It's been said "A wedding is a day, but a marriage is a lifetime." In the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, a marriage is also a Sacrament. Thus, the marriage ceremony is rich in tradition, and reflects the sacred nature of the marriage bond. The Sacramental aspect of Matrimony recognizes that the newly-wedded couple has entered into a sacred covenant with God as well as with one another.
In a beautifully expressed "Exhortation Before Marriage", the couple is told that they are "about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is sacred because it was established by God Himself….this union will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly influence your whole future…."
Every religion will have traditions that you are likely to see used in their wedding ceremonies. Catholic weddings tend to be rich with tradition. They are also among the more formal ceremonies, and usually follow a standard format.
If a couple wish to get married in a Catholic church, they must attend a marriage preparation course, known as pre-Cana, and refrain from sexual activity. The aims of these programs are to help the couple decide whether they are well suited and ready to marry, and to equip them with the tools they will need for a successful marriage.
The banns for the marriage are read in the parish church some weeks before the wedding. This 800 year old tradition allows people to inform the church if there is any cause why the couple should not be allowed to marry.
If one member of the couple is not Catholic, a dispensation is required that is granted by the priest who is to conduct the marriage. The Catholic believer is required to promise to continue observing the Catholic faith and to make every effort to raise children as Catholics.
A Catholic wedding ceremony
A Catholic Nuptial Mass usually takes place in the bride’s parish church, and is usually held in the morning or early afternoon. It is rich in ceremony and liturgy. Weddings are not held on Holy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday, or when Mass is read for the church’s congregation.
Many Catholic churches do not allow the use of secular music such as popular wedding marches or recessional music. Sacred music or classical hymns by composers such as Bach, Handel, and Mozart may be played.
There are two types of ceremony, one which lasts about an hour which Mass and the Eucharist are celebrated, and one without Mass that lasts about 20 minutes.
The bride’s family is seated on the left of the church and the groom’s on the right. The groom awaits his bride, who is traditionally escorted down the aisle and given away by her father (who is on her right), although it is acceptable for her to be walk alone or accompanied by both parents.
The wedding Mass starts with the entrance rite, greeting and penitential rite, followed by the singing of Gloria, the opening prayer, and liturgy of the word (readings from the Old and New Testaments, a psalm and response, Alleluia, and a Gospel reading. A homily from Scripture is read by the priest for the couple and their guests. The bride and groom exchange their vows and consent, the unity candle may be lit by the couple’s parents (some Catholic churches do not permit this ceremony), and rings are blessed and exchanged. After the prayer of the faithful is the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the gifts of bread and wine (Jesus’ body and blood). Catholic wedding guests may receive Holy Communion. A service with a Mass ends with a blessing and dismissal, and a wedding without a Mass ends with the Lord's Prayer and a blessing of the couple and the congregation.
Mexican Traditions: One Mexican Catholic wedding tradition followed by Roman Catholic Mexicans before the ceremony, involves the bride's mother (or parents) saying a prayer for their daughter before her wedding ceremony. A well-known tradition is that of the thirteen gold coins (Trece monedas de oro), in which the groom presents his bride with thirteen gold coins to represent his unquestionable trust and confidence. It is a symbolic pledge of all his material possessions. By accepting, she is saying that she will honor that trust and confidence.
Filipino Traditions: A Filipino Catholic wedding tradition laden with meaning, is the veil and cord ceremony. The 'veil sponsors' place the wedding veil on the grooms shoulder and over the brides head, which symbolizes two people 'clothed' as one. The 'cord sponsors', loosely place loops of a rope in the form of a figure eight over the bride and grooms neck-shoulder area, to represent the infinite bond of marriage.
Irish Traditions: During Irish Catholic wedding ceremonies, it is commonplace for the bride to carry a horseshoe for good luck and a handkerchief, which, with a few stitches turns into a christening bonnet for the first baby. Later, with the removal of the stitches, it takes on its original form to be carried by the child on his/her wedding day.
Weddings are such a momentous occasions in all countries, that they always have a myriad of traditions associated with them. For a bridal couple, it is best to delve into their lineage and dig out an old, family tradition to incorporate into their ceremony.
Catholic wedding vows and exchange of wedding rings
" _______, will you take _____ here present, for your lawful wife/husband according to the rite of our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church?" (Response: "I will")
(Repeat) "I, ________, take you ______, for my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."
(Rings) "With this ring I thee wed, and pledge thee my troth."
After the ceremony
Guests at a Catholic wedding will usually be invited to a wedding reception afterwards where food and drinks are served. Grace will probably be said before the meal.
Here is a suggested dinner prayer for a Catholic wedding reception:
Bless us, O Lord, and these gifts,
which we are about to receive from thy bounty
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is good for the couple and all to remember this promise from the opening Exhortation: If the couple lives in true love and unselfish spirit, they can "expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted in this vale of tears. The rest is in God's hands." May each couple so blessed remember these inspiring words and strive to live out their blessed marriage in love for one another long after the wedding day is over.A Catholic wedding proves you are following the tenets of your faith and also pleases parents and other family members who are Catholic. It also means that your marriage is blessed by God.