In keeping with the Code of Canon Law 1115, a Catholic wedding almost always takes place in the parish church where either the bride or groom is a member. It is customary to schedule a wedding on a Saturday at 10 a.m. 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. Not surprisingly, engaged couples will be wise to plan early, set up an interview with the parish priest and book the church at least six to 12 months in advance.
What couples may need to bring along: When setting up the interview, the priest may ask couples to bring one or more documents pertaining to their eligibility to receive the sacrament of marriage. Documents include an Affidavit of Freedom to Marry, copies of baptismal certificates, a Marriage License and a Pre-Cana Completion Certificate.
Donating to the Church
When booking the church for a Catholic wedding, it is customary to offer a donation. Suggested amounts can be as little as $300, depending on the parish, or as much as a tithe of the total wedding budget. Priests routinely cut any donation requests for couples that show financial need.
Flowers, Readings and Music
These enhance the beauty and atmosphere of a Catholic wedding program. Couples should make arrangements for these services as soon as possible, but no later than four to six months ahead of the wedding celebration.
Floral Arrangements: Parish service co-ordinators generally have to approve flower arrangements and adornments. Couples should discuss any wishes with the co-ordinator and obtain permission for the floral arrangements before signing contracts with a florist. If money is tight, the co-ordinator can put a couple in contact with an earlier bridal party. They may let the later couple share their floral arrangements. Since these flowers are considered a votive offering to the church, they can be left in place for later nuptials.
Readings: Couples should carefully choose the readings for a Catholic wedding ceremony. Within the context of the nuptial mass, they are referred to as the Liturgy of the Word. The bride and groom select an Old Testament text for the first reading, words from the psalmist for the responsorial psalm, a New Testament text for the second reading and a Gospel passage for the Gospel reading. They should work together with the priest to select proper materials that capture the essence of the couple’s personalities.
Music: Meeting with the parish organist takes care of the music choice for the wedding. Depending on the resources of the parish, couples may also ask for the services of an instrumentalist and soloist. Fees associated with their services vary, but usually they run about $200 per parish musician.
Celebrating a Catholic wedding is contingent upon completion of the Pre-Cana. Although much discussed, it is truly little more than a marriage preparation course that helps brides and grooms discover – beyond doubt – that they are compatible for life and share the same basic views. The Pre-Cana touches upon godly conflict resolution, money management and child rearing.
In some cases, Pre-Cana sessions consist of six weekly meetings lasting about one to two hours each. Other parishes hold Pre-Cana weekends, when engaged couples may attend Friday evening and Saturday morning and afternoon workshops. It is wise to avoid any last-minute scheduling problems by booking Pre-Cana attendance at least two months before the wedding celebration.
What couples may need to bring along: Pre-Cana attendees should bring a filled out the registration form and bring it together with the session fees. There are scholarships available to defray the costs for couples in financial distress.