Getting married in a Catholic Church involves more than just choosing a picturesque setting for the reception and colors for the bridesmaids to wear. It’s a significant decision, and a significant commitment, and one for which you need to prepare thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Most of all, there are things that you need to know—and do!—well ahead of time.
The first thing you need to do is contact the parish where you want to be married and let the priest there know of your intentions. All Catholic churches in the United States require a preparation period that’s between six months and a year in length, and you want to get your wedding date fixed on the parish calendar as early as possible.
FUN FACT: Did you ever wonder why bridesmaids dress alike? At one time, it was thought that this might confuse evil spirits that might be looking for the bride.
During that preparation period, you’ll be creating or renewing a connection to that specific community of faith that will be supporting you in the sacrament of marriage. You’ll probably be provided with some material about the Catholic wedding liturgy and the priest or deacon will meet with you to be sure you have all your questions answered.
It may be that you’ve never been to a Catholic wedding before, or paid attention to any that you have attended. So it’s important that you understand the components of the liturgy and why they are important. You may choose to have your wedding within the context of a Mass or not. Either way, the liturgy speaks powerfully to the commitment that you are making.
It’s also in a way a primer of the Catholic faith with regards to marriage! You may not realize it, but you—the couple—are the ministers of the sacrament: you take an active role in what is happening. Catholic weddings take place in churches, not on a beach or in a garden, and this emphasizes the fact of it being a scared act. The readings from Scripture emphasize God’s plan for marriage and God’s presence in this sacrament. The vows and exchange of rings express your consent, your love, and the lifelong commitment you are making, and the prayers and blessings are the act of a Church that is solemnizing and supporting your journey as a couple and as a family.
FUN FACT: At wedding ceremonies, the bride usually stands on the left side of the groom. Why? In the middle ages, there was concern that an intruder might enter to kidnap the bride, and this way the groom would have his right arm free to reach for his sword and protect her!
A wedding can be the most beautiful and spiritual experience a couple can enjoy together, but the key is being prepared. Pauline Books & Media can help, with Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner by Stephanie Calis. Inside you’ll find:
- Perspectives of both the bride and the groom are covered
- Discussion questions for couples
- Planning worksheets that include budget, timelines, Mass programs, important contacts, reception guide
- Helpful references to Church-approved Scripture, prayer and music for the Nuptial Mass
- Includes a bookmark with information about the new rite of marriage
Embracing the sacrament can make all the difference as you begin your journey together as a Catholic family.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir