What Happens at a Catholic Wedding - 8th March

The Catholic Rite of Marriage comprises four parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of Marriage and Concluding Rites.
The Introductory Rites include an entrance procession, liturgical greeting and opening prayer.

The Liturgy of the Word consists of between one and three readings from scripture and a homily.

The Liturgy of Marriage is divided in three parts: statement of intentions, solemn consent, and the blessing and exchange of rings.
The statement of intentions addresses the critical elements of sacramental marriage. The priest asks the bride and groom:

Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
Will you love and honour each other as husband and wife for the rest of your lives?
Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?

(The words ‘and His Church’ may be omitted. Also, the question may be excluded completely for a couple beyond childbearing age.)

For the solemn consent, the priest asks the couple to join hands and declare their consent before God and the Church. The couple then exchange their wedding vows. Perhaps the most commonly used form is:

I, N. , take you N., to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.”

Couples sometimes want to use vows that they have written. While the Church offers several alternative forms of the wedding vows, it does not permit personal adaptation of these, for several reasons.

Because the mutual consent is what makes the marriage a sacrament, it is important for everyone to be clear that the bride and groom have actually declared their mutual consent. If the vows are not clear about that—or if they contain wording that might be interpreted as placing conditions or limits on the marriage—then the validity of the marriage becomes questionable.

By using the vows provided by the Church, the couple acknowledge that they are part of something larger than themselves. The wedding unites them not only with each other, but with the whole Body of Christ, the Church.

Federal law also places constraints on ‘creative wording’ of the wedding vows to ensure that there is “no mistake as to the meaning of the vows”.
If the couple choose to have wedding rings, the priest then blesses the rings as symbols of deep faith and peace, and the bride and groom exchange them with a promise of unconditional love and fidelity.

Next, the General Intercessions (or Prayer of the Faithful) invite those present to pray for the couple, their families, all married people and the needs of the Church and the world. If Eucharist is not to be celebrated, the Nuptial Blessing (a prayer for the bride and groom invoking God’s blessing on their married life) and Lord’s Prayer follow. If the marriage is celebrated during Mass, the Nuptial Blessing and Lord’s Prayer are part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Solemn Blessing, Signing of the Register and Dismissal conclude the service.

Elizabeth Harrington