With this post, we begin looking at the Rite of Marriage itself: the rubrics and ritual texts provided by the 1969 (and still current in the English vernacular) edition. Chapter I (RM 19-38) treats the “Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass,” a post-conciliar preference, as we’ve read in previous documentation. Sections 19 and 20 deal with the Entrance Rite:
19. At the appointed time, the priest, vested for Mass, goes with the ministers to the door of the church or, if more suitable, to the altar. There he meets the bride and bridegroom in a friendly manner, showing that the Church shares their joy.
Whether there is a procession or not, the first ritual action of the marriage rite is the meeting/greeting of the priest and the couple. In the case of the former, the greeting takes place at the door of the church. In the latter, it takes place at or near the altar.
Where it is desirable that the rite of welcome be omitted, the celebration of marriage begins at once with the Mass.
In effect, this would be the option most couples choose: omitting the personal greeting of the priest at the entrance of the church, substituting a musical accompaniment instead.
20. If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.
Liturgy geeks have known for decades that the first preference in the Rite of Marriage is for the bride and groom to process together. American custom has been to adapt this considerably, eliminating three of the parents, and adding friends in addition to the two witnesses.
Note: This is one of the few, if not one of the only times, when lay people will be at the honorary “end” of a procession.
Another note as we head into rubrical territory: This is where many liturgists, both traditionalist and progressive make significant errors. They often fail to read the introductions and the rubrics and rely instead on commentary or documents, or worst of all, personal memory and experience.
The rites and their introductions are the liturgical law for the Church. Skip over at your own risk, if you are a liturgist.
Any comments, especially on the procession of bride and groom?