There are two types of wedding ceremonies for a Catholic wedding. You can have a wedding ceremony without a Mass or a wedding ceremony with a Mass. Many practicing Catholics choose a Mass with the wedding to give an extra blessing to their marriage.
Wedding Without a Mass
Some people comment that a wedding with a Catholic Mass takes a lot of time. However, it only takes little more than an hour. Without a Mass, the ceremony takes about twenty minutes. There are readings and hymns, but not the celebration of the Eucharist.
If you attend a Catholic Wedding, here is what you should expect. In most cases, when Catholics enter the Church they bless themselves. They dip the fingertips of their right hand into a font with Holy Water, and they make the Sign of the Cross. This is not a requirement. Then they usually are seated by the usher.
When Catholics come to a pew, they should make the Sign of the Cross and bend the knee as a sign of reverence. If the Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist) is not in the Church, then there is no need to bend the knee.
After everyone has entered the Church, the priest greets the bride, groom and their guests. An opening prayer is said; readings and other prayers are followed. Standing, if possible, is required. Kneeling is often involved, but non-Catholics can just sit quietly.
Liturgy is a set of procedures that happen during a Mass. The Liturgy of the Word involves readings from the Old and New Testaments, a responsorial psalm, the “Alleluia” before the Gospel, and a Gospel reading. The bride and groom often select the readings and songs. The selections may be read by the priest or by honored members of the wedding party.
The homily should focus around marriage. The priest might make personal connections, especially when he knows the couple.
The wedding rings are exchanged after the vows. The best man gives the bride’s ring to the priest, who blesses it, and gives it to the bridegroom, who places it on the bride’s finger. During a double ring ceremony, after the bride gets her ring, the blessing and presentation are repeated. Brides can honor the role of the Virgin Mary as Christ’s Mother by presenting roses in front of her statue.
The Prayer of the Faithful follows. This prayer can be a personal prayer by the couple. During a Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is said. The people who bring gifts of wine and bread to the altar do this now. The priest then offers the Nuptial Blessing. Just before Communion is served, there will be the “Sign of Peace.” The priest says, “Let us offer each other a sign of peace.” This is an indication for everyone in the congregation to turn to person next to them, shake hands and say, “Peace be with you,” or some other friendly greeting. Relatives or friends will sometimes hug or kiss.
Taking Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church is for baptized Catholics only. Communion is the ceremony when bread and wine are consecrated. Then it is taken as Body and Blood of Christ. When Eucharist is completed, the priest introduces the newly married couple. People applaud.
The end of a wedding without Mass is the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing. At a Mass, the service ends with a blessing and dismissal.