Planning a traditional Catholic wedding can be very difficult. Everything seems ten times bigger compared to normal weddings and usually the guest list increases by more than 10% because families and relatives from all over the country may want to attend the event. Marriage is considered one of the seven sacraments and is thus a very serious, but joyful, affair. Whether you’re planning a Cathlolic wedding, want to incorporate some religious traditions in a less formal setting, or are attending a traditional ceremony, here is everything you need to know.
Catholic Beliefs About Marriage
Through Catholicism, you are only allowed to get married in the church once. This strong belief ensures that people that do get married through the church are ready to spend the rest of their lives together in sickness and in health. If, for some reason, the bride and groom decide to get a separation in the future, they can only divorce through the court, not the church. There is the possibility of marrying again, but only if a spouse has passed away or if the previous marriage was annulled, which is a long and complicated process.
A marriage through the church symbolizes just how amazing and beautiful a couple’s love is. In front of the eyes of God, they read each other’s vows and promise to endure through whatever obstacle is thrown their way. Before fully deciding if the couple wants to be married, the priest sits down with them and asks them particular questions about their love for one another and if they are sure in taking this huge step in their life as it cannot be undone.
Requirements to Marry in the Church
If you are looking to get married, there are a few steps you must take first. Before even thinking about joining each other’s lives through the Catholic church, both bride and groom must have a baptism, first communion, and confirmation. Documentation of these sacraments should be provided before you can move on with any arrangements for a ceremony. If you and your partner have been part of the Catholic church your whole lives, it should just be a matter of finding these old documents, but if one or both of you are converting, you should look into completing this soon.
Booking your church must be done up to a year in advance as you have to work around the priest’s schedule. After completing the required sacraments you’ll need to schedule a meeting where you both meet the priest together. The priest has to witness the commitment that you both as a couple are ready to make, and he has to be with you through all the classes and meetings you attend.
Once this is done you should focus on the small but special segments of your wedding. Decide which Bible scriptures will serve as a guide for the priest to create his sermon. Choose small tasks for your family members to perform during the day of the wedding. These may include roles such as ushers, flower girls or boys, ring bearers, etc. Participants for these particular tasks are all needed to help the wedding mass run smoothly. Talk to your priests about requirements for the best man and maid of honor. It is usually prefered that they both be Catholic, though sometimes only one needs to be.
The Wedding Day
Catholic weddings begin with a traditional blessing from the priest as they name the couple and ask for God’s blessing. Planned Bible passages may be read, often by family members, followed by a sermon about marriage.
Following this, the bride and groom will exchange vows as lead by the priest and exchange rings after they say their “I do’s.” As the best man and maid of honor hand over the wedding rings, the priest will bless the items. The couple will then accept the rings as a symbol of their love and commitment to each other in the name of God.
A Catholic wedding may contain a Mass, which will usually lengthen the ceremony by about 15 minutes. The priest will ask for a “sign of peace” from the guests, where they are asked to shake hands with their neighbors, followed by a Holy Communion.
Whether or not there is a Mass, the ceremony will conclude with a final prayer and a nuptial blessing for the couple. Sometimes a Catholic wedding may include a moment either at the end or beginning of the ceremony where the bride places flowers at the shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Financial Costs of a Traditional Catholic Wedding
Every Catholic parish is different when it comes down to wedding fees. Some churches charge for the music, rehearsal, and amount of time spent in the church while other parishes are more lenient. Typically, Catholic weddings range from $500-$1,000. The cost depends on just how extravagant you want your ceremony to be. Of course, additional charges would come from flower decorations, special music you want to add, and the how long the actual mass will be. If the parish is also holding your wedding reception, then additional costs will be added to your bill. Most churches have payment plans where you can pay partially for your wedding every month which can be very helpful for couples and families that are struggling financially or couples who are paying without family assistance.
Having a Catholic wedding can be very stressful, especially if you and your future spouse do not have any of the sacraments completed. Churches have accelerated programs that allow you to obtain your baptism, first communion, and confirmation quickly. These classes usually take up to 6-9 months to complete depending on which church you decide to go to.
A traditional Catholic wedding is a beautiful ceremony that can be achieved through the help of the parish, priests, and family members. If you and your spouse happen to be married for a long time, you may also consider renewing your vows through the church for a smaller cost.