CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
One of the beautiful things about Catholic devotional life is that there is a prayer (or prayers) for every problem and occasion. Novenas in particular are increasing in popularity amongst younger generations of Catholics, thanks to sites like PrayMoreNovenas.com. And while engaged couples can find plenty of novenas to pray in preparation for marriage with a simple Google search, my hope is that this post will inspire you and your fiancé (or your maid of honor/best man) to write your own unique novena to pray with your guests in the nine days leading up to your wedding.
I first encountered the idea of a custom novena for someone’s wedding as a college student at the University of Notre Dame; one of my friends wrote a novena for a soon-to-be-married couple I knew. I thought it was such a wonderful idea that I have since offered to write one for my close friends and family who are preparing for marriage, and was blessed to receive the same gift from my sister Elisa (also my maid of honor) when I got married last year. Even if you don’t have someone who can spearhead the novena for you, writing a novena with your fiancé can be a beautiful way to grow as a couple. Below are simple instructions for how to put a novena together and share it with your guests:
Together with your fiancé, choose nine favorite saints.
These could be your patron saints, saints who have been meaningful to you as a couple, saints whose feast days fall on the days leading up to your wedding, or a combination of all three. My husband and I enjoyed this part of the process, although it was definitely tough to narrow down our list!
Find prayers to those saints that you can customize (or write your own).
Thanks to the internet, this part is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is search for prayers to the saints you’ve chosen and you’ll get lots of options that you can easily customize by inserting your names or changing the wording. If you’re ambitious and have some extra time on your hands, consider writing your own prayers to each Saint. Here’s an example of a modified prayer that I wrote for my sister Elisa’s wedding novena:
St. Joseph, pray for Elisa and Thomas as they begin their life as husband and wife. Pray for Thomas, that he will love Elisa the way that you loved Mary, and that he will teach his children the way you taught your Son. Pray for Elisa, that she will love Thomas the way Mary loved you, and that their union would imitate your holy marriage to Mary. Grant them both, with their future children, the grace of a happy and peaceful death.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of Christ, and for the gift of his earthly foster father, St. Joseph.
Create an email list of guests who you’d like to pray the novena with and for you.
An invitation to pray, even to those who aren’t Catholic, is never a bad thing. However, if you’re concerned that some of your guests may be offended by the idea of praying a novena for you and your fiancé, that’s something to keep in mind when making your list. I also recommend delegating this task to a bridesmaid or groomsman who can commit to sending out the prayer for each day.
Note: You may have older relatives who do not use email or check it regularly, but would love to participate in the novena. Consider printing and mailing copies of the novena to them; they’ll be so grateful.
Write an explanation of 1) what a novena is and 2) how to pray it for those who are unfamiliar with novenas, and send it out with the first day’s prayer.
Even if all of your guests (or everyone on the email list) are Catholic, it’s still helpful to include a brief explanation of novenas in general and yours in particular. It doesn’t need to be long or detailed. This is the explanation I included with my sister’s novena:
What is a Novena?
A novena is a prayer said over the course of nine days, and is popular in Catholic devotion. Novenas are usually prayed for a special intention and through the intercession of a particular Saint. We ask for the intercession of the saints because they are in heaven and are great prayer warriors. We do not worship the Saints or pray "to" them in the same way that we pray to God. We do honor them for their heroic virtue and holiness, and look to their example as we "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" as St. Paul says in Philippians 2:12.
For Elisa and Thomas, each day of the novena is dedicated to one of their favorite Saints. The idea is to have as many of Elisa and Thomas’ family and friends praying for them and their life together on the days leading up to their wedding.
How to pray the novena:
Begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Pray the specific prayer for that day.
End with the Our Father and a Hail Mary.
Pray the final novena prayer together with your wedding party before your rehearsal.
Kristian and I had a holy hour before our rehearsal, so we printed copies of our final novena prayer and invited everyone there to pray it with us. Those who were not at the holy hour could still pray it on their own at home.
In my experience, praying a customized wedding novena is a beautiful way to remain focused on the sacrament of marriage in the final (typically crazy) days of wedding preparation. It’s also a wonderful way to invite your guests to support you, especially those who are far away and unable to attend the wedding. My hope is that Kristian and I will pray our wedding novena each year in the nine days leading up to our anniversary, so that we don’t forget the holy men and women who interceded for us as we entered into married life.