One of the roles of a Catholic pastor is to make sure that his congregation is properly instructed regarding Church teachings and any applicable rules and regulations. In particular, the Church’s teaching on Marriage seems to need my emphasis at this time.
Marriage between two baptized persons (one male and one female) is considered a sacrament. It is something sacred and holy. It is a symbol of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church.
Ordinarily for Catholics this sacrament (the wedding ceremony) should take place in the parish Church of one of the parties (not on the beach in Jamaica, not in somebody’s garden or backyard, not in the Little Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, not in Disney World, etc.) All of these aforementioned circumstances I have had to deal with personally over the past 25+ years! Yes, dispensations (special permissions) are sometimes granted by the bishop for various pastoral needs. However, the norm for a Catholic marriage is in a sacred place—a church building.
Again, in ordinary circumstances, the wedding ceremony should be celebrated before a validly ordained Catholic priest or deacon (not by a former Catholic priest claiming to be “open” to everyone and everything, not by a Justice of the Peace, etc.) and two witnesses. Unless a dispensation is granted by the bishop or his delegate, these regulations apply to all Catholics.
While I cannot explain every detail of what is required to be married in the Church here, I can certainly recommend that anyone seeking to get married in the future or desiring to rectify a marriage that may not have occurred properly (having a marriage "convalidated"), should see one of the parish priests for assistance.
Finally, those who were not properly married in the Church should refrain from receiving Holy Communion until such a time when the marriage can be convalidated or rectified.
When in doubt, ask one of the parish priests.
Fr. Ed Namiotka