Elopement: Catholic Edition

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Church, Marriage, Marriage Prep, Society

Can Catholics Elope?

According to the Code of Canon Law, Catholics can indeed elope…But it’s not what you think.

Elopement means getting married in secret. Romeo and Juliet are the most famous examples of this behavior. They are a tragically romanticized example of running away to secretly be with your love. In our modern day, many couples still elect to elope. It’s been used as a way to have a very small ceremony, avoid parental involvement, or to handle an unplanned pregnancy.

In the Catholic Church, we are required to submit marriage affidavits and be married in the presence of two witnesses. The affidavits are documents that must be signed by two people who have known the individual for ten or more years. The witnesses need only be approved by the Church celebrant.

Why the requirements?

Marriage is a big responsibility! People marry hastily all the time, often with the comfort they can divorce later. In the Catholic Church, divorce is not an option. It is only fitting the Church takes as many precautions as are reasonable to ensure marital health and life. The affidavits are not a fate-filled document. They are lists of questions about mental, financial, spiritual, and physical fitness to marry. Even if family members or longtime friends do not approve of the couple, the questions are about the individual. The priest can choose to marry the couple regardless of what is said on the affidavit. But it’s an extra layer of consideration for the lifetime commitment the couple is entering. If a fiancé is hiding debt, past marriage, children, or illness, the affidavit is when all of that should come to light.

The witnesses serve to testify that the two people have been legitimately married. While this practice was instituted hundreds of years ago before advanced marital records could be accounted for, witnesses are still used. As with the affidavits, the witnesses do not need to “support” the union. They are simply another safeguard for the legitimacy of the marriage.

So, how does Catholic Elopement work?

To be married in the Catholic Church you must have two signed affidavits for each of you, and two witnesses. However, no one’s “approval” is needed to be married. Neither parents, guardians, siblings, nor grandparents need to approve of the marriage. Marriage is a sacrament between a baptized man and a baptized woman in the presence of God through the Church.

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Michelle C. Martin

Michelle graduated from Texas Tech University with her husband, Joshua, in May 2021 and married him in June on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has a degree in Communication Studies and has loved growing in knowledge of healthy and authentic relationships during her time in college and adulthood. Michelle and Joshua currently reside in Lubbock, TX where he works as an architect and she loves life as a stay-at-home wife and mother to their children, Peter and Cecilia.

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