Are you getting married?
If you're a Catholic and you're preparing to get married, there are some things you may want to keep in mind. First off, a Catholic marrying another Catholic must be married in the Catholic Church. In order to prepare to be married in the Catholic Church, one is required to meet with a priest at least six months prior to the wedding. This is in order to make sure that the couple is free to marry. For it is not the priest who marries the couple, but the couple who marries one another. In order to do that, they must be free.
A Catholic who is marrying a non-Catholic can be married either in the Church or outside the Church, with appropriate dispensations. Once again, that person should speak with a priest or deacon at least six months prior to the wedding.
The Church law is that a Catholic must marry a Catholic. However, there is a law higher than the Church law, and that is the law of love. Which means that if a Catholic falls in love with somebody who is not a Catholic and desires to be married that person, regardless of their beliefs or religion, that marriage is typically permitted with a dispensation from the Bishop. That marriage can then be officiated by a justice of the peace, by a rabbi, by an imam, or any other officiant, because it is the couple who marries one another, and that fact can be witnessed by any person delegated by the Church.
The Sacrament of Marriage, or Holy Matrimony, is a public sign that one gives oneself totally to this other person. It is also a public statement about God: the loving union of husband and wife speaks of family values and also God’s values.
When a Christian marries a Christian, they receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, a sacramental union that directs those two people into a deeper relationship with Christ. The purpose of marriage is unitive and procreative: to bring the couple closer together and to bring new life into the world. However, sometimes a Catholic marries someone who is not a baptized person. In that case, the marriage is not a sacramental marriage, in which case the marriage is not leading them into a deeper relationship with Christ. But it is a natural marriage, the love of man and woman, which is what God has intended for his creation.