There are so many details in planning a truly memorable wedding. You probably have an idea of when and where you w
ish to hold the ceremony and the reception. But before you settle on a date and put a deposit on a banquet hall, the first
thing to do is contact your local parish and
make an appointment to begin planning your wedding. To help you understand the details of preparing for
and planning your Catholic wedding, th
e U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has created this helpful video.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing a place for the wedding ceremony
It is customary for Catholic weddings to take place in the parish of the bride, but the groom’s parish is also acceptable. If you’re not currently registered in a parish, you’re encouraged to register as soon as possible in the parish closest to where you will reside once you’re married. This way you will already feel at home in your own parish community as you begin your married life together, especially if you already attend that parish together for weekly Mass.
If you’ve moved away but have always dreamed of marrying in the parish where you grew up, and still have a strong connection to that community through family and friends, you should contact your former parish as soon as possible. Assuming you live too far away to prepare for marriage in that parish, you’ll need to contact your local parish to get started on the marriage preparation process. Each parish does things a little differently, so contacting both your local parish and the parish of marriage is very important in order to get started.
The Parish Church
The Place for Catholic Weddings
The Sacrament of Marriage takes place in a church, not the beach, park, or other place of natural beauty. The Church is a sacred place, consecrated for the purpose of offering worship to God. Here the people of God gather for holy occasions. It is a graced space by its history, traditions and especially by the people whose faith is nourished there over the years. When the couple chooses the Church for their wedding, they are taking a step forward in faith, and they are inviting Christ into their marriage, and into the years to come as a couple and a family.
Christian marriage is a sacrament and a sign of God’s presence in our daily lives. As such, sacramental marriage is meant to be celebrated within the parish community that holds special meaning in the lives of the bride and groom. It is not just the church building that’s important, but the community of believers that it represents. Your home parish is the community of people who help prepare you for marriage and will support you as you begin your lives together. This is why the Catholic Church encourages all couples to celebrate their wedding in their own parish community, a community that will be enriched by their new marital union.
Planning Your Catholic Wedding Ceremony
After the marriage preparation program, the FOCCUS meetings, and all the documents are gathered, you will have an opportunity to meet again with your pastoral minister to finalize your sacramental preparation and begin planning your wedding liturgy
The pastoral minister will assist in planning the wedding liturgy by providing information and resources that may be helpful in making the appropriate choices for this celebration. The Rite of Marriage contains various options for prayers, Scripture readings, blessings, and wedding ceremonies. Parish guidelines and local policies may also be available. Other parish ministries may provide guidance in various areas (music, environment, etc.). A date and time for the rehearsal is confirmed. Prior to the rehearsal all details regarding the wedding liturgy should be reviewed and approved by the priest or deacon who will celebrate your wedding.
Three Options for Catholic Wedding Ceremonies
- The Nuptial Mass, usually between two Catholics; the Rite of Marriage takes place in the context of the Mass. (usually 1 Hour)
- The Wedding Outside of Mass, usually called the Wedding Ceremony, begins with the Readings from the Bible, called the Liturgy of the Word, with the Rite of Marriage after the homily. The couple does not receive Holy Communion. Usually suggested when a Catholic is marrying a Christian from another denomination. (usually 30 to 40 minutes)
- Rite of celebrating marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person, unbaptized very much like the wedding ceremony, except with a few changes to the prayer.
Choosing your Wedding Music
Choosing your music is very important in any wedding and especially within the Catholic ceremony. Music selections should enable those gathered to enter into the mystery of vocation and love that is being celebrated. Therefore, it’s very important that the music fits the sacredness of the event. Show tunes and love songs can be performed at the reception. The music minister at the parish will assist the couple in selecting appropriate music.
Remarriage in the Church
The hope for all couples who enter Catholic marriage is that their marital love will grow stronger through the years, so that one day they will “reach old age in the company of friends, and come at last to the kingdom of heaven.” (The Rite of Marriage)
The reality is that spouses may find themselves alone far sooner than they ever expected. When we lose our spouse through death or divorce, and are fortunate enough to find new love, we hope once again for a marriage that will last a lifetime.
Persons seeking remarriage in the Church are usually faced with more challenges than those entering first time marriages. There may be complicated financial issues, family blending and step-family issues, and in the case of divorced Catholics, they must obtained a declaration of nullity (points to Tribunal web pages on annulments) from the Church before they are free to marry again.
To meet the unique needs of couples remarrying in the Church, the Department of Youth, Marriage and Family Life sponsors a special remarriage preparation workshop entitled To Trust Again, offered twice a year in the Spring and Fall.
If you are a married Catholic who chose not to marry in the Church, you may have a number of questions about your marriage. The Catholic community of the Diocese of Trenton invites you to consider bringing your marriage into full communion with the Catholic Church, to return to the sacraments and be nourished regularly by the Eucharist, the source and summit of Catholic spiritual life. Convalidation is the official name of the process for making your marriage valid in the Church.
To begin the convalidation process, you’ll need to meet with a priest, deacon or pastoral minister of your parish to discuss your individual situation, as each convalidating couple has their own unique needs. The process for couples in a first-time marriage is more straightforward than for couples who’ve had a prior marriage and may need to begin the annulment process.
Depending on how long you’ve been legally married, you may be asked to attend a marriage preparation program, or you may be privately prepared for the sacrament of marriage by a mentor couple or priest or deacon of your parish. You’re encouraged to use self-study resources to learn about the beauty of Catholic Sacramental marriage on your own.
In planning your convalidation ceremony, you would not typically include a formal Mass within the ceremony. It is much like a wedding vow renewal ceremony, with some key differences.