“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
A Catholic wedding is a beautiful and sacred ceremony (liturgy) that celebrates the love between two individuals before God, their life-long commitment of fidelity to each other, their commitment to their faith, and desire to tranmit life into the world. It takes place within the context of a liturgical celebration, usually a Nuptial Mass, and is considered a sacrament, called Holy Matrimony.
Prior to the wedding, the couple will participate in premarital counseling or a Pre-Cana program, guided by a priest or a team. This process helps to prepare the couple for the spiritual and practical aspects of marriage. This must take place no later than 6 months prior to anticipated nuptials; starting 12 months may be more helpful.
The nuptials begins with a procession into the parish church. The bride and groom and the priest are the celebrants of the sacraments at work (couple: Matrimony; priest: Eucharist).
Once everyone is in place, a Mass or Liturgy of the Word begins. After the Homily, the couple stands before the priest or deacon to express their consent – this is the actual moment of the Sacrament of Matrimony. The couple exchanges vows, promising to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives (fidelity, fecundity, perpanence). Then, they exchange rings as a symbol of this promise. If the wedding is taking place within a Nuptial Mass, it will proceed to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. However, if one of the couple is not Catholic, the ceremony may take place outside of Mass, without communion. The priest or deacon will bless the newly married couple, and then they’ll sign the wedding register, which is usually witnessed by the Best Man and the Maid/Matron of Honor (2 Catholics).
Remember, the Catholic Church views marriage as a lifelong commitment and a sacrament. The Church will be there to support you, in joy and in hardship, as you grow in love for each other and for God. The Church also encourages ongoing dialogue with your priest or spiritual advisor, as well as engagement with Church community life, to continue nourishing your spiritual life as a couple.
A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality that gives grace. In marriage, the visible sign is the love that a husband and wife have for each other and the fruitfulness of their union. The invisible reality to which they point is the love that Jesus has for his bride, the Church, and the fruitfulness of God’s creation bringing new life into the world. In the Sacrament of Marriage, God gives grace, that is to say, supernatural power, to make His own love, mercy, generosity, fruitfulness, kindness, and compassion tangible.
The task of marriage is to make the invisible God visible by the love a husband and wife have for each other and their openness to new life. Knowing how hard real love is, we pray for those who are married, so that they may be beautiful witnesses of God’s love. More information and resources are available through the diocesan office.