CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
If you’re currently planning your wedding, or have ever been to a Catholic wedding, you know that Catholics do things differently. We don't do "sand ceremonies." We don't process to the altar to top 40 pop music. We don't write our own vows. Instead of 5-10 minutes, our weddings last an hour to an hour and a half. The list goes on.
What you may not know is that the Church recently revised the official marriage rite, and that those revisions could affect your plans for your wedding Mass. Since I got married right after the revisions took place, I was able to get a feel for what’s new and what hasn’t changed. Rest assured that regardless of these revisions, at the end of the day, the Nuptial Mass is what it always has been: a beautiful, joyous celebration of the union of man and woman in marriage.
The Procession: Here comes the bride...and the groom...and the wedding party.
For some reason, before I got married I was under the impression that the Catholic marriage rite did not allow the groom, groomsmen, and priest to come in from the sacristy, while the bridesmaids and bride processed up the main aisle. At my wedding in December 2016 (days after the revised rite went into effect), my husband-to-be processed into the chapel with the clergy, the wedding party followed, and then I processed up with my Dad.
It turns out that there are quite a few ways to work the procession in accordance with the Church’s rubrics. The couple may process in together, after the clergy, or they may process in separately with their parents. The wedding party may process in two by two, or individually. And yes, the groom and groomsmen can come out of the sacristy and wait for the bride at the altar. The possibilities are almost endless, so be sure to talk with your presider about what you and your fiance are hoping for.
Fun fact: Catholic weddings do not include the question, “Who gives this woman in marriage?”
The Introductory Rites: Why not start with a song?
The revised rite encourages couples to include an opening song in their wedding Mass. This is not required, but it is a lovely way to celebrate the joy of the occasion. Many couples opt for instrumental music during the procession, and then sing a couple of verses of a favorite hymn once the bride and groom have reached the altar. If you don’t want to use a hymn, you could ask your presider to chant one of the antiphons suggested for nuptial Masses.
The Penitential Act is omitted from the revised rite, for reasons that the instructions for the rite do not make clear. What is clear is why the Gloria is now required for all wedding Masses: the Gloria is sung on Sundays (except during Lent) and all solemnities that the Church celebrates. How beautiful that the Church has elevated weddings to the same level as major feasts!
Fun fact: In a Catholic wedding, the presider will not ask if anyone in the congregation knows of a reason why the two people should not be joined in matrimony.
The Liturgy of the Word: Decisions, decisions.
The revised marriage rite includes more options from Scripture to choose from, but instructs that at least one the readings chosen must refer to marriage. Thus, a couple could choose St. Paul’s ever-popular hymn to love (1 Cor. 12:31-13:8a), but the Gospel or Old Testament reading would have to then explicitly reference marriage.
One thing to note is that if your wedding falls on a major feast day, like Epiphany, or during the Octave of Easter, the readings will be chosen for you based on the lectionary for that day.
The Celebration of Matrimony: Universal and particular.
While there aren’t any major changes in the actual rite of marriage, the revisions do stress the free choice of the couple, particularly in the “giving of rings” (previously called the “exchange” of rings): instead of asking each other to “take” the ring, they ask each other to “receive” the ring.
The revised rite also encourages the congregation to participate in an acclamation of praise--such as, “Thanks be to God” or “alleluia” after the couple has given their consent.
It’s no secret that the marriage rite has been adapted by many parishes to include various cultural additions, but in the revised rite some of these traditions, such as the exchange of arras (coins) as a sign of the groom’s promise to provide for the bride, have become “official” options for couples.
Fun fact: The official Catholic term for what most people refer to as “vows” is “exchange of consent”. In a Catholic wedding, the couple is not making a vow to God, but rather offering their consent to marry each other.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist: This is my body, given up for you.
Usually, the only living people who are mentioned in the Eucharistic prayer are the Pope and local bishop; at your wedding Mass, you and your husband will be named in this prayer! How cool is that? You’ll also get a special Nuptial blessing (which focuses mostly on the bride), but that hasn’t changed with the new rite.
I hope this has been a helpful overview of the changes you might encounter as you prepare for your nuptial Mass. If you’d like more detailed information on the revised marriage rite, Pastoral Liturgy has a good overview.