St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Rite of Matrimony

Policies and Procedures

I. Introduction

Congratulations on your engagement and your upcoming wedding!  All of us at St. Mary’s Cathedral share your joy, and we look forward to celebrating this important day. 

As you know, marriage is a sacrament, a sacred union, in which two people commit themselves to a permanent, faithful, and fruitful union.  In the love of husband and wife, we see reflected the very love of God.  Indeed, we say that the love of husband and wife, and the bond of marriage itself, point to the intimate union of Christ, the bridegroom, with his spouse, the Church.  There is no greater bond than this.

With that in mind, a wedding at St. Mary’s Cathedral will always respect the sacred character of the Sacrament of Marriage.  The policies and procedures which follow are all directed to a worthy and joy-filled celebration of your marriage.  As you plan your wedding, these guidelines will make sure that your wedding is both a happy and a holy event.

St. Mary’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Portland.  As such, it is also the “bishop’s church.”  Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Cathedral to model good liturgy, to respect liturgical norms, and to maintain a decorum that is worthy of a sacred place. 

Please feel free to contact the parish if you have any questions regarding your marriage.  It is our hope that your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life.  As it says in the Rite of Marriage, “God abundantly blesses your love.”  And we do, too.


II. Planning for Your Wedding

1. Step One.  The first step in planning a wedding at St. Mary’s Cathedral is to call the parish office (503-228-4397).  The wedding calendar fills up quickly, so it is best to call the office at least six months to a year before the wedding.  A staff member will assist you with some basic information, check the calendar for available days and times, provide a “marriage policies and procedures” brochure, and answer any questions you may have. 

2. To be married at St. Mary’s Cathedral, one or both parties should be a practicing Catholic. 

3. Weddings are celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral either by one of the priests or deacons assigned to the Cathedral, or by another priest or deacon selected by the couple.

a. Under normal circumstances, a priest or deacon at the Cathedral will witness the marriage.  This priest or deacon will also assist the couple with the necessary paperwork and preparations.  A priest or deacon from the Cathedral can also assist couples who plan to marry outside of Cathedral Parish.  In this case, please provide the name of the priest who will witness the marriage and the place where the marriage will take place.

b. A couple may also ask another priest or deacon to witness a marriage at the Cathedral.  In this case, the Cathedral must have the name and address of the priest or deacon when a date is set on the calendar.  Marriage preparation is normally done by the priest who will celebrate the marriage.  If this is not possible, a couple may ask a priest or deacon at Cathedral to assist them, or another priest or deacon of their choice.

4. Step Two.  Once a couple has selected a date for the wedding, they should make an appointment with the priest or deacon who will celebrate the marriage.  When it is established that a couple is able to enter into a Catholic marriage, the Cathedral is reserved for a specific day and time. There is a non-refundable fee of $100 to reserve the Cathedral for a wedding.


III. Times for Weddings

1. Weddings at the Cathedral are usually scheduled on Saturday, either in the morning or the afternoon.  Morning weddings are scheduled at 11:00, and a wedding party has use of the facilities from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.  Afternoon weddings are scheduled at 2:30, and a wedding party has use of the facilities from 12:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

2. Rehearsals take place on Friday, either from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., or from 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.  Rehearsals may be at other times by special arrangement.


IV. Marriage Preparation

1. A priest or deacon will lead a couple through marriage preparation.  This preparation includes official documentation, pre-marriage counseling, and liturgical planning.

2. The “official documentation” includes the “Freedom to Marry” form, witness forms, and the necessary permissions and dispensations.  Catholic parties must present a valid baptismal certificate that was issued within the last six months.  Christians baptized in other religious denominations should also present a baptismal certificate.

3. Various programs are offered to couples for “pre-marriage counseling.”

4. While much of the planning for the wedding ceremony is handled by the wedding coordinator (see below), the priest or deacon will assist in the “liturgical planning” for the wedding.


IV. Wedding Mass or Wedding Ceremony?

1. When two Catholics marry, the Rite of Marriage normally takes place within the context of a Mass.

2. When a Catholic marries a baptized member of another Christian denomination, the Rite of Marriage may take place either in a Mass or outside the Mass.  If done in the context of a Mass, only the Catholic party receives Holy Communion.

3. When a Catholic marries a non-baptized person, the Rite of Marriage takes place outside of Mass in a “Wedding Ceremony.” 


V. Wedding Coordinator

1. All weddings at St. Mary’s Cathedral must use the services of the Cathedral wedding coordinator.  The wedding coordinator will assist a couple in the practical planning of the wedding; these things include the seating, the entrance (bridal) processional, the placement of bridesmaids and groomsmen, the use of readers and Eucharistic ministers, access to dressing rooms, the wedding rehearsal, and general coordination of the wedding itself.

2. The fee for coordinator services is $400.  This fee is paid directly to the coordinator.

VI. Music

1. St. Mary’s Cathedral follows the guidelines of the Catholic Church regarding appropriate music for liturgical celebrations, including weddings.  Music is provided by Cathedral musicians and cantors, under the supervision of the Director of Music, Angela Westhoff-Johnson ([email protected]).  Only music and hymns appropriate for liturgical use are permitted at weddings.  Secular music is rarely permitted.  The Director of Music can assist a couple in choosing music that is suitable both for a wedding and the Cathedral.

2. Fees for music ($250 per musician and/or cantor) are paid directly to the musicians.

VII. Photographers and Videographers

1. Photographers and videographers are permitted to take pictures and video around the altar before and after the ceremony.  They may also use the courtyard.

2. Flash photography may be used during the opening processional as well as the closing recessional.

3. Once the bride and groom are in place at the altar, and during the ceremony itself, no flash photography is permitted.  Photographers and videographers are never permitted up the steps of the sanctuary (around the altar) during the wedding ceremony.

4. Photographers and videographers should remain unobtrusive throughout the ceremony, respecting the sacred character of the Cathedral and the wedding itself. 

VIII. Flowers

1. Couples make their own arrangements for flowers.  Before selecting flowers, it is recommended that a couple check with the wedding coordinator to make sure that floral arrangements are appropriate for the Cathedral and in the spirit of the liturgical season.

2. Flowers are never placed on the altar, nor should their placement touch the altar.

3. If bows are attached to the pews, pew clips (and not tape) should be used.

4. The wedding party is responsible for seeing that flowers are removed from the Cathedral after the ceremony.


IX. Other Practical Considerations: Candles, Servers, Aisle Runners, Rice, Birdseed, Flower Petals, and Alcohol

1. The standard liturgical practice at the Cathedral is to have four lit candles around the altar.  Couples may have a Unity Candle on a small table in front of the altar.  Other candles are generally not permitted.

2. Altar servers are the responsibility of the couple, though they are generally not needed.  If a couple wishes to have servers, they should arrive at the Cathedral at least 15 minutes before the ceremony.  It is customary to give a server $15-$20 (in cash) for services.

3. An aisle runner may be rented ($100) from the Cathedral.  No outside runners are permitted.

4. Rice and birdseed are never permitted in the Cathedral or on the Cathedral steps (bubbles are permitted outdoors).  Flower petals, including silk petals, are not to be dropped down the main aisle of the Cathedral.  They create a hazard and can stain the marble.

5. Alcoholic beverages are not appropriate in the Cathedral, on the Cathedral grounds, or in the dressing rooms on the day of the wedding.

X. Fees for Use of the Cathedral

1. There is a $100 non-refundable reservation fee given at the time a date is set.

2. There are two categories of fees for weddings at St. Mary’s Cathedral: 1) a parishioner, or the child of a parishioner; and 2) non-parishioners who wish to have their wedding at the Cathedral.


For the purposes of a wedding, a parishioner is a member who, at the time he or she inquires about a wedding, has been registered at Cathedral Parish for the previous 12 months. The cost for the use of the Cathedral by a parishioner is $600 (this does not include the Cathedral wedding coordinator, the cantor, or the Cathedral organist).


The cost for the use of the Cathedral by a non-parishioner is $1,500. The services of the Cathedral wedding coordinator, the cantor, and the Cathedral organist are in addition to this.

3. A request can be made for special consideration or a reduction of fees.

4. Fees for the use of the Cathedral are the property of the Cathedral.  A check should be made out to “St. Mary’s Cathedral.” 

5. If a couple wishes to give an honorarium to the priest or deacon who celebrates the wedding, it should be clearly marked and given to him personally.