Marriage Guidelines

From the Pastor

Dear Engaged Couple,

As pastor of The Immaculata, I wish to extend my most sincere congratulations to you both as you prepare for the Sacrament of Matrimony. Your wedding ceremony is a very special day for the Church as you promise to become a living sign of Christ’s unconditional love for his people.

Careful attention to the liturgy for your ceremony can enormously enhance the celebration, not only for the two of you, but for all who witness your marriage vows. Therefore, please use these guidelines to assist you in planning a wedding ceremony that will embrace both a spirit of faith and a spirit of prayer.

Please be assured of my prayer that God will dwell in your minds and hearts, with Jesus serving as the foundation of your new vowed life. May Christ richly bless you with a lifetime of happiness together.

Sincerely in Christ,

Contact Information

The Immaculata Catholic Church
University of San Diego Campus
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110
Parish Office: (619) 574-5700
FAX: (619) 574-5707


Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming nuptials! The parish community of The Immaculata rejoices with you during this blessed time in your lives. We would be honored to share our beautiful church with you as you begin your lifetime commitment to each other through the Sacrament of Marriage. We are eager to help make the occasion of your wedding a sacred and memorable event.

Saying Yes to a Catholic Marriage

Getting married in the Catholic Church is a journey of joy and faith, a life-long sacred commitment that calls a man and a woman to each other in a most profound and permanent way. It calls a couple to become a visible sign of Christ's unconditional and faithful love. It demands a living faith on the part of the couple and the awareness that they are entering into a covenant not only with each other, but also with God. Because of our belief that marriage is such a sacred commitment we believe that, like all other Sacraments, it deserves the careful attention and preparation on the part of all who are involved. In order to assist you in this process, we have put together the following guidelines for weddings at The Immaculata Catholic Church.

The Basics

 Who can marry at The Immaculata Church?

  • At least one member of the couple must be a baptized Catholic.

  • Both parties must be “free to marry” in the Catholic Church. All prior marriages need to be addressed prior to setting a date.

  • Parishioners and non-parishioners alike are welcome to marry at The Immaculata. Non-parishioners are required to do their preparation at their local parish and secure their own celebrant to preside at their wedding ceremony. The pastor of The Immaculata is only available to preside at parishioner’s weddings.

What does it cost to marry at The Immaculata?

  • The fee for use of the church is $1,100.00. A non-refundable deposit of $600.00 is required to confirm your date. The balance of $500.00 is due six (6) months before the wedding.

  • The fee for the church does not include music, décor or any other services except that of an Immaculata Wedding Coordinator, who will lead the rehearsal and assist you on the day of the wedding.

  • A required music fee of $350.00 is due three (3) months prior to your wedding ceremony and includes the services of an Immaculata cantor and accompanist.

  • Payments may be made by cash, credit card or check made payable to “The Immaculata”. Please note that cash and credit card payments must be made in person.

When are wedding ceremonies held?

  • Wedding ceremonies are held year-round, however special policies and restrictions may be in place during certain times of the liturgical year.

  • Wedding ceremonies at The Immaculata are held on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (We are unable to accommodate weddings between 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. due to our Reconciliation and Vigil Mass schedule.)

  • Friday weddings may be available during USD’s summer and winter breaks. Weddings are never held on Sundays.

How far in advance can I set a date? 

  • Wedding dates at The Immaculata may be scheduled up to 2 years in advance.

  • The Diocese of San Diego recommends that couples set a wedding date at least 9 months in advance to ensure they have sufficient time to complete the marriage preparation process.

Getting Started in 3 Steps!

Step #1: Set a Tentative Wedding Date

  • Your first step is to contact Janice at and she will let you know if your date is available.

  • Once Janice has confirmed an available date, she will place a 45-day tentative hold and send you the documents required to be completed to officially book your wedding date. (Please note: It is your responsibility to keep track of the 45-day deadline. After the deadline passes, your tentative hold may be released unless The Immaculata has officially confirmed your date.)

      FAQ’s about Previous Marriages

Step #2: Initial Meeting with a Priest/Deacon

  • Your next step to getting married at The Immaculata is to set up an initial meeting with your parish priest, deacon or lay wedding minister. They will determine your freedom to marry in the Catholic Church, explain the marriage formation process, and help you fill out the initial paperwork.
    • *Parishioners: Please contact the parish office to set up this appointment.

    • Non-Parishioners: Please contact the parish where you are attending or the church within whose boundaries you reside (your neighborhood church).

*Parishioners are those who have been registered and attending Mass regularly at The Immaculata for a period of at least 6 months prior to contacting the church for a wedding.

Step #3: Confirm your wedding date

  • Your wedding date will be confirmed upon receipt of the following items: (Please note that all required documents and the deposit payment must be turned in together.)

    1. Marriage Guidelines Agreement Form: This form is signed by the couple stating they have read these guidelines and agree to comply with everything outlined in it.
    2. Visiting Clergy Form: This form is to be signed by the priest or deacon who has agreed to preside at your wedding ceremony. (Non-parishioners only)

    3. Pastoral Agreement Form: This form is signed by the priest, deacon or lay wedding minister who has agreed to prepare you for marriage and complete your marriage file. (Non-parishioners only)

    4. Deposit payment of $600.00.

Start Your Preparation

Start your marriage formation

It is the Catholic Church’s desire for couples to be well-prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage. Dioceses and parishes offer several opportunities for marriage formation to help couples develop a better understanding of the sacrament and to evaluate and deepen their readiness to live married life. Couples living within the Diocese of San Diego are required to complete the preparation as outlined below. Couples living outside the Diocese of San Diego will need to complete the marriage preparation program(s) that are required within their own Diocese.

  1. Take the FOCCUS Inventory: The FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding and Study) Inventory is a questionnaire that targets areas important to marital success. The report generated at the conclusion of the questionnaire is used to focus communication on topics warranting further attention. Set up an appointment with your priest/deacon to discuss results.

  2. Choose a Mentor Couple: The Diocese of San Diego recommends the Witness to Love process, which allows engaged couples to choose a mentor couple from their own parish whom they see as a source of faith formation. The mentor couple would then accompany the engaged couple throughout their marriage preparation, including attending the programs below with the engaged couple. Set up an appointment with your priest/deacon for the 5th Witness to Love meeting, along with your mentors. 

  3. Attend the Celebrate Your Love - Diocesan Day Retreat: Celebrate Your Love is a one-day retreat held on Saturdays at locations throughout the Diocese. The program presents a summary of Catholic teaching on marriage and an overview of life skills essential for marriage. (Your clergy may recommend an alternative retreat depending on your circumstances.) Set up an appointment with your priest/deacon as a follow-up to the retreat.

  4. Attend Natural Family Planning: Natural family planning (NFP) refers to family planning methods approved by the Roman Catholic Church for both achieving and postponing or avoiding pregnancy. 

Start your paperwork

To celebrate your marriage in the Catholic Church, couples are required to complete and submit a variety of documents that will make up your marriage file. This paperwork varies depending on your circumstances. The priest, deacon or lay wedding minister preparing you for marriage will let you know what documents are needed and will assist you in completing the paperwork.

  • If your marriage file is being completed within the Diocese of San Diego, it should be sent directly to The Immaculata Church (Attn: Wedding Director) at least 30 days prior to your wedding unless otherwise specified.

  • If you live in a diocese other than San Diego, or your marriage file is being completed in a diocese other than San Diego, it must first be sent to that Diocese, who will then forward it to The Immaculata. Please ensure that your marriage file is complete well in advance so it is still received by The Immaculata at least 30 days before the wedding.

Plan Your Ceremony

Prepare your wedding liturgy 

Set up a final appointment with your priest/deacon to review and discuss your wedding liturgy selections. Complete your Prenuptial Examination with your priest/deacon, and to finalize any marriage preparation paperwork.

The Catholic wedding liturgy is an act of worship in which the bride and groom commit themselves to each other through the Sacrament of Marriage. It is a sacred event in which the focus is on God’s unconditional love for his people and is made manifest in the love of husband and wife. The music, words, and actions should reflect this sacred aspect of love.

As a couple, you will be invited to prepare a wedding liturgy that truly reflects your personal statements of faith by choosing the scripture readers, songs and participants in your wedding ceremony. The booklet, “United in Christ”, can help you facilitate these choices.

The Catholic Church provides three different forms of celebrating the Rite of Marriage. When two Catholics are marrying, the celebration will normally take place within a Mass. The second form, which does not include a Mass, is typically used when a Catholic enters into a marriage with a baptized person of another faith. There is a third form, which also does not include a Mass, for a Catholic marrying someone who is a non-Christian. Your priest will help you make the choice between these forms. All forms of marriage are equally valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Please note: If one member of the couple is not baptized, Canon Law prohibits the Rite of Marriage to take place within Mass.

Include Family and Friends

Select participants for your wedding ceremony

A thoughtfully planned liturgy will provide several opportunities to incorporate your loved ones into your ceremony. Below is a list of ways you may which to include family and friends in your ceremony.

  • Attendants: Attendants refer to your bridesmaids and groomsmen. You are welcome to choose as many or as few attendants as you’d like. Keep in mind that the space in front of the sanctuary is limited and can looked crowded with exceptionally large wedding parties.
  • Flower Girls & Ring Bearers: Children under the age of 5 should be accompanied by a parent other adult, or older child.

  • Usher/Greeters: Ushers/greeters extend hospitality to your wedding guests by greeting them  as they arrive and escorting them, or directing them, to their seats. You may also wish to have your ushers/greeters hand out your programs or worship aids.

  • Lectors: Lectors are those who proclaim the Word of God during the wedding ceremony. These include readings from the Old and New Testaments and the Prayers of the Faithful. Lectors should be chosen based on their ability to make a faithful proclamation of the Word of God.

  • Gift Bearers: If your ceremony takes place during Mass, gift bearers may be chosen to process up the aisle to the priest with the gifts of bread and wine, and optional offering for the poor. This takes place at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

  • Eucharistic Ministers: If your ceremony takes place during Mass and the priest needs assistance, the church wedding coordinator will assist. However, should you still wish to have a family or friend serve as a Eucharistic Ministers, they should be actively serving as ministers in their own parishes.

Plan Your Wedding Music

Select your musicians

The Committee of Bishops on Liturgy states, “Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance.”

Your wedding ceremony is a worship service to praise God who has called you together in marriage. Therefore, the music for your wedding should be sacred, beautiful, and prayerful. The Immaculata employs several talented musicians who are experienced in their role as liturgical musicians as well as the logistics of our church. Principle among them is our Wedding Music Director, Leslie Gereghty. She will act as the primary musician at your wedding and will assist you in choosing a cantor, appropriate songs, and additional musicians, if desired, to ensure that your ceremony music will enhance the dignity of your wedding celebration. Leslie will contact you approximately 5-6 months prior to your wedding to discuss music options and answer any questions you might have.

  • Music’s primary purpose in the liturgy is to “help the people to pray”, therefore music is a required element for all weddings at The Immaculata and must be live. Recorded music is not permitted.

  • The wedding music fee is $350.00 and is due three (3) months prior to your wedding. This fee includes the services our Wedding Music Director, who is an accomplished pianist and organist, and an Immaculata cantor (an experienced liturgical singer who will lead the congregation in singing) Please note: It is expected that couples use The Immaculata’s musicians for their wedding music. The use of outside musicians in lieu of The Immaculata musicians is not permitted. Payments for wedding music may be made by cash, credit card or check made payable to “The Immaculata”.

  • The Immaculata organ and sound system may only be accessed by our Wedding Music Director.

  • In most situations, an organist/pianist and a cantor are all you need for your wedding music, however, there are a variety of other options to choose from.

    1. Additional vocalists: Should you wish to include additional singers or a small choir to your ceremony music, our Wedding Music Director can assist you in securing the services of additional vocalists. Cost: $150-$250 each.

    2.  Additional Instrumentalists: Adding a trumpet, guitar, flute, or string instrument to your ceremony is a beautiful way to create a special feeling for your wedding. Our Wedding Music Director can assist you in securing the services of additional musicians or give you referrals. Fee: $200-$250 each.

    3.  Cultural Music: We welcome couples to add cultural or ethnic aspects to their wedding ceremony. A simple way to do that is with music. Should you wish to include cultural music into your wedding, is recommended that you secure the services of our Wedding Music Director as the primary liturgical musician and discuss with her ways to include cultural musicians such as Mariachis, Vietnamese Choir, etc. into your ceremony. Fee: Varies.

    4.  Family Members & Friends: Some couples may wish to include family members or friends as vocalists or musicians in their wedding ceremony. Again, it is recommended that you secure the services of our Wedding Music Director as the primary liturgical musician and discuss with her ways to include your loved ones into your ceremony music. Fee: Varies

Select your songs

Song selections for your wedding ceremony must convey a sense of sacredness and dignity. You can enter your song selections in the Liturgy Planning Sheet. The United States' Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy published an excellent guide to music in liturgy. It says that the best way to choose music for liturgy, including your wedding, is to judge the piece of music according to three criteria: the musical, the liturgical and the pastoral.

  • The musical judgment asks: "Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good?" This speaks of quality, not taste. "Is this piece of music the best quality it can be?" Musical quality is best judged according to standards of beauty and skill - standards that our Wedding Music Director is trained at discerning.

  • The liturgical judgment asks: “Is the music consistent with the nature of the Catholic liturgy?” “Is the music an expression of our Christian faith?” The music should focus on the Christian concept of love, not the romantic one. Musical choices, including the prelude, should be free from any association with theater, movies, radio, commercials, television shows and other non-sacred contexts. Please note that both Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” and Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” are not allowed in the Diocese of San Diego.

  • The pastoral judgment asks: “Will this piece of music allow the assembly to fully participate?" Choosing music in which those gathered can lift their heart and voices in song and help you celebrate is a vital consideration when planning music for your sacred celebration.

Add Traditions and Customs

Personalize your ceremony

There are a wide variety of traditions, customs and cultural practices surrounding wedding ceremonies. A few have been formally included in the Rite of Marriage. These are the Blessing and Exchange of Arras (or Coins), the Blessing and Placing of the Lasso (or Cord) and the Blessing and Placing of the Veil.  In addition to these traditions, couples are welcome to include a Devotion to Mary, and a Unity Candle ceremony with their celebrant's permission. All other cultural traditions must be approved by both their celebrant and The Immaculata Wedding Director.

Select Your Vendors

Have vendors submit their respective agreement forms

Floral & Decorating Needs

The Immaculata Church is one of the most beautiful churches in San Diego. Its ornate, elegant décor and architectural beauty is such that very little, if any, decoration is needed in order to enhance your wedding ceremony. Should you still wish to decorate the church for your wedding, your florist must follow the policies as outlined below and sign the Immaculata Florist Agreement.

  • During special seasons during the liturgical year such as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, the church will already be enhanced with seasonal arrangements and décor. These arrangements may not be moved, removed or altered in any way. Our Wedding Director can provide you with an explanation of seasonal colors and decorations to help you with your planning.

  • Artificial plants and flowers are not allowed in the church. This includes personal flowers such as bouquets and boutonnieres.

  • Aisle runners are not allowed.

  • Flower petals (real or artificial) may not be dropped in the aisle.

  • Delivery and set up of floral arrangements and décor may take place no sooner than one hour prior to the scheduled wedding time. Removal of all floral arrangements and decorations must take place immediately following the ceremony. The florist is responsible for cleaning up any debris left behind by the arrangements or decorations (including flower petals, boxes, trash).

  • Floral arrangements must be positioned in such a way that they do not interfere with the movements of the priest, bridal party, or assembly during the ceremony, or block the view of the altar in any way. The priest of Immaculata Wedding Coordinator has final say over location of arrangements

  • Pew decorations must be carefully attached using ribbon loops. The use of tape, wires, tacks or clamps is not allowed. There are 28 pews on each side of the church (9 on each side in the front and 19 on each side after the break).

  • Candles and candelabras are allowed but may not be used in where guests are seated. Votive c candles may be placed on the Communion rails. Candelabras placed in the sanctuary, must have hurricane covers. Electric or battery operated candles may not be used.

  • Ribbon or cloth may not be suspended from pew to pew as this inhibits the movement of guests during Communion and would be a hazard in the case of an emergency.

Photography & Videography

Your photographer and videographer will undoubtedly play an important role on your special day, capturing important moments and preserving cherished memories. To assure that every wedding is not only memorable, but maintains a sense of dignity and reverence, we ask that all photographers and videographers agree to adhere to the policies outlined below and sign the Immaculata Photographer/Videographer Agreement form.

  • The use of drones on the University of San Diego Campus is strictly prohibited.

  • Professional wedding photography and videography is allowed inside The Immaculata one hour prior to the wedding’s scheduled start time and ½ hour after the scheduled end time. (This policy is especially strict for 2:00 p.m. weddings. The church must be vacated by 3:30 p.m. No exceptions can be made.)

  • The Immaculata Church is considered a sacred space. It is not to be used as a professional studio. Therefore, studio lighting equipment of any kind may not be used. Furthermore, it is the reverence and respect are observed in the church at all time during the picture-taking.

  • Respectfully posed photographs of the bridal party and family may be taken in the church immediately following the ceremony. Large group photos (more than 20 people) should be taken outside the church.

  • Photographers may not move, rearrange, or stand on church furniture. Step stools and ladders are not allowed in the church.

  • Flash photography may only be used as the bridal party is processing into and out of the church. Flash photography may not be used at any time during the wedding liturgy. Videographers may not use artificial lighting at any time inside the church.

  • Photographers may not impede the movement of flow of the ceremony, especially the procession, by having someone pause for a photo.

  • Photographers and videographers may not enter the sanctuary (the elevated marble area) at any time during the wedding ceremony. We ask that movement be discreet and held to a minimum so as not to intrude on or draw attention away from the wedding ceremony. The Immaculata Wedding Coordinator can provide a diagram on the day of the wedding of where photographers and videographers are allowed.

  • Photos may be taken at other locations on the University campus provided it does not interfere with another event.

Professional Event Coordinators

Professional event coordinators can be a tremendous help to a busy bride and groom especially with all the last-minute details. Should you choose to hire a professional event coordinator, he/she must sign the Event Coordinator Agreement Form stating that they have read these guidelines and agree to adhere to the policies outlined in them.

  • Please do not delegate the details of your wedding ceremony liturgy, including ceremony music to your Event Coordinator.
  • All church related questions, requests and appointments should take place between the couple and their priest or the couple and the Immaculata’s Wedding Director.
  • Event coordinators are not permitted to facilitate rehearsals, weddings, or “walk-throughs” at any time at The Immaculata.  


Wedding rehearsals are typically scheduled on Friday evenings at 4:00, 5:15, and 6:30 p.m. and are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis once your wedding date has been confirmed. During certain times of the liturgical year, rehearsals may need to be scheduled at alternate times to accommodate other church events.

  • Only one hour is allotted for your wedding rehearsal. To ensure that you get the full hour of instruction and to avoid the rehearsal from feeling rushed, please make every effort to have the entire wedding party arrive on time.
  • All those who are actively participating in your wedding ceremony should plan on attending the rehearsal. Your priest is welcome to attend the rehearsal, however, it is not required.

Final Preparations

Seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation

For Catholics, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the perfect way to prepare for your wedding. This is an opportunity for you to be restored to God’s loving grace as you commit yourself to the vocation of marriage. Contact your priest to schedule an appointment for this Sacrament.

Consider a gratuity for your clergy

Since The Immaculata wedding fee is for used for support of the church, it is recommended that you consider a gratuity for the priest or deacon who presides at your wedding.

Additional Considerations

Bridal Room

The Immaculata has a very small dressing area connected to the Ladies’ Restroom near the main entrance to the church that can be used as a Bridal Room. Due to its small size, it is recommended that the bridal party arrive at the church fully dressed and use this room for last minute preparations only.

Bridal Party/Attire

The attire of the bride and wedding party is expected to be modest and appropriate to the dignity of the liturgy. While strapless dresses are permitted, overly revealing dresses which are backless, have plunging necklines, or are excessively short are inappropriate and not permitted. Please use common sense and modesty. Furthermore, shorts, tanks tops, flip-flops and other dress that is overly casual is not permitted.

Worship Aid/Wedding Program

A worship aid or program can be a helpful tool in guiding your guests (especially non-Catholics) through the liturgy, however, they are not required. If you choose to have a worship aid, The Immaculata requests that the following statement be included in your program: “We request that our guests respect the dignity of the Church’s liturgy by turning off all cell phones and refrain from the use of flash photography during our wedding ceremony.” Worship aids should be submitted to the Wedding Director one (1) month prior to the wedding for approval.

Exiting Ceremonies 

Exiting ceremonies such as sword ceremonies and receiving lines are permissible on the plaza directly after the wedding ceremony, however, due to the amount of time these ceremonies can take, there may not be sufficient time to go back inside the church for photos.

Throwing Items Upon Leaving

Throwing items at a newly married couple is a very old tradition intended to give newlyweds good luck. Unfortunately, due to liability and clean up concerns, the throwing of items such as rice, birdseed, confetti, etc. is not permitted anywhere on the church grounds.

Parking & Maps

The Immaculata has two parking lots available for rehearsal and wedding parking; one on the west side of the church and one on the north side. Please respect all campus parking signs. Shuttle buses and limousines may park at the end of the parking lot on the west side of the church, however, drivers are required to stay with the vehicle. A map of the campus and driving directions to the campus is available online.

Reception Facilities 

Neither The Immaculata nor the University of San Diego (USD) has facilities available for wedding receptions, however, USD has a fine restaurant on campus, La Gran Terraza, that would be happy to host your rehearsal dinner.

Time Limitations

More often than not, another wedding or church event will follow your wedding ceremony. Out of respect and courtesy for these events, we ask that you make every effort to be in and out of the church on time. Excessive tardiness may result in the ceremony being shortened and post wedding photos being cancelled.


To ensure that the church and all other areas used by the wedding party are left clean and ready for others’ use, please appoint someone to be responsible for removal of all wedding and personal items. This would include all remaining printed programs, flower debris, trash, pew bows, etc.

Conduct & Behavior

A Catholic Church is considered a sacred space. An atmosphere of reverence and respect must be observed at all times. For this reason, everyone present must adhere to the following:

  • No running, shouting or using inappropriate language.
  • Cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices are to be turned off or placed on mute when inside the church. Taking phone calls or texting during the liturgy is inappropriate and not permitted.
  • Children must be supervised by an adult at all times and should not be allowed to run around the church.
  • Food, gum or beverages are not allowed at any time inside the church building.

Smoking & Alcohol Policy

The University of San Diego is a smoke-free campus. Smoking, vaping, and tobacco/marijuana use is prohibited on University and church grounds. At no time before the rehearsal or wedding ceremony is drinking or smoking allowed for the bride, groom or any member of the wedding party. The priest presiding at your wedding will refuse to allow the ceremony to go forward if the bride, groom or any member of the wedding party is under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or a controlled substance. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed anywhere on the church grounds. Please let your guests know of this important policy.

Postponements & Cancellations

In the event that you need to cancel or postpone your wedding due to an unforeseen circumstance, please contact the Parish Wedding Director as soon as possible. Deposits are non-refundable, however your deposit may be transferred to a new wedding date if notice is given at least six (6) months prior to your original wedding date. Any subsequent date changes may result in the forfeiture of your deposit payment and require payment in full for a new date. Balance payments are refundable or transferable up to the date of the wedding. Marriage files for cancelled weddings or weddings postponed without a new date being set, will be destroyed unless the couple requests the marriage file be mailed to them.

Maintenance Disclaimer

There may be times when unforeseen circumstances force The Immaculata or the University of San Diego to attend to maintenance or repairs, which in extreme cases may involve scaffolding, temporary fencing and other items that are unable to be removed. Should this occur, please be assured that we will contact you as soon as possible and make every effort possible to minimize disruption to your wedding.

We Are Here To Help

Planning a wedding can be a bit overwhelming, but we are here to help every step of the way. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming nuptials. Once again, congratulations again and happy planning!

Afternoon Wedding
Prayer for the Engaged



Evening Wedding