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Andrew Motyka is the Archdiocesan Director of Liturgical Music and Cathedral Music for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
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"Bishops have a duty towards both wise and foolish. They have to rouse the devotion of the carnal people with material ornament, since they are incapable of spiritual things."
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153)

Weddings: Some Practical Advice - The Very Beginning, Part 1
published 27 August 2014 by Andrew R. Motyka

OW THAT I’ve gotten that tantrum out of the way, I’d like to write, perhaps with a bit more tact, about parts of the wedding liturgy. I will do my best to make clear which parts of the following are actual liturgical legislation and which parts are my opinion (which is right, obviously). I should also mention that the Rite of Marriage text was written in Latin in 1969, with its English translation coming 1970. The Latin editio typica received a revision in 1991, but we are still waiting on an English translation of the second edition, hopefully coming out in 2015 (and you thought the 10 year wait on the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal was long!). For some information of what will likely change, see here.

First of all, regarding the choice of Mass, the Nuptial Mass (Ritual Mass for the Conferral of Holy Matrimony) is always used for weddings except on days on which Ritual Masses are not allowed (Sundays outside Christmas and Ordinary Time, and Solemnities.). This has ramifications for some of the additions to the Mass that will be explained as we go along. Nuptial Masses are allowed in Lent, though the normal Lenten rubrics need to be followed (no Alleluia, no solo instrumental music, no flowers (gasp), etc.).

The Introductory Rites are probably the part of any wedding that get the most attention, since they contain the procession that everyone has been looking forward to. This is what the rubrics of the Rite of Marriage actually prescribe for this procession:

If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.

The priest then reverences (and optionally incenses) the altar, then goes to the chair as normal.

Please note that nowhere in this rubric is there a mention of separate entrances by each member of the bridal party, the bride entering by herself, or the groom and priest waiting at the front of the church to receive her. This is entirely co-opted from non-Catholic ceremonies. Ideally, the bride and groom should enter together. What a wonderful sign in this sacrament! The man and woman come, together, to the altar of God to exchange their vows. They are allowed to be escorted by their parents, but the “father giving the bride away” is foreign to this ritual, and is surprisingly anti-feminist for an attempt to ignore the normative rite.

All that said, this is probably the most difficult thing to reform when it comes to fixing the wedding Mass. It absolutely, positively, must be championed by the pastor, and if he is not the source, then it isn’t going to happen. Do not try to impose this without his support and lead. It could be that he is choosing what hill to die on, and this isn’t the one. It will take a long time to fix this in the Church at large. Be patient on this front. As beautiful as the Church’s normative wedding procession is, it probably won’t be reformed in the average parish for a long time.

If you want to press for the normative procession, but also don’t have the energy to fight Bridezilla (or the even greater threat, Mother of Bridezilla), here is an idea at compromise, especially if you have a longer aisle:

Have the cross, ministers, and priest begin the procession as usual, but line up the groomsmen and groom at the cross aisle, which is usually about halfway down the main aisle. Then have each groomsman meet his partnered bridesmaid when they reach the cross aisle and continue on. The “hand off” from the father-of-the-bride to the groom can take place here, and the bride and groom continue together to the altar together. It’s not exactly the ideal, but it’s a good way to meet halfway (literally and figuratively), allowing for the Big Entrance that everyone expects, yet still giving the Rite a shot.

Note that the priest should enter in this procession. As the ordinary minister for the Mass, he should be in the procession following the cross, servers, and other ministers. Also note, however, that the bride and groom enter after the priest. That is because they are also ministers in this rite. The priest does not “marry” a couple. They marry each other. The priest (or deacon) is there as the Church’s official representative, not the minister of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

I had hoped to cover a whole section of the Nuptial Mass during each of these posts, but this is already getting a bit long, and I haven’t even gotten to the meat of music during the procession. That will have to wait until next week. Stay tuned!

Series by Andrew R. Motyka:   “Weddings: Some Practical Advice”

FIRST PART • Introduction

SECOND PART • The Very Beginning, Part 1

THIRD PART • The End Of The Beginning, Part 2

FOURTH PART • Word and Vows

Stay tuned for more additions!