Marriage in the Church is essentially a religious event.
It is a Sacrament which celebrates God's presence in the union of a man and a woman. The union itself is ordered for the selfless love and support of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. As you come to the decision to marry, plans for the wedding begin to emerge. Planning will help to ensure the religious character of the celebration. The following considerations will be of help to you:
A period of several months to one year is necessary to complete the preparation for marriage in the Church. Preparation consists of several meetings with the Parish Priest as well as a weekend Marriage Preparation Program which is followed up by at-home sponsor couple sessions. The weekend Program is held at Saint Peter’s once a year, usually in February.
There is also an Archdiocesan Program available. You must call the Catholic Pastoral Centre at 429-9800 for more information and to register.
Witnesses and Attendants
The Priest is the primary witness to the marriage for the Church. The Best Man and Maid of Honor are also witnesses for the civil documents. In selecting other attendants priority should be given to the needs of the liturgy (readers, gift bearers, liturgical musicians, servers, etc.)
Permissions and Promises
Mixed Marriage: A catholic who enters into marriage with a non-Catholic Christian enters a so-called "mixed marriage". In this case the Catholic party makes an explicit commitment to remain in the Church and to do all in his/her power to have their children baptized and reared as Catholic. A routine permission from the bishop is sought for a mixed marriage.
Disparity of Cult: When a catholic enters into a marriage with a non-Christian a dispensation permitting the marriage is required from the local bishop. As in the case above, the catholic party explicitly makes a commitment to have the children baptized and reared in the Church.
Form: When the couple feels that there is an appropriate reason, the bishop can give permission for the marriage of a Catholic with a non-Catholic to take place in the non-Catholic church and before a non-Catholic minister. The same commitment regarding the Church and the children is sought from the catholic party. In this case it is sometimes possible to arrange to have the priest attend the wedding and say a prayer over the newly married couple.
Sacrament of Penance
Before the celebration of the marriage Catholics should participate in the Sacrament of Penance as part of their spiritual preparation.
Planning the Wedding Ceremony
Couples will want to become familiar with the structure of the Church's marriage ceremony. The marriage takes place within the context of a Liturgy of the Word. There are readings, prayers, a homily and the exchange of vows. The couples themselves are the ministers of the sacrament. The priest or deacon is a witness for the Church. When both parties are Catholic, the Nuptial Mass is also celebrated as part of the marriage ceremony. Among the elements of the ceremony which require specific attention are:
There are three readings at a typical wedding; one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament and one from the Gospel. The couple will look over the suggested readings and choose selections which are particularly meaningful to them. They also choose persons to do the first 2 readings who can proclaim them effectively to the assembled congregation.
There are certain options with regard to the choice of prayers at the wedding. The couple may also wish to compose prayers for the “Prayers of Intercession” which express the unique way God has touched their lives in the relationship they share.
The music is a support to the liturgical celebration of marriage. The music chosen is to be religious in character and all appearance of a performance is to be avoided. Popular songs, movie music, music that glorifies secular love and the infamous "Here comes the Bride" are not suitable. The advice of the parish priest or those charged with the responsibility of the music ministry should be sought when making music selections. Efforts should be made to choose music which is familiar to the congregation so as to permit their full participation.
The music for the entrance and exit processions may be a hymn that all can sing or a suitable instrumental piece.
Any musicans chosen should be familiar with the musical needs of the Liturgy such as the Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Acclamation and the other hymns.
The use of a soloist to "perform" a selection during the wedding is not provided for in the ritual. (Soloists might sing for the inspiration of those assembled before the ceremony begins or at the signing of the register.
Photographers are permitted in most churches. Utmost care must be given to select photographers who will be discreet and will not attempt to "stage" the celebration. Photographers should remain out of sight during readings, prayers and homily. During the exchange of vows they may take pictures while remaining in one place and not moving about. Before the wedding ceremony begins they should see the priest or deacon to get specific instructions.
The Church does not impose a fee for providing its services, although your financial gift would be gratefully accepted. Financial reimbursement for the services of the Church musicians is expected and should be arranged with them prior to the wedding date.