The most often asked question related to the Catholic Church and Weddings that I hear is “Why can I not get married outdoors by a priest?”
A good question. A reasonable question. Just this week a bride to be said to me “Out in God’s Creation” Obviously, personally I think it is fine since safely over 95% of the weddings I help with are outdoors.
In answer to the question, I will give my unofficial answer for anyone who may want to know the answer beyond just not understanding why the Catholic Church in many dioceses does not allow outdoor weddings.
Many dioceses hang on to the notion that we find God primarily in the Church building. For those of us in our 70s or a few years younger, that is what we learned. The Church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacle is where we best experience the presence of God. That was what we were taught and what I suspect most of us believed prior to the Vatican Council in the 60s.
Today like the bride to be I mentioned above, I hear couples say, “Where can I be more close to God than in Nature?” To me that reflects a change in our thinking about religion and spirituality. We tend to be more inclined to believe now that God is everywhere and not just in Church. It is a change in emphasis from doctrine to spirituality. When I was young in the 1950s the Church was about the Baltimore Catechism and what we needed to believe to get to heaven. Unfortunately, some or perhaps many of the bishops and hierarchy in general are still holding on to and emphasizing doctrine.
Having been an active priest for 20 years I can appreciate and understand the dilemma of the church maintaining the traditional teaching. Having been an inactive and married priest now for 26 years I can easily appreciate what is in the mind and heart and understanding of the faithful, the people of God.
Almost all of the weddings I help with are outdoors. In any case, my goal is to treat the marriage ceremony as sacred no matter where it takes place because of the specialness of what the couple is doing.