HE SECOND VATICAN Council solemnly declared on 4 December 1963: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them.” Traditionally, the Mass was not interrupted by other events. That is to say, celebrations—the Sacrament of Marriage, the Sacrament of Confirmation, Canonizations, and so forth—took place before the Mass. In the years following Vatican II, certain people pushed for such celebrations to be “sandwiched” inside the Mass. In the Novus Ordo parish where I grew up, I remember seeing the priest baptize children during Sunday Mass.
Effect On Weddings • Before the post-conciliar reforms, weddings were particularly beautiful. The wedding party would process in, followed by the bride. Then came the exchange of marriage vows. The Nuptial Mass followed, with a lengthy NUPTIAL BLESSING for the bride after the Pater Noster. Unless I’m mistaken, the exchange of marriage vows in the Ordinary Form takes place inside the Mass. Did the good of the Church “genuinely and certainly require” this innovation? Most Rev’d FRANÇOIS CHARRIÈRE (d. 1976)—a Swiss bishop and theologian—wrote to the Vatican circa 1956 (emphasis in the original):
“From many sides, more or less substantial changes are requested from Rome. But those who are pleased with today’s situation, who live the Liturgy as given by the Roman Church, are not complaining, and do not say anything. Don’t we also have to consider the majority who are content? Isn’t their number as great, maybe greater, than the number of those who complain?”
Jeff Has A Preference • I personally feel it’s beautiful to see the bride process into the church according to the traditional arrangement. The pipe organ is played during the procession. The vows are exchanged before the Altar. Then bride and groom kneel in front of the Altar for Mass. By the way, as the wedding party processes into the church, I usually play the arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon found in Simple Organ Interludes (Manuals Only) in honor of Father Énemond Massé. You can download that entire collection at this link—all 104 pages!—completely free of charge.
At The End • When the Nuptial Mass is over, I frequently play the WEDDING MARCH by Felix Mendelssohn. I usually play it by ear (“make it up on the spot”) but following a wedding that took place this afternoon, it was suggested to me that I write down my arrangement. Here’s what I produced, in case any organists are interested:
* PDF • “WEDDING MARCH” (Mendelssohn)
—This simple arrangement will guarantee no wrong notes!
Historical Information • This piece was first used as a NUPTIAL RECESSIONAL on 25 January 1858 in a royal wedding between Princess Victoria and Frederick William IV of Prussia. It was originally conceived by Felix Mendelssohn as the WEDDING MARCH in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but probably 99% of people have never heard it in that context. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to sing hymns as Nuptial Mass recessionals. Everybody is watching the bride and groom; nobody is singing. I think Mendelssohn’s WEDDING MARCH fits like a glove.
Bonus Clip • Finally, the following movie excerpt from Sound Of Music (1959) with Julie Andrews shows the beginning of a Catholic wedding. Does anyone know which church it shows? It’s beautiful. When the wedding party reaches the Altar, they genuflect to the SANCTISSIMUM. Finally, Hollywood got something right!
Here’s the direct URL link.
Update: Several readers inform us: The wedding scene from the Sound of Music movie was filmed at Saint Michael Basilica in Mondsee, Austria (a 30 minute drive from Salzburg).