April 13, 2023
Catholic wedding ceremonies are rich in sacred traditions and beautiful customs that have been passed down through the centuries. Here are five of the most important ones you can expect to see at the next Catholic wedding you attend.
A Catholic wedding ceremony typically takes place during a full Mass, which means that the couple exchanges their vows between the Liturgy of the Word (the first part of a Mass which includes the opening prayers, readings, and homily) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the second part of the Mass which includes the Consecration and reception of Holy Communion). The couple can select the readings for their Mass and some of the prayer options, as well. Additionally, the bride and groom often honor family members or friends by inviting them to do the readings or bring up the offertory gifts, which provides a beautiful personal element to the ceremony.
Every sacrament in the Catholic church is accompanied by an outward physical sign of the spiritual reality that takes place. (In Baptism, for example, water is physically poured over the head to accompany the cleansing taking place in the soul.) The outward physical sign of the sacrament of marriage is the words which are exchanged by the couple as they recite their vows. (1) The wedding rings that are exchanged then serve to joyfully remind the couple – and proclaim to the world! – that a spiritual bond has taken place between them! The wedding rings are blessed before they are exchanged, and the couple recites a prayer as they place each ring on the other’s finger. As if all of that were not beautiful enough, the rings also serve to remind the couple that their sacramental marriage has united them in a closer way to God: “The covenant between spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: ‘Authentic married love is caught up into divine love’” (emphasis added). (2)
The Nuptial Blessing is usually prayed over the couple by the priest or deacon right after the Our Father in the Mass. This important prayer invokes God’s blessing on the couple’s union, and asks God to give them the grace and strength to live out their marriage vows. The presence of the minister who gives this blessing over the couple signifies that the Church recognizes and honors this new marriage.
Devotion to the Blessed Mother is commonly expressed at a wedding Mass after the distribution of Holy Communion is finished. As one might honor a family member by placing flowers by their picture, the newly married couple often places an offering of flowers by a statue of Mary and then pauses to pray for her powerful intercession for their marriage. Playing a Marian hymn during this tradition is very common, as well. What better way to begin your marriage than by asking the Mother of Jesus to intercede for you and your spouse!
These significant Catholic wedding traditions are filled with meaning and beauty that help to create both a sacred and memorable ceremony. If you are planning a Catholic wedding, be sure to incorporate these traditions to enhance your wedding celebration and partake in all the beautiful practices the Church has to offer! May God bless your planning and preparations!
(1) Fun Catholic Fact: Did you know that a couple actually confer the sacrament of marriage upon each other? People often think the priest or deacon does the “marrying” of the couple, but in fact, the Catechism tells us that, “…the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the church.” (Catholic Church. (1997). ❡1623. In Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
(2) Ibid, ❡1639.
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