Ceremony Planning Tips

  • Time to PlanReaders for the ceremony

Catholic tradition holds that God is present in the Scriptures.
Keep in mind that whoever you choose will be doing more than just “reading”; that person will be proclaiming the Word of God.

  • Witnesses

From a spiritual and liturgical point of view, everyone attending your wedding serves as witnesses. The names of the witnesses are included in the Church’s record of the marriage. The important consideration in choosing witnesses is the account needed should there be a question or doubt that the consent was ever given.

  • Altar servers

Consider inviting children who have been trained as altar servers to fill this role at your wedding. Make sure you check with the priest or deacon who will be assisting at the wedding first.

  • Best man

The best man should do all he can to take the weight off the groom’s shoulders. Both leading up to the day (Stag night, organising suits, etc.) and on the day itself.

  • Bridesmaids

A bridesmaid is first and foremost someone who the bride wants to be a part of her wedding. Perhaps she is a sister or a very close friend. Her friendship and support of the marriage is meaningful.

A bridesmaid and/or maid-of-honour also serves a practical purpose. During the hectic time of planning a wedding she is a confidant, advice giver, performer of menial tasks, errand runner and more. The bride should have at least one bridesmaid (preferably the maid-of-honour) who is reliable, cheerful, helpful, organised, and lives close to the bride.

  • Ushers

The ushers provide guests with the printed wedding program and escort them to their seats. They do not necessarily have to seat all the guests of the bride on one side of the Church and all the guests of the groom on the other. Although this is a traditional practice, it can create some awkward situations if one person has few Catholics among his or her family and friends.

  • Flowers

As with other decorations, flowers should not be placed in a way that interferes with the liturgy. For instance, they should not be placed on the altar. In some churches, such as St Patrick’s Cathedral a specific florist must be used for all flower arrangements. Some parishes encourage couples who are being married on the same day to split the cost of flowers to be used at both ceremonies.

If you decorate the church with flowers, it is customary to leave the flowers behind for others in the parish to enjoy.

  • Photography

The policies, rules, and guidelines for wedding photographers and videographers vary from place to place, but the basic principle that should be kept in mind is that a Catholic wedding is first and foremost a liturgy. It is the public prayer of the whole Church, not just a private ceremony for those present. People videotaping or photographing the wedding should strive to respect the sacred nature of the liturgy.

This means not positioning cameras where they might interfere with or distract from the liturgy. Your parish will be able to tell you where photographers and videographers are permitted; however, generally the area immediately around the altar (the sanctuary) is off-limits.

The centre aisle or other locations that might block the view of the assembly are also likely to be discouraged.

It is always a good idea to check with your particular parish before the wedding if they have specific guidelines.

Music

Three criteria for choosing Catholic wedding music

The Church does not keep an official list of “approved” wedding music, but it does offer three criteria for liturgical music that can be applied to your choice of wedding music.

  • Marriage MusicIs it prayerful?

The purpose of any Catholic liturgy, including a wedding liturgy, is to give glory to God and to sanctify (make holy) the worshippers. Your wedding music should reflect that purpose; in other words, it should help the assembly to pray and to give thanks to God for your marriage. The criteria of prayerfulness is one reason why popular music—including some of the “classic” wedding marches taken from secular operas is often not permitted.

  • Is it accessible?

In other words, will the assembly be able to sing along? In Catholic worship, the assembly (everyone attending the wedding) is not an audience, passively watching events unfold at the altar. Catholic liturgy calls on the assembly to actively participate in the prayer of the Church, including its sung prayer. Doing so is one of the most powerful ways your friends and family can express their love and support for you and your spouse.

  • Is it beautiful?

Beauty is a window onto the divine (Catechism #32), so it is not surprising that the Church calls for the music used in its worship to be beautiful. This criteria is obviously somewhat subjective, depending on personal tastes and local culture. Whether your music is beautiful or not may depend less on the particular selection and more on the skill of the musicians who sing or play it. A hymn that seemed ho-hum the first time you heard it in church might have great potential in the right hands.