Three tips for a great Catholic Wedding
Whatever reasons you might have for deciding to get married in the Catholic Church, the best reason is that the sacrament of Matrimony will super-charge your marriage with divine grace and the support of the whole community of faith. The guidance that the Church offers to couples preparing for marriage is aimed at helping them receive those special "wedding gifts" as fully as possible. Here are three tips to help you better understand that guidance—and make your Catholic wedding ceremony as beautiful and joyful as possible:
1. Focus on preparing for a lifelong marriage
The Catholic Church spends a great deal of time and energy helping engaged couples prepare for a strong, vibrant, lifelong marriage. Interviews, personality inventories, classes or retreats, and meetings with married couples may all be part of the marriage preparation process. Most dioceses require couples to wait four to twelve months before being married so that they have enough time to prepare for their marriage.
Some couples view the process of preparing for marriage as a burden that gets in the way of planning the wedding day. In retrospect, however, the vast majority of married couples say that the time they spent on marriage preparation activities was valuable. As the old adage goes, "A wedding is for a day; a marriage is for a lifetime." So try to spend more time preparing for your marriage than planning for your wedding day.
2. Put God first on your guest list
At the beginning of the Rite of Marriage (the Catholic wedding ritual), the priest or deacon says to the couple: "You have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church's minister and this community" (#23). That sums up the difference between a Catholic wedding and a civil ceremony: the focus of a civil wedding may be the couple alone, but in a Catholic wedding, the focus is on the couple in relationship to God, one another, and their faith community. A Catholic wedding is more than a legal formality or even a celebration; it is a liturgy, the whole community praying to God.
Inviting God into your marriage enriches it in supernatural ways. "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love," the Church says (The Church in the Modern World #48). And the marriage of two baptized people is a sacrament in which Christ gives the spouses the strength they need to help one another, to forgive one another, and "to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1642). So as you make up your wedding "to do" list, think about where God fits in your plans.
3. Let your wedding be a prayer of the Church
Most parishes invite the couple to take an active role in planning their wedding liturgy. After all, in the Roman Catholic Church, the bride and groom—not the priest or deacon—are the ministers of the sacrament of Matrimony (Catechism #1623).
As you plan your wedding, however, keep in mind that getting married "in the Church" means much more than holding the wedding in a church building. It means inviting the Church to participate in the wedding in a way that creates a special relationship between the couple and the whole community of faith. That's why the Church requires that weddings follow the form outlined in the Rite of Marriage (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #1631).
The Church's wedding guidelines may rule out some possibilities, such as getting married in a hot air balloon (although you could always take off from the reception in one). But the Catholic wedding liturgy offers so much more: namely, the prayers of the whole Church for God's blessing on your marriage.
As you plan various elements of the wedding, then, focus on what will help you and your guests pray for God's blessing on your marriage. The wedding industry encourages couples to focus on external decorations as they plan their wedding: floral arrangements, dress designs, reception menus, and so on. By contrast, the Church invites couples to focus on planning the liturgical aspects of the wedding: the Scripture readings, the psalm, the music, the prayers of the faithful, the preparation of the gifts, and many other elements. The Church believes that a really beautiful wedding comes from the presence of God shining through the worship of the assembled people. Done right, a good Catholic wedding is a poem, a dance, and a feast, all rolled into one; it is a work of art that reveals the love of the couple “caught up into divine love” (The Church in the Modern World #48).
The people at your parish have the training and experience to help you make that liturgy as beautiful and meaningful as possible, so don't hesitate to seek and follow their advice as you plan your wedding. For a preview of what to expect, click through the steps in the wedding planning menu at left. Other helpful resources for planning your Catholic wedding can be found on the “Additional Resources” page.
Getting engaged . . .
It was very good: A heavenly plan for marriage: at Word Among Us
Sacrament of Marriage: Sign of Faithful Love: at AmericanCatholic.org