T’S EASY to describe what the rite describes, but is usually more helpful to explain why. This is especially true when working with couples who are looking to be married, even those who attend Mass regularly. Most people attend Mass and believe what they should, but don’t have a particular interest in liturgical theology, so they may have quite a few questions about the Whys of the Nuptial Mass. Always be ready to answer those who ask you why they have to process into the Church that way (Andy: 1; Accurate Scriptural Quotation: 0).
Everything we do in liturgy, we do for a reason, and it’s usually symbolic in some way. When you deviate from the Rite, sometimes you unknowingly create a symbol that is the complete opposite of what you (and the Church) are trying to convey. For example, the Church’s entrance procession for the Nuptial Mass has both the bride and the groom processing in, demonstrating that they are the ordinary ministers of this sacrament, and that they are equals entering the Church to proclaim their vows publicly. The “traditional” bridal procession, in which the bride is “given away” by her father to the groom, sends a message that a woman is owned by her father right up until she is owned by her husband. This is obviously not an intentional message, but it is present. (If it were an intentional message, that very symbol would instantly provide grounds for an annulment.)
So what about the music during the procession? The argument about “traditional” music such as “Here Comes the Bride” has been made countless times (see here for one of the best ones). Thankfully, it’s becoming an argument that I’ve had less and less; the Wedding March is finally being seen as the cliche that it is.
Of course, telling people what they can’t do is never a great way to lead a discussion. Providing better options is much more effective. Here is where your experience as a musician comes in, and of course must be developed over time with your expansion of your own musical literature. One processional that I encourage the use of (if I can’t get them to use an actual sung procession, that is to say, nearly always) is the piece Processional from Maestoso, a great collection of processionals by Cal Shenk. This particular piece from that set is one that brides choose constantly; if I had to ballpark it, I would say that anywhere from 50-75% of brides choose that piece after I play it once (and it’s not because I’m a good player). It is a solid, solemn processional with a clear A’ section for full organ. I’ve even woven a simple Meinrad-tone Entrance Antiphon into it from time to time.
Don’t forget that, even if it is not the time for you to eliminate the Big Bridal Procession (and it probably isn’t), an Entrance Chant should be sung as normal for Mass. This is a great opportunity to push for the Introit! Congregations do not usually sing very well at weddings, and since the Introductory Rites are particularly front-loaded, encouraging the couple to have the cantor/choir sing the antiphon is a good option. The antiphons can either be found in the “Pro Sponsis” section of the Graduale Romanum or there are several options in the Missal (it’s the same Entrance Antiphon as the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time).
The Penitential Act is omitted at weddings, but a Gloria is sung at all wedding Masses unless they are celebrated on a Sunday of Lent or Advent. The reason for this is that all Ritual Masses now have a Gloria (even during Lent and Advent), and the only days Ritual Masses are disallowed are Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, and on Solemnities. Of those days, Sundays of Advent and Lent are the only days you would not sing a Gloria anyway. This is new in the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, and I suspect many people have been pretending it is not there. While in the previous edition, the Gloria was optional, it is required now.
After that, the Mass proceeds as normal. Next week, we’ll finally get past the beginning of Mass and into some other practical advice. So far, this writing has been nearly as long as the actual beginning of the Nuptial Mass (not quite). Tune in next week for more of my unsolicited opinion, and to see if I can write a whole blog post without savaging the use of parentheses (not likely).
Series by Andrew R. Motyka: “Weddings: Some Practical Advice”
Stay tuned for more additions!