Weddings

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Today many engaged couples handle a lot of their own wedding planning. When at least one of the individuals is Catholic this can include making arrangements to be married in a Catholic church. This is a significant decision. It means more than just choosing an appropriate and picturesque setting for the ceremony and the photos!

You’re trying to make your wedding a meaningful and memorable experience and, most of all, to express in a clear and beautiful way the hopes you have for your married life. How can you achieve these goals in the celebration of your wedding? Here are three general suggestions. You can find even more specific ideas on other parts of this website.

Take time to prepare and plan

Catholic dioceses in the United States have policies that require a preparation period for couples who want to be married in the Church. The preparation includes a contact with the parish in which they want to have their wedding. It’s a good idea to get your date on the parish calendar as soon as possible. It’s also important to talk with the parish priest or deacon or pastoral minister about what the parish allows and expects in a celebration. It is also possible that the parish can offer specific help and resources, such as a person to help you plan and coordinate the event.

Beginning early to work with the parish makes practical good sense and it also helps you to develop a relationship with a community that shares your faith and wants to support you in the sacrament you are about receive and live. Quite likely you will be given some material about the Catholic wedding liturgy and encouraged to read and ask questions. Take the time to do this. It will enhance your preparation and help you to focus on the meaning of the commitment you are about to make.

Two forms of the Rite of Marriage

The Catholic Church provides two different forms of celebrating the Rite of Marriage: the first one takes place within a Mass, the second form does include a Mass. You should choose one of these two forms in conversation with the priest or deacon who will witness your marriage vows.

Take advantage of options

Within each of the two forms of the Rite there are additional choices. For example, you can select biblical readings, blessings, and prayers from the approved texts. You can also choose friends or family members for different roles in the ceremony, such as readers and those who assist with the Eucharistic gifts and the distribution of Holy Communion. Making these choices with your future spouse and with the priest or deacon can help you to learn more about the Catholic understanding of marriage and to become more deeply involved in your celebration of it.

Take notice of the ritual

A very good way to know what the Catholic Church believes is to participate in its worship. This is especially true in the case of marriage. The Catholic wedding rite, whether it is celebrated within a Mass or not, is a powerful teaching tool. This is experienced in many ways, for example:

• in the active role taken by the couple who, in the teaching of the Catholic Church, are the “ministers” of the sacrament;
• in the scriptural readings which speak of God’s plan for marriage and his presence to the couple;
• in the music which lifts our thoughts and feelings in a prayerful, joyful way;
• in the homily given by the priest or deacon addressing the couple and their guests about the meaning of marriage as well   as its joys and challenges;
• in the vows and exchange of rings in which the couple express their freely-given consent, promising to create a loving and lifelong union of permanence, fidelity, and openness to children;
• in the various prayers and blessings through which the Church solemnizes and supports the journey on which the couple is embarking.

Thoughtful, prayerful planning and participation in your Catholic wedding ceremony is a decision that will bring many blessings to your married life long after you’ve forgotten all the other decisions you made about flowers, photos, and favors on the tables!

Things to Consider for Planning the Celebration of Marriage:

Marriage is a Sacrament!

The celebration of Marriage is not just a religious ceremony. A marriage between two Christians is a sacrament, which means it is an encounter with Jesus Christ. In a particular way, the couple, in offering their lives to each other (symbolized in their vows), pledge their selfless love for each other. This selfless love embodies and makes present the love of Jesus, who gave himself in love for his people. All who are present at a wedding can look at the couple and see Jesus. More importantly, the couple look at each other and see Jesus’ love.

The couple marring are the Ministers of the Sacrament

In some ways, marriage is less about the ceremony or the sacramental celebration than it is about the daily living of marital life. The priest (or deacon) is not the minister of the sacrament. The clergy person merely acts as the official witness of the church and the state (of course if the wedding takes place at Mass, the priest is the celebrant of the Mass). The couple marry each other, and as such, they are the ministers of the sacrament. The celebration of marriage, then, ought to be a reflection of the couple’s faith and love.

Marriage is a matter of faith

As a sacrament and an action of the Church, marriage both presupposes faith and renews and strengthens faith. The process of preparation for marriage invites couples to reflect on God’s presence in their lives. In the Sacrament of Marriage, God “enriches and strengthens” the couple by giving them God's special gifts of grace to enable their daily living in marriage “in mutual and lasting fidelity.”

The Scriptures: God’s Word to you, and your word to the world

Couples are invited to choose the readings from the Bible that will be proclaimed at the wedding Liturgy. Normally three readings (one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament letters, and one from the Gospels) are proclaimed. The Church provides many choices for each, and most parishes provide resources with background on each possible choice. The Scripture is the very Word of God speaking to the Church. Couples should reflect on what they believe God is speaking to them as they enter into Marriage, and they should also consider what they want to communicate about their own faith to those who will gather to celebrate with them on their wedding day.

Vows: what you say, what you promise what you live

The heart of the Rite of Marriage is the exchange of consent between the couple. In this moment, they, as ministers of the sacrament, express their lifelong commitment to love and honor each other, as the priest (or deacon) acts as a witness. It is often suggested that couples memorize their vows not only to experience the exchange of consent in a more powerful way, by speaking them from the heart, rather than repeating them phrase by phrase after the priest. In this they will also spend time pondering what the vows mean, and hopefully remember the words for years to come, as the words take on more and more meaning in their day–to–day love and care for each other.

Music: To stir the soul and lift the mind

Music for the celebration of Marriage not only adds beauty and dignity to the ceremony, but it has a more important liturgical function. In addition to music to accompany the procession of the ministers and the bridal party, music is an integral part of the Liturgy itself: the singing of the acclamations and responses by the assembly, hymns and songs at the entrance (gathering) and communion procession are prescribed in the Rite of Marriage. Music should reflect and communicate, above all, the mystery of God’s love in Jesus, especially as it pertains to the couple joined together in marriage.

Procession: Here comes the couple!

What the movies depict isn’t necessarily what the Church envisions. The couple enter freely and equally into marriage, and the entrance procession symbolizes that, as the couple approach the altar to stand before the Lord. The Rite of Marriage suggests that the liturgical ministers (priest, deacon, reader, servers) lead the procession, followed by the couple, each escorted by “at least their parents and the witnesses.” In essence there are various ways to process in.

Ministries: More than just the wedding party

One of the important tasks couples undertake in planning their wedding is the selection of the wedding party. Couples invite siblings, cousins, and close friends to stand by them as attendants, who show their support by their close presence. They also perform a liturgical function as official witnesses of the marriage rite. There are other liturgical ministries to consider as well: readers to proclaim the readings from Scripture and announce the intentions of the general intercessions, family or friends to present the offertory gifts of bread and wine, or perhaps even servers to assist at the altar and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. All of this preparation takes place as couples work with the officiating priest (or deacon), who provides guidance throughout the process.

Family + Friends = Liturgical Assembly

Couples invite their closest friends and members of their families to be part of their wedding day. That gathering also represents the community of the Church, as they surround the couple with their encouragement and their prayers. Above all, it is an occasion for worship: in celebrating the sacrament, the couple, together with their family and friends, forms a liturgical assembly, who stand before the Lord with hearts open to his loving power.

Above all, pray!

The wedding liturgy (whether celebrated at Mass or apart from it) is an act of worship. As such, it is a time to offer praise and thanks to God for his gifts, and to seek his continued blessings and help in your lives. In particular, thank God for the gift of your spouse, and pray to the Lord to bless you and guide you together as you become witnesses of his love for each other and for the world.

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In addition to officiating at wedding ceremonies, we also minister to the terminally ill, the aged, the grieved, and do extensive teaching and counseling. We are available for all seven sacraments of the church and services you may need.
Please fill out the form below to assist us in your wedding plans.


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