Items about the Wedding Ceremony


Finding a wedding church

A Catholic wedding must be celebrated in a church building. Tradition gives priority to the bride's own parish, but the wedding may be held in any catholic church worldwide. A couple may be wed in some other parish, with the consent of the bride's pastor. Given the shortage of active clergy, the couple may have to find their own priest as celebrant; which he does with written consent of the local pastor of the Wedding church.

If a couple from Ireland opt to celebrate their wedding sacrament in some other country, their required church documents must be gathered well in advance, to be sent via their home bishop's office to the bishop's office abroad. You will normally begin the process at least four months before the intended Wedding; your local priest can advise about this.

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Within or without a Mass?

The choice whether or not to have their wedding sacrament within Mass should be made by the couple in consultation with their invited celebrant. While having it within a nuptial Mass has been the more usual form in Ireland, there are some good reasons why a couple might opt for a wedding without Mass...

If, for example, neither partner regularly attends Sunday Mass, they might feel it inconsistent to request a wedding Mass, merely to satisfy parental wishes. Or if either party is not a Catholic, they might prefer to marry within a Liturgy of the Word, to avoid any awkwardness about who may receive Holy Communion.

Templates for both options are on our website: see Wedding within Mass and or Wedding without Mass. A range of options for the ceremony can also be found on the Getting Married website.

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Wedding [Unity] Candle

Lighting a unity candle after the exchange of rings is an optional but popular part of the Wedding ceremony. More recently, as its popularity rises, the first part of the unity candle ceremony often includes additional family members, and the couple will want to choose a suitable hymn or instrumental to accompany their lighting of the unity candle.

It's well to buy a matching, 3-candle set, which will be yours to keep afterwards, as a memento. At the start of the Nuptial Mass, the bride and groom (or better still, their parents) will light the two outside candles (symbolising the two getting married), leaving the larger, central candle of unity to be jointly lit by the newly-married bride and groom, after their wedding vows and the exchange of rings.

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Your Wedding Readings

Normally there are four Bible readings at a Catholic Wedding ceremony:

At this point in the ceremony (The Liturgy of the Word) only readings from the Bible should be used. There is space before the end of Mass for a reflection from some other source. Since your readings set the mood and tone for your Wedding vows, have your readers prepare: Give them their texts in good time, printed on a separate page.

To copy-and-paste, here are all the Bible reading options in one long file.

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Wedding Vows

Of the various optional forms, this is the fullest and most proactive by the couple.

Priest: I invite you then to declare before God and his Church your consent to become husband and wife.

Groom: N., do you consent to be my wife?

Bride: I do. Do you, N., consent to be my husband?

Groom: I do. I take you as my wife and I give myself to you as your husband.

Bride: I take you as my husband and I give myself to you as your wife.

They then join hands and say together:

Both: to love each other truly
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
till death do us part, (or all the days of our life)

Priest: What God joins together man must not separate. May the Lord confirm the consent that you have given and enrich you with his blessings.

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Prayers of the Faithful

About 4 or 5 intercessions may be used, such as the following

1. For N. and N., that the Lord, who has brought them to this happy day will keep them forever in fidelity and love. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

2. For the parents of N. and N., for their friends and all who have helped them to become husband and wife. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

3. That the Lord may bless the world with his peace and the protection of his love. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

4. For our community and our families, who welcome Christ into their lives; that they learn to receive him in the poor and suffering people of this world. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

5. For God's Church, the Bride of Christ, that it may be united in faith and love. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

6. For all who are victims of injustice, and for those deprived of love and affection. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

7. For married couples everywhere, that their lives will be an example to the world of unity, fidelity and love. Lord, hear us.

All: Lord, graciously hear us.

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The Nuptial Blessing

Holy Father, maker of the whole world,
who created man and woman in your own image
and willed that their union be crowned with your blessing,
we humbly beseech you for these your servants,
who are joined today in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

May your abundant blessing, Lord,
come down upon this bride, (Name),
and upon (Name)., her companion for life,
and may the power of your Holy Spirit
set their hearts aflame from on high,
so that, living out together the gift of Matrimony,
they may adorn their family with children
and enrich the Church.

In happiness may they praise you, O Lord,
in sorrow may they seek you out;
may they have the joy of your presence
to assist them in their toil,
and know that you are near
to comfort them in their need;
let them pray to you in the holy assembly
and bear witness to you in the world,
and after a happy old age,
with the circle of friends that surrounds them,
may they come to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen,

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Handfasting (a Christian version)

This ritual is not part of the Catholic marriage rite, but your celebrant might agree to a Christian version of it as an optional extra. You could propose a simple form of Handfasting with a prayer he could say... like the following:

Solemniser:
[Names], please hold your hands together, to show the gift you hope to be for each other. With these hands you will serve and strengthen each other as you journey through life together. With God's help, with these hands you will tend to each other when either of you is sick and hold each other when you are sad or grieving. With these hands you will show how you love and cherish each other all your lives. By the grace of God, and working generously together, your union can be all that you wish and pray for today.

(binding their hands with the cord, he says:)

Dear God and Father of us all, bless the hands of these your servants, that are bound before You this day. May they always be instruments of love and trust for one another. Give them the strength to hold together even in times of storm or stress and until the blessing of peace is restored. Keep them kind and gentle as they nurture each other in their married union. May these hands continue nourishing a relationship built on your grace, devoted to helping each other in all the ways that true love requires. May [Groom's name] and [Bride's name] see each other’s hands as supporting, protecting and cherishing. This blessing we ask through your Son, Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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A Wedding Booklet

It is customary, but by no means obligatory, for couples to make a personalised Wedding booklet, to help their guests follow the ceremony in its details. We assume English as the language of most of our couples. But if the languages spoken by the bride's and groom's families are different, a bilingual ceremony is suitable. For foreign guests, parts of their nuptials may be in their language. If your priest cannot do this, you can at least print the BOOKLET for your ceremony in both languages.

Texts for the Catholic marriage ceremony in several languages are on the Together website : in English, Irish, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese. Most printers can offer some sample wedding booklets for you to choose from; or you can assemble and print the booklet yourselves.

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Selecting the Music

The church's rule on the matter is simple: whatever music is used must be "suited to the dignity of the occasion." While the chosen lyrics will normally have some religious or devotional content, some of them might not be conventional hymns. If in doubt about the suitability of your lyrics, why not discuss your preferences with your celebrant in advance?

Your chosen Wedding-singer will doubtless suggest suitable music for the various stages of the ceremony. To help you in chooing the lyrics and instrumentals, we have a separate page on the Together website, listing a wide range of suitable music options.

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A Wedding Rehearsal?

Many couples like to have a rehearsal ahead of their wedding, though it's not strictly required. With the declining number and rising age-profile of available priests, your celebrant might not be able to offer an actual wedding rehearsal in the church, the evening before. In such a case the sacristan will usually be willing to help the couple and their friends to go through the elements of the ceremony in the church.

The Wedding Rehearsal Substitute provided below may serve whenever a rehearsal is not possible. It gives the order of service to the couple envision the various stages of the ceremony. Or your celebrant might talk you through the ceremony over a cup of tea, in the presbytery.

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Usual Church Expenses

Most parishes will indicate the expected contribution for using the parish church for a Wedding. This can be anything between 200 and 600 euro, and varies according to the circumstances of the parish and the capacity of the couple, but it can easily be checked by phoning the parish office. If a sacristan is in attendance to facilitate a rehearsal and the ceremony, it is usual to acknowledge this with a gift of about 50 euro.

It is also customary to give some honorarium or stipend to the priest-celebrant of your nuptials. A decent stipend might be in the order of 200 euro, but this is a freewill offering and not a fixed fee and will certainly not be expected from a couple in poor financial circumstances. If a couple is obviously in financial need, the parish may also waive the usual fee for the use of the church building.

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