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The Celebration of Marriage Within Mass
[The ritual outline that follows is based on the Catholic Church’s revised Order of Celebrating Marriage © 2012, ICEL.]
 
INTRODUCTORY RITES
• Procession (with music) 
• Entrance Hymn/Song (optional)
• Greeting and words of welcome 
• Collect 
 
What this is about?
• Setting the atmosphere 
• Welcoming people officially, putting them at ease, and making them feel welcome 
• Preparing the assembly to listen to God’s word. 
 
Ways of doing it 
• Two forms are provided for the Entrance Procession.  
• In the first form, the priest and servers greet the couple at the door of the church.  The procession then takes place: servers first, followed by priest, then couple, possibly with parents and witnesses.
• In the second form (pastorally more common), the priest and servers assemble in the sanctuary. When ready, the bride, or the bridal couple, and attendants process to the sanctuary and are greeted by the priest.
• It is usually difficult to have congregational singing when the bride is walking down the aisle. Organ/Instrumental music is normally best during this moment of the rite. An appropriate entrance song could be sung once everyone is in position. 
• The priest warmly welcomes the guests in his own way and invites them to enter fully into the liturgical action rather than just watching it. 
 
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
• Old Testament or New Testament Reading 
• Responsorial Psalm (sung, if possible)
• Gospel Acclamation (sung, if possible)
• Gospel 
• Homily 
 
What this is about?
• Listening to the scriptures and responding. When the scriptures are read, God speaks to his people. 
• You also speak to your guests through the choices you make. 
 
Ways of doing it
• Spend time deciding which of the scripture readings are most appropriate for your marriage. It is usual to have a Gospel reading and either one or two others, from the Old and/or the New Testament. 
• You may decide that all the readings should have the same focus or theme; or you may allow each of the selections to focus on a different aspect of marriage that you wish to be part of your own. 
• Avoid undue haste while reading, and from one reading to the next. 
• Make sure the readers can read well, and have had time to practise beforehand in the church with the microphone. Have them pause before saying, "The word of the Lord" in order to evoke the response, 'Thanks be to God.'
• Provide a short period of silence after each reading to allow the assembly to reflect upon hearing God’s word. 
• Responsorial Psalm. The Psalm after the first reading is for reflection on the word of God. The cantor (good singer) leads the assembly in the response and normally sings psalm verses alone. 
• The Gospel acclamation (Alleluia) is ideally sung because it is an affirmation of praise by the Assembly to God in Christ whose word we welcome in the Gospel.  The Alleluia/Gospel Acclamation may be omitted if it is not sung [GIRM (2010) par. 63c]. 
 During Lent, the Lectionary provides alternatve acclamations before the Gospel, as the word Alleluia is not sung during this penetential time.
• Non-scriptural readings may not replace the scriptural readings. They could, instead, be included as a reflection at the back of the service booklet.
 
GIVING OF CONSENT
• A short exhortation (or Introduction) by the Priest 
• Questions Before the Consent 
• Reception of the Consent 
 
What this is about?
• You marry each other 
• You make the promise to each other 
 
Ways of doing it
• Position yourselves in such a way that it is clear that you marry each other rather than in a way that seems to say that the priest is marrying you: e.g. face the congregation, or stand side-on, rather than with your backs to the congregation. 
• Choose, adapt or compose an introduction. 
• The questions the priest will ask you are the same ones you signed on your Pre-Marriage Inquiry Form. 
• The declarative form - 'I, (Name), take you. . . ' - is strong and places the emphasis on the couple who promise each other . 
• The question form - '(Name), do you take (Name) to be your ...' looks as though you are promising the priest something. 
• Memorise what you are to say, or read them from a book held by one of the attendants. Repeat the words after the priest only if you feel unable to say them on your own. 
• Everyone may applaud after the priest receives your consent. 
 
 
BLESSING AND GIVING OF RINGS
 
What this is about?
• A richly symbolic action that seals your commitment to one another. 
 
Ways of doing it 
For the Blessing: 
• Choose a blessing from the samples in the Order of Celebrating Marriage
For the Exchange: 
• Choose a blessing from the samples. 
• Memorise what you are to say, or read them from a book held by an attendant; repeat the words after the priest only if you are unable to say them yourselves. 
• Have one partner place the ring halfway on the other's finger; the other partner then slides the ring to its proper place, symbolising 'yes'. 
 
 
PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL
 
What this is about?
• Praying for the needs of the church, the world and local community and the issues that are important to you. 
 
Ways of doing it 
The structure of the ritual is: 
• The Priest introduces the intentions (with an invitation to prayer addressed to the assembly present); 
• A reader announces the intentions, ending with: 'We pray to the Lord.'
• Everyone prays silently and/or with a common response, 'Lord, hear our prayer.' 
• After the response to the final intention, the Priest finishes with a final concluding prayer (addressed to God).
• The bride and groom, or parents, or several friends may be involved. 
• This is a particularly apt time for you to pray for each other and for your parents. Your parents may also wish to pray especially for you both. 
 
 
PREPARATION OF THE OFFERINGS (BREAD AND WINE)
 
What this is about?
•Preparing the altar for the Eucharist. 
 
Ways of doing it 
• Bread and wine are brought to the priest or to the couple and placed on the altar. This is a good way of involving your families or other special friends. 
• Music is appropriate to cover the ritual action - a congregational hymn/song, solo or instrumental music could be used. 
• The priest prays the Prayer over the Offerings. Select from the samples in the Order for Celebrating Marriage. 
 
 
THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
 
What this is about?
• Prayer of praise and thanks to God the Father for his goodness to us. 
 
Ways of doing it 
• There are several Eucharistic prayers to choose from. These will be found in the Roman Missal, or in the Sunday or Daily Missals which are readily available. 
• The Preface expresses why we thank God today. 
• The Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer should ideally be sung (lead by a Cantor/Choir if possible), because they are important acclamations by the whole assembly. 
• Singing helps to lift the Eucharistic Prayer to a higher level and maintains the celebratory atmosphere during this climax of the Nuptial Mass.
 
THE NUPTIAL BLESSING
(during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, after the Lord’s Prayer)
 
What this is about?
• The Church asks God to bless your marriage. 
 
Ways of doing it 
•Choices are available. Choose one that you think is particularly appropriate for your Marriage and, if possible, one that harmonises with the themes in the Scripture readings.
 
SIGN OF PEACE - COMMUNION
 
What this is about?
• Prayerful preparation for communion by remembering we are called to become what we receive in Communion – the Body of Christ (cf. St Augustine). 
 
Ways of doing it 
• All turn and greet those close by with the customary sign of peace. 
• The couple greets their families. 
• Communion under both kinds is a particularly appropriate expression of union with Christ’s body and his paschal mystery. 
• It is very appropriate to sing a Communion hymn as people process to communion.  It gives outward expression to the community’s 'union with' Christ during this moment of the Marriage ceremony.
 
 
SOLEMN BLESSING OVER THE COUPLE
(during the Concluding Rites)
 
What this is about?
• A blessing-prayer by the community for the newly-married couple. Also a prayer that the couple may become blessings for the community. 
 
Ways of doing it 
• Priest places his hands on the head of the couple and prays the blessing over them. 
• The couple stands facing the congregation, as all present pray the blessing. 
• Parents of the couple join the priest in praying the blessing prayer over the couple. 
 
 
SIGNING OF THE MARRIAGE REGISTER
 
What this is about?
• Required by law. 
• Points to the broader social dimension of your marriage.
 
Ways of doing it 
• Bring a small table (and chair) to a central point. 
• The signing should not take place on the altar as this is reserved for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
• Photographs may be taken during the signing provided the photographer does not dominate or disrupt the action. 
• This might be a good time for everyone to sing or to listen to some appropriate religious vocal, choral or instrumental music. 
• Due to the liturgical context of the Marriage ceremony, popular love songs are best reserved for use during the wedding reception. 
 
 
RECESSIONAL
 
Ways of doing it 
• Bride and groom leave first, followed by the attendants. 
• All come to congratulate the couple and then mingle and walk out informally. 
• This recessional movement is best accompanied by vibrant organ/instrumental music to keep the atmosphere heightened and celebratory.
 
 
CULTURAL AND ETHNIC CUSTOMS
 
Cultural and ethnic customs can certainly be used in the marriage ceremony. We mirror God both in our diversity and in our unity: Many cultures, one people; many creatures, one Creator; many persons, one Lover of all. Before deciding to incorporate any of these customs we should evaluate them to see if they are appropriate for communal worship. Criteria which might be used in this evaluation are: 
Does the action or symbol make sense?
E.g., When only the father of the bride accompanies her to the altar, what does this action say? It may be more appropriate for both father and mother to present their daughter since they are both her parents. 
Is the action or symbol understood?
The meaning of a good symbol is immediately apparent and does not have to be explained. When an action or symbol reflects a specific culture or ethnic background and is not understood by the entire worshipping community, its inclusion is questionable. If it is included, a brief explanation should be provided by the priest or printed in the marriage booklet.
Does the action or symbol encourage participation?
If an action or symbol encourages the congregation to take the role of an audience it should not be included. 
Some examples of cultural or ethnic customs that are sometimes included are: 
• Presentation of the couple to the community
The community present at the marriage is there to witness the commitment of the couple and to reaffirm them in this commitment. This affirmation is a form of blessing and can be made concrete in a number of different ways. For example, the community may extend their hands towards the couple during the Nuptial Blessing, or they may applaud after the exchange of consent or at some other suitable time in the celebration. 
• Placing flowers at the statue of Mary
Some couples may wish to dedicate their marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before the Recessional, the couple (or bride) take a special bouquet of flowers to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and place it there. They remain at the statue for a brief moment of prayer and then return to the centre. 
 
Rite of Marriage The information regarding the Rite of Marriage was revised in consultation with Dr Paul Taylor, Executive Secretary, Bishops Commission for Liturgy (May 2014)
 
 
 
From the Catholic Inquiry Centre 
 
 Is it any wonder that over the centuries of Christian reflection the Church has come to see marriage as a sign of the unconditional love Christ has for us, and a sign of the unity in which we as Christians are called to live?

On what basis can the Church judge that a husband or wife did not consent to a marriage? 

What happens in a formal annulment process?

Can a divorced person be an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist?

may both hold a position in the church. On the other hand, a person who is divorced and remarries without the first marriage being declared null, is not free to receive the Eucharist and so cannot be a Eucharistic minister. At the same time, the church does have concern for such a person, (that is, divorced and remarried without an annulment). The person should be encouraged to attend Mass, to participate in Church events, so that he or she is part of the community of the parish. A person in this situation should be encouraged to speak to their parish priest. He might be able to suggest that he or she make an appointment with the tribunal and hopefully, their situation can be rectified. Alternatively, the person should be encouraged to contact their diocesan tribunal office.

The material in the second part of this  consideration of marriage was prepared  by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference with thanks to Catholic Ireland for the use of their content. The material may be reproduced for non-commercial use provided this notice is included. Copyright © 2005.

From: 12. The Sacrament of Marriage. Published by  Catholic Enquiry Centre. Copyright ©, The Australian Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church.