There are places I remember….as St. Patrick’s Day arrives, I’m filled with longing and haunting memories of Ireland. Especially I remember a windswept beautiful area of Western Ireland. Here, deep in County Mayo, lies an ancient Abbey from the 13th century. The name of that Abbey is Ballintubber. And what a perfect place it would be for a wedding!
The Abbey has seen many ‘celebrity weddings’ including the marriage of actor Pierce Brosnan to Keely Shaye Smith and Shane Filan (lead singer of Westlife) to Gillian Walsh. But….you don’t have to be a celebrity to get married here. Catholic couples from all over the world dream of getting married in this beautiful and historical church. And you can too, with a bit of planning.
The setting is ideal: an ancient stone church, a simple yet beautiful interior, almost too good to be true. You can get the sense of history of Cathloicism in Ireland in this special place.
Close by is the well where St. Patrick baptized the first converts in the area and a stone next to the well still bears the impression of his knee.
A glance through the columns of the Cloister at Ballintubber you will see Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain. It is here that Saint Patrick fasted and prayed for 40 days. How romantic is that? \
The lively village of Westport is just 12 miles away and offers many hotels along with lively pubs.
And there are several hotels nearby, some quite elegant and some quite simple, that are experienced in accommodating wedding parties. The village of Westport is also convenient, being about 12 miles away.
Just keep in mind that because of its popularity, you’ll need to get your paperwork started as soon as possible.
Newly engaged? This particular post is for Catholic couples who have long dreamed of saying “I do” surrounded by family and friends in an exotic location: perhaps a sandy beach or beautiful old-world church across the sea.
You may have even consulted a wedding planner by now or no doubt surfed the internet to obtain information. As you’ve probably noticed there is a lot of information and, unfortunately, misinformation out there concerning Catholic destination weddings.
So what are the unique challenges in planning a destination wedding? Just to name a few:
Some wedding planners may claim that a destination wedding can actually save you money overall by combining the wedding and honeymoon all in one package. In some circumstances this may be true, but not necessarily so. Rome, for example, will be far more expensive than a wedding back in your home parish. And if you are paying for the wedding party’s travel and lodging, that can easily add up to quite a bit! There goes that money you thought you were going to save.
You will definitely need to find a reputable Wedding coordinator to help with the legal red tape and is familiar with the requirements for a Catholic wedding.
A destination wedding can mean that some of the those people who are most precious in your life will not be there for that special day. Not everyone can afford to take time off from work, the cost of long distance travel, lodging, meals, and other expenses.
Also, consider that older relatives or friends who would love to attend, may not be able to travel so far away from home.
Last, but not least, the two of you won’t have as much time alone as you might think. Your guests will not always be off doing other things, or you may feel responsible for ensuring that they have a good time. This can take some of the joy and spontaneity out of your honeymoon.
These downsides may not even apply to you. And there are lots of exceptions, but our goal is just to help you through an exciting but stressful time. Certainly with careful planning and patience a destination wedding can be your dream come true.
So how about you? Ever been involved in a destination wedding? Any advice you would like to give?
Most brides…not sure about the grooms….long for a beautiful wedding ceremony in a beautiful setting. And certainly there are many gorgeous venues in which to hold the ceremony. But gosh, those darn Catholics have so many restrictions! Or some people say so. There is a reason that, of course. To be validly married there are certain restrictions, because Marriage is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Church (can you name the other six?).
Google “Catholic wedding venues” and you come up with more than one so-called Catholic priest or bishop who says, “don’t worry….we can do it your way”. Whether these people are well-meaning or are just purposely misleading you to make a quick buck, we cannot say. The fact is that they cannot offer you a Catholic wedding. In most cases they claim to be associated with an Orthodox Church or some unknown body (the word “contemporary” is sometimes used) and have no legitimate status within the Roman Catholic Church.
One tip-off might be the fact that telephone calls are accepted, but not emails. Hence, no paper trail. No way that the priest, or whoever, can be held accountable since nothing is in writing.
So it’s not so easy to get married in the Catholic church, but that is for a reason. As mentioned previously, marriage is a sacrament, and the location for the wedding is more than just a pretty backdrop. The Marriage Rite should take place during the Mass and the place for celebrating all Sacraments is a Catholic Church. Only rarely will a Bishop allow a dispensation.
Known as the American church, the Church of Santa Susanna is the home for English-speaking people living in Rome. It is an active parish as well as a wedding venue for many people wishing to be married in Rome.
Recently due to the fact that pieces have been falling from the ceiling, the Church has been closed to the public. Masses that are normally held here have been moved to the following locations:
What bride-to-be hasn’t secretly imagined the incredibly romantic image of herself and her loved one on the beach standing in the sand, waves gently lapping, seagulls soaring overhead and loving family and friends looking on as they become man and wife.
OK let’s get back to reality. You know that weddings on the beach are subject to sudden tropical showers, sand crabs, and grandma’s walker getting stuck in the sand. And most importantly, as pointed out in a previous blog post, Catholic weddings must be performed on consecrated ground, so that pretty much rules out a beach wedding, right? Not necessarily! In the last few years some wise resort owners have decided that they are missing out on the Catholic wedding market.
To take much of the stress out of the wedding there are wedding planners who help to coordinate everything at your destination and also put you in touch with a local Roman Catholic priest in good standing. And, the prices seem to be a bargain compared to many other countries.
If you are thinking of an exotic setting you might also consider staying at a resort and getting married in a Catholic church nearby. Some of these are either overlooking—or on—the ocean. An example is Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Their website clearly spells out the requirements and has contact information for those interested.
Also, there are wedding destination firms that arrange Catholic weddings in Antigua, Barbados, Curacao, St Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia, with packages starting around $2.000. U.S. that include most everything for a small party.
Here are the steps you need to prepare for your Catholic destination wedding:
We’ve all seen those wonderful commercials or movies that show the beautiful ocean background as the couple walks down the “aisle” on their wedding day. Destination weddings are promoted (naturally) by many resorts, hotels, airlines, etc. Well, that mental image is beautiful but there are definitely some restrictions for Catholics. See our newer blog post on Catholic weddings at the beach for more details.
It’s not that the Church does not want you to have a beautiful wedding but because the Catholic view of the wedding is that it is a sacrament and should take place on consecrated ground. I noticed that some non-Catholics who attended our son’s wedding remarked that they wished the bride and groom faced each other during the ceremony rather than kneeling and facing the altar. Naturally everything that the secular world has told everyone is that “it is all about the me”. Not so….they miss the important fact that the center of attention is not the bride and groom, but Jesus Christ. Sadly, there are quite a few Catholics in the same boat.
Another oft-requested venue is getting married on a cruise. Why anyone would want to do so is beyond me……having your wedding party and family along on your honeymoon does not sound like a great way to start off married life. However, if you really want to get married on a cruise, then you need to make some serious plans. In the first place, as mentioned above, you cannot get married on the ship because it is not consecrated ground. You would need to arrange for a church at a port along the way and that is not an easy thing. It’s hard enough planning a wedding in your own home town much less some city a few hundred—or thousand–miles away. And, if for some reason, there is a last-minute change in the itinerary you could end up missing your own wedding!