A Guide to a Catholic Wedding Ceremony
Considered one of the seven sacraments, the Catholic wedding ceremony is full of deep spirituality and rich symbolism. Rituals and readings may vary depending on your church and on whether both the bride and groom are Catholic.
Before you have your ceremony, you have pre-wedding traditions, such as an interview with your priest, and religious requirements such as taking a marriage preparation course. You will also need to take your wedding date, venue and dress code into account. Traditionally, a Catholic wedding ceremony includes a full Mass and communion, which means a full Catholic wedding can last about an hour. Here we will guide you through everything you need to know about a Catholic wedding ceremony below.
- How do I choose a Date for a Catholic Wedding?
- Do I have to have a Catholic Wedding Ceremony in a Church?
- What are the Pre-Ceremony Requirements?
- Does having a Catholic Wedding affect my Wedding Dress?
- Does having a Catholic Wedding affect my Bridal Party?
- Can I have a Catholic Wedding Ceremony if my Partner isn’t Catholic?
- What Happens at a Catholic Wedding Ceremony?
You’ll want to ensure you have a calendar of holidays and events from your church prior to determining a wedding date. Depending on your church, there may be times of year, or even times of the day, which are off-limits. There are many holy days and other observed holidays that you may not know about, which can affect availability.
Formal weddings are often held at noon, during High Mass, when a choir is available. Many parishes do not schedule weddings on Sundays because of the conflict with regularly scheduled Masses and other parish activities. In addition, some dioceses and parishes do not allow weddings during Lent, a season of penance.
Most priests won’t marry couples outside a church. Generally, the couple chooses their home church, but they may opt for a family church or a church that holds a special connection for them. You may need permission to marry in a different church. So, if you want to hold your Catholic wedding ceremony somewhere other than a Catholic church, you’ll need to write to your bishop for permission.
Matrimony requirements can vary from church to church. Typically, you will need to schedule an interview with the priest or pastor as the first step toward walking down the aisle. This person will explain the process of marriage preparation and the various programs that are offered. This is also a good time to get to know the officiant for your big day.
Many churches will also require proof of baptism, communion, and/or confirmation. Parishes are also strict about remarriage. If you or your partner were married before and the marriage did not end in an annulment, and if the ex-spouse is not deceased, some churches won’t perform the ceremony. Intermarriage requirements may also affect your eligibility, and your partner may need to convert if he is not of the same faith.
What is the Pre-Cana?
Pre-Cana is the premarital preparation program required by the Church. Depending on the program, some couples may choose to complete it in an extended weekend, while others can attend weekly classes. Marriage preparation offers couples the opportunity to develop a better understanding of Christian marriage. Typical topics include the meaning of marriage as a sacrament; faith, prayer, and the church; roles in marriage; communication and conflict resolution; children, parenthood, and finances.
What is the Reading of the Banns?
You will need to contact your church about posting Banns, a notice of your intention to wed. In the past, they were posted outside the church doors to allow anyone with a valid reason to stop the wedding. Presently, Banns are printed in the church bulletin or announced during a Sunday service.
Ask your priest about dress requirements. More conservative churches require shoulders to be covered. Don’t stress too much though! If you’ve had your heart set on a strapless or thin-strap gown, you can select a complimentary shawl, wrap, or cover to wear while in the church.
The Catholic Church can request that the maid of honour and best man also be Catholic. Be certain to inquire about this and how it may or may not affect your bridal party.
Catholics must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a “permission to enter into a mixed marriage.” If the person is a non-Christian, the permission is called a “dispensation from disparity of cult.”
There are two general Catholic wedding ceremonies; with or without a full mass. Depending on your preferences, you might have more or less flexibility in structuring your ceremony, the readings, speakers, etc. Meet with your priest to discuss ceremony structure and marriage requirements. They may also want to help you to choose readings and blessings for the ceremony. Below we have outlined the common structure of a Catholic wedding ceremony.
What is the Entrance Rite?
There are two options for the entrance rite or processional. First, the priest and servers can greet the bridal party at the door of the church, entering with the priest and servers first, followed by the wedding couple. On the other hand, the priest and servers can enter on their own and take their places in the sanctuary before the wedding couple enters, greeting them when they arrive at their places. Once everyone has arrived and taken their places, the priest leads everyone in the sign of the cross once the processional song has finished.
What are the Introductory Rites and Opening Prayer?
Catholic weddings begin with a greeting and an opening prayer by the priest, naming the couple and asking for God’s blessings on their wedding day. If proceeding with a Nuptial Mass, the priest will then lead the guests in a hymn.
What is the Nuptial Mass?
If both members of the wedding couple are Catholic, they may opt for the full Catholic wedding ceremony Nuptial Mass. A Nuptial Mass is a Mass that includes the celebration of the sacrament of marriage. It includes several readings from the Old and New Testament, as well as hymns and psalms.
After that, the priest offers a homily, which typically includes readings and teachings on marriage and love. If the couple opts to skip the Nuptial Mass, they’ll have what’s called a Celebration of Marriage, which begins with the Liturgy of the Word.
What is the Liturgy Of The Word?
The readers, often family members, read Biblical passages selected by you and preapproved by the priest, followed by a short sermon about marriage given by the priest.
What is the Rite Of Marriage?
The entire congregation stands as the couple takes their vows, declaring their commitment to each other.
What is the Exchange Of Rings?
After the couple responds, “I do,” to the vows, the best man gives the bride’s ring to the priest, who blesses it and hands it to the groom to place on the bride’s finger. Then, the maid of honour hands the groom’s ring to the priest, who blesses it and hands it to the bride to place on the groom’s finger.
How does a Catholic Wedding End Without a Mass?
If the ceremony takes place without a Mass, the ceremony concludes with nuptial blessings and a final prayer from the priest.
How does a Catholic Wedding End With a Mass?
If the ceremony includes Nuptial Mass (which adds about 15 minutes to the service), the Mass proceeds with the following Catholic wedding traditions. The order may vary slightly, depending on the church, but you can expect each element to be present.
This is when the altar is prepared for communion, also called the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The bride and groom, or other treasured guests, may be chosen to help in the preparations, and then the priest delivers the Eucharistic Prayers over the bread and wine for communion.
For this blessing, the wedding couple kneels or stands before the altar, and the priest offers a blessing for the couple.
Sign of Peace
The priest invites the wedding party and the guests to share in a sign of peace and the words, “Peace be with you” with the people standing nearest them.
The priest breaks the host while the guests sing, and communion is distributed to the newlyweds, then the guests. Guests who are not Catholic may be offered a blessing by the priest.
Blessing and Dismissal of the Guests
After communion, the ceremony concludes as it would without a Mass. A final blessing is offered to the married couple and the guests.
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