According to the teaching of Christ and the Church, marriage is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life. By its nature, marriage is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Christ the Lord has raised marriage between two baptized persons to the dignity of a sacrament. This partnership requires that the two truly become one, that they are faithful to one another, and that they maintain their irrevocable union until death.
The dignity and importance of marriage is recognized in all cultures throughout the world. The Church teaches that the well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.
Marriage comes about by the consent of the parties, which is exchanged in a manner recognized by the state and the Church. Therefore, even though a priest or deacon serves as the official witness at a Catholic wedding, it is really the bride and groom who are the ministers of the sacrament. In this sense they bring marriage into being when each one gives his or her consent and receives the consent of the other.
According to Church law, once a man and woman enter marriage by legitimately manifesting their consent, they are presumed by the law itself to be married. Consequently, the validity of a marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proven.