Planning Your Catholic Wedding
Choosing Catholic wedding readings
For many couples, choosing the Scripture readings turns out to be one of the highlights of planning their Catholic wedding. Read on to find out why, and to get the complete texts of the readings suggested by the Rite of Marriage.
Unless your wedding falls on certain days, your parish will probably invite you to choose the Scripture readings for your wedding. The part of the Catholic wedding ceremony during which selections from the Bible are read and sung is called the Liturgy of the Word; it usually includes four parts:
The first reading, taken from the Old Testament
The second reading, taken from the New Testament
The Gospel reading, taken from one of the four Gospels
Catholic weddings usually include three readings plus the responsorial psalm, although one of the first two readings may sometimes be omitted if there is a good reason (check with your pastor).
The Order of Celebrating Matrimony provides between seven and ten different options for each of the Scripture readings and the responsorial psalm. Each of the readings was chosen for the insight it offers into Christian marriage, even if it does not speak about marriage directly.
Substituting readings from other sources—poetry, for instance, or a work of literature, or another translation of the Bible—is not allowed during a Catholic wedding. (Here's why.) However, readings from these types of texts might be included on the back page of your program, or read during the reception.
If your wedding is on a Sunday, certain feast days, or a holy day of obligation, you must use the readings the Lectionary for Mass provides for that day. For a complete list, see Days on which the reading from the lectionary must be used.
Choose qualified readers (lectors) to proclaim the Word of God
Who will proclaim the Scripture readings during your wedding ceremony? The priest or deacon who witnesses your marriage will proclaim the Gospel reading. The responsorial psalm is usually led by a cantor (song leader), or simply recited by a reader if a cantor is unavailable. That leaves you to find readers (also called lectors) for the first and second readings.
Readers perform a sacred ministry—proclaiming the Word of God—and should be well prepared for their role.
Most Catholics know that Christ is active and present in the Eucharist. But Catholic tradition also holds that God is present in the Scriptures. As James M. Schellman beautifully puts it, "the Lord is active and present to the assembly" through the proclamation of the Scripture readings. God "longs to speak and be heard in the biblical word." (See a link to his full article below.)
God longs to speak to you and your fiancé, too, through the readings you choose for your wedding. What does this imply for how you go about choosing the Scriptures that will be proclaimed at your wedding? Here are a few suggestions:
Don't rush it. Spend some time with the readings—even a few weeks—before deciding which ones to choose. You might even keep a copy of the readings by your bed so that you can review them before going to sleep each night.
Pray with the readings. Remember that God is speaking to you through these writings; take some time to quietly reflect on their meaning for your lives, and in particular, for your marriage. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak in your hearts as you reflect on the readings.
Review the readings together. You and your fiancé may not agree at first on which readings to choose, but take that as an opportunity to discuss what the different readings mean to each of you. What do your preferences reveal about your spirituality, values, and attitudes toward marriage?
Don't dismiss the "hard" readings too easily. Some of the readings may rub you the wrong way; others may seem to have little connection to marriage. Stick with them for a while, though, before moving on to the "popular" wedding readings. For some basic guidelines on how to interpret the Scriptures, see Catechism of the Catholic Church #109-114.
The ancient monastic practice of lectio divina is one way to open your hearts to what God has to say to you through the wedding readings. Lectio divina, which means "divine reading" in Latin, is a method of reading Scripture in a sort of dialogue with God. The practice involves slowly reading the Scriptural text, savoring each phrase, listening deeply; it then moves on to meditation, prayer, and contemplation.
You can find a detailed description of this holy practice at Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina.
If you missed the links earlier, here's where to find the complete list of the Scripture reading options included the The Order for Celebrating Matrimony:
For more information
Lector at Mass
A complete guide to the role of the lector during the Mass, with reference to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, from the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Proclaiming Tips for Lectors
If you are asking someone who is not a trained lector to read at your wedding, you should consider directing them to this excellent practical resource from an experienced lector, Denise C. Thompson.
The Ministry of the Lector
AmericaMagazine.org. James M. Schellman opens up the spiritual dimension of the ministry of the lector in this excellent reflection piece.
Words Pronunciation Guide
Provides a phonetic pronunciation guide for hard-to-pronounce biblical words, plus a .wav file that will play the pronunciation for you.