Guidelines for the Wedding Liturgy
The Ritual for Marriage cites two options for the entrance procession.
First Option: The priest vests as for Mass and goes in procession to the main door of the church. There he greets the couple in a warm and friendly way; he shows them that the Church is rejoicing with them on their day. Then all go to the altar in one procession: the ministers (including servers) lead, carrying the cross and lectionary, then the priest and the attendants, the parents and the couple.
Second Option: The priest and ministers go in procession to the altar as usual. Once they are in place the attendants, parents and couple come in procession. The priest greets the couple from his place (or the words of welcome are
omitted and the mass or liturgy of the Word begins at once). (p. 11)
No other format is provided in the present rite.
(The custom of having the groom at the front of the church while the bride is led separately to the altar) should be discouraged as much as possible by pastors, since it places undue emphasis on the entrance and on the bride.
- p. 12 (from Marriage: Ritual and Pastoral Notes, CCCB)
Whether there is a mass or not, there are always readings from Scripture at a wedding in the Catholic Church.
No readings from sources other than the Bible are to be used;
poems or much-cherished jewels from literature may be quoted
elsewhere in the rite, either during the homily or during the
reception; but Scripture is Scripture, and it is not to be equated
with secular literature, no matter how pious, no matter how
significant and dear. (p. 12)
The proclamation of the Scripture texts at a wedding, or at any rite, is an important work. It should be entrusted to people who believe in Christ, who are capable of proclaiming in such a way that all may hear God's word, and who
will make an effort to prepare. Think carefully about who will be invited to take part in the proclamation of the Scriptures.
The Scriptures are proclaimed from the Lectionary. It is beneath the dignity of God's word to be read from a photocopied page, or from a booklet. ( p. 13)
The couple may compose their own vows but they must be approved by the pastor since it is necessary that the words chosen indicate that all other persons are excluded from intimacy, and that the union they are now entering is intended
to last until God calls one of them in death.
Catholic marriage vows do not speak of obedience of a wife to her husband; indeed, such unilaterial subjugation has not been found for years, if ever, in the rite of Catholic marriage in Canada. Mutual and love-filled acceptance of one
another as equals, with both persons subject to God, is the spirit of these vows. (p. 13)
Signing of the Marriage Papers:
Since the signing of the marriage papers is not a liturgical act but rather a civil requirement, it takes place after the closing prayer and final blessing. It is therefore recommended that this action does not happen at the altar but rather
on a side table appropriate for this action. (p. 14)
Photographs that are taken discreetly and that do not interrupt the flow of the liturgy are not offensive. Professional photographers should pride themselves on their ability to be unobstructive. More troubling are amateur photographers who appear out of nowhere and destroy the impact of the most solemn moments. Couples and families should make it known among their friends that such behavior is not acceptable. An announcement by the pastor and/or music minister prior to the ceremony would be appropriate. (p. 14)
Music for Weddings
The Second Vatican Council has pointed out that the words being sung must
always be in harmony with Catholic beliefs. The texts should come mainly from Scripture and from liturgical sources.
As for any worship service, the music is chosen with care according to sound liturgical principles. A wedding is first a worship service. It is worship of God... Music in Catholic worship must express the worship of God, for the mystery
of love God created and transforms in this sacrament.
It is the Church assembly who worships at a wedding, which is a celebration of the believing community expressing its faith, and worship of the universal church.
A wedding is not a private or family affair. The selection, arrangement and execution of all the music must respect the right of the assembly to participate fully in the celebration.
The music chosen for the wedding liturgy should be familiar to the people of the church where the celebration takes place. If the music is mostly new, or beyond the ability of the local congregation, it will limit their participation, and thus hamper the community's worship.
Sacred and Secular: Many songs mention "love". We must ask what is meant by "love" in a song before choosing it. Songs which express the religious dimension of love explicitly, of course, have pride of choice. Songs which imply this religious dimension are also suitable. But a song which denies this dimension either explicity or implicitly must be avoided at all costs, for it belies the mystery: it is a falsehood in liturgy.
Music at a wedding is a ministry, and as such we want it to help worship God and lead the assembly in prayer. Take time to consult someone from your parish music ministry to help you in your selection of liturgical music. While there are a great number of beautiful love songs, the songs for a wedding should have words which express God's love made present in our lives. (p. 16)
Hymns and instrumental music chosen for marriage celebrations should respect the purpose of the particular moments in the liturgy which the music is meant to serve. Hymns are sung prayers, and are addressed to God, not the couple.
Music for a wedding is to be an expression of Christian worship. Secular music (love songs from the hit parade) has no place in Catholic liturgy. Love songs significant for a couple need not be used in the liturgy but at some other time
during the wedding day, such as during the reception or at the banquet.
Cantor: The renewed Catholic liturgy promotes the role of the cantor or psalmist, a minister who leads the assembled worshippers in singing the responsorial psalm and in the Gospel acclamation. Our tradition does not encourage the use of a soloist at other parts of the wedding liturgy.
Singing Groups: Groups or choirs who sing at weddings are to be aware of the difference between singing at worship and singing on the stage.
On the stage, the musicians and singers dominate the action, and an audience follow their words, rhythm and actions. They and their music are at the centre of what is happening; they are what is happening.
In liturgy, however, the musicians are ministers, servants. Their role is subservient to the worship of the community and should help the people to give God greater praise. The ministers of music are there to intensify the spirit of prayer and worship, not to entertain the people. Their music is to fit into the mood and action of the various parts of the rite, and is to help its progress.
Entrance Music: May be either instrumental (organ, piano or different instruments) or it may be vocal. Guests will wish to witness the procession as it enters the church. It is unlikely that people can follow a hymn from a hymnal and follow the procession at the same time. It is more reasonable to let everyone enjoy the procession and begin the entrance hymn after the wedding party has arrived at the front of the church. The organ and/or other musical instrument will play throughout the procession. (p. 17)
Eucharistic Acclamation: The Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, the Memorial Acclamation and the Great Amen should be sung by all the people. A cantor's voice may lead the people in these acclamations, but the people should not be left out; these are their parts.
The Lord's Prayer: This is everyone's prayer and should never be sung by only one person. If it is sung, use a setting everyone knows.
Communion: Because this is the time for sharing the Eucharist, hymn selections should relate to this action. The congregation should be invited to sing; antiphonal style music is preferred during communion, so that no one need carry a book in the communion procession.
Signing of Register:
If a couple wishes to use a Marian song or another religious song that does not suit the liturgy, it may be used during the signing of the register.
Recessional: It is strongly recommended that this selection be instrumental in nature rather than vocal. (p. 18)
Marriage Guidelines provide consistency
The diocese's new Marriage Guidelines are meant to provide consistency for Catholic weddings here, says Lorraine Nyuli of Nipawin, a member of the diocesan commission for liturgy who helped draft the guidelines.
Without guidelines, "Your liturgy is slowly eroded with secular-type things that are brought in," Nyuli told priests, parish administrators and pastoral assistants at the pastoral ministry days in January. "We must show them there's something there that we value, that's important."
Nyuli said the "Marriage in Christ" booklet, with topics ranging from suitable music to outdoor weddings, should be explained early in the marriage preparation process to avoid disappointment by engaged couples or their families. The guidelines include a message from Bishop Blaise Morand saying the information "challenges those contemplating marriage to take some time out to seriously consider some very important topics having to do with marriage and weddings."
The booklet's first section outlines the church's teachings on marriage as sacrament, the unity, fidelity and indissolubility of marriage, and openness to fertility. In another part, the couple is asked to consider questions such as "How can we plan our church wedding to show that it is a celebration of faith?" and "How is our wedding celebration going to be an experience of prayer and transformation for our families and friends?"
A section on cohabitation reads, "One should not marry because one is expected to or feels obliged to do so. Marriage must be a truly free choice if it is to be a marriage at all. Living together may not allow either person enough emotional distance and objectivity to make this extremely important life decision." Engaged couples who are living together are asked to consider questions such as, "What will (marriage) change in terms of marriage as a sacrament, in terms of the marital bond and commitment?" and "Are you willing to separate and to attempt to the best of your ability to live a chaste life as a single person until your wedding day?"
The booklet clarifies that Catholic marriage vows "do not speak of obedience of a wife to her husband; indeed, such unilateral subjugation has not been found for years, if ever, in the rite of Catholic marriage in Canada. "Mutual and love-filled acceptance of one another as equals, with both persons subject to God, is the spirit of these vows."
The booklet also includes a suggested time-line for planning the wedding, liturgy planning sheets with or without eucharist, and suggested Scripture readings.
Nyuli suggested other ways parishes can support couples planning to marry: include prayers for engaged couples in the intentions, explain the marriage guidelines at a parish workshop, make copies of the booklet available for borrowing, and give engaged couples a Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a gift. "Every opportunity has to be taken to help couples grow in their faith and to keep God in their marriage," she said.