Your wedding day is one of the most memorable and significant days in a couple’s life. A good wedding involves a lot of planning: the invitation list, the wedding party, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, the clothing, flowers, a photographer, and so much more. Another important part in planning, if not the most important, is the church preparation and liturgical celebration. Often couples know less about this than they do about the rest of the celebration. This booklet is to help a couple to plan their wedding at Nativity of Mary Parish.
A wedding liturgy is a very personal affair and does involve the individual taste of the bride and groom. Yet, marriage is a Sacrament of the Church and, like all Sacraments, is a public and communal celebration. There must be sound liturgical planning. The aim of this book is to enable a couple to accommodate, as best as possible, their personal taste with what is liturgically correct and proper.
WHO MAY BE MARRIED AT ST. MARY’S?
Any couple in which one party is a registered and active member of the parish may be married at St. Mary’s. Canon 1115 of the Church’s Code of canon Law states: "Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish where either of the contractants has a domicile (home), quasidomicile or a month long residence." Further, "marriage can be celebrated elsewhere with the permission of the pastor." Finally, "the marriage of any person under nineteen years of age is not to be witnessed without referring the case to the chancery." (Canon 1072)
HOW FAR AHEAD SHOULD THE WEDDING BE SCHEDULED?
As soon as a couple makes the commitment to marry, they would be well advised to call the parish and set a date - - even a year to a year and a half ahead. Thus, a couple will have a much better chance of obtaining the date they wish, as well as reserving a reception hall for that date.
WHAT ARE THE TIME THAT WEDDINGS MAY BE SCHEDULED?
Ordinarily, the parish will accommodate two weddings on a given Saturday - - one at 2:30 p.m. and the other at noon or earlier. It is also the common policy of the five Catholic Cluster Parishes that there will be no evening candlelight services on either Friday or Saturday evenings. Generally speaking, weddings can be scheduled for any Saturday of the year, except for Holy Saturday or if a major feast (e.g., Christmas) falls on a Saturday. Also, though not prohibited by Church law, a couple is asked to refrain from having a wedding during the Season of Lent. If a couple does wish to schedule a wedding during Lent, there are some restrictions regarding flowers and decorations because Lent is a penitential season.
Also, following a 2:30 p.m. wedding, the photographs need to be completed and the church and hall cleaned up no later than 4:00 p.m. In all cases, it is advisable to take as many portraits as possible before the wedding. It greatly diminishes the pressure to take them in a hurry afterward.
MAY A COUPLE HAVE A MARRIAGE AT HOME OR IN ROTARY GARDENS?
No. Diocesan guidelines clearly state that "marriages are not to be celebrated in a place other than the parish church."
HOW DOES ONE SELECT A PRIEST FOR A WEDDING?
As mentioned above, it is advisable to schedule a wedding as soon as possible. In any event, all weddings must be scheduled at least six months before intended wedding date. At the time the date is set, the couple will need to confirm that date with their priest whom they wish to preside at their marriage. A date may be available on the parish calendar, but not necessarily on the priest’s personal calendar.
MAY A PRIEST OTHER THAN ONE OF THE PARISH PRIESTS PRESIDE AT THE WEDDING?
If a couple has a priest or deacon relative or friend, he is more than welcome to preside at the wedding, with approval of the parish priest. One of the parish priests, however, should act as the contact for the visiting priest.
For parishioners and their families there is a fee of $150.00.
The suggested minimum offering for the officiating priest/deacon is $ 100.00.
Each musician or cantor sets their own costs. Couples should determine this cost when contacting the musician or cantor.
The suggested minimum offering is $ 150.00 for each musician or singer.
The couple is asked to consider the fees for musicians, singers and the presider as an obligation. Most often these are the least of the expenses of a wedding. And yet, there have been numerous occasions when none of these been compensated.
WHAT TYPE PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE IS REQUIRED?
The basic preparation for marriage includes the following:
a) Contact the priest / celebrant at least six (6) months prior to
the wedding. A wedding date can be set, if need be, a year or
two in advance in order to arrange for a reception hall.
b) Complete the necessary forms (explained by the priest)
c) Participate in a number of sessions conducted by the priest
and /or trained couple to take and review the results of
FOCCUS - an instrument for evaluating marriage readiness.
d) Attend a Marriage Preparation day (see next paragraph)
e) Meet with the priest/celebrant regarding the Sacrament
f) Meet with Fr. Rob at least three (3) months prior to the
wedding date, to plan the liturgy.
g) Arrange for a date and time of the wedding rehearsal.
The Family Life Office of the Diocese of Madison offers Marriage Preparation days in the spring and fall each year. A Marriage Preparation Day provides the opportunity for engaged couples, or couples contemplating engagement, to explore what a committed sacramental relationship will demand of them. Through dialogue the couple is given the opportunity to plan their marriage, not just their wedding day.
Throughout the day, the couple explores their coming life together: to discover strengths and limitations, desires and goals, attitudes about sex, children and family; and their role in society and their faith community
The day includes presentations on Self-Awareness, Communication
in Marriage, Married Sexuality, and Faith. The Presentations are given by two married couples and a priest or sister. Time is provided for personal reflection and couple dialogue.
Ordinarily the days are conducted on Saturdays in various cities throughout the diocese. They generally run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is a fee payable upon registration through the Office of Family Ministry. The priest/celebrant has brochures containing further information and the schedule.
In cases of ecumenical weddings, a review of the Catholic faith will be presented to both parties. This is to help promote an understanding of the Catholic party’s faith for fuller unity of the couple.
HOW AND WHEN DO YOU SCHEDULE A WEDDING REHEARSAL?
Consult the priest to schedule the time and date of the rehearsal. Rehearsals are ordinarily held on Friday evenings and last about an hour. Usually there is no need for musicians to attend the rehearsal. If a couple wishes to invite the priest to the rehearsal dinner, this should be done well in advance o the evening the rehearsal is held.
WHAT ARE THE PROCEDURES FOR A MARRIAGE BETWEEN A CATHOLIC AND A NON-CATHOLIC?
The procedures for a marriage between a Catholic and a person of another faith are virtually the same as those for a marriage of two Catholic persons. A permission form the chancery is obtained, depending upon whether the marriage is celebrated here at St. Mary’s or in a church of the non-catholic party; whether the officiant is the priest or the pastor of the non-catholic party.
Also, in a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a person of another faith, the "Rite of Marriage Outside of Mass" should be celebrated. Similarly, in instances where the Roman Catholic does not participate in regular Sunday Eucharist, consideration should be given to celebrating the marriage within a non-Eucharistic service.
ARE THERE ANY DOCUMENTS NEEDED?
Yes. The Catholic party needs to obtain a Certificate of Baptism, dated within 6 months of the marriage, and a record of Confirmation (if confirmed). The non-Catholic party (if baptized) needs to obtain a Certificate of baptism from his/her church.
WHAT DO WE DO IN CASE OF A PREVIOUS MARRIAGE?
If either party (Catholic or non-Catholic) has been married before, the couple must meet with the priest to determine whether a petition of annulment of the previous bond needs to be submitted. Wedding plans may not be finalized until a decision is made concerning the validation of the previous bond. If a petition for annulment does need to be made, the couple should know that this process ordinarily takes from nine months to a year. If there was a previous bond, please do not wait until a few months before a planned wedding date to contact the parish. At that point, little can be done.
WHAT DOES THE CIVIL LAW REQUIRE?
Requirements to Obtain a License:
1. BOTH PARTIES must be present to apply for and sign a marriage application.
2. Proof of residence must be shown. (Drivers license, lease, power & light bill, bank statement)
3. Certified copies of birth certificates are required for persons 30 years old and under. Hospital records ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. Birth records in a foreign language must be translated to English and notarized.
4. Divorced persons must produce a copy of their Divorce Judgment which contains the judge’s signature or stamp and date of divorce. The same applies for annulments. Divorced persons MAY NOT REMARRY until 6 months and one day past the date of the divorce judgment irregardless of where the parties are divorced.
5. Widowers who wish to remarry must provide the death certificate of their former spouse.
6. Consent forms for those aged 16 or 17 must be signed and notarized at the time of application.
NEITHER PHYSICAL EXAMS NOR BLOOD TESTS ARE REQUIRED TO OBTAIN A MARRIAGE LICENSE.
The marriage license should be given to the priest/preside at the wedding rehearsal. He is responsible for its proper disposition following the marriage.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES THE CHURCH SEAT?
The church holds about 500 people.
WHERE MAY THE WEDDING PARTY DRESS FOR THE CEREMONY?
Brides and bridesmaids may arrange with the parish office beforehand to use the church basement for dressing. The groom and the groomsmen usually dress at home; however, the church basement is also available for them.
IS A UNITY CANDLE NECESSARY?
No. The use of a unity of candle is a relatively new concept in the history of church celebrated marriages. Its liturgical and religious significance is not at all certain. The Diocese of Madison prohibits Unity Candles or any such items (i.e. sand, knots etc.).
HOW SHOULD THE SANCTUARY BE DECORATED?
Ordinarily, the decorations consist of flowers and candles. However, it must be noted that the sanctuary area is usually decorated according to season of the Church year or for a special feast. Any decorations for the wedding must be worked into the existing liturgical decorations and colors. During the season of Lent, wedding decorations are to be very , very simple, so as not to conflict with the penitential season. The sanctuary environment may be discussed with the Director of Liturgy at the time of liturgy planning.
WHAT ABOUT FLOWERS IN THE SANCTUARY?
Flowers are certainly an environmental enhancement for any marriage celebration. However, prudence is to be observed lest the focus of the sacrament be lost in a myriad of flora.
Candleabra are not encouraged as part of the environment. If they must be used, it is the responsibility of the couple and/or the florist to make sure a plastic sheet is placed beneath the candelabra to prevent wax from dripping onto the carpet.
IS A PROGRAM REQUIRED?
It is not necessary to incur the cost of printing a program. Since they ordinarily are not used to enhance participation, but are more as a keepsake, they are not necessary.
WHAT ABOUT RICE/BIRDSEED AND AISLE RUNNERS?
Rice, birdseed, confetti, or even popcorn are not to be thrown either in the church or at the church entrance following the wedding. Our insurance carrier prohibits this because of danger of slipping and falling. Aisle runners are also not to be used. Plastic runners are treacherous on top of the carpeted aisle. If a couple insists on a runner it must be a fabric runner.
WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL/SMOKING?
Alcoholic beverages are not to be consumed prior to the marriage and certainly not in the church. There is a time and place for everything - the time of a wedding liturgy and in a church is not an acceptable time and place. Smoking is not permitted either in the church or in the church hall.
WHAT ABOUT SERVERS?
Servers are not needed for the celebration of a Christian marriage. The Presiding Priest may choose to engage servers to assist him. However, if a couple has family members/friends whom they wish to serve, they are more than welcome to assist the priest, if approved by the priest. It is advisable, then, that the servers attend the rehearsal.
WHAT ARE THE USHERS’ RESPONSIBILITIES?
The role of the ushers is to greet guests, provide them with a program (if there is one), and to seat them according to the couple’s wishes. If there is a back-up of guests as the wedding hour approaches, ushers should be attentive to speeding up the seating process lest there be a considerable delay.
After the wedding, it is the obligation of the ushers to see that the church is cleaned up. Ushers should check all pews and song book holders and remove all discarded programs. They are also to check the vestibule, the back of the church, and the hall and remove all boxes, pop cans, plastic garment bags, clothes hangers and other wedding debris. At this time we have no maintenance person employed to do these things and the parish would hate to have to charge a fee to provide clean-up. So, everyone’s cooperation is appreciated.
MAY PICTURES BE TAKEN?
The sacred character of the Marriage Liturgy suggests that all photography be executed without flash or artificial light. The choir loft is always available for the photographers’ use during the liturgy. The choir loft is to be used for all video photography, though one unattended video camera may be permitted in the sanctuary. It is the responsibility of the bride and groom to inform the photographers of these guidelines when they contract for photos.
Depending on the schedule of weddings for the day, it is advisable to choose to have the majority of formal pictures taken before the wedding.
WHAT IS THE CHOICE OF SCRIPTURAL AND NON-SCRIPTURAL READINGS?
All weddings, whether celebrated within or outside of Mass, have Scripture readings. Any Scripture reading may be used, but some are more appropriate than others. A second and third reading may be read. These can be from either the Old or New Testament. A list of appropriate Scripture readings may be found in Together for Life, a booklet to assist in preparing the Marriage Liturgy.
If a couple has some other poetic/inspirational text they wish to read at the wedding, it is to be read at some time other than during the Liturgy of the word.
WHO MAY READ THE SCRIPTURES?
The Gospel is read by the priest. Anyone may read the other Scriptures: the minister, one of the bridal party, a parent, a friend, a relative. This is a good way to involve someone else in an important way in the wedding.
MAY THE BRIDE AND GROOM COMPOSE THEIR OWN VOWS?
In part, a couple can compose their own vows. However, they must be approved by the pastor to insure that the essence of the vows is preserved for validity. Included must be the commitment to each other; that the commitment is for all that is to come in life ("better or worse"); and that it is forever.
Also the vows are to be succinct. Endless runs of adjectives and phrases make for awkwardness at that most important moment in the Liturgy. Remember, what is written will be heard four times - twice by the priest and once each by the bride and groom as they repeat it.
CAN A RECEPTION LINE BE FORMED AFTER THE CEREMONY?
The reception line should not be held at the church. Rather it should be at the place of the wedding reception. Reception lines take a great deal of time, time that should be used to take final portraits and to clean up the church and hall. If the wedding is at noon, there is to be no reception line under any circumstances. The couple and family getting ready for the next wedding have a right to a reasonable amount of preparation time.
HOW DOES ONE ARRANGE FOR MUSICIANS AND/OR AN ORGANIST?
At the time the couple meets with the Priest to plan the marriage celebration, details can be worked out concerning musicians. It is the responsibility of the wedding couple to obtain and pay for any musicians. These fees are determined by the musicians themselves. If a couple needs assistance in finding musicians, the Director of Liturgy will provide assistance.
WHERE SHOULD MUSICIANS STAND?
The musicians should stand at the front of the church near the piano and cantor microphone.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR JUDGING SUITABILITY OF SONGS/MUSIC FOR WEDDINGS?
1. Again, a wedding is a sacrament of the Church. The use of secular music (not relating to Religion) should not be considered. Most often these songs would be more suited for the reception than used during Mass.
2. A song which does not speak explicitly of the Christian religious dimension of love, but which implies it, may be suitable for a wedding.
3. A song which negates either explicitly or implicitly the Christian religious dimension of love is unsuitable for a wedding.
4. A song which has only a tenuous or faintly implied connection to the Christian religious dimension of love, or which contains a "consoling" or "inspiring" thought only vaguely connected to Christian faith is unsuitable for a Christian wedding.
WHAT ABOUT PARISH REGISTRATION AFTER THE WEDDING?
It happens that newly-married couples often presume they are automatically registered in the parish because their parents are. That is not the case. After the marriage a couple should contact the rectory office to register.