There are several factors to take into account when considering to renew your vows at the Catholic Church. What’s the protocol? How are special cases handled?

We provide two real-life scenarios and the advice to navigate it all. These real-life scenarios hit multiple burning questions we might have about renewing our vows.

Scenario 1: My Spouse is Roman Catholic & I Am Not

Hello, everyone, I am new to this site and I need some help. My husband and I got married this past June at the courthouse. This time around, I want to renew our vows in a Catholic church, but he is Roman Catholic and I am not. Also, he has not been to church since he was little.

What is the process we go through to renew our vows at the church even though I’m not Roman Catholic? I read something about how our marriage has to be blessed. I would greatly appreciate it if I can get any information.

Thank you so much.

Our Advice

First things first, the vow renewal isn’t always a religious experience, although it can be. However, I would think the priest (diocese) would insist on performing that service only when the couple is both of the Catholic faith. I’ll let our expert on Catholicism speak to that.

But, the vow renewal is usually done for couples on a benchmark anniversary or after some years of adversity. Please see our page on vow renewal ceremonies and vow renewal etiquette for more information.

A blessing of the marriage or convalidation ceremony in the Catholic church sounds more like what you want, but you may have to convert to Catholicism to do that.

Other Expert Advice

From Kay & Dennis Flowers

As for whether or not you need to convert to Catholicism, that is not as clear. There are some points of canon (Church) law that is left up to each diocesan bishop to interpret.

It would be wise to have a heart-to-heart talk with a priest to find out what your diocese’s policy is on convalidation of marriage for interchurch couples.

We are an interchurch couple who married in a Protestant church with dispensation acquired from the priest and with the full blessing of the Catholic Church. It can be done, so please talk with a priest who will be able to advise you.

He will also ask whether either of you has been married before. If so, an annulment will need to be granted before the Church can convalidate and bless your present marriage.

It would also be wise to consider the reason why you wish to be married in the Catholic Church, as the site administrator suggested. If you are being pressured, that is one thing. If you want to show support for your husband’s faith tradition, that is commendable.

God bless and guide you.

  • Key & Dennis Flowers – Authors of Catholic Annulment, Spiritual Healing

From Reverend Susanna

It would be best to speak with a few priests, as I have heard varying stories from my couples.

Firstly, The Catholic Church may not recognize the civil ceremony and may treat it as a first-time marriage.

Secondly, if you were baptized as a Christian, you may be able to marry in the church with some stipulations. I would check with a few parishes.

  • Reverend Susanna of Joining Hands & Hearts: Interfaith, Intercultural Wedding Celebrations: A Practical Guide For Couples

Scenario 2: I am Catholic & Previously Married Outside the Church

I was married for a short time in 2001. That marriage took place outside and was officiated by a non-denominational person. I was legally divorced a short time later.

Then in 2003, I have married again and my husband and I had the ceremony at the courthouse. I am a Catholic. My husband is not Catholic but is interested in becoming Catholic. I have been Baptized, had my First Communion and First Confession. I have not been Confirmed.

We would like to renew our vows on our 5 year anniversary because we feel that we have grown so much over the last few years, that we really truly understand the full sacrament of marriage and want to reconfirm that.

We would like to renew our vows in the Catholic Church. Is this something that we could do?

Our Advice

Definitely talk with a priest at your local diocese to see what steps you would need to take. There’s a possibility you would need to go through confirmation as – usually – at least one part of the couple would need to belong to the Catholic church.

Other Expert Advice

From Kay & Dennis Flowers

Yes, we believe it is possible to renew your vows in the Catholic Church. However, consult your priest. You will first need to have any previous marriages annulled and your present marriage blessed by the Church.

According to the information you gave us, your previous marriage was outside the Church, so for Catholics who marry outside the Church, there is a shortened form to fill out.

You can probably renew your vows when you get your present marriage blessed. If you want to wait until your husband completes his RCIA, the ceremony will be even more blessed for you because you will then be welcomed to receive the Eucharist together. Check with your priest for a possible timeline for accomplishing this.

  • Kay And Dennis Flowers-Authors Of Catholic Annulment, Spiritual Healing

From Deacon Bob Tousey

When you say that your first marriage was by a nondenominational “person” I assume you mean a Christian nondenominational Minister. If that is the case, I believe that you would have to go through the annulment process before the Catholic church would bless the second marriage.

The annulment requires there be a defect in the marriage “contract” something that would make the first marriage invalid. The tribunals have been taking a broad view in this area. However, it is a long process taking anywhere from one to two years. Your former spouse and witnesses will be contacted.

However, if you are committed to this I think it is a good idea for you. If your husband is interested in becoming Catholic he should contact the local parish about the RICA program and get that moving while you move forward with the annulment process. Then you can have your marriage blessed once the annulment is completed.

It is not required for your husband to become Catholic but if he wants to it would be nice for him to complete the RICA program and be brought into the church. This response assumes that your husband has not been married before and he has no impediments to marriage. Best wishes and God Bless.

  • Deacon Bob Tousey, Independent Catholic Deacon

From Frieda Arpoika

A baptized Catholic’s marriage is only valid if either celebrated with a Catholic priest or deacon presiding or if a dispensation was granted by the diocese so the marriage can be performed by a non-Catholic minister and still be valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

If you did not get a dispensation from the Catholic Church than your marriage was not valid if performed by a non-Catholic minister. Therefore you can apply for what is called a “Lack of Form Application for Annulment” which usually only takes a few weeks because it is based on the fact that your first marriage did not “follow proper (canon law) form”.

You’ll need a newly issued copy of your baptismal certificate from your parish of baptism, with “NOTATIONS” which would record if there has been a Catholic marriage. Also, your marriage certificate and divorce decree and you can go to your parish and sign that application.

Your parish will send the application into the diocese and also assist you in a “convalidation” of your vows. Parished do “convalidations” of existing civil marriages all the time, and it is a great way to raise your already existing civil marriage to the level of sacramental marriage – and return into full communion with your Catholic Church.

  • Frieda Arpoika, Catholic Lay Pastoral Minister, St. Daniel Catholic Community

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