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Catholic Wedding Ceremonies in The Wine Country

Options abound for marriage ceremonies in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys for couples wishing to celebrate their Catholic heritage. From the strict Roman Catholic Church wedding with a Nuptial Mass to the simple hillside ceremony blessed with personal spiritual intentions, weddings here are varied.

Ceremonies reflecting the coming together of religions and cultures, such as Agnostic/Atheist/Buddhist/Hindu/Jewish-Catholic can be easily accommodated.

Marrying in accordance with the Roman Catholic faith can be confusing, and for some, not an option. Other options do present themselves, however: The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict. This organization fills a unique role helping couples prepare their marriage ceremony in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Although separate from the Roman Catholic Church, The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict offers their experience, passion and creativity to couples requesting guidance in creating ceremonies for varied spiritual and religious backgrounds.

The goal of the organization is that each couple has a personal and spirit-filled ceremony. The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict provide Catholic priests and deacons who are not only empowered by their ordination, but also authorized by a bishop to serve couples sacramentally and, hence, may legally solemnize California weddings.

This organization can work with couples to preserve aspects of their Catholic and/or other faith and beliefs when planning an outdoor wedding.

Couples are encouraged to blend their own beliefs, culture and family traditions as an expression of respect and love for one another during their wedding ceremony. They ask for a ceremony that reflects their philosophy and that is creative and open to let their ceremony be exactly what they envision.

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict recognize that the ceremony itself exemplifies the love of each for the other expressed within the loving presence of family and friends celebrating the “union of two into one.”

A Marriage Recognized by the Roman Catholic Church

Any couple seeking to have a Roman Catholic ceremony and desiring that their marriage be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church must contact their respective local Roman Catholic Parish. If the couple is from out of state or is not a member of a parish in Sonoma or Napa, they must contact a parish in Napa/Sonoma County to find out if a Roman Catholic priest is willing to marry them and if the church sanctuary is available for their date.

This requirement applies to couples who are both Catholic, and to couples where one person is Catholic and the other is non-Catholic. There are no logistical differences between Sonoma and Napa counties for requirements to marry in the Roman Catholic Church. (It goes without saying that one should check with Roman Catholic Church authorities, regardless.)

All couples requesting a marriage in the Roman Catholic Church are required to go through a marriage preparation course in advance of their wedding date. The Roman Catholic Church provides different options for marriage preparation.

The choices might include professional counselors, shared experiences from other married couples, weekend workshops and/or other possible avenues to help with marriage preparation. The couple should contact their local Roman Catholic parish for further information.

(The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict provide information on marriage preparation. )

A Catholic Wedding in a Roman Catholic Church

The typical components of a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony that takes place in a church include scripture readings, blessing of the rings and an exchange of vows, and nuptial blessing.

A ceremony within the Roman Church generally affords little opportunity for personalization other than choice of readings, music and floral decor. It is best to consult with the priest officiating at the ceremony for specific requirements, restrictions, and limitations.

In most instances when the bride and groom are both Roman Catholic and the ceremony takes place within a church, a Nuptial Mass with a sharing of Communion is in order. If only one member of the couple is Roman Catholic, it would be unusual for a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony to include Mass.

Communion in the Roman Catholic Church can only involve Roman Catholics, so holding communion in an instance such as this would exclude the non-Catholic individual and guests. (A Nuptial Mass officiated by the White Robed Monks of St. Benedict, a jurisdiction in the Old (Dutch) Catholic tradition, offers Communion to all present, being one with the couple, recognizing that the historical Christ did not typically say no to anyone and did say where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. Matt 18:20)

An Outdoor Catholic Wedding Ceremony

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, serving the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, does not allow outdoor ceremonies for a Roman Catholic wishing a marriage to be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes Roman Catholics marrying in an outdoor setting as celebrating a legal marriage, but not necessarily a sacramental marriage.

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict, being in the Old (Dutch) Catholic tradition, with priests/deacons authorized by a bishop to serve sacramentally do offer a sacramental marriage, albeit, perhaps not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, given the Roman Catholic Church’s view of itself. (Catholic tradition requires the authorization by bishop for a deacon/priest empowered by ordination to serve sacramentally thereby preserving sacramental integrity.)

Roman Catholic priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa are typically not allowed to officiate at a wedding ceremony outside a church building or at an outdoor wedding site such as a winery. Roman Catholics celebrating their marriage in an outdoor ceremony may, at a later date, as some so opt, visit a Roman Catholic Church to have their marriage blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. This process still involves marriage preparation by a Roman Catholic priest in a chosen parish.

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict fill a special role for couples wishing to have an outdoor wedding while preserving aspects of the Catholic ceremony. The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict provide Catholic priests and deacons who are empowered by their ordination and authorized by a bishop to serve couples sacramentally and, hence, may legally solemnize California weddings.

Both organizations serve couples with no formal religious tradition and in situations where one person is Catholic and the other is not; both organizations also help couples where both have a Catholic background, yet desire a ceremony that honors the best of the Catholic tradition and is more contemporary and relative to their relationship and evolution of their spirituality.

Outdoor weddings lend themselves to more opportunity for creating a customized ceremony. It is recommended that for a Napa/Sonoma County outdoor wedding, the couple begins planning at least one year in advance in order to secure a desired site and officiant.

Notes on Annulment of Past Marriages

If a Roman Catholic is marrying a person who was previously married, or if both individuals have been previously married in the Roman Catholic Church, then prior marriages would have to go through the annulment process; this generally takes one year.

Once the previous marriages are annulled, it is possible for the new marriage to be recognized within the Roman Catholic Church. If a previous marriage was not annulled, the couple would be prevented from being able to marry in the Roman Catholic Church.

It is common for some couples to have an outdoor wedding ceremony and, upon the annulment process completion, have their new marriage blessed in Roman Catholic Church on a future date.


The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict provide authentic, inclusive and spirit-filled wedding ceremonies throughout the Sonoma and Napa Wine Country, plus the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Clients come from the world-over to blend Eastern, Jewish, Christian and non-Christian traditions into their wedding celebration.

Many couples with whom they work have Catholic roots or Catholic heritage, and just as many couples practice other faiths, or who have no religious affiliation. Couples engage the organization that meets their desires and needs.

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict have centers in Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey as well as California. Many of their clerics are married and are experienced in a variety of occupations and hold advanced degrees. Each has been ordained in a Catholic jurisduction, Roman or otherwise.

Their essential aim is to serve each couple as they are wont as the couple unfolds their wedding ceremony. Priests and deacons possess, among other traits, high degrees of Presence and Affability, Poise and Composure, and Lightheartedness with a touch of Solemnity.

In short, they possess a high degree of professional decorum that honors you, your guests, and, most especially, the preciousness of the moment: the loving exchange of your vows to one another.

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