“Ask a Priest: What If My Family Won’t Come to My Catholic Wedding?”

Q: I am newly engaged and my fiancé and I are both Catholic. I was confirmed earlier this year, and he grew up in the Church. My family left the Catholic faith before I was born on extremely bitter terms and refuse to attend our wedding if it is in a Catholic church. I don’t think I can walk down the aisle without my father or any of my loved ones in attendance, but I feel forced to abandon them by the Church in order to be recognized. Both the blessing of the Church and my family are important to me. Is my only option to lose my family? – R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you received the sacrament of confirmation, which helps you to witness to your faith.

It is always good to keep Jesus in first place in your life. That is the best chance of having a happy life and a happy marriage.

Jesus only wants the best for us, after all, and he gives us the Church to guide us.

The point of having a wedding in a church is that it helps give the right context for the event. It is a sacrament, and thus a church is a fitting venue for it, especially within a nuptial Mass. That is why the Catholic Church holds this up as the ideal setting for a wedding.

I mention all this to put your situation in context.

It is crucial that your family’s falling out with the Catholic Church does not distract you from what you know you should be doing. Our first allegiance must be Jesus, even if that risks alienation from our family. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

If you really love your family, the best you can do is be the best Catholic you can be. Pray intensely, especially for their conversion. Offer up sacrifices and acts of charity for them.

It’s hard to see how you would help them by entering a marriage that isn’t blessed by the Church and by God. That is a dead end. It won’t help your family, and it won’t help you and your fiancé.

Heaven knows what drove your family members from the Church. None of us can judge them for leaving. But it would be sad if their bitterness were to hurt your relationship with Christ and his Church.

Now is the moment to remember that one of your duties as a wife will be to help your spouse and children grow in holiness and reach heaven. To marry outside the Church would a step in the other direction.

In any case, if you are faithful to the Church and pursue a Catholic wedding, and your family abandons you, it will be their doing, not yours.

But you don’t want to exaggerate, either. In other words, even if your parents choose not to come to the wedding ceremony, it is unlikely they will disown you. You can still love one another even while disagreeing about this crucial issue of the marriage. After all, Christians can agree about the importance of patience, mercy and forgiveness.

Trust that your faithfulness to God’s will is the best path forward both for yourself, and to help your parents come closer to Christ.

Pray for the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for your family and to heal the wounds they bear. In this way you show yourself a beloved daughter of Our Lady — and of your parents.

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