The wedding I served as a musician this past weekend had no unity candle, but a ceremony for washing feet. One of our recent graduates married in another state the same day. A few of my staff colleagues attended. They reported no unity candle either, but the couple signed the wedding license on the altar after exchanging rings and vows.
I’ve seen a lot of “symbols” added to the wedding liturgy over the years. Here’s how I would rate the additions …
10 - Washing feet. Maybe it gets an extra point or two for tweaking those who insist that Holy Thursday foot fuzz is about men only. Another extra point for those who read and preach John 13:1-15 at the wedding liturgy.
9 – Wedding rings. One can be married without rings, but as a person who dislikes jewelry of any kind, I have to confess a degree of trauma when my wedding band slipped off my finger when I was hauling a fallen tree across the backyard a few years ago. I have a replacement, but it’s not quite the same. Even after it was blessed by the pastor. My problem with wedding rings is largely with the pressure commercial jewelers place on couples, especially men, to shovel a sixth of an annual income to get that diamond.
8 - El lazo. Maybe I’ve been to too few Hispanic weddings. I saw a lazo once that was too small, and it was awkward for the couple to be inside it as they exchanged vows.
7 - Las arras. The groom gives the bride thirteen coins. Some sources suggest Jesus and his apostles. My wife would have preferred milk chocolate wrapped in gold-colored foil. When we got married, I only owned two gold coins. But I divested of gold and silver in my coin collection a long time ago. But I digress: exchanging money on a wedding day just seems wrong.
6 – Crowns. The Orthodox have crowns. I mean Eastern Christians, not Catholics-more-than-the-pope. Crowns seem cool to me.
5 - Special song. This can be really good, but more often it goes horribly wrong. I remember one bride who insisted on a song, the whole song, for the unity candle. I told them it takes ten seconds to light a candle, and the music would last four minutes. So we had almost four minutes of awkward making-googly-eyes.
4 - Flowers to the Blessed Mother or Holy Family. It’s not that I object to devotion to Mary. And if the couple has a true devotion, this rates much higher than a four. But it’s the kind of gesture that seems better outside of Mass.
3 - Wedding license. Signing a civil document on the altar? Really? I guess it could be worse. One couple forgot their wedding license last year. They thought the church provided it. Mad scramble to find a judge to ensure the liturgy was celebrated on time.
2 - The Two Music Traditions, Wagner and Mendelssohn. You know what I mean. If you don’t, you don’t want to know.
1 - Unity Candle. The only reason it has a point at all is because of …
0 – Unity Sand. I’d love to know who thought up this one. Perhaps they could be buried in sand, but not at a destination wedding location.
Maybe we should be grateful some of the truly tasteless reception traditions are not done in church. Garters, bouquets, the Chicken Dance.
Any liturgical extras you’ve seen I’ve missed? Mainly things you’ve liked.