In response to one of my recent posts ‘Stages of A Traditional Catholic Courtship’, I have had some people ask me what a Betrothal is, so I decided to go into the Betrothal Rite today.
The Catholic Rite of Betrothal is an old Catholic Rite, going back to the early days of the Church, which is part of the engagement process of a couple. It is generally done AFTER the proposal and engagement of the couple.
In ancient times, many Catholic priests and parishes did not consider a Catholic couple’s engagement to be valid until they have had a betrothal.
This Rite is now being revived and brought back into practice by many within Traditional Latin Mass circles.
DEFINITION AND MEANING:
A betrothal is the giving of one’s troth – one’s true faith and promise. In essence, it is a promise that the couple gives each other to get married.
Today, the Code of Canon Law today regards betrothals as contracts, as they are mutually agreed on by both parties, or made by one and accepted by the other party.
According to the Catholic encyclopedia:
Betrothal, in the Catholic church, is a deliberate and free, mutual, true promise, externally expressed, of future marriage between determinate and fit persons.
It is a promise, compact, or agreement — not merely an intention; and, like all contracts, it must be entered into with deliberation proportionate to the obligation which it begets; it must be free from force, substantial error, and grave fear.
The promise given must be mutual; a promise on the part of one only, with acceptance by the other, does not constitute a betrothal.
The consent, of course, as in all contracts, must be true, or sincere, not feigned; it must be given with the intention of binding oneself, and this intention must be expressed verbally, by writing, or by action, in person or by proxy.
Lastly, this contract, like matrimony, can exist only between two definite persons whose capacity is recognized by the church; that is, between whom there is no matrimonial impediment, either as regards the licitness or validity of the contract.
The betrothal is a promise of future marriage, and hence it differs from the marriage contract itself, which deals with that state as in the present.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ENGAGEMENT AND A BETROTHAL:
- An engagement is an intention to marry; a betrothal is a morally binding contract.
- With an engagement, it is easier to back out of the relationship and sell the ring; with a betrothal, you can’t just do that without grave cause, as a betrothal is a vow, an oath with special meaning under Canon law. See Canon 1191 section on vows and oaths,
- While an engagement demonstrates serious intent to marry, a betrothal deepens the seriousness of that intent. You know that he is REALLY keen on getting married to you when he goes through a betrothal with you.
- An engagement has no priestly blessing, but when you undergo the Rite of Betrothal, you receive priestly blessing for your engagement and your engagement ring is also blessed.
- An engagement has no special graces attached; while a betrothal disposes you to many graces, working in a way a sacramental does. As an engaged couple, it is always a good thing to be able to start your marriage on a very solid foundation and to have as many graces as possible, especially before the wedding. Wedding planning itself can be very stressful and tasking on the relationship and the first few years of marriage can be testing, so why not make things a little easier for yourself?
SHOULD AN ENGAGED CATHOLIC COUPLE UNDERGO THE RITE OF BETROTHAL?
My answer is yes.
Restoration of Sacred Rites brings many graces and helps us become better grounded in the fullness of truth.
Although there is no requirement today to have a betrothal ceremony, I highly recommend it.
After all, the Blessed Virgin Mary was betrothed to her spouse, Joseph and the Holy Family is our template and role model for creating healthy, happy holy Catholic families.
The text for the Rite of Betrothal can be found HERE.
You can watch an overview of Cynthia Burley’s Rite of Betrothal HERE.
You can also read more about the the history of betrothals, its formalities, its effects and procedures the or breach of promise HERE.
ad Jesum per Mariam