Yet, due to the influences of secular society, some Catholics ask to wed in venues outside of a church. As it happens, even some priests serving as chaplains on cruise ships would sometimes agree to on-board weddings (now explicitly forbidden by the Vatican).
Recently, Father Serpa addressed this on Catholic Answers in his apologetics forum response to a question on the topic.
I find it a sign of the times that we so often get this question and others like it. Why can’t we be married at the beach or in our family home?
No one ever asks if an ordination to the priesthood or the final profession of a religious sister or brother can take place in a garden. These vocations are automatically associated with the worship of God and it is understood that a church is a building specifically designed for and designated as a place for worship, i.e., acknowledging God to be who He is. It is unlike any other place.
Unfortunately, weddings make a lot of money for a lot of people. So our culture demands a whole array of unnecessary attachments to this most significant and sacred of events–to the point that they take over. There is a television series-not an individual program, but a series–that is just about the wedding dress. Week after week young women are encouraged to obsess over a dress they will wear only once-hopefully. Recently I noticed in the TV listings a program about Disney dream weddings. The further weddings become whimsical fantasies, the less likely the bride is to be grounded in what the wedding and marriage are really all about.
Like the ordination to the priesthood and the profession of the vows of religious life, marriage is all about GOD! The bride and the groom are all about God, because everyone who has ever lived is all about God. We are His idea. He created us for Himself. Union with God is the goal of every Christian vocation, including marriage. In fact, Pope John Paul II called marriage the primordial vocation because it peoples all other vocations. Our blessed Lord likened the relationship He has with His Church to the relationship of husband and wife.
The further away the wedding wanders from its sublime God-centered context, the more obscure its significance becomes in society. Certainly, Mass can be celebrated anywhere. But it is most appropriately celebrated in church and for the most part, it is. The Church, in the light of a secular world that relegates religion to the sidelines, very wisely insists that Catholic weddings take place in church. It is sadly another sign of the times that so many priests and religious of my generation haven’t a clue to all this.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.