Planning A Modern Catholic Wedding

by: Michael Kabel

Where do you see your Catholic wedding taking place? In a church? Possibly even in a cathedral? It's true that the traditional wedding takes place in a place of worship, but more and more couples are expanding the scope of their designs and even the locale of their own wedding, fusing the traditional marriage event with other elements of their heritage and their lifestyle.

Marriage is an important sacrament.

Many of those outside the Catholic faith often don't realize the importance Catholics place on marriage as an act of religious devotion. In fact, matrimony is considered one of the Church's seven sacraments, or special rites believed to bring members of the congregation a closer understanding of God's love.

Priests will often counsel engaged couples prior to the ceremony, making sure they have a clear understanding of marriage's importance. This counseling, called the Pre-Cana, sometimes takes place over several months. Historically, the church also prefers both bride and groom be baptized into the Catholic faith before getting married, though in recent times this rule has become more relaxed.

Bringing heritage into the wedding itself.

While the liturgy, or religious service, that contains the marriage ceremony often stays the same for the modern Catholic wedding, all the other elements around it are up for getting updated, improved upon, or just tinkered with to create a perfect aesthetic for the bride and groom. The changes may include choice of dress, the lineup of the wedding party, decorations throughout the church or wedding space, and amendments or changes to the wedding vows.

Heritage often includes family history and culture.

It's a well-known fact that many American Catholics trace their heritage to the British Isles, most notably Ireland. In recent years, many Hispanic and Latino families have also settled in the United States. Both groups are fiercely proud of their own cultures, so it's no surprise that both can base their wedding decorations around their sense of cultural history.

The Celtic wedding includes Gaelic crosses, as well as songs and even the wedding vows sung and said in the Gaelic language. Irish-American brides will sometimes include traditional Irish bridal good luck charms, for example horseshoes and wildflower bouquets. Welsh bridesmaids are given sprigs of myrtle to plant; if the tree grows they'll find a husband within the year.

Latino weddings include Spanish-language prayers and songs with traditional attire worn by the wedding party and bride and groom. Brides sometimes leave their bouquets at the base of the Virgin Mary statue inside the church, as a prayer offering. Brides and grooms sometimes also exchange thirteen gold coins as a symbol of sharing their good fortune.

Receiving the full, high Mass.

Many Catholic couples are taking a grander route in their wedding ceremonies, requesting what's known as a "full Mass." The full Mass differs from the traditional Catholic ceremony in that also includes the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which the congregation receives the body and blood of Christ.

Some devout couples with access to such events also choose to have the Mass said in its original Latin. While possibly confusing for the layperson, the grandeur of the language becomes a thing of beauty itself, a verbal commemoration of the new marriage's romance but also its importance.