Documents You Need to Get Married in the Church

It’s probably no surprise that planning a wedding looks different for couples getting married in the Church than it does for the couples who aren’t.

The Church requires several documents that you will need to have before your big day that might not be required by couples only getting civilly married. 

The following are documents Catholics need; if you or your spouse is a non-Catholic or non-baptized person, you may need to provide additional documents, so make sure to check with the parish and diocese you in which you will marry. 

Baptismal Certificate

Both the bride and groom must have a valid baptismal certificate. You might also be asked for communion and confirmation certificates as well. 

It must be the original copy, complete with church seal from your baptismal church that has been issued within 6 months of the date of the wedding. 

Can’t find yours? Don’t panic. Just contact the Church where you were baptized and ask for a new copy. 

Affidavit of Freedom to Marry

Before getting married in the Church, witnesses must establish the couple’s freedom to marry.

This document is signed by two people (preferably parents or relatives) who can testify to this on behalf of the couple.

The witnesses confirm that the bride and the groom are not related, have never been previously married (or have had their previous marriage annulled), and are entering into this marriage freely and completely. 

Marriage License

Even though your wedding is primarily a sacramental wedding, it is still necessary to have a civil marriage license.

You can obtain your marriage license by going to the County’s Clerk office and presenting proof of your identity, social security number, and the application fee. 

Many states may have a waiting period so you might not get it the same day you apply. Make sure you check your state requirements during the wedding planning process to avoid additional stress during wedding week. 

Marriage prep certification

Often, the parish will ask you to complete (and provide certification of completing) a marriage prep course such as Pre-Cana, a Natural Family Planning class, and Pre-marriage inventories such as FOCCUS or PREPARE.

The marriage preparation requirements vary slightly from diocese to diocese, so talk to your celebrant or parish office to learn about what the requirements are for you and your soon-to-be spouse.

Wedding Planning | Saying the Vows

 

While considering all of the aspects of a wedding day, attention quickly focuses on decisions regarding location, menus and color schemes. The wedding ceremony itself provides many more opportunities for a bride and groom to make personal and intentional decisions. 

When it comes to saying the vows, there are two primary options—and other variables—for couples to consider. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   HORN PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY: HORN PHOTOGRAPHY

Called by name 

At the moment of exchanging “The Consent,” or the marriage vows, both the bride and groom receive their calling from God and say “yes” in committing their lives to another in an eternal act of love. The priest initiates the consent by calling first the groom, then the bride, by name. 

When you meet with your priest or deacon  in preparation for your wedding ceremony, clarify how you would like him to address you on the Altar. Should he only mention your first name? Would you prefer if he referenced your first and middle name? Is it significant for your Confirmation name to be included?  

After the presider calls attention to the bride and groom, it is the moment of consent.

Say “I do”

The first option is for the marriage minister to offer the vows in the form of questions, so the couple will individually respond “I do.” This is the format and language used for other sacraments in the Church, beginning with Baptism. 

Recite the Vows 

The second option is for each individual to proclaim recite your name and the vows to the other. You may recite the vows from memory, read them from a printed card, or echo the promptings from the priest or deacon. 

Determining the right option for your wedding day is a personal decision—and there is no right or wrong. Have you and your beloved imagined this moment of exchange in your imagination? When you visualize your wedding day, what do you hear yourself saying? 

If you don’t initially have a strong opinion, your presider may be able to offer insight from his past experience at weddings. Prayerfully invite God into this decision and follow the direction he leads your heart. Perhaps it would also be inspiring to speak with your parents or grandparents to learn about the decisions they made for their wedding day. 

Decisions about the visible environment and logistics of the wedding day are vital and create a lasting impact for everyone present. In a different way, the words you speak in the Consent may be the most important and impactful words you say in your life. This is the moment you offer yourself freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to your spouse. Prepare with intention and joy as you journey toward your vocation. 

The Mystery of Crowning | The Byzantine Catholic Marriage Ritual

KIKI HAYDEN

 

Laurel-like leaves and baby’s breath wreathed Michael’s hair. The leaves were difficult to weave into the crown, but my maid of honor and I managed--with some help from my sisters and a lot of flower tape.

Turning to me, Father held out another almost identical crown, and I leaned forward to kiss it. The crown smelled fresh and green amidst the thick, rich incense in the church. As Father placed the crown on my head, I was married to Michael in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My husband grew up Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic, and we were married in the Byzantine rite, whose liturgical traditions came from Constantinople. The Byzantine Catholic marriage sacrament, called the Mystery of Crowning, emphasizes God’s sovereignty over marriage, his call to martyrdom, and a glimpse of Heavenly community. Learning about another Catholic rite’s marriage traditions can provide new understandings of God’s beautiful plan for marriage.

On our wedding  day, we exchanged no rings and said no vows. Instead, our wedding began with a crowning ceremony, continued with readings, a dance around the Gospel book, and finally culminated when we took the Eucharist together. 

A Note about Rings, Vows, and Chalices

In the Byzantine tradition, the priest places rings on the couple’s fingers at the betrothal ceremony. Eastern Catholic Churches take betrothal very seriously; an annulment may be required to dissolve it. Because of this, couples have the option to celebrate their betrothal on the same day as their wedding or, if their priest allows, during their season of engagement. Once betrothed, Byzantine Catholics continue to wear their rings just like Roman Catholics wear wedding rings.  The ring symbolizes the commitment to the couple’s vocation together.

Vows were traditionally not a part of Byzantine Catholic marriages. However, in the spirit of blending cultures, some Byzantine couples in America choose to include vows in their ceremony. The vows are not sacramental but carry emotional significance.

Most Byzantine couples share the Common Cup, a chalice of unconsecrated wine that symbolizes their common life together. Traditionally, Byzantine Catholic weddings do not include the Liturgy of the Eucharist. However, if both spouses are Catholic, the couple may choose to replace the Common Cup with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or to include both in their ceremony.  

God’s Sovereignty over Marriage

“This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.” 

God calls us to our vocations; we assent to participate in His plan. After assenting to be married, the couple remains silent throughout the wedding. The sacramental moment of a Byzantine marriage is when the priest places crowns upon the couples’ heads. 

“The sacrament is not administered by the couple to each other,” as in the Roman Catholic tradition; “in the Byzantine tradition, the priest gives the sacrament of marriage to the couple like baptism, like the Eucharist,” explains Father Michael O’Loughlin in “The Heart of Marriage,” a podcast episode from Catholic Stuff You Should Know

Marriage Crowns: The Call to Martyrdom

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

Marriage crowns remind the new spouses that they are now the leaders of a tiny church: their family. Just like the Church, the couple is led by the Holy Spirit to do the will of the Father and to draw closer to the Son. The marriage crown says, “here is the beginning of a small kingdom which can be something like the true Kingdom,” wrote Fr. Alexander Schmemann in For the Life of the World.

Marriage crowns are crowns of martyrdom, signs of glory and triumph when man and woman lay down their lives as an act of love for the other. “A martyr gives everything, even their very life for the kingdom of God and for Christ. So the couple is now crowned with martyrdom… they have now died to themselves to live for the other,” said Fr. O’Loughlin. 

By accepting the crowns of martyrdom, the couple has already surrendered their lives to each other and to God. They are led to the front of the church for the Dance of Isaiah, a victory dance for their sacrifice. 

The Dance of Isaiah: A foundation on Christ and a glimpse of Heavenly Community 

“Love never ends… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” 

After the crowning and the readings, the priest leads the couple three times around the Gospel book, which rests on a table near the front of the church. The priest holds a small cross in front of them.. Christ is their beacon as they take their first few steps as a married couple. The Gospel is at the center of this dance. They walk in three circles: a circle has no end. This is because the marriage sacrament “is not taken ‘until death parts,’ but until death unites us completely,” wrote Fr. Schmemann.

Married love is an icon of Christ’s love for us as well as a foreshadowing of the redeemed love we will share in Heaven: unending, selfless, and always encouraging each other to grow closer to the Trinity.

Meanwhile, the congregation sings four troparia (hymns). They lyrics include praise for the couple receiving their crowns: “O Holy martyrs, you have suffered courageously and received your reward; pray to the Lord our God to have mercy on our souls.” 

During this dance, the couple is surrounded by the singing of their family and friends, as well as the heavenly community present whenever the sacraments are celebrated. Painted icons around the church serve as reminders that the angels and saints are present. In this moment, the cloud of witnesses is fully present, able to be seen and heard.

A Sacramental Sign

In a shadowbox on the wall in our home, our marriage crowns remind us that God chose Michael for me and me for Michael. We are called to be martyrs for Christ and for each other. Although our love is imperfect, through our marriage, the Lord gives us a taste of heavenly community—unconditional, supported by our community, and always oriented toward the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kiki Hayden is a freelance writer and bilingual Speech Therapist living in Texas. She is a Byzantine Catholic. To read about how God has changed her life through speech therapy, visit her website.

4 Marian Flower Ideas for Your Bridal Bouquet

Are your currently choosing florals for your wedding décor and bouquet?

Both secular and religious culture have long traditions of ascribing particular symbolism and significance to flowers. The first use of flowers and plants as an invitation to contemplate God’s creation is believed to have originated in medieval monasteries. Saint Basil the Great wrote in a homily, “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that everywhere, wherever you may be, the least plant may bring to yon the clear remembrance of the Creator.”

The thought that living things speak a language, drawing our attention to the Father’s creativity, precision, and beauty, is a profound one. If the language of flowers appeals to you, consider incorporating blossoms that signify Our Lady--the purest, most radiant bride--into your selections. Here, four flowers with Marian significance.

Lilies

Many images of the Annunciation depict the angel Gabriel presenting Mary with a lily as he invites her to shelter and bear from her womb the Word made flesh. Saint Joseph, Mary’s beloved spouse, is also frequently shown with the lily. Both of these connections emphasize Our Lady’s purity and chastity--her perfect integration of body and soul. 

The lily of the valley flower, in particular, is also known as “Our Lady’s tears,” said to have blossomed from the tears Mary shed at the foot of the cross. Even on the joyful day of a wedding feast, these flowers are a delicate, fragrant reminder that marriage calls us to embrace both agony and ecstasy.

Consider, as well, that the lily is mentioned several times in the Song of Songs, a source of beauty among thorns and an element within “a garden closed:” an meditation on what it is to be a bride.  

Bold, sculptural star and Easter lilies are well-suited to spring weddings or minimalist brides, while tiger lilies and lily of the valley are a great fit for summer celebrations and bohemian or rustic tastes.

Roses

The ancient prayer of the Litany of Loreto calls upon the intercession of the Holy Trinity and of Our Lady under various titles, including Mary as the “Mystical Rose.”

Why the rose? Popularly considered the crowning, most beautiful of all flowers, Our Lady has been described by Saint Brigid as “beautiful to the sight, and tender to the touch, and yet it grows among thorns, inimical to the beauty and tenderness...The Virgin may suitably be called a blooming rose. Just as the gentle rose is placed among thorns, So this gentle Virgin was surrounded by sorrow.” As with the lily, the symbolism of roses invites spouses to consider the good times and bad, the easy and the crosses, which they entrust to one another in their marriage vows.

Roses convey a classic sensibility and, in addition to the Mystical Rose devotion, call to mind Our Lady’s gift of roses to Saint Juan Diego at Guadalupe.

Marigolds or Calendula

As prayer gardens grew more prevalent in medieval monastic settings, the faithful frequently reclaimed pagan epithets for plants and flowers by giving them religious names. Marigolds or calendula flowers (variations on a similar species) are now traditionally known as “Mary’s gold,” intended to invoke Our Lady’s heavenly queenship and radiance, the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation who triumphs over the grasp of evil and destruction.

Available in warm tones of red, gold, and orange, marigolds are beautifully suited to fall weddings, and can also be found in year-round friendly white.

Something Blue

Choosing blue, the color most frequently associated with Our Lady, for your wedding florals offers an array of choices and shades to complement your wedding colors, season, and style. Consider hydrangea, hyacinth, iris, bluebells, or wildflowers.

Do you plan to choose your wedding flowers based on their symbolism or connections to Scripture and the saints? Share your stories in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Wedding Planning | Ceremony Seating for the Bride and Groom

 

When planning a Catholic wedding, the bride and groom consider many details for the liturgy. One important decision is where they will sit, stand, and kneel through the duration of the ceremony.

Seated next to the Sanctuary, Facing the Congregation 

Imagine the way a priest sits, in a sacramental way, at the head of the sanctuary during the Mass, facing the congregation. In the same way, a bride and groom may choose to sit at the periphery of the sanctuary with their bodies facing the wedding guests.  

In their essence, the bride and groom embody beauty and love. They naturally attract the attention of their beloved family and friends. As they sit on the altar throughout the Liturgy, many wedding guests may gaze in admiration at the subtle movements and interactions between these living icons of love. 

One reason brides and grooms may choose to sit facing the congregation is to serve God as a visible witness of holy love and participation in the Mass. While wedding guests hear the word of God and see the bride and groom, their senses are filled with an image of unconditional, divine love. 

Seated in front of the Sanctuary, Facing the Altar 

A bride and groom may opt to sit facing the Altar, with their backs to the congregation throughout the Mass.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is an exchange between bride, groom, and God. The three become one through the mutual consent and exchange of marriage vows. The congregation of wedding guests attends as a crowd of witnesses, lifting the couple in joy, prayer and celebration for their new vocation. 

When a bride and groom choose to sit facing the altar throughout the duration of the wedding ceremony, their bodies, eyes and hearts are completely directed towards God--on the crucifix and in Scripture. Through their exemplary position in the front of the church, they lead the eyes and hearts of wedding guests to God. 

A Combination Option 

The Liturgy of the Word, the celebration of Matrimony, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (if included) are three different movements of the wedding ceremony. By speaking with your priest and wedding coordinator at your church, there can be a way to include different seating arrangements for the bride and groom during different times of the Mass. 

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be spouse yearn to be a visible sign to your wedding guests, yet desire to point your eyes and hearts to God as well. Think creatively about how and when your bodies can communicate these desires throughout your wedding ceremony.

It may be possible, for example, to sit facing the congregation during the Liturgy of the Word, move to the front of the church for the Celebration of Matrimony, then remain in new seats and kneelers—facing the sanctuary—for the duration of the Mass. 

The only way to know the right option is by praying through these decisions and discussing them with your fiance and priest. The physical structure of your church may impact your decision, or your priest may have personal preferences based on his own past experience. 

When planned with intention, the little details of your wedding ceremony help create a meaningful and powerful experience for everyone present on the day you enter the Sacrament. 

Are you married? Where did you and your spouse sit during the wedding ceremony—and why? Please share your experiences with our community on Facebook or Instagram.

Wedding Planning | Expressing Gratitude to Your Celebrant

Who are the clergy who will be involved in your wedding, and how can you welcome and thank them in your celebration?

Your wedding celebrant(s) might be an acquaintance, a family friend, or a peer. Regardless of whether you’ve been friends with your celebrant for years or whether he’s a relatively new acquaintance, etiquette and good will can strengthen your relationship and, God willing, make him a significant person in your wedding-day memories and future family life.

See Susanna + Brad’s Italian Vineyard-Inspired Wedding, with many priests and religious in attendance, and read their reflections on how married couples can honor the priesthood.

Here, four ways to express your thanks to your celebrant.

Make a donation.

Parishes, cathedrals, and other sites of worship typically request a donation fee in exchange for getting married there, which is used for maintenance and ministry purposes. It’s also appropriate to gift a personal donation to your celebrant in thanks, particularly if you’ve had a deeply enriching marriage prep journey with him, if he’s been in one or both of your lives for a long time, and if he is assisting with additional pre-wedding events such as a holy hour or confessions.

Invite him to the rehearsal dinner.

As your celebrant will be leading and directing your wedding rehearsal, it’s customary to have him attend the rehearsal dinner, as well. Invite him to say a blessing over your meal and to announce any pre-wedding events your rehearsal guests are invited to. Consider who in your families and wedding party he’d hit it off with, and introduce them.

Read 6 Ideas for Having a Spiritually Rich Wedding Rehearsal.

Write a note and consider a gift.

If your celebrant has made your engagement and marriage prep a memorable experience, don’t hesitate to say so! Consider how, for a particularly meaningful relationship, your thank-you note can go beyond basic gratitude by sharing your experience of your marriage preparation and/or friendship with him. If your celebrant is a close friend, you might also consider a gift related to a favorite hobby, saint, writer, or food or drink.

Invite him to the reception and ask him to bless the meal.

After celebrating your wedding ceremony, your celebrant will surely be sharing in you, your spouse, and your families’ deep joy. Be sure to create a reception table assignment for him and to communicate with your celebrant and DJ about the appropriate time for a blessing.

Pray for him.

It is a great gift to witness holy priests, brothers, and deacons living out their vocations as they witness you and your beloved entering into yours, particularly if you’ve shared in each other’s formation and friendship along the way.

We’d love to hear: what unique ways have you shown thanks to your wedding celebrants? Share in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

Choosing a Color Palette

CARISSA PLUTA

 

“What are your colors?"

PHOTOGRAPHY:    CHELSEA SLIWA

PHOTOGRAPHY: CHELSEA SLIWA

Early in the wedding planning process, you’ll probably hear this question asked a lot by friends and family. 

You may have had your colors picked out since middle school, but if you haven’t, you may feel a bit of pressure to pick the “right" hues. 

While your palette will inform a lot of your wedding decisions, like your flowers and your bridal party attire, it doesn’t have to cause more stress on the wedding plans. 

Know what you like

Think about colors and shades that currently found in your home and your wardrobe. These colors serve as an excellent starting point for a bride who feels overwhelmed. 

Using your favorite colors can help keep your own personality and style in the midst of your wedding day. 

Plus, choosing colors you have liked for the long-term will ensure that you won’t tire of them during the wedding planning process. 

Consider the location

Will your colors work well with the church and venue where the wedding and reception will be  held?

You should avoid a color palette that will clash with space, rather pick a color scheme that will help enhance the overall look and feel of a venue.

Keep your colors in mind (or bring color swatches) when visiting potential reception sites to see if the colors will work well in the space. 

Set the mood

Think about the feel you’d like to have at your wedding. Colors evoke mood and emotions that can impact the atmosphere of a wedding. 

Dark colors and jewel tones create more drama; they are bolder and more evocative than pastels which are softer and more calming.

Understanding the atmosphere you’d like to create will help you decide what colors you should choose, and whether you should use them as your primary and accent colors. 

Think seasonally

The season in which you get married might affect your color palette. For example, you can make your Fall wedding more vibrant by choosing colors that naturally occur in that season, like deep reds or oranges, while lighter colors fit best in a spring wedding. 

Certain colors hold a particular significance for Catholics so you might want to consider the liturgical season in which you’ll get married. 

Are you getting married in Advent or Lent? Include purple in your big day. Or if your wedding takes place during the Christmas or Easter season, gold might be a good choice. 

Consult the color wheel

You don’t need a degree in art or design to pick the perfect colors for your big day, but keeping in mind some of the basic principles will help guide your choice. 

Consult the color wheel to choose colors that look good together. Typically, colors that go well together are ones that are opposites because they pair a cool and warm (like turquoise and coral) or ones that share a primary color (like yellow and orange). 


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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