Catholic Wedding Traditions and Customs
Roman Catholic Wedding service could be with or without mass. However, many practicing Catholics choose a Mass with the wedding to give an extra blessing to their marriage. Either way, there are a series of pre-wedding, wedding and post-wedding rituals that are joyfully carried out in a traditional Catholic Wedding.
Given here is an introduction to the pre-wedding rituals of a Catholic Wedding ceremony.
Following the tradition prevalent amongst Catholic Christians, the groom and his family visit the bride’s house. The bride and the groom exchange engagement rings blessed by the parish priest. It may be noted that this ceremony may not necessarily culminate in marriage. It only indicates the beginning of a period during which the boy and girl get to know each other. In case they decide to marry, it may be done within six months.
Attending A Preparatory Course
The prospective bride and groom attend a Marriage Preparatory Course, they can choose between a one-day and a three-day course. To participate in this course the prospective
bride and the groom are required to fill in a form declaring details of their lives and take an oath on the Holy Bible that they have not withheld any information.
Besides, they must also produce their baptism certificates. For three consecutive Sundays in the church, the priest declares the decision of the boy and girl to marry. In case one of the parties has hidden or misrepresented some information, anyone can let it be made public during this period. The couple may marry only after the culmination of the three-week period.
The Bridal Shower ceremony is to be performed by the bride’s family. The Bridal Shower is basically the last party the bride gives as a maiden to her female friends and relatives. This is given as a token of appreciation for all the bridesmaids. During this ceremony, the bride gives gifts to the bridesmaids and serves a pink cake with a thimble hidden inside. The legend goes that the girl, who gets the piece of cake with the thimble, will be the next to marry.
The Bachelor Party
The Bachelor Party is essentially a stag party hosted by the bridegroom on the eve of the wedding. During this party, the groom is expected to enjoy his last night as a bachelor. It is
customary to raise a toast before the drinking begins in earnest.
Arrival at the Church
On the wedding day, the bridegroom reaches the church first and awaits his bride there. As the bride arrives at the church, the best man – from the bridegroom’s party – greets her with a kiss and her wedding bouquet. The couple is then lead into the Church by the priest. In the church, the choir welcomes the bride and the groom with a special song. Two decorated chairs are placed in front of the altar for the bridal couple.
The Wedding Mass
The couple walks down the aisle with the wedding procession in tow. The priest begins the ceremony. He welcomes them into the Church and offers them his good wishes. The wedding mass begins with hymns and selected readings from the Bible. The couple and their close relatives come up to the lectern (podium) and read previously selected passages from the Bible. Later, the priest delivers the Homily, an interesting lecture with an emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. Often, the priest makes the Homily more interesting by punctuating it with amusing anecdotes.
Here is a short description of the wedding rituals followed in Catholic Wedding ceremony.
The nuptial rites take place in front of at least two witnesses. During this rite, the priest asks a few questions that the couple must answer honestly. He asks them if they have come of their own free will to give themselves to the other in marriage. They must also answer in the affirmative when asked if they will honor and love each other as husband and wife for the rest of their lives if they will accept children from God lovingly and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church.
The Solemn Promise
The priest guides the couple through this rite. The bride and the groom are asked to join their right hands (symbolic of a union). Then they individually declare their intention to take each other as man and wife with the famous lines “I, x (name), take you, y (name), to be my lawfully wedded wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. The bride repeats the phrases with the relevant name and gender changes. The priest blesses them and tells them that “What God has joined, man must not divide”.
Exchange of Rings
The priest blesses the joined hands with the Holy Water and also the rings so that the couple that wears them will have deep faith in each other, do the Lord’s will and always live together in peace, goodwill, and love. Then the couple put them on each other’s fingers with these words -“‘With this ring, I thee wed, in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, Amen“. At this point, the priest pronounces them man and wife. The groom may now kiss his new bride, usually lifting her veil for honor.
The mass proceeds with the prayers of the faithful – petitions for blessings on the couple – and an offertory procession. The couple brings offerings like The Bible and rosaries; a house made of thermocol, candles, and flowers, fruits that are symbolic of a happy married life. The priest blesses them. He then gives them consecrated bread and wine which stand for the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The congregation jointly recites the, Our Father, a Biblical prayer, and then the congregation receives Holy Communion.
Nuptial Blessing and The Recessional
The communion service follows and the mass ends with the signing of the register, which serves as a valid legal document of marriage. The copy of this document is sent to the Registrar of Marriages. The couple poses for photos at the altar with the bridal troupe and then walks down the aisle arm in arm to the strains of ‘The Wedding March’. Nuptial masses are accompanied by a choir, which sings specially chosen joyful hymns, with perhaps a special solo at communion.
Post -Wedding Reception:
A reception is held to celebrate the wedding. Friends, relatives, and colleagues are invited to a grand feast. The newlyweds cut the wedding cake and feed each a bite of the first slice. The Toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the newlyweds. The bride and groom get the evening going with their ‘first dance’. Their dance is followed by the bride and her father/groom and the bride’s mother, the bride and the best man/ the groom and the maid of honor, the bride and the groom’s father / the groom and his mother. After dinner is over, the couple leaves the reception. At this juncture, the bride must throw her posy of flowers behind her. The girl who catches it will be the first to marry, according to popular belief.
Suggested Read: Wedding Tradition in India