The Sacrament of Marriage
St. Agatha - St James Church, with its stately and bright interior is a beautiful setting for your wedding. Nearby, there are great restaurants and hotels. The Church is easily accessible by car or public transport. St. Agatha – St. James is available for wedding ceremonies all day on Saturday and on Friday afternoon and evening. Contact Carole Tokarczyk at (267) 787-5000, ext.1 or email her at email@example.com to discuss reserving a date for your wedding.
Marriage in the Catholic Church is until “death do us part”, which in our time is quite counter-cultural. At the time of Christ, similarly, divorce was widely accepted in the Roman Empire. Among the Jewish people, for example, a man could divorce his wife by simply handing her a writ of divorce for almost any reason.
Jesus raised the bar on marriage, declaring that “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). The Catholic Church remains faithful to this teaching of Jesus. As a sacrament, the Church teaches that Holy Matrimony was instituted by Christ as one of the ways that people can receive the grace of God. Marriage is a sacrament of service. The husband and wife serve each other and their children in marriage, and thereby benefit the community.
And, as the couple confronts the challenges of everyday life, Christ provides them with the grace to persevere and grow in holiness. Perhaps as a result, In the United States Catholic couples are the least likely of any religious affiliation to divorce.
At St Agatha – St James Parish we have developed a Marriage Preparation Program to prepare couples to understand Catholic marriage and to help start them on the path for lifelong, fulfilling marriages. We prepare couples for weddings for our own or for other parishes.
Click on weddings if you wish to explore scheduling your wedding at St Agatha – St James Church.
Have Your Wedding Here.
Congratulations on your engagement!
Your decision to enter into the relationship of married life is a serious one, and it serves as a wonderful sign of hope and strength to the Catholic faith community at large.
Your decision has been reached after much discernment and prayerful thought, but it is just the first step in the process of building a successful marriage. The community of St. Agatha-St. James, along with your family and friends are prepared to support and encourage you in the celebration of your wedding, as well as in your life-long commitment to each other.
The time of engagement is an important period that allows you to deepen your love and prepare for the rest of your life together. In this time your commitment to one another will grow by working together in preparation for the celebration of your wedding and looking closely at the realities of marriage. It is a time for richer dialogue, greater trust and fuller sharing of your deepest and more personal hopes, dreams and values.
Marriage is a sacrament of the Church, and so, we hope that your wedding be a profoundly spiritual experience where your witness may truly become a model and reflection of the immense love that Jesus Christ has bestowed on all the Church.
The following sets of forms and guidelines are intended to assist in a joy-filled, reverent and prayerful celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage within the context of the Church’s prayer. These materials are meant to help you prepare not only for the wedding day, but for marriage, a lifetime experience of hope and joy, a faithful promise you have both chosen to offer and receive “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor each other all the days of your lives!” We ask you to take the time to read these materials carefully as they have been prepared to help you in planning, as well as to promote clarity regarding the expectations and requirements for weddings. We look forward to working with you as you embark on this great journey. We are committed to working with you as you prepare to celebrate your wedding day and beyond.
Couples are required to complete the Pre-Cana education classes prior to being married in the Church. If you are being married here, it is strongly recommended that if at all possible you complete PreCana here at St. Agatha-St. James.
Please read about Pre-Cana on our website.
Wedding Times: Generally, the Church is available for weddings on Saturdays between 10:00am and 5:00pm as well as Fridays between 3pm and 5pm. Please check available dates with Carole at 267-787- 5000 x 1. The time of your wedding must be chosen in consultation with the priest/deacon who will celebrate your wedding and may be determined by his availability.
The Church isn’t available for weddings on Sundays or on Holy Saturday. There may be other special times when the Church isn’t available so please check with Carole at 267-787- 5000 x 1.
Priest or Deacon: The bridal couple should seek a priest (Nuptial Mass) or deacon (Marriage Ceremony) who is known to them or their family.
General Timeline: Inquiries are to be made at least 9 months before the wedding. After the parish receives (1) the couple’s information sheet, (2) letters of permission from current parishes, and (3) a deposit of $500.00 (non-refundable), the wedding date and time is set. The letter of acceptance of the date and time from the priest/deacon who will celebrate the wedding is expected within thirty days of the setting of the wedding date. At least 90 days before the wedding the balance is due. Balance varies depending on the following criteria:
Nonparishioners or New Parishioners (up to two years): additional $1250.00 is due (Total $1750.00)
New Parishioners (two to five year contributors): additional $1000.00 (Total $1500.00)
Active Parishioners (over 5 year contributors): additional $500.00 (Total $1000.00)
Drexel and Penn Alums (Active in Newman Ministry, at discretion of Pastor): additional $1000.00 (Total $1500.00)
For each category, music is additional. Music must be arranged using the services of our Wedding Music Coordinator, in addition to any other choices the couple wishes to make. For Nuptial Masses, the stipend to the altar server is additional.
At the time of final payment, the wedding rehearsal time is confirmed, with the agreement of the priest/deacon who will celebrate the wedding and conduct the rehearsal.
Approximately two months prior to the wedding, the celebrant should submit all paperwork, having met with the couple and completed all requirements. We recommend that the celebrant keep copies and submit all paperwork either in person or by priority mail. Paperwork includes: the Certificate of Completion of PreCana if couple attended PreCana other than at St. Agatha-St. James; copies of baptismal certificates dated not more than six months before the wedding; PNI for bride and groom and two witness forms each for both bride and groom.
Note about the visiting priest/deacon: he is to ask his bishop/superior to attest in writing that he is a priest/deacon in good standing. Any gift or stipend to the visiting priest/deacon will be the responsibility of the bridal couple.
Our Church is a vital urban parish providing for the spiritual and ministerial needs of its people and the surrounding community. It is a jewel-like setting for your wedding day, the heart of your faith life, the center for liturgical celebration and the sacraments. Your wedding fee assists in covering the expenses incurred by the parish in helping you to celebrate your wedding day, such as the maintenance and upkeep of the historic church building (including heating and electricity).
Your generosity is greatly appreciated!
$500.00 nonrefundable deposit is required at the time of reserving the wedding date.
*Please note: The stipend for a visiting priest is NOT included in the wedding fee paid to the Church.
Music at your wedding: The SS AJ Wedding Music Coordinator consults with the bridal couple and assists them in planning the music for their wedding. She also is the usual cantor and keyboardist for weddings. Other musicians can be contracted by the bridal couple with the knowledge of the Wedding Music Coordinator. All music must be cleared with her and licenses applied for in the correct manner either by the Coordinator or by the couple. The Music Coordinator is not present for the wedding rehearsal. Other musicians are also not present at the rehearsal unless they have been contracted by the couple and agreed to attend the rehearsal.
You have chosen to witness your mutual promises of love and fidelity in the Catholic Church, and your faith is an important determining factor in how you will enter into this intimate relationship of marriage. The Church is responsible for discerning your intentions and capacities for making this promise, and is required to assemble various documents.
The wedding paperwork:
Before you can be married, you and/or the priest/deacon who will celebrate your wedding will need to submit:
1. Baptismal Certificates: If you are a baptized Catholic, you should contact the parish where you were baptized and ask for a certification of your Baptism complete with the Church seal. It is to be dated no more than six months before your planned wedding. Ask for it to be mailed to St. Agatha-St. James unless the priest who will marry you requests that it be sent to him. Eventually, all documentation will be kept in your wedding file in the parish archives.
If you are a baptized Christian, but you are not a Catholic, you should obtain some proof of baptism, e.g., a letter from the church showing that the baptism was recorded, a certificate of Baptism, etc. Send this to the SS AJ as soon as you receive it.
2. Witness Declarations: Each of you must provide the names of two different witnesses who will testify that you are free to marry your intended spouse. The priest/deacon who will marry you will interview these individuals. Please provide complete contact information to the priest. These witnesses should be members of your immediate family or other persons who have known you well through your adult years. The witnesses need not be Catholic. These declarations are to be signed by the witness and dated. If necessary, they can be obtained from another Parish as long as the signing is attested by a Catholic priest/deacon at the Rectory location. These documents remain in your wedding file in the Parish archives.
3. PreNuptial Investigation: Each of you will meet individually with the priest/deacon who will marry you to discuss your freedom to marry and your understanding of the nature and requirements of a Catholic marriage. The priest/deacon will ask each of you to sign the completed questionnaire. These completed questionnaires remain in your wedding file in the Parish archives.
4. Permissions and Dispensations: Catholic Church law imposes certain requirements that must be met before any wedding is valid and lawful. These requirements are designed to protect the high value that the Church has for Christian marriage. If a couple who desires a Catholic marriage cannot meet any one of these requirements, the couple may be helped by the priest to obtain a dispensation, or exception, to the requirements. For instance, if a Catholic wishes to marry a person of another faith, the Catholic requests via the priest a dispensation from the local bishop. As part of the request, the Catholic party reaffirms his/her commitment to the Catholic faith and his/her intention to remain in the faith, and promises to do what he/she can, short of causing harm to the marriage relationship, to raise any children of the marriage as members of the Catholic community. The priest determines if you need a dispensation, and makes the application for you.
5. Civil License: Every couple who desires to be married in the State of Pennsylvania must obtain a State license from a local County government office. This must be presented to SS A&J at least 4 weeks before your wedding. All instructions for obtaining the civil license are available online.
6 Declaration of Nullity: If you have been married before, you must submit this declaration of Nullity at the time you reserve your wedding date to demonstrate that you are now free to marry in the Catholic Church. This applies to all forms of previous marriage, whether by a judge, a religious leader in another faith tradition, or common law. Demonstrate that you are now free to marry in the Catholic Church.
It is understood that respect, decorum, proper attire (modest dress) and dignified behavior will be maintained and observed at all times by you, your wedding party and all your guests in regards to the Church property and building, the sanctuary and the entire staff. No alcohol is to be brought into Church either for the rehearsal or the wedding.
Some Guidelines for the Rehearsal: Punctuality for your rehearsal and ceremony is presumed. Ask people to arrive fifteen minutes before the scheduled time of the rehearsal.
The wedding rehearsal can be held on Thursday or Friday evening usually between 4:30 pm and 6:30pm, depending on the availability of the priest/deacon who is to marry you. The rehearsal is usually less than one hour and is an important part of the preparation for the ceremony. It allows members of the wedding party to become familiar with the environment of the Church building and with the roles they will assume as part of the liturgy. Your priest/deacon will direct the rehearsal, helping all concerned to understand their role in the prayerful nature of the celebration.
The following should be present at the rehearsal: bride and groom, all parents, step parents, Grandparents (optional), bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, readers, extraordinary ministers of Communion, and gift bearers.
A responsible adult must accompany any children who are in the wedding party.
Outside professional consultants that you retain will, of course, operate within the permission and instructions of the Parish Pastoral Staff. Please let us know if you have contracted with someone to help with your wedding. They will understand that their responsibilities do not pertain to the liturgy.
Photography/Videography: Not Permitted in the Sacristy. Flash photographs and/or extra lighting equipment is not to be used during the Consecration of the Mass. Photographers and equipment/videographers and equipment are not permitted in the sanctuary (altar area). One individual at a time may be in the choir loft. A single stationary video camera may be placed in the choir loft thirty minutes prior to the ceremony.
After the Ceremony the wedding party may return for pictures. Flash and other lighting equipment may be used at this time.
Remember that a late start to your wedding may result in shortened photograph opportunities afterwards.
General Guidelines for you and your florist: Flowers and decorations should be tasteful and complementary to the building.
Sanctuary appointments, such as the ambo (pulpit), presider chair, candlesticks, banners, altar cloths, Advent wreaths, the paschal candle and any and all art or liturgical environment pieces may not be altered or removed. Boutonnières, bouquets and corsages may be delivered to the Church on the day of the wedding.
Flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary have been a custom retained by various Catholic cultures. Many brides choose to present a floral offering to The Blessed Mother Mary at the end of the service. Please consult with the priest if this is an option you wish to include in your ceremony.
Keep in mind that different colors are used in the church during the various liturgical season throughout the year. You should expect to find some of these colors present in the Church or in the sanctuary. These items may not be removed or altered.
Questions regarding any season colors being used on your wedding day may be directed to the officiating priest and the Parish Staff.
General calendar for liturgical seasons and corresponding colors:
Advent / violet
Christmas Season / white
Winter Ordinary Time / green
Lent / purple
Easter Season / white
Pentecost / red
Summer Ordinary Time / green
Pew end decorations must be cleared with Carole, the Parish Administrator.
Aisle runners are discouraged for safety reasons. Similarly for safety and ecological reasons, confetti, bubbles, rice, sparklers, and birdseed are not permitted inside the Church or outside on the Church steps or pavement. Silk flower petals are permitted as are silver bells
Parking: The spots in our two parking lots, one behind the Newman Center and one between the Rectory and the Newman Center, are rented by the month and the use of the lots is not included with the Church fee.
There are several nearby parking lots for the public – one that can be entered in the 3700 Block of Walnut Street or from 38th Street between Sansom and Walnut Streets.
We regret that Changing Facilities are simply not available inside the Church building, so please arrive already dressed in wedding attire.
The groomsmen should arrive at least thirty minutes before the wedding and gather in the rear of Church. They can use the Baptistery if needed. Groomsmen serve as ushers (greeters) in the Church entrances, welcoming and assisting guests, distributing the wedding programs, and directing or escorting guests to their seats.
Bridesmaids should arrive twenty minutes before the wedding and gather in the rear of Church.
Mass with Communion or Marriage Ceremony:
The bridal couple will determine if the marriage will be celebrated by a priest in the context of a Nuptial Mass (with Communion) or by a deacon in the context of a Marriage Ceremony (without Communion).
The determining criteria will center on the religious background of the bride and groom, and which form of liturgy best accommodates the guests assembled to celebrate their unity.
Readings and Liturgical Prayers:
You should review Together for Life, by Rev. Joseph M. Champlin, which contains various prayers and blessings and the Scripture readings most appropriate for use at weddings – provided either by the priest who will celebrate your wedding or St. Agatha-St. James. In consultation with the priest/deacon who will preside at the wedding, you will select the passages from Scripture and choose the individuals who will read them at your wedding.
Non-scriptural readings or poems are never permitted in place of the Scriptures. Weddings are celebrated according to the worship books of the Roman Catholic Church: the Missal, the Lectionary, and the Rite of Marriage.
In the case of weddings where ministers of other Christian denominations or other faiths are taking part, appropriate adaptations may be made after consultation with that minister and the officiating priest.