, but never preach, at the civil marriage of close friends where the party is expected to understand my position as “friend of the couple” and not “catholic deacon”. In all other circumstances I would not speak at all.

Since you seem to look for a way to make the catholic/christian guests feel at home, I must say I appreciate how thoughtful that is of you, but it also makes my point about confusion even stronger. Any suggestion that you will enter a catholic marriage, which you are not and want not, really should be avoided. Rules or no rules, I think you just shouldn’t, even though your intentions really are kind and lovely.

I wish you a great marriage, and I really hope and pray you will find love for the rest of your natural lives.

  • Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to provide such a careful response!
    – David
    Oct 16, 2023 at 12:49

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