Catholic Wedding Ceremony

catholic churchBeing one of the oldest organisations in the world, the Catholic Church can be dated back over two thousand years. There are believed to be well over a billion people in the world who follow the Catholic religion with around one million of those people residing in the United Kingdom.

As the Catholic faith is one of the most established religions, it is commonly known that the Catholic wedding services are at the higher end of strictness with regard to its rules and regulations surrounding a wedding ceremony.

The Catholic faith is made up Seven Sacraments which include Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Marriage, Penance and Reconciliation. The Marriage sacrament is extremely important and thought to be something that God 'fixes' for a couple and for some practicing Catholics, a union can only take place between two people who are Catholic themselves.

Nowadays there are a lot of unions taking place that are mixed religions but marrying into your own faith is commonly encouraged by the Church. For those unifications that take place in a more lax environment the Church still has some standards to go by which can include that it must be the first marriage for both partners and at least one of them must have been baptised in a Catholic Church but these are principals which must be discussed at your Church.

A couple would usually get married within their own local Church but if there are two Churches to choose from then preference is usually given to the Church nearest to the Bride, or the one that the Bride frequents. It is possible for a couple to marry outside of their locality but usually they will have to apply to Roman Catholic authorities for special permission for this to happen. If this is your option then you will need to speak to your local Priest who will point you in the right direction.

Typical Catholic Service

In order for a couple to marry, they must agree to the four principles involved with a Catholic wedding, they are:

  • That each person is marrying of their own free will and does not have any outside pressures.
  • That you both intend to stay married to each other for the remainder of your life.
  • That you have the intention of having children together (unless the Bride is too old for bearing children).
  • That throughout your marriage you will be faithful to each other always.

How to Prepare for a Catholic Wedding

Initially you should arrange to meet with your local priest as it is customary for the priest to talk to both the Bride and Groom (at length) and discuss how they feel about the Church and their up coming marriage. You should be informed before attending what, if any, paperwork you will need to bring with you to the meeting. The priest will have to approve the union before arrangements can be made further and the couple will then fill out some relevant forms, including the one relating to the four principles, only then can a wedding date be set.

If the couple's union falls outside of the 'normal' Catholic wedding then following the meeting with the priest, a dispensation will be applied for. There are two types which are:

  • Cult Disparity: If one of the partners has not been baptised. A local Bishop will need to give permission for this dispensation to go ahead.
  • Mixed Marriage Permission: Usually requested if a Catholic wishes to marry outside of their religion.

After permission has been granted then the public is to be made aware of the upcoming marriage. In some regions, the local priest may not have authorisation to 'register' a couple so they may have to organise an application through the Registrar Office who will then inform the priest that all the legal requirements have been met.

The symbolic readings of the 'Banns' can then take place at the Church but these will only occur if both partners are of the Catholic faith. Following this, the couple should set up another meeting with the priest to go over the finer details of the service which should include what hymns and prayers you want to include.

Before the wedding can take place the couple may, at the request of their priest, have to take part in a group course called the 'Pre-Cana' which will involve other couples, group discussions and counselling for the pair. This course is designed to ensure that the couple are ready and will commit to marriage but every Church is different and these courses are not compulsory.

Mass within the Rite of Marriage

This very important decision relates to whether Mass is included or is outside of your wedding service. This varies from couples to couples, those who are very religious would choose the during service option whether those who choose the outside of service option may just prefer a shorter service ceremony.

Catholic Order of Service

The order of service is made up of the following order:

  • The Entrance Rite: The bride can either walk down the aisle with her father or the priest where she and her Groom-to-be will sit or kneel during the ceremony.
  • The Liturgy of the Word: Passages from one of the Testaments are read with a psalm in-between following which the priest will give a short sermon.
  • The Rite of Marriage: The couple will be asked the questions relating to children, faithfulness and their choice of the union after which they will say their vows, exchange rings and then a prayer is given.
  • The Liturgy of the Eucharist: 'Gifts' of bread and wine are taken to the Altar, sometimes by the newly married couple, along with any money that has been collected during the service. A hymn is then sung and afterwards the priest will recite the Eucharist Prayer.
  • Communion Rite & Nuptial Blessing: With the Bride and Groom going first, the congregation is invited to step forward and take the bread and wine in Communion, the Lord's Prayer will follow and then a blessing is given.
  • The Concluding Rite: The priest will conduct a final blessing and the union will then be sealed with a kiss. The register will be signed and the priest will then announce the couple to the congregation as husband and wife.

The above services are for couples who choose to include the Mass within their service order but for those who do not include it, they do not have the 'Liturgy of the Eucharist' or the 'Communion Rite' within their ceremony. You can request a copy of the readings for these services from your priest.

Points to Note

  • As with any wedding, check the rules surrounding the throwing of confetti.
  • Custom usually dictates that the priest should be invited to your reception and that a monetary gesture should be given to him.
  • During a Catholic service the vows are hardly ever changed so ensure you are happy to say them. Speak to your priest about your options as there are a couple of versions that the Church will allow so you may be able to pick your own preference.
  • If you are having a Mass included in your service, remember that there will be lots of other people attending your wedding that you will not know.
  • It is considered a good gesture if the flowers you used to decorate the Church are left after the ceremony.
  • Remember to check if there are any restrictions on the photographer within the Church, where he can or cannot go etc.

With a Catholic service it seems that the priest is involved throughout so he should be your first port of call if you are thinking of getting married within the Catholic Church.