In Catholic weddings, couples are asked to make decisions about many aspects of the ceremony. The bride and groom are given the task to choose scripture readings, prayers and music. Commonly, the engaged couple is given a copy of Together for Life by Joseph Champlin for their preparation. The book takes the users through a step-by-step process in choosing prayers the priest will pray, scripture readings and blessings.
A centerpiece to the ceremony is the music chosen for the liturgy. The music choices are to be God/Christ-centered songs not songs from the radio. Those songs can be saved and played at the reception. The processional and recessional can be instrumental music if traditional wedding music is desired but can also be contemporary liturgical songs as well.
The songs chosen can affect the wedding liturgy in profound ways. Take great care before inviting friends or family to sing at your wedding. Your wedding is not an opportunity for others to perform! Meet early with the church music director for suggestions and guidance.
Traditional or Contemporary Wedding Procession
In a traditional procession, the order is usually: bridesmaids (or bridesmaids and groomsmen), maid of honor (or maid of honor and best man), ring bearer, flower girl, the bride and her father. The groom enters from the altar sanctuary with the priest and/or the groomsmen. It is wise to have the ring bearer and flower girl follow the attendants so that they are not first to arrive at the altar with no one to guide them. It is also extremely wise not to choose children that are too young for the task at hand. It adds stress to an already stressful (but beautiful) day.
A number of contemporary choices can be made for the procession. The bride may walk in with both of her parents or the bride and groom may both walk in with their parents (usually in this case, the groom and his family follow the attendants and walk in front of the bride and her family.) In second marriages or marriages of older couples, the bride and groom may walk in together. If there are children present from previous marriages, they may also walk in the procession as well. If so, they would walk in front of the bride or bride/groom.
There are truly no hard and fast rules for this except that it is authentic and revererent. The entrance procession is not about beautiful bridesmaids walking down the aisle with the bride making a “grand entrance.” The procession is intended to gather all who are a part of the liturgy and important in the lives of the bride and groom.
Unity Candle and Flowers to the Blessed Mother
The symbol of the Unity Candle is beautiful but actually an add-on to Catholic weddings that is borrowed from other traditions. It is becoming commonly used in weddings but has never been a part of Catholic tradition.
A bride or bride and groom may also bring flowers to the statue of the Blessed Mother after they exchange vows or at the end of the liturgy. This is an opportunity for the couple to pray and ask Mary to bless their marriage and love for one another. To remain authentic, it is best to include this practice only if the couple has a particular devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Ways to Make the Ceremony Authentic
There are a number of ways to include family and friends in the celebration. If wedding programs are printed, friends can be asked to pass them out as guests arrive. Three people will be needed to read the two scripture readings and the Prayers of the Faithful. The couple also chooses two people to bring up the bread and wine during the Preparation of the Gifts.
More people can participate in this action as well, i.e. both sets of parents. If the bride or groom has children from a previous marriage, the children can come forward and stand beside their parents for the exchange of vows. The exchange of vows creates a completely new reality for the children and it is appropriate that they are present in a significant way.
A wonderful resource for weddings is Celebrating Marriage: Preparing the Roman Catholic Wedding Liturgy. It provides more ideas and is a must read if the couple is truly committed to an authentic and meaningful wedding day.
It is imperative that couples take time in preparing their wedding liturgy with the priest or church wedding coordinator and not just focus on the frills of the day. This preparation speaks to the commitment the couple has to one another and the understanding that the marriage and their love is forever.