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The Catholic wedding procession

The Order for Celebrating Matrimony notes the procession of the bridal party, the presider and ministers should take place "in the customary manner" (#46). Check with your pastor or whomever is helping you plan your wedding at the church about local guidelines as possible cultural adaptations for the Entrance Rite.

Keep in mind that every action in liturgy communicates symbolicly. This includes the order of people you choose for your procession. Consider this as your first statement to those assembled what you believe about this celebration. For instance, the bride and groom processing in together symbolizes the Church's understanding of the complementary role of the husband and wife in marriage.

Catholic wedding processionSound unfamiliar? That's because in the United States and elsewhere it is common for the bride to be escorted down the aisle by her father, who then "gives" her to the groom waiting at the altar—a tradition rooted in the days when weddings were viewed as a sort of property transaction (with the woman being the property). While this may be a touching moment of sentiment, is that how you view the marriage you are making with one another?

Another option is to skip the procession altogether; the presider simply greets the bride and groom at the altar (The Order for Celebrating Matrimony #48-50).

The assembly stands at the beginning of the liturgy, when the entrance song is announced and the procession begins—in other words, the assembly should not remain seated until the bride enters the church. In the Catholic liturgy, standing is a way of acknowledging the presence of God.

The wedding procession is usually accompanied by music. This might take the form of an instrumental or solo piece, or a hymn sung by the whole assembly. Some couples opt to use an instrumental piece during the procession, followed by a gathering hymn sung by the whole assembly once the wedding party and the ministers of the liturgy are in place.

Note that most parishes forbid the use of the traditional wedding march to accompany the procession. The Diocese of Albany explains why:

The so-called “traditional wedding marches” by Wagner and Mendelssohn are not recommended. Both are “theater” pieces which have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy. The “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin, actually accompanies the couple to the bedroom, not the altar! Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream accompanies a farcical wedding (the play is a comedy).

Many other instrumental pieces are permitted. however. The Diocese of Albany suggests the following possibilities:

  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (J. S. Bach)
  • Canon in D Major (J. Pachelbel)
  • Trumpet Tune (Purcell/Clarke)
  • Trumpet Voluntary (also known as The Prince of Denmark’s March) (J. Clarke)
  • Trumpet Voluntary (Stanley)
  • Overture from Royal Fireworks Suite (G.F. Handel)
  • Rondeau from Premier Suite (J.J. Mouret)
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