How to include a Catholic ceremony in a Portuguese destination wedding
Catholic ceremony

Portugal is a predominantly Catholic country with great cultural traditions linked to religion. About 40% of the weddings celebrated in Portugal are Catholic, most of which occur in the northern part of the country. If both the bride and the groom are Catholic, or if at least one of them is, a wedding in a Catholic church in Portugal is also a great option for a destination wedding. It will certainly be a very romantic wedding, highlighted by tradition and glamour, seeing as Portugal has churches and cathedrals boasting over 1000 years of life and history. Besides having been the stage of weddings between princes and princesses, over the years these stunning churches and cathedrals have also witnessed many happy unions.

wedding ceremony

Who can get married in the Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church accepts a wedding between someone who is Catholic and someone who is non-Catholic.

In order for a Catholic wedding to be celebrated, it is required that at least the bride or the groom is baptized and follows the rites of Catholicism.

A mixed marriage is when a wedding is celebrated between someone who is Catholic and someone who is non-Catholic but is baptized, which means someone who was baptized by another Christian church.

Although a mixed marriage deserves special attention, the difference in religious confession will not hinder the wedding. However, for a mixed marriage to be celebrated, express permission from the ecclesiastic authorities is necessary.

A wedding with disparity of worship is one that is celebrated between someone who is Catholic and someone who is non-baptized. When there is disparity of worship, an express exemption from this disparity of worship is required from ecclesiastic authorities, so that the Catholic wedding may be valid.

In both cases, the bride and the groom must recognize and not reject the finalities and principles that are essential to matrimony, as well as the Catholic obligations concerning the baptism and education of future children in the Catholic Church.

A Catholic wedding cannot be celebrated if either the bride or the groom is divorced from a previous Catholic marriage.

Catholic wedding process for foreign citizens

In Portugal, the Roman Catholic Church only requires that the bride and groom present written authorization from the priests of their place of origin/residence, as well as written authorization from that very parish. The religious wedding process should be initiated at least 6 months before the civil authorization is issued, mainly because it takes longer and, during high season, many churches may already have all their available dates booked with other weddings.

Currently, the Catholic Church does not celebrate a wedding between two people who have not presented the civil registry document that confirms that the wedding license process has, in fact, been initiated.

Therefore, you must also initiate the civil wedding process:

  1. Request a copy of your birth certificate in your native country, embassy or consulate – it must be a legal or registered document and it must be translated. This birth certificate is valid for 6 months.
  2. Request a matrimonial capacity certificate and its official translation. If the native country in question does not issue these certificates, request a written statement that explains exactly that (the non-emission of the matrimonial capacity certificate by this country).
  3. If the bride or groom has been previously married and that marriage ended in divorce or due to the death of a spouse, a certified copy of the final divorce decree or a certified copy of the death certificate must be presented.
  4. Start the marriage license process in Portugal in person or by assigning a solicitor with powers to do so and who will represent both the bride and the groom.
    • The process must be submitted at any Civil Register Office in Portugal.
    • The process should be initiated 6 months prior to the wedding date, at maximum. If this deadline is exceeded, the process must be renewed.
    • The process costs approximately 100 Euros if there are no specifications regarding the marriage property regime.

If there is no impediment to the wedding, the Civil Register Office where the wedding process was initiated will issue a declaration that authorizes the wedding, which should be presented at the parish where the bride and groom wish to marry. This document is valid for 90 days, which means that the wedding must take place over the course of the following three months. If that deadline is passed… you’re back to square one!

How much does it cost to get married in a Catholic church?

The cost of a wedding celebrated in a Catholic Church may vary and depends on the popularity of the church or cathedral in question. The celebration can be free or can cost up to 200€.

Where in Portugal can you celebrate a Catholic wedding?

In Portugal, a Catholic wedding can be celebrated in any church, chapel or cathedral, as long as they are public spaces and there is an available priest and date to do so.

If you are planning a wedding with an outdoor ceremony, this is only viable if you choose to have a civil wedding ceremony.

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