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Marriage Guidelines

Congratulations! You are contemplating entering into the sacred union of Christian marriage. Your love for each other has brought you to this point in your lives. The “Instruction” before the exchange of vows in the Rite of Marriage expresses the significance of this event:

You have come together in this Church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church’s minister and this community of your family and friends. Christ abundantly blesses this love. He has already consecrated you in Baptism and now he enriches and strengthens you by a special sacrament so that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity.

Because you have come to the Catholic Church, you signify that you understand marriage as more than a civil or legal ceremony. It is a sacrament celebrated in the presence of God. We want your marriage to work and your wedding to be wonderful. For this to happen, several sessions will be scheduled with you and the parish priest, deacon and or a mentor couple. These sessions will hopefully help you with your married life and not just your wedding day. Because of the importance of these meetings, you are reminded to take your responsibility of keeping scheduled appointments seriously.

Hopefully, these guidelines will answer all your questions about the do’s and don’ts of a wedding celebrated in our church. Should you have any other questions, please feel free to ask them. The regulations included in this booklet reflect the laws and policies of the Catholic Church, the Diocese of Albany and our own parish of Immaculate Conception.

Initial Arrangements

Normally, one party to the proposed marriage should be a member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, since the Sacrament of Marriage should be celebrated as part of the worshipping community to which one belongs and with which one prays.

Before any wedding date can be reserved, the couple must first meet with the parish priest. At that time, the forms for the parish wedding register will be filled out. Once the wedding date is reserved, you are asked to contact our music minister, at the Parish Office, to reserve the date with the musicians and cantor.

A baptismal certificate, issued within six months of the date of your marriage is to be presented to the priest/deacon. This can easily be attained by calling the parish of one’s baptism and asking for a copy of baptism and confirmation, and having it sent directly to Immaculate Conception, or you may pick it up at the parish. If a non-Catholic party is a Christian, that person is requested to present a baptismal certificate. The original will be promptly returned after a copy has been made.

If you are under 21 years of age, special permission for such a marriage must be granted by the Bishop of Albany before a priest or deacon is allowed to witness the exchange of vows. In order for the priest to obtain permission, he must be satisfied that the couple is entering the marriage freely, and that each accepts the sacred responsibilities of permanence, fidelity, and parenthood. Further, he must be assured that each of the parties to the proposed union are spiritually and emotionally prepared for marriage. The parents of those under 21 will be asked to speak with the priest regarding the couple’s appreciation of the purpose of marriage. A date may not be set for this type of proposed marriage until there is an indication of preparedness on the part of the couple.

A marriage date cannot be reserved for a couple if either or both parties have been married in the Catholic Church before, and whose spouse is alive, until an annulment has been granted. The marriage preparation process cannot proceed until then.

Place of Marriage

Because every sacrament is a celebration of the whole Church, the marriage ceremony takes place where the Christian community gathers, customarily, the parish church of the bride or groom. It is not ordinarily permitted to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage outside a church building.

Pre-Cana Program

In addition to the preparation for marriage with the priest, deacon, or mentor couple, each engaged couple is expected to participate in one of the following marriage preparation programs provided by our Diocese. These Pre-Cana programs, required by the Diocese, are programs, which help couples discover important insights and ways of helping and deepening their love relationship. Pre-Cana I is a full-day session held in Albany or Glenville for couples entering their first marriage. Pre-Cana II, held in Albany is for couples when one or both have been married before, or if one or both of them has a child from a previous relationship. Pre-Cana III (which we highly recommend), begins Friday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon. This is a special weekend for engaged couples that provides them with the opportunity to talk freely and extensively about their relationship and their future. Please reach out to the Marriage and Family Life Office at the Diocese to make reservations.  The Diocesan Office can be reached at 518-453-6670.

Legal Responsibilities

A marriage license must be obtained from a town or city clerk in the State of New York. The marriage license becomes valid 24 hours after it has been issued, and must be presented to the priest within sixty days of its issuance, and before the marriage ceremony may be performed. The marriage may not be solemnized if the license was issued more than sixty days before the ceremony. The marriage license should be presented on the night of the wedding rehearsal to the person in charge of the rehearsal. The two witnesses will be asked to sign the license that night. It is the clergyman’s responsibility to verify that the marriage ceremony actually took place and return the license to the town or city clerk. 

Offering for the Church

It is customary to make an offering to the church on the occasion of the celebration of marriage. This offering is beyond the expenses of preparation materials, and the fees of the music minister, etc. It is hoped that the gift to the church will be in proportion to the overall expense of the wedding. Celebrant offerings are optional.

Time of Celebration

The time of the celebration of the Wedding Mass will be set in consultation with the Pastor.  Please do not make any arrangements for reception or other wedding details until you have confirmed the ceremony time with the Pastor.

Wedding Rehearsal

Normally, the wedding rehearsal is scheduled the evening before the wedding.  The specific time will be set with the Wedding Coordinator in consultation with the Pastor.  Those attending the rehearsal include the bride and groom, all members of the bridal party, the parents of the couple, and any readers or other active participants in the wedding ceremony. Promptness is appreciated and expected. Please allow 1 hour for the rehearsal.

To adequately prepare for the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage, Catholics are strongly encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to the time of the wedding.


It is very important that the wedding rehearsal and celebration begin promptly at the designated time. Courtesy to your guests, and the Church’s minister requires that the celebration begin on time.

Placement of bride, groom, and attendants

The bride and groom sit in a “place of honor” to the right of the sanctuary on the main floor. Attendants sit in the first pews in the center of the church. Kneelers, chairs, and shrines of any sort are not allowed in the sanctuary.

The Unity Candle

It has become popular in recent years to include the lighting of a “unity candle” at some wedding services. This practice is not without controversy and is currently under study by the Bishops Liturgy Committee. Therefore, such candles are not encouraged in the church ceremony. We recommend using them at the reception hall following the service.

Wedding Music

The music at the ceremony should be appropriate and in keeping with the joy and sacredness of Christian Marriage. Because the Sacrament of Marriage is celebrated by the church, it follows that the music should be “church” music. Hence, the “Wedding March” and non-Christian contemporary music are not appropriate musical selections and consequently not allowed. Taped music of any kind is not allowed. Our music minister, will be happy to assist you with music selections. All music must be prepared together with the music minister and any other musicians or soloists for the ceremony must meet the music minister’s approval.


The wedding liturgy is a sacred moment of prayer, song, and gesture for the Christian community. In order that it not be disturbed by photo and taping equipment and those who operate it, photographers are expected to meet with the officiating minister before the liturgy, and to observe parish guidelines for photography at the church. It is expected that all photographers be professional. In no circumstance, is the photographer or person taping the wedding, allowed in the sanctuary, or free to walk around the church once the services has begun.

Use of Alcohol

Use of alcohol on church property is strictly prohibited. Champagne toasts or champagne placed on top of a limo outside the church is inappropriate and is in poor taste. Please advise limousine services of our policy.


Flowers in the sanctuary are limited to two arrangements and may be placed on either side of the altar or by the ambo. Couples may wish to donate flowers to the church for use during the weekend of their wedding. Such contributions are gladly received. Care need be taken, however, to insure that the proposed arrangements are in keeping with the current liturgical season and reflects its meaning. Because of the size of the church, fewer larger arrangements are more appropriate than many smaller arrangements. Neither flowers nor candles are to be placed on the altar itself or in areas that detract from the sacred nature of the sanctuary.

Neither flower girls nor anyone may drop anything on the church floor.

If bows are used on the pews, ribbon or plastic holders must affix them. Tape or tacks are not allowed on any surface in the church, including pews and floor.

White runners, paper or cloth, are not permitted for safety reasons and insurance purposes.

Carrying lighted candles and/or attaching them to the pews is not permitted.

Rice, birdseed, confetti, rose petals, or any other item may not be thrown inside or outside of the church, or any other building on the parish grounds, and balloons and bubbles may not be released. Insurance regulations and maintenance problems prohibit this.

It is expected that all boutonniere boxes, empty floral boxes, plastic material, wedding programs, and any other items are cleaned up and taken away before the bridal party leaves the premises.


Three areas of preparation, then, come into play as you prepare for your wedding day.

  • CANONICAL – which is the Prenuptial Investigations Form

  • INTELLECTUAL – which are the talks by the priest/deacon and the Pre-Cana or
                                      Marriage Encounter Weekend.

  • SPIRITUAL – prayer, reconciliation, and your own preparation of
                             the Wedding Ceremony.

Any other questions pertaining to the marriage should be directed to the priest who will assist you in your marriage preparation plans.

Have a wonderful life together!


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