Planning The Liturgy



In the Roman Catholic tradition, the bride and groom minister the sacrament to one another; they are the celebrants of the ceremony.  A priest or deacon and at least two Catholic witnesses are also required to be present.



Ordinarily, one of the priests or deacons on the parish staff will preside at weddings celebrated in the parish.  On occasion, a couple may have a priest, deacon, friend, or relative whom they want to invite to preside at the wedding.  In this case, the couple should mention this to the parish priest or deacon early in the planning process.  The involvement of a friend or relative in your preparation for marriage can be important to you and to him.



The marriage celebration includes selections from scripture and General Intercessions (sometimes referred to as the Prayer of the Faithful).  We encourage you to ask family members or friends to serve in your wedding as Lector or Reader.  When choosing family members or friends, please select those who are accustomed to public speaking and have a familiarity with this type of reading.  Usually three Lectors are required.


Minister of Communion

If a wedding is celebrated during Mass, there may be a need for the service of Ministers of Communion for the distribution of Holy Communion.  Family members or friends who participate in this ministry in their own parish are welcome to assist with the distribution of Communion at your wedding.


Music Ministers

The parish music minister assists the couple in planning the music for the ceremony and is the organist/pianist for all weddings.  Please check Your Wedding Music Fact Sheet included in these Guidelines for more information.



The groom's attendants usually function as ushers and ministers of hospitality.  The bride's attendants, and, indeed, the bride and groom and their families may also act as ministers of hospitality.  It is a mature, gracious gesture for all members of the wedding party to greet members of the assembly as they gather to celebrate.



Altar servers from the parish will be scheduled for your wedding celebration.  If you have specific servers you would like, or have members of your family who fulfill this ministry in their own parish, please let the priest know as soon as possible.


Ring Bearers/Flower Girls

Couples are asked to consider the age of children involved in these roles and their ability to participate in a church service.





Should we get married at a Mass or should we have a ceremony?

First, let's understand the difference.  Every celebration of Mass consists of a Liturgy of the Word (entrance rite, readings, homily, general intercessions) and a Liturgy of the Eucharistic (presentation of bread and wine, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Holy Communion).  When a wedding is celebrated at Mass, the rite of marriage takes place after the homily and before the general intercessions; the Liturgy of the Eucharist then follows.  When a wedding is celebrated outside of Mass it is celebrated in a Liturgy of the Word in which the rite of marriage takes place after the homily and before the general intercessions.  The rite concludes with prayers and a blessing.


If one of you is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (and so will be unable to share Holy Communion if the wedding is celebrated during Mass), you may want to consider what this means.  Do you want to include something in this celebration in which only one of you will be able to take part?  Who will your guests be?  Is the celebration of the Eucharist the best way to help them to be with you and pray with you at your wedding?  If many of your guests are from outside the Catholic community, you may want to consider celebrating your wedding with the Liturgy of the Word.  (If one of you is not a baptized Christian, Church law does not allow the wedding celebration at Mass.)


Some people seem to think that a couple is not really married unless the wedding takes place at Mass.  This is simply not true.  Discuss your concerns with the staff member with whom you are working and make the decision that will provide the best context for your prayer and celebration.


Where do the prayers and readings come from for our wedding?

After you have completed the preliminary preparations for your marriage (the papers needed, the Pre-Cana sessions, etc.), you will be ready to begin planning the church liturgy.  The workbook you receive at the Pre-Cana sessions has the many readings and prayers used most frequently at Catholic marriage celebrations.  The staff member with whom you work will give you a different, more comprehensive workbook for planning your wedding, Together for Life.  This booklet provides a step-by-step outline for planning your celebration.  You will be asked to spend some time together reading through the many options available to you and making the selections which best express your own sense of your wedding celebration.


Most couples find the selections in this booklet more than adequate; however, you are not limited to the options provided.  If you decide to select from other sources, be sure to discuss this with the staff member helping in your preparations.  Scripture readings are always proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word.  If you select a prayer or reading from some other source, the placement in the liturgy will have to be discussed with the staff member.


Who decides what will happen at our wedding?

A wedding, like any sacrament the Church celebrates, is a public celebration.  It is celebrated both for the particular persons receiving this sacrament, and in the context of the parish community.


Among the items you will want to consider:


Are the people who will be joining in your celebration mostly from St. Josaphat parish, or will they be coming from a number of parishes?

If they are from many parishes, it will be necessary to take into account the music they are likely to be familiar with through their regular Sunday worship.


Are most of those assembled going to be from the Catholic tradition, or are many from other Christian or non-Christian tradition?

Because those assembled are your guests, it is important they feel comfortable in joining in the prayer of this joyous occasion.  You may want to include touches from another tradition if a sizable number of your guests are from that tradition.  If one of you is from another tradition, you may want to have your own minister present at the celebration.  We welcome the participation of your minister and would like to extend a personal invitation from the staff member working with you.


Will those assembled need a worship aid in order to best join in the prayer?

Some couples find it helpful to provide a small booklet outlining the order of service.  Some couples also prefer to place all the musical responses for the congregation in the booklet.


If you choose to provide a program or participation aid for your guests, please remember that copyright notices are required for the printing of most music and texts for the participation of the assembly.  Permission for "one-time use" is usually gratis from the publisher.  Check with the parish music director for more information on this part of your program preparation.  He will be happy to assist you in putting this together.




What is a "unity candle?"  Should we have one?

Every sacrament has a primary symbol, which shows us in a tangible way what we celebrate in the sacrament.  In the Catholic marriage ritual, this symbol is the exchange of wedding vows between the bride and groom.  Over the centuries, an additional symbol has been added--the exchange of rings.  The rings have come to symbolize the permanence of the marriage vows (the unbroken circle) as well as the commitment in love to only one other person (the public wearing of the ring).


In recent years, a third symbol--the unity candle--has been used by many brides and grooms as an additional symbolic articulation of their vows.  In discussing your plans with the staff member, you may find it helpful to explore whether or not you wish to include the unity candle in your ceremony.


Should we "make a visit" to the Marian shrine?

Bringing flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary shrine is a European custom added to the marriage ceremony, beginning around the time of your parents' wedding.  The bride took a floral offering to the Marian shrine as an expression of surrendering her virginity.  In our time and culture, it may also be a prayer of invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary that God bless the wedding couple in their new life together.  With this latter meaning, the bride and groom visit the Marian shrine as a couple.


Are we supposed to bring roses to our mothers?

Another addition to the wedding ceremony is the presentation of a single rose or some other small floral tribute to mothers and/or grandmothers at the time of the exchange of peace.  While this seems like a very nice gesture, we ask you to consider whether you are singling out mothers at the exclusion of fathers or other important members of your families, and whether or not additional flowers (besides the corsage or boutonniere) are necessary.


Arras, Lasso, Vinculo, Rosario, etc. In many countries other additions to the ceremony are customary, including the giving of symbolic coins (arras) by the groom to the bride while asking for God’s blessing on their material concerns in their married life.  The lasso is also used frequently in weddings when godparents (padrinos) place a cord/rope or a two-circled rosary over the heads of the bride and groom while a prayer of blessing is said.  Similarly, a rosary (rosario) or prayer book (libro de oraciones) may be presented to the bride by godparents (padrinos).


Because some of these practices were in use before the contemporary liturgy, it is important to let the priest know ahead of time (certainly at the rehearsal) if you will be following some of these customs.  For example, the lasso once stayed on the couple until the end of the ceremony or mass. However, because the bride and groom will need to accept the gifts of bread and wine at the presentation, the lasso now is removed from the couple immediately after the blessing.



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