The major decision that effects a Catholic wedding order of service is whether or not Mass is to be included in the proceedings. Typically, when both the Bride and Groom are practising Catholics, the 'Rite of Marriage During Mass' will be the obvious option whilst for mixed denomination weddings, and for those couples seeking a shorter service, the 'Rite of Marriage Outside Mass' will be the chosen path.
A Catholic wedding order of service which includes Mass can last up to an hour, with non-Mass Ceremonies lasting about half that time. The make up of each of the A Catholic wedding orders of service is as follows:
Rite of Marriage During Mass : The Entrance Rite, The Liturgy of the Word, The Rite of Marriage, The Liturgy of the Eucharist, Communion Rite & Nuptial Blessing, and the Concluding Rite.
Rite of Marriage Outside Mass : The Entrance Rite, The Liturgy of the Word, The Rite of Marriage, Nuptial Blessing, and the Concluding Rite.
The complete transcript for a Roman Catholic Wedding is quite long (even without Mass), but if you are keen readers, your priest should be able to provide you with a copy for you to take away and read. For those of you who would prefer something a little more easy to digest, we have summarised the various elements of a Catholic wedding order of service below.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 1. The Entrance Rite
The Bride will make her way to the front of the Church sometimes on her father’s arm, preceded by her Bridesmaids. Alternatively, the Bride can be met in the porch of the Church by the priest and the wedding guests and proceed towards the altar with the priest followed the guests. The Bride’s procession can be accompanied by a musical accompaniment or a hymn sung by the congregation. The Bride and the Groom will then sit or kneel on special cushions and the priest introduces the ceremony, invites the congregation to make the sign of the cross and says a short prayer.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 2. Liturgy of the Word
One or two passages from either the Old or New Testament (normally chosen by the couple) will be read. This can be done by the priest but couples may be given the choice of choosing a relative or friend to do it. A responsorial psalm will be recited or sung after the first reading and a Gospel acclamation will follow the psalm or second reading and be succeeded by a Gospel Reading (again, this can often be chosen by the couple). The Liturgy of the Word concludes with a short homily (a practical, not theological sermon) by the priest.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 3. The Rite of Marriage
The congregation will stand and the priest will turn to the couple and ask them three questions about their freedom of choice, faithfulness to one another, and acceptance and upbringing of children. The couple answers the three questions separately then declare that they know of no lawful impediment as to why they cannot be married. The Bride and Groom then clasp hands, exchange their vows, then go onto exchange the rings.
After receiving the rings (usually from the Best Man), the priest will bless them before the Groom takes the Bride’s ring and places it on her thumb saying aloud ‘Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity’, ‘in the name of the Father,’ (the ring is moved onto the Bride’s index finger), ‘and of the Son’ (the ring is moved onto the Bride’s middle finger), ‘and of the holy Spirit. Amen’ (the ring is finally placed upon the Bride’s fourth finger) - the Bride will then repeat this with the Groom’s ring.
Following the exchange of the rings, a few short ‘bidding’ prayers are spoken - it is possible for the couple to write these themselves and opt to have them spoken by the priest or a member of the congregation of their choosing.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 4. Liturgy of the Eucharist
Regular Churchgoers will be familiar with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and that which takes place in a Catholic wedding order of service has very little difference from the everyday version which you will be used to, the only difference being that the Bride and Groom can themselves present the gifts.
To summarise the Liturgy of the Eucharist for those of you not familiar with it, first is the ‘Preparation of the Altar’ and the ‘Presentation of Gifts’ where the bread and wine are brought forward along with any money collected from the congregation. Next, an appropriate hymn will be sung followed by the priests ‘Prayer of the Gifts’ which may be spoken or sung.
The congregation will stand (or kneel in Ireland) and the priest will read the ‘Eucharist Prayer’. To complete the Liturgy of the Eucharist, ‘Sanctus, Sanctus’ (‘Holy, Holy’), ‘Memorial Acclamation’ and ‘Great Amen’ are sung by the congregation.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 5. Communion Rite & Nuptial Blessing
Communion (the distribution of the consecrated bread and wine) will be taken at this point in the Ceremony to all those eligible and wanting to receive it - the Bride and Groom will be the first in line. Once Communion has concluded, the priest will recite the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. Next follows a Nuptial Blessing given by the priest to the Bride and Groom which is followed by the Rite of Peace. The Bride and Groom and all guests then show their love and wishes for peace to one another by shaking hands and saying ‘peace be with you’. ‘Agnus Dei’ (Lamb of God) and the ‘Communion Hymn’ are sung concluding the Communion Rite.
Catholic Wedding Order of Service - 5. Concluding Rite
A final blessing is given by the priest and the Bride and Groom seal the union with a kiss. The wedding party will then move into the sacristy to make the civil declaration and sign the register, often accompanied by a hymn of thanksgiving sung throughout by the congregation. Once the formalities are complete, the priest will introduce the Bride and Groom as husband and wife and they will then proceed out of the Church, followed by the Wedding Party and remainder of the congregation accompanied by a recession hymn.
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding ceremony articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with loads of civil wedding venues, decorations, florists and more.