Catholic wedding ceremonies are full of long-lasting traditions and history. Many faith-based details go into this special day, so it is easy to get confused if you are not familiar with the religious processes. But how long is a Catholic wedding ceremony?
If you are debating whether or not you want to get married in a Catholic church with the full nuptial mass, the length may be a factor in your decision. There are consistent components of the ceremony that you will see, however. We break down the necessary details of the Catholic wedding tradition and ceremony below.
How Long is a Catholic Ceremony?
So, you might wonder how long is a catholic wedding? A traditional Catholic wedding ceremony will include communion and a full Mass, which could be anywhere between 50 minutes to an hour.
Sometimes the couple will only participate in a ceremony with the Rite of Marriage, without mass, communion, and the works. This shorter wedding will only take up 30-45 minutes.
If you’re in a hurry to get to your wedding reception and you don’t want to sit through an hour long mass, you can choose to have a Catholic ceremony without all of the prayers and blessings involved.
Do We Have to Hold Mass at a Catholic Wedding Ceremony?
No, couples typically have the choice on whether they want to celebrate within the Catholic wedding Mass. While the church does encourage the sacrament of marriage to take place in Mass, sometimes it makes sense to do without it.
When a Catholic marries someone who is non-Catholic, not Christian, or not baptized, performing a wedding without Mass is strongly encouraged. The non-Catholic is unable to receive the Eucharist, so it would be best to get married in a Rite of Marriage ceremony.
What Happens at a Catholic Wedding Ceremony?
The day of a Catholic wedding is an exciting time for everyone. There are several parts of a wedding ceremony when it comes to Catholic tradition. This list of steps are for the full Catholic wedding in order, so couples that choose to go without mass may not expect so many elements to their service.
The first part of the traditional Catholic wedding is the wedding processional, when the wedding party enters the church or other venue.
First, the groom and best man come in from the church’s side. Next, the groomsmen and bridesmaids escort each other through the aisle. The maid of honor enters alone after the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Lastly, the bride and her father make the big entrance. Her escort could also be a different male family member.
Different variations of Catholic weddings have the newlyweds enter the church at the same time as the wedding party and priest. The processional details typically adhere to the bride and groom’s preference.
At the end of the processional, the wedding party will take their place at the altar, typically in the same order that they processed in.
The priest, bishop, or another faithful member of the clergy will then greet and welcome the wedding guests and encourage everyone to join in song for the opening hymn. This first Catholic hymn is often the classic “Gloria.”
Once the song is over, the priest will lead the congregation in an opening prayer dedicated to the newlyweds. Throughout the processional to the opening prayer or blessing, everyone will remain standing until the priest finishes and tells everyone to sit.
Catholic wedding hymns must be religious in style and nature. In the weeks leading up to the wedding ceremony, the future Mr. and Mrs. will meet with the priest and discuss theme ideas for the readings and music.
There are a variety of combinations for Catholic hymns when it comes to instrumentation. The couple can decide on a cantor to serve as the lead or an organist for live instruments. Some Christians even decide to go with a guitarist, harpist, wind instruments, or even a string quartet.
After the greeting and opening hymn comes the opening prayer. The couple usually chooses between six options for this opening prayer. Each prayer choice ends the same way with an “amen” response from the congregation guests. The order of when this prayer occurs can be altered.
The Catholic wedding readings, also known as The Liturgy of the Word, are recited by either the priest, family members, or friends chosen by the couple. The first reading is traditionally an Old Testament passage.
Many couples will designate a reading from the book of Genesis because it tells Adam and Eve’s story. Catholics have different preferences when it comes to favorite wedding scriptures, so you can choose your favorite when planning your matrimony.
Next, the whole congregation and cantor will sing or speak from the Book of Psalms. These psalms are usually responsorial, so the cantors sing the verses first, and then the congregation sings back the responses.
The Gospel and Homily
After the responsorial is complete, a family member or friend will read a passage from the New Testament. The priest will then recite a Gospel passage. The congregation is only required to stand for the Gospel, and they remain sitting down for the rest of the wedding liturgy.
After the liturgy and related prayers are complete, the homily begins. This comes from the Latin word “homilia,” which also means “conversation.” Here, the priest reflects on the marriage through the selected readings. His goal is to tell a story and paint a picture of marriage’s sacrament and how it fits in with the bible scriptures.
Because every couple is unique, no homily will be the same for a Catholic wedding. The priest will connect the special love the bride and groom have with a specific theme of readings. Sometimes the priest will expand upon what the couple means to the church and what the church expects from the couple.
The Celebration of Matrimony
After the homily, the celebration of matrimony takes place to “tie the knot.” The congregation stands, including the couple and their witnesses and guests, who are situated near them.
The priest opens with a short passage. Then, he will ask the bride and groom questions about their fidelity to one another, freedom of choice, upbringing, and acceptance of children, and the couple will respond accordingly.
Exchanging of Vows and Rings
Next, the priest will lead the bride and groom into the Rite of Marriage or the vows. These statements serve as a declaration of consent and intent by the bride and groom to receive the marriage rites.
They can either memorize and recite the words to each other, read them straight from a book, or respond to the priest reading them and say, “I do.” The specific phrasing could differ by the church, but the vows will usually follow a consistent pattern.
Once the vows are complete, the bride and groom exchange the rings. The priest will bless the rings as symbols of fidelity and love. Each entity will slide the ring onto the ringer of the spouse, which completes the ceremony.
The Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist, symbolizes the Last Supper where Jesus broke the bread with disciples right before his death. The wedding guests will leave their seats, form a line before the priest, and receive communion bread and wine.
Only baptized Catholic guests can participate in this tradition.
After the communion, guests will rise, and the priest will recite the concluding rite or final blessing. He will bless the new marriage and the entire congregation. If the newlyweds decide to sign the marriage license during the service, it will happen now.
Once the priest dismisses the assembly, the recessional takes place. Here, the ceremony’s exit occurs in reverse of the beginning processional with the bridal party and newlyweds.
The recessional could also include the ministers, and the couple usually decides the song to accompany it. After the conclusion of the processional, the wedding party often forms a receiving line outside of the church or other venue.
Once the receiving line has greeted guests, a cocktail hour or reception usually takes place.
We hope this breakdown of a Christian wedding ceremony and how long it lasts will help you decide what you want your ceremony to look like!
For some couples, a devout Catholic mass is a must. For others, they just want to get to their wedding reception to celebrate! No matter what, choose what best fits your dream wedding.
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