It’s catching on in Baltimore. And yes, it’s allowed. As Canon Law notes, Catholic weddings should take place in a parish, but may be celebrated elsewhere with permission of the bishop.
And a lot of people like that.
From the Catholic Review:
When Colin Rainey and his wife, Gina, were looking for wedding venues, the great outdoors was calling.
“We just wanted that natural feel for our wedding,” said Rainey, a parishioner of St. Joseph, Cockeysville. “With COVID, it also made it easier to choose an outdoor venue.”
The pair was married June 11, 2021, by Monsignor Richard B. Hilgartner at Riverdale Manor in Lancaster, Pa. The outdoor reception followed at the same location. Monsignor Hilgartner, a family friend, baptized Rainey and three of his four siblings and officiated the wedding of his sister.
As a bonus, Rainey noted that having the event outdoors allowed them to keep their wedding pictures mask-free.
According to Dr. Diane Barr, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Raineys’ was one of 148 approved outdoor Catholic weddings in 2021. There were 815 total weddings in the archdiocese that year.
Archbishop Lori authorized a three-year experimental period for the policy allowing weddings outside of a parish church in 2018, and it became permanent three years later. The policy came about after conversations with couples who wanted to be married in the church but also wished to host the wedding at a special location.
“They were finding that couples were not coming for any kind of preparation or even conversation about marriage once they found out that their chosen venue was ‘not permitted,’ and they’d have to somehow identify a Catholic church for another ceremony,” Barr said. “In essence, the church was telling the couple that they would have to choose between getting married in a ceremony officially recognized in the church and a venue they had already chosen for this occasion.”
… Father Matthew Himes, associate director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and chaplain at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has performed six outdoor weddings in the past three and a half years he has been a priest. Locations include backyards of family homes, private venues and resorts. He said during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more weddings outdoors due to couples’ health concerns.
According to Father Himes, outdoor weddings are not allowed to include a full Mass; instead, they combine a Liturgy of the Word and the Rite of Marriage.
“I believe that many of the couples who get married outside of a parish church would not get married in the church if it were not for the church allowing for this form of marriage,” Father Himes said. “Having this opportunity for couples is an opportunity to walk with and give couples a positive experience of the church.”
One other place that I’m aware of allows outdoor weddings: St. Augustine in Florida.
The diocese even has two designated locations for outdoor weddings: the Marywood Retreat Center (which can also host the reception and even provide overnight accommodations for guests) and the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.
I’ve visited both places — even leading two deacon retreats last year at Marywood — and can report they are lovely, tasteful, fully “Catholic” settings.
I wrote about this more than a decade ago and noted:
A priest may bring Christ to the people and into the world by celebrating the Mass in an unusual public venue – a mall or a beach or a cruise ship dining room.
But a marriage is different.
By bringing themselves before the Church, and into a church, and bearing witness in that sacred setting, a couple performs a public act of humility, and faith, and belief.
They don’t expect God to come to them. They go to Him.
It is a deeper sign of how they are beginning their lives together, and what will be important in their marriage.
Pastoral considerations, and special circumstances, might call for making some adjustments. But it seems to me: two Catholics who grasp the commitment they are making, and who understand what is at stake, and who believe in the faith into which they were baptized, should not really want to be married anywhere else.