The Armchair Liturgist: Weddings at Sunday Mass


Anne brings up a topic with which I’ve had some experience. How many others have, too?

How many of you celebrate a wedding within Sunday Eucharist? That’s not a new concept coming from Vatican II. My parents were wedded at a normal Sunday Mass in 1949. I remember other familiy members doing the same in the early 50’s. It was pretty normal back then. The wedding ritual, is of course for the two being married but Vatican II tells us it’s about the community as well, an ecclesial event.

I realize that suggesting a wedding within Sunday mass is not without problems. Video tapers and certain cultural practices may pose problems. On the other hand, with the shortage of priests, a nuptial marriage at any time other than the Sunday schedule may be a problem in the future.

My wife  and I were married at a Saturday night Mass at our parish almost eleven years ago. It was an idea percolating inside my liturgist’s brain for years. Like those folks who plan out their whole wedding at a childhood age and who then just wait for a spouse and a legal age.

Anita was happily game, especially as we’d had friends through the years who did this.

At my (in)famous home parish in Rochester in the 80’s, we also had people getting married at the Thursday night Folk Mass. (Yep, that’s what they called it.)

Thoughts? It’s your turn to sit in the liturgist’s armchair on this one.

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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14 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Weddings at Sunday Mass

  1. Gavin says:

    I realize it’s valid, licit, etc., but I don’t think a lot of people would go through with it. The people in the wedding would complain then because the wedding “Isn’t about us!” and the congregation would complain because the Mass would be too long (God clearly says he only wants 55 minutes from you!) and the old people would probably complain because “that’s not allowed!” (even though it is). Not to mention the plight of your music director – having the family of the couple dictate what hymns and prelude/postlude for SUNDAY MASS! I think it potentially opens up a huge can of worms, and perhaps that isn’t why it’s not done often. I don’t know how well yours worked (well, you’re still married, so it worked well), but in your hypothetical St. Irish-Saint Catholic Church in Anywhere, US, I think it would wind up with a lot of people angry.

  2. Brigid says:

    Ah, but perhaps a moment of education for the parish about:

    1) The Mass
    2) Sacrament of Marriage
    3) Church and Community support of couple

    If a parish is prepared, I think it can be done quite nicely!

    [Congrats, Todd, on WordPress success..! I have more suggestions but, well, they can wait for another time… ;-})

  3. Anne says:

    You know what Gavin? I think this “can of worms” should be opened. There absolutely will be some dissent from those who don’t understand the Catholic view of marriage and want this day to be all about themselves. It’s a problem and where do we begin to correct it? How do we teach the correct theology of marriage. How do we encourage a wedding within Sunday Eucharist without driving people away or even settling for just a “ceremony” instead of celebrating with their faith community? I realize that it’s not always possible for each couple. Sometimes it’s best not to do so. There are often situations when only one person is Catholic. Eucharist would not be appropriate. However the most appropriate place and time for a couple(Catholics who care) to exchange vows is at Eucharist. The Sacrament of Marriage speaks about God’s love and desire to be one with us. Eucharist is an even more powerful sign of this desire of God.
    Side note: I just found out recently that 80% of couples who come to be married at my parish give the same address as place of residence. 80%!!! What does this trend tell us?

  4. Eric says:

    I think it’s a great idea. Not only emphasizes the community aspect of the sacrament, but allows for avoiding a show costing thousands of dollars to celebrate the bride rather than the sacrament. (“This is MY day!”)

    As for meddling with hymns and whatnot, I think those willing to celebrate their union within the Sunday assembly might be a self-selecting group that would be less likely to want to dictate what happens at the rite. A noble simplicity would be restored to the rite. Those who want an extravaganza would reject outright the idea of being married in the Sunday assembly.

    Catechesis is vital. For example, I always offer to the couple the preferred rite of the couple processing in together rather than the triumphant entry of the bride alone. I explain to them why this is the proper way to do it. They are often very interested and eager to do this. Later they call and say the bride’s mother will not permit it. I know a lot of priests and deacons will not even suggest the proper entrance, but I continue to do it, because they deserve a chance to do the right thing. Eventually, someone will stand up to the mother of the bride.

    Yes, there will be the usual suspects who will complain if a wedding takes place at the Sunday assembly. They will be outraged that Mass took an extra five minutes. But why should these five or six people continue to hold the entire parish hostage to their expectations? We already kowtow to them too much. God forbid the homily should go one minute more than seven minutes; they call the parish office to complain. Parishes should be striving for an ideal, not striving to pacify the minimalists. Let them go to the vigil Mass or the early morning Sunday Mass and accomodate them there.

  5. Anne says:

    Well said Eric.
    Years ago, we moved First Eucharist from a group gathering on Saturday morning and spread the children out over all the weekend liturgies. People adjusted but we still get complaints from time to time. “Why can’t we go back to the old way when we made it their special day? Or, “I hate first Communion weekend because I can’t sit in my regular pew.”
    Most people adjust to changes, not all… but most accept what is good for the church. That is, as long as we are good with our explanations and catechesis.

  6. This might sound terrible, but the first thing I thought about was the loss of income. As an organist, I depend on those Summer weddings to pay my tuition come September.

  7. Cantor says:

    Actually, this may not become as common as one thinks, if there are enough deacons to lead non-Eucharistic wedding ceremonies. I suspect most couples will choose to have a separate ceremony, since if nothing else it would seem to simplify many aspects of the wedding planning.

    Liturgically, there is also something to be said for a Liturgy of the Word dedicated specifically to the wedding.

    I am not married, but if I ever were to be, I for one would be very disappointed not to have a Eucharistic celebration concurrent with it. Personally, I would go for the Sunday Mass – but, I am not known for representing the majority. :)

  8. The idea intrigues me, but I have no idea where to start.

    I’ve asked the question of other priests, and they always poo-poo it, saying there’s no constituency for it: the engaged couples won’t want it, the families and guests won’t, and the Sunday Mass goers won’t. Even if it allowed a couple to have an evening wedding (i.e., at Saturday vigil Mass).

    A lot of parishes would have to warn people that “next Saturday evening, Joe Brown and Mary Green will be married, and will be joined by 100 guests.” A bunch of the regulars would avoid the Mass — more than really had to — the collection would drop.

    If it worked, it would make the liturgy more “subdued” and more worshipful. I’d probably let the couple have their bows on the pews and programs; and if memory serves, they could substitute a reading in Ordinary Time; but I’d refuse to allow the unity candle or the “Here comes the Queen” entrance.

    I dunno; I’ve got lots of irons in the fire; I don’t care to be the first on this one, hereabouts.

  9. Tony says:

    Interesting idea, Todd. My only caveat would be to allow this sort of innovation if either of the couple had actually been members of the community. Then the “community thing” works. Otherwise it seems more like strangers encroaching on “our mass”.

    It seems like a lot of people simply want a “church wedding” when they are not really practicing Catholics. (Maybe to placate mom or grandma.)

    I would think that the pastor in his pre-marriage couseling would be able to discern if a Sunday wedding would be a good fit in his parish.

  10. Anne says:

    Actually, a “Here Comes the Queen” entrance isn’t mentioned in the Catholic Rite of Marriage.
    The priest greets the bride and groom at the door of the church with all other ministers. The Entrance Procession begins, ministers, presider followed by bride and groom (who may be accompanied by their parents and/or 2 witnesses.

  11. Brigid says:

    Fr. Fox and Tony-

    In most cases where I have seen this done quite successfully is with couples (and parishes) that are far more conservative in their mass celebration.

    I am suprised that neither of you have experienced this yet or, Fr. Fox, have been asked to do it yet.

    Believe me, part of the *reason* for the couples doing it this way is to avoid the whole “Queen March” that happens at some weddings.

    I seem to remember Dom (from Bettnet) and his wife did this in their parish.

    Again, I think it’s wonderful and it can be done well depending upon the parish and, as always, the priest.

  12. I always tell a couple about the option of entering together, as the rite calls for. I’ve only had one couple do it — it was very nice.

    Most couples are surprised there’s any other way to do it but the “Here comes the Queen” entrance — but after I gently sell the couple’s entrance, they always want the Queen entrance.

  13. RP Burke says:

    In 1987 we were quite “unorthdox” for following the rules. We processed in together and the families, too, all one parade. Without “What’s the Ave Maria for the seating of the mothers?” and “Who hands over the bride?” How much easier can it get? But it is the culture — all those things picked up from weddings on TV — that usually wins out. Not in our case!!

    Plus someone gave us the most important point of all, one that we’ve passed on to every engaged couple we’ve met since. The wedding is the easy part: it’s being married that’s the hard part. Preparation usually has the priorities reversed, all focused on the wedding.

  14. Anne says:

    We were married in 1984 and were unorthodox in the sense that we had a choir of professional singers (friends) who sang the mass. Our liturgy lasted close to an hour and a half. I still hear about it from certain guests who thought it was too long. Then, in 1984, I didn’t realize we had the option of coming in together because that’s what we would have done….and with the families…great idea!

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