Congratulations on your engagement! We are so blessed that you are considering Saint Paul’s for your wedding.
Because the Catholic Church cares about your marriage, the For Your Marriage website has been created to help with information, skills, inspiration and resources. For more inspiration and resources, check out the Catholic Wedding Help website. Please check the Diocese website for further information on marriage requirements and information within the Diocese of Madison.
Marriage preparation readies couples for the life-long challenge and fulfillment of marriage. Couples are expected to begin marriage preparation at least six months before the wedding date.
To begin the marriage preparation process at Saint Paul’s please follow these two steps:
Step One: Read below about weddings at Saint Paul’s.
Step Two: Contact Ann Trachtenberg to set up a meeting with one of the priests and for any additional questions.
**During the academic year, Saint Paul’s Parish welcomes parishioners to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage with certain restrictions. Saint Paul’s Catholic Student Center’s primary purpose is for the student ministry programming of University of Wisconsin-Madison students which requires the Center to be fully functional as a Student Center during the academic year. Therefore, the chapel will be available for your ceremony but there will be no access to the Student Center for social gatherings of any kind before or after the ceremony. No rehearsal will be offered on the Friday prior to the ceremony and no accommodations will be made for the wedding party prior to the ceremony. The choir loft will not be available. The Center’s Pastor and Parochial Vicars may not be available for wedding ceremonies during the academic year because of their student ministry responsibilities. Wedding ceremonies will be scheduled for Saturdays only, between the hours of Noon and 4pm.
Who can be married at St. Paul’s?
Anyone who has no impediments for a Catholic marriage and can obtain a valid license from the state of Wisconsin can potentially be married at St. Paul’s. In order to have no impediments to a Catholic marriage, one of the parties must be a baptized and confirmed Catholic, and the Catholic party must promise to do all in his or her power to raise the children in the Catholic faith. After adequate preparation, the couple must promise to stay married for life, provide each other mutual loving support, and be open to having children. A more comprehensive but non-authoritative list of impediments to a Catholic marriage can be found in this Wikipedia article.
Because St. Paul’s is a student ministry, the priests at St. Paul’s are only permitted by the bishop of Madison to witness the marriages of students, and faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and alumni whose marriage will take place within two years of graduation. However, the priests of St. Paul’s may witness other marriages with the permission of the couple’s pastor. Moreover, a couple may have their wedding at St. Paul’s if they have permission from the pastor of their current parish.
Can I have another priest other than a priest at St. Paul’s witness our marriage?
A couple may invite a non-St. Paul’s priest to witness their marriage at St. Paul’s with the permission of the pastor of St. Paul’s and approval, by the bishop of Madison, for the visiting priest to witness the marriage at St. Paul’s. This is normally granted.
Can I be married at St. Paul’s if I graduated more than two years ago or never attended the UW?
Any Catholic can be married at St. Paul’s with the permission of a pastor of his or her Catholic parish. Younger couples that have not yet established a tie to a local parish often ask the pastor of the parish where they grew up. If you currently regularly attend St. Paul’s but are not a student, you will be asked to seek membership with the parish closest to your residence.
How do we prepare for marriage?
Preparing for your marriage is not so much about the wedding day but the preparation that you will need for the rest of your married life. While receiving the sacrament of holy matrimony imparts critical graces to a couple, those graces build on the natural virtues of their relationship. A holy wedding is an important start, but only the beginning of a lifetime of learning to love and sacrifice for one another day in and day out.
The wedding coordinator at St. Paul’s will put you in contact with one of the priests who will assist you in your wedding preparation. Normally you will meet with a priest three times for one to two hours. The priest is there to assist you and guide you, but not take responsibility for your preparation. Each individual should take full responsibility for this.
You will also be required to participate in the Diocesan Marriage Preparation Program. This program consists of two separate Saturday seminars or a onetime weekend seminar. Based on the reviews of past couples, we highly recommend taking the weekend seminar if it fits into your schedule. We also recommend signing up for this seminar as soon as possible, even before you are engaged. You can sign up for these classes at this Diocesan Marriage Prep website.
Next is to take a the FOCCUS marriage inventory and then meet with either a marriage and family counselor or a married couple trained to review the results of this test. The Priests of St. Paul’s will help complete registration for the FOCCUS inventory.
Finally, depending on the knowledge that both of you individually have of Natural Family Planning (NFP), you will need to attend some classes on NFP. Information on NFP and times and places of these classes can be found at the Diocesan NFP website.
NFP Recources: Which Method of NFP Is Right For Me?
We are from out of town, do we have to do this in Madison?
If you wish you, can also fulfill the marriage preparation requirements in another Diocese.
Is it OK to prepare ourselves through St. Paul’s but have our meetings with the priest outside of St. Paul’s who will be performing our marriage?
Yes, but you will have to meet briefly with one of the priests of St. Paul’s before a date can be set.
Is it OK to do our marriage prep through St. Paul’s and be married at a different Catholic Church?
How soon should we begin Marriage Preparation?
Marriage prep should begin as soon as you decide to marry, or even before as a way to decide if you should be married. Studies have shown that the sooner in a relationship marriage preparation begins the better the marital relationship will grow. However, please start the process by contacting our wedding coordinator at least six months before you wish to marry.
Reserving the Church
How do I reserve the church?
You can reserve the church by contacting our wedding coordinator Ann Trachtenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What dates are available?
In order that the student ministry of St. Paul’s is not disrupted, weddings will only be celebrated outside the Fall and Spring semesters. Priority will be given to current UW students and UW alumni who have been active at St. Paul’s. In order to give priority to current UW students and Alumni Wedding dates will be confirmed one year prior to the date selected and wedding times 8 months prior.
Can a marriage ceremony take place on a Feast Day?
The only days that a marriage cannot take place are Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If a wedding Mass is held on Sunday or a solemnity, the readings and prayers for the wedding Mass must be taken from the readings and prayers of the particular solemnity. However, you may replace the first or second reading with one of the approved readings for weddings. You can find a list of Catholic Solemnities here.
How early can I reserve the church?
You can reserve the Church at any time but the date will not be finalized until within one year of the wedding. Priority with conflicting times or dates will be given to UW students and alumni who have been active at St. Paul’s.
What is the fee for use of the Chapel?
The Please contact the wedding coordinator for pricing
Planning Your Wedding Ceremony
Why Make it a Catholic Wedding?
It is helpful to see the wedding ceremony as something given to us by God through his Church rather than something that is determined by the couple and the priest. This is because marriage, with all its rights and responsibilities, is an institution given to us by God. Thus, there are certain requirements of a marriage ceremony that reflect this reality. You are stepping into something greater than yourselves and agreeing to obligations that transcend your own subjective feelings and personal beliefs. This should give you a greater sense of security with your commitment in that both you and your spouse are committing yourselves to an objective reality that you can hold each other accountable too and that God will give the grace to accomplish.
Types of Ceremonies
If you have already been married in another church or by the state and are already living together as husband and wife, the ceremony will be simpler. The ceremony will be simpler in order to reflect the lived situation that you have already made a marital commitment to each other and that the Catholic Church is ratifying this commitment. Readings will be chosen by the couple and some music if so desired, but there will be no procession or wedding party outside of the required two witnesses.
WEDDINGS OUTSIDE OF A CATHOLIC CHURCH
For specific reasons a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic can petition the bishop to be married outside of a Catholic Church. The most common reason would be a church or location of importance to the non-Catholic spouse. For example, the non-Catholic spouse wishes her minister father to witness the wedding in her home town church. In these cases the wedding would be planned by that community. The only requirement would be that the vows used contain the necessary promises of marriage and that the normal Catholic preparation work is completed.
WEDDINGS BETWEEN A CATHOLIC AND A NON-CATHOLIC OR NON-PRACTICING CATHOLIC
In order not to accent the differences in faith or to make a large part of the congregation unnecessarily uncomfortable, a wedding between a Catholic and non-Catholic or non-practicing Catholic would normally be the wedding rite without the Eucharist. The main parts of the wedding would consist of a procession, readings, homily, exchange of vows, petitions, nuptial blessing, recitation of the Our Father and a dismissal. Other personal devotions may also be added if appropriate. You can find a sample wedding programs without the Eucharist here:
WEDDINGS BETWEEN PRACTICING CATHOLICS
Unless a large part of the congregation would be uncomfortable, the wedding of a practicing Catholics couple should take place within the context of a Mass. The wedding Mass would include a procession, readings, a homily, exchange of vows, petitions, offertory, Eucharistic prayer, Nuptial blessing, recitation of the Our Father, communion, and dismissal. Other personal devotions may be added if appropriate. Please note, because communion is the ultimate sign of unity it is prohibited in the Diocese of Madison to supplant it with a wedding candle. You can find a sample wedding program with Mass here. Additional recommendations for a wedding Mass at St. Paul’s can be found here.
Can a Catholic marriage ceremony take place outdoors?
As in most dioceses in the country, Catholics in the Diocese of Madison do not have permission to be married outside of a place of worship. The meaning of this is to show that the couple is coming to God and seeking his blessing and entering into something God has designed.
Whether you are having a Mass or not, a Catholic wedding reflects worship that is given to us by God through the Church rather than worship that we design ourselves. For this reason there are prescribed readings for all Catholic weddings: an Old Testament reading, a responsorial psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. There are plenty of selections to choose from. One way to prepare for your wedding is for each of you to pray over the readings apart from each other and chose the ones most meaningful to you. Then come together to discuss your selections and chose the ones you will use. You can find the readings for a Catholic Wedding here. (They are on the sidebar to the left of the page.) Please note that at least one of your chosen readings must directly refer to marriage.
Volunteers in the Liturgy
Readers should be Catholics who normally read at Sunday Mass rather than simply relatives or friends. The same with Eucharistic ministers. The reading of petitions and bringing up of the gifts at Mass may be performed by any capable person.
Can we add flowers and other things to the sanctuary?
Flowers are most welcome as long as they do not overpower the altar and placed appropriately.
CAN WE HAVE PICTURES TAKEN DURING THE MASS?
As long as the photographer does not use flash and does not come between the sanctuary and the congregation, a photographer is welcome to take as many pictures as desired.
CAN WE TAKE POSED PICTURES IN THE CHAPEL BEFORE OR AFTER MASS?
Because the chapel and sanctuary are sacred spaces intended for the worship of God, it is not appropriate to use them as a studio for posed pictures. Our suggestion would be to take family pictures in one of a number of other suitable spaces in the building. Your photographer should be able to provide a suitable backdrop.
HOW MUCH TIME CAN WE HAVE FOR PICTURES BEFORE OR AFTER THE CEREMONY?
The time restraint on pictures will depend on the room used and the other activities scheduled for the building, but normally it should not be an issue.
Is there a space for the Bridal Party to get ready for the wedding ceremony the day of the wedding?
Please arrive at the church dressed for the ceremony. We are not able to accommodate the bridal party arriving early to dress for your wedding ceremony.