Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming marriage! We are excited that you’ve chosen to share this celebration with us.

In the busy months ahead you will have many details to attend to. Preparing for and planning your wedding liturgy is a beautiful step towards uniting your lives in marriage. We hope that this information will assist you in these preparations as you consider celebrating your wedding at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs Parish (STACM).

Should you have further questions or concerns after reviewing this information, please do not hesitate to contact the parish office.


How do I secure a wedding date?


What now?

What if we want an outside priest or deacon, who is a relative or a friend of the family, to marry us?

If my fiancé(e) is of another denomination and would like his/her pastor or minister present, is this possible?

What if my fiancé(e) wants this minister/pastor to conduct the ceremony?


What if I’ve been away from the practice of my faith?

What if my fiancé(e) isn’t Catholic?

What if I, or my fiancé(e), has been married before?

How do we plan the wedding liturgy?

I’ve seen both the bride’s father and mother give her away. Who is the one to walk her down the aisle: the father, a male relative if the father is deceased, or both her parents?

Can we write our own vows?

Who can receive Communion at our wedding if it takes place during Mass?

Are Photographers and Video Cameras permitted in the church?

What expectations are there in terms of attire and modesty?

Are there any stipulations in regards to decorations?

Do we have to be parishioners to get married at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs?

How long of a preparation is expected prior to marriage?

What costs are incurred when the Marriage takes place at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs?

Where Do I Get A Marriage License?

Is it necessary to print a program or an “order of service” to distribute at the church?

When is the wedding rehearsal?

Do we light a unity candle as part of the wedding liturgy?

Is any additional paperwork required?

How can we best spiritually prepare for our wedding day?


How do I secure a wedding date?

Initial inquires about whether a date is available or not can be answered by calling Tracy, the parish secretary, at the parish office (902-423-3057).

However, please be aware that no date will be booked until after you as a couple have met with either Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member in charge of weddings. Confirmation of a date and time of your wedding will be sent to you in a letter following this meeting.

Weddings at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs Parish take place on Saturdays at 2 p.m. Saturday mornings and Friday afternoons are also a possibility. Weddings are not celebrated on Sunday, during Holy Week, and Holy Days of Obligation.

What now?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, paragraph 1632) tells us
that, “preparation for marriage is of prime importance.”

In addition to the preparation you’ve received through your life experiences and your families of origin, the parish wants to assist you in preparing further through:


1) Meeting with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member who is appointed to weddings

2) Attending one of the Diocesan Marriage Courses. Visit the Archdiocesan website for more information or call 429-9800, ext. 324

To schedule a meeting with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member, please call the parish office (902-423-3057). After this meeting you may register for one of the Marriage Courses by going online to the link listed above. As the course is offered at various times throughout the year and in two different “forms,” you may pick the one that best suits your schedule.

This course is an opportunity for you to grow as a couple by exploring a variety of topics together prior to your wedding. Please know that there is a nominal fee to cover the cost of the materials for the program.

What if we want an outside priest or deacon, who is a relative or a friend of the family, to marry us?
Having another priest officiate at your wedding is a definite option and is possible through a little coordination. The first step is to identify who your “pastor” is. Your pastor is the priest who is leading the church you are currently attending, or which you attend the most frequently.

If your pastor is someone other than Fr.
Mark, or the priest or deacon you hope to have officiate at your wedding, this person must be identified as the one who will be pastorally responsible for preparing you for marriage. This person will prepare the couple for marriage with Fr. Mark’ knowledge. It is not possible to be married at STACM under circumstances where no preparations have been completed and no one is pastorally responsible.

We ask that your pastor contact us before we book the dates for your wedding. You can download this
letter and give it to your pastor.



If my fiancé(e) is of another denomination and would like his/her pastor or minister present, is this possible?
Yes.
The pastor or minister is welcome to be present at the ceremony. Please discuss this option with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member during your initial meeting.

What if my fiancé(e) wants this minister/pastor to conduct the ceremony?
This
would need to be arranged by Fr. Mark and should be discussed during your initial meeting with him or the pastoral staff member.

What if I’ve been away from the practice of my faith?
Welcome back!
This is a
great opportunity to recommit yourself to the Lord and start your marriage on a foundation of faith. To assist your journey there are several adult faith formation courses available at the parish. Based on the date which you contacted the parish, you will be required to enroll in the Alpha Course and/or Catholicism 201 - depending on which is offered at the time. Please discuss these possibilities with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member during your initial appointment.

What if my fiancé(e) isn’t Catholic?
Although there are unique challenges posed by a mixed marriage, you can still be married within the Church.

The
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1634, teaches:

Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated.

In cases of mixed marriage (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) the express permission of the ecclesiastical authority is required. If there is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person, a dispensation is required for the marriage to be valid. In both of these instances, Fr.
Mark or the pastoral staff member will assist the couple in understanding the expectations of the Church as well as in seeking the necessary permission or dispensation.

It is also the practice of the Church that the Catholic spouse will do all within his or her means to baptize and raise the children as practicing Catholics, with the consent of the non-Catholic spouse.

In relation to the wedding ceremony, when a Catholic marries a person who is either a Christian from another denomination or a non-Christian, there is a liturgy of the Word followed by the Rite of Marriage. The Eucharist is not celebrated so that disunity in worship is not emphasized at a time when unity should be the focus.

What if I, or my fiancé(e), has been married before?
Because the Catholic
Church teaches that marriage between a man and a woman is a holy endeavor signifying the love of Christ for the Church, married love is to be faithful and lifelong as a reflection of Jesus’ own fidelity and commitment to us, the Church.

In this understanding, the Church follows Jesus’ own teaching that what God joins no one can separate (Mark 10:9). Consequently a
valid marriage is indeed forever and impossible to dissolve. In the case of a valid marriage, a civil divorce is a mere technical construction and the couple themselves are indeed still bound to each other in marriage. This makes entering into a second marriage impossible for the individual is still married to the first spouse.

That being said, there are instances where the requirements for a
valid marriage were not met. Under these circumstances the couple’s marriage was not sacramental and their union was invalid. If this is determined an annulment may be granted making both parties free to marry in the Church.

As these matters are often very sensitive and painful, it is important that they be discussed with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member at the initial appointment.

To read more on the Church’s teachings relating to Divorce, Annulments, and Remarriage, consult the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1650, 2382, 2384-86, and 1629. There is also a helpful article at the following link.

How do we plan the wedding liturgy?
You will
have the opportunity to choose several aspects of the wedding liturgy including the readings, music, and those who will participate in the various roles of the celebration - all with the approval of the STACM Liturgical Coordinator.

When approaching family or friends to proclaim the readings or lead the “prayers of the faithful” (the General Intercessions), it is required that these individuals be faith-filled and practicing Christians. Loved ones are welcome to bring up the gifts during the offertory procession; it is not necessary for them to be Christians to do so.


Because a Catholic wedding is primarily a time of worship, the music during the liturgy is an expression of that disposition. This means that the music selected should be sacred, and not secular, and it also ought to be familiar to the people of the church where the wedding takes place.

Although there are many talented and accomplished musicians in the HRM, few have the expertise to select the kind of music required for a Catholic wedding. Therefore, to avoid conflict or misunderstandings, we require that you speak with the Liturgical Coordinator before you make plans with the musicians. The parish can also provide couples with the names of soloists and musicians familiar with the Catholic liturgy.

Couples are responsible for any financial agreement with the musicians.


I’ve seen both the bride’s father and mother give her away. Who is the one to walk her down the aisle: the father, a male relative if the father is deceased, or both her parents?
Actually it’s
the groom who
accompanies his betrothed to the altar!

Although it has become commonplace to have the bride walk down the aisle with both of her parents, or just her father, the “giving away of the bride” is technically not part of the Catholic wedding rite. At the wedding ceremony both of the spouses give themselves to the other and no one is “given away” as if they were property.

The suggested procession at a Catholic wedding is the wedding party and the priest followed by the bride and groom. The couple takes the place in the procession that is traditionally held by the ministers of the sacrament because they are, in fact, the ministers of the sacrament, which
they confer on the other before the priest who acts as a representative of the Church.

Please know that there are creative ways of meeting the requirements of the entrance rite, which can be discussed with the Liturgical Coordinator.

Can we write our own vows?
Because
the vows must include the essential elements of lifelong fidelity and exclusivity, it is possible, although not advisable, to write your own vows. If you do so it must be under the guidance and direction of Fr. Mark or the Liturgical Coordinator.


Who can receive Communion at our wedding if it takes place during Mass?
Because
Catholics believe that the Eucharist is a sign of unity, members of other Christian faith communities with whom the Church is not yet fully united are not able to receive Communion. This means people from other Christian denominations. The Church has guidelines on who can receive the Eucharist, not to exclude people, but to acknowledge the reality that we are not yet one.

As a result of this disunity, other Christian faiths do not share the Catholic belief that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Christ.

It is also because of the sacred gift of the Eucharist that those receiving Communion should be in a “state” to more worthily receive Jesus in this way. They can prepare themselves to be able to receive Communion by not being conscious of any
grave sin through going to Confession.

Guests of your wedding who, for whatever reason, are unable to receive the Eucharist are welcome to come forward for a blessing at communion time. They simply cross their arms over their chest as they approach the priest in the communion line.

Are Photographers and Video Cameras permitted in the church?
Both an official photographer and a videographer are permitted for weddings and should consult with the presiding clergyman (the priest or deacon) prior to the wedding about a location during the ceremony. Use of other cameras and video equipment should also be discussed with him or the Liturgical Coordinator.


What expectations are there in terms of attire and modesty?
The
Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love” and is “an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to” the human person (CCC, 2522-2524).

This Catholic appreciation for the inherent goodness of the human body and the subsequent respect and honour due to it are to be reflected in the attire chosen by the wedding party during both the wedding and the rehearsal. These individuals should also be mindful that they are in sacred space.

Should fashions disregard these values and objectify the body, the pastor may ask members of the bridal party to return properly dressed. If this is not feasible, additional coverings will be provided. Couples ought to also advise their guests of these expectations.

Are there any stipulations in regards to decorations?
A sense of modesty also applies in the decorations chosen to beautify the church. These should not be a distraction from the central purpose of the celebration, which is the lifelong union of two lives as one in Christ.

“Immodest” décor would be anything extravagant in style, cost, or quantity. Two modest floral arrangements for the sanctuary are appropriate, as are pew markers for the reserved seating.

The throwing of confetti, rice, or real flowers petals is not permitted in the interior of the church or on the church property. However, fake petals are permitted as long as they are picked up in their
entirety
by the organizers of the wedding. Bubbles are also allowed, but only outside of the church.

Do we have to be parishioners to get married at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs?
Yes - with a
few clarifications!

Many couples are interested in marrying at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs because of the beauty and location of the churches or because the couple or their families have some association with the parish.

However a couple who lives in the HRM and wants to marry at the parish must be registered and regularly contributing parishioners by envelope or PAO (pre-authorized offering option) to do so. They may register as parishioners by calling the parish office or filling out the online form on the parish website.

If the couple resides outside of Halifax and are returning “home” to the city for their wedding, they must provide a letter from the pastor in their current parish notifying Fr. Mark of their active participation in that faith community and the reason they are not marrying there. Couples can download this letter and give it to their pastor as it will explain what we are looking for. The pastor, or other representative, must also complete all of the required paperwork with the couple. These individuals will be considered “non-parishioners” in relation to the fee schedule.

How long of a preparation is expected prior to marriage?
Couples
wishing to marry at STACM must contact the parish a minimum of 8 months prior to the desired wedding date.

What costs are incurred when the Marriage takes place at St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs?
For use of the church there is a fee of $500.00 for non-parishioners. Acknowledging that parishioners already contribute to the upkeep of the church this fee is reduced to $250.00. In addition to this there fees that apply to both non-parishioners and parishioners in order to cover the costs of other staff members who may be involved in the process. These may include the Rehearsal Coordinator whose services are required for both the rehearsal and the wedding, as well as a sound technician if you intend to make use of the church’s sound system and instruments for musical accompaniment. The normal fee for the rehearsal coordinator is $50. For the sound technician to oversee and assist with set up and tear down the fee is $50. To have someone present for the whole ceremony to operate the sound board there will be a an additional fee of $50. In addition to these fees an honorarium is requested for the officiating priest or deacon in the amount of $150.00. All fees and the honorarium should be brought to the church office two weeks prior to the wedding.
Please know that a “parishioner” is someone who is, and has been, registered at the parish for the time preceding the marriage. This person regularly attends Mass at STACM and is a contributing member by envelope or PAO (pre-authorized offering option). If the parents of either the Bride or the Groom are parishioners according to this definition, the couple will be considered parishioners according to the fee schedule.
If a couple finds themselves in a difficult economic situation they should discuss their situation with Fr. Mark or the pastoral staff member.

Where Do I Get A Marriage License?
You will need to arrange for a civil marriage license from the Province of Nova Scotia. You can find out more about obtaining the license by calling 490-4000 or visiting: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/vstat/deputy/.
The license, once purchased, should be given to Cindy, the church secretary.
It is the couple’s responsibility that a valid license be in the parish office no later than one week prior to the wedding.


Is it necessary to print a program or an “order of service” to distribute at the church?
No. While having such a program is not required, you are welcome to make this momento available to your guests, especially if there will be people present from other faith traditions. Creating a program is a wonderful opportunity to share about, and explain, your Catholic faith as well as components of the Marriage Rite.

The printing and distribution of such materials is the sole responsibility of the couple and the content of this
must be approved by the Liturgical Coordinator prior to printing .


When is the wedding rehearsal?
Typically, the rehearsal takes place in the church on the Friday evening before the wedding. However, other times can be arranged.

Do we light a unity candle as part of the wedding liturgy?
Although not encouraged, it is possible to incorporate the lighting of a unity candle only in a wedding that is celebrated outside of Mass.

Is any additional paperwork required?
Yes. You will need a certificate of Baptism dated not more than 6 months prior to the wedding day
. This certificate should note the date and location of your Confirmation as well. If this information is not contained on this certificate you will need to provide other documentation verifying that you were confirmed.

You must also provide the certificate you were issued upon completion of the Marriage Preparation program, as well as any other supporting documentation that Fr. Mark may require.


How can we best spiritually prepare for our wedding day?
Great question! There are many excellent resources that can aid you in journeying together as you approach the altar to celebrate your commitment to each other.

You may want to consider taking the “Created & Redeemed” course offered at STACM; it is an explanation of the “Theology of the Body” (the teachings of Pope John Paul II in relation to creation, gender, and sexuality). There is also a list of suggested reading materials on the parish website which will be helpful in your growth and preparation.

In the week prior to celebrating your marriage, you will want to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Please know that this is a requirement for all Catholics who wish to be married at STACM
. There are a variety of options for you to do so. Fr. Mark hears confessions on Saturdays from 3:30-4:15 p.m. at Canadian Martyrs located at 5900 Inglis Street in Halifax. Fr. Mark is also available by appointment.

If you are more comfortable availing yourself to the sacrament elsewhere, several parishes in the HRM have Saturday confessions and St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica also has a Wednesday night option. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to ensure you have gone to Confession prior to the wedding day. For more information on preparing yourself for this Sacrament of Peace, visit the
“Sacraments” section of the website and click on “Reconciliation.”