My cousin is getting married, and he is not a Catholic. They will be having a dinner at a restaurant and have asked me to lead the prayer for the newlyweds. Is that allowed? They also requested for me to let them say their marriage vows.
A few introductory questions. You said that the prospective couple want you “to let them say their marriage vows.” That sounds like they want you to officiate at their weddings, e.g., as a justice of the peace. If you’re empowered to do so, you could under the following conditions:
- Your cousin is not a fallen-way Catholic and has not been previously married. If he has been married and divorced and received an annulment regarding this first union, that would be good. But you still couldn’t officiate at his marriage because he would be bound by the law of the Catholic Church to be wed according to the marriage ritual of the Church, or to receive a valid dispensation therefrom. This relates to the God-given power of binding and loosing that St. Peter and the other apostles—and by extension, their apostolic successors—received from Jesus (see Matthew 16:18-19; 18:15-18). If he never was a Catholic and yet received an annulment from the Church after a civil divorce, he would be free to marry again.
- Your cousin’s fiancée is not a Catholic in full communion with the Church, nor a fallen-away Catholic, nor been previously married. The same guidelines as in 1 above apply if his fiancée has been married, civilly divorced and received an annulment from the Church.
If neither is actively Catholic, nor fallen-way from the Faith, nor previously married—or has been married but has been civilly divorced and received an annulment from the Church—that would clear the way for you to joyfully participate in their wedding and possibly even officiate at their exchange of vows, presuming, again, your qualified to do so.
One additional caveat. What is the nature of their wedding vows? Are they clearly affirming that marriage is a lifelong covenant, i.e., “until death do us part”? If so, great. If not, continue to be their friends and charitably tell them that “marriage is for keeps,” and thus as a friend you don’t want to affirm them in a bad decision, which would be an invalid marriage, as well as because of the detrimental impact their prospective civil marriage and—also more likely—divorce would have on their prospective kids and also other family members and friends.
Finally, assuming all of the boxes above have been satisfactorily checked, leading the prayer for the newlyweds at their reception dinner would not pose any moral problem.