Both partners do not have to be a Catholic in order to be sacramentally married in the Catholic Church, but both must be baptized Christians (and at least one must be a Catholic). Non-Christians cannot receive the sacraments. For a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic Christian, express permission is required from his or her bishop. A Catholic can marry an unbaptized person, but such marriages are natural marriages only; they are not sacramental marriages. The Church, therefore, discourages them and requires a Catholic who wishes to marry an unbaptized person to receive a special dispensation from his or her bishop. Still, if the dispensation is granted, a non-sacramental marriage is valid and can take place inside of a Catholic church.
The Roman Catholic wedding rite takes place with the Sacrament of Matrimony, one of the seven sacraments Catholics believe are channels of God's grace. The ceremony consists, at least, of three biblical readings, the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings, the Prayer of the Faithful, the nuptial blessing, prayers and appropriate music.
The Roman Catholic wedding is rich in tradition and liturgy. Since a wedding is primarily a worship service, worship and praise of God who calls a man and a woman together in marriage, great care should go into planning the ceremony itself. The Church offers this sacred opportunity to join with family and friends in dedicating the couple's marriage to God, the author of all love.
The marriage ceremony is not a private ceremony, but rather a public ritual. It is celebrated in the community prayer space (the church building, not outdoors) and encourages those who have gathered not only to witness the vows of the couple, but also to participate fully in the liturgy.
The Sacrament usually takes place during a Mass, referred to as a Nuptial Mass, usually celebrated in the morning or early afternoon. The Catholic Church encourages the couple - and other Catholic bridal party members - to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony. weddings are not scheduled for Holy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday, nor are weddings scheduled for those hours when Mass is read for the congregation.
The church is the appropriate setting for a wedding because it is a place sanctified by communal worship and the place where the sacrament of marriage is more significantly symbolized. The wedding usually takes place in the parish church of the bride's family.
When a marriage takes place between two Catholics of mixed rites, it is the rite of the groom that determines the service to be used. The power to transfer rites from the groom's church to that of the bride rests with the Church.