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Ceremony: Catholic Wedding Rituals

Photo: Kari Kochar Photography, Pasadena, CA

Considered one of the seven sacraments, or channels to God's grace, the wedding ceremony is a serious affair in the Catholic Church full of deep spirituality and rich symbolism. Here's what to expect (rituals and readings may vary depending on your church).

Introductory Rites

Catholic weddings begin with an opening prayer by the priest, naming the couple and asking for God's blessings on their wedding day.

Liturgy Of The Word

The readers (often family members) read Biblical passages selected by you and preapproved by the priest, followed by a short sermon about marriage given by the priest.

Rite Of Marriage

The entire congregation stands as the couple takes their vows, declaring their commitment to each other. Actual vows vary between churches, but the basic wording is: "I (groom's/bride's name), take you (bride's/groom's name) to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life." The priest then blesses the couple, joins their hands together, and asks, "Do you take (bride's/groom's name) as your lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?"

Exchange Of Rings

After the couple (hopefully) responds, "I do," to the vows, the best man gives the bride's ring to the priest, who blesses it and hands it to the groom to place on the bride's finger. Then, the maid of honor hands the groom's ring to the priest, who blesses it and hands it to the bride to place on the groom's finger. Each may say, "I take this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Mass Or No Mass

If the ceremony takes place without a Mass, the ceremony concludes with nuptial blessings and a final prayer from the priest. He then tells the congregation, "Go in peace with Christ," to which they respond, "Thanks be to God." If the ceremony includes Mass (which adds only 15 minutes to the service), the priest asks for the "sign of peace," in which everyone shakes hands with their neighbors. Holy Communion follows. Finally, the priest recites a concluding prayer and nuptial blessing asking for strength and protection for the couple.

Offertory

In some Catholic weddings, the bride places flowers on the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary as musicians play "Ave Maria." This rite can be done either before the processional or after the recessional.

-- Robin Beth Schaer

See More: Wedding Ceremony + Wedding Vow Ideas