Marriage
Part 2 The Rite of Marriage

Chapter 21 Structure and Elements of the Rite of Marriage

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Introductory Notes

Outline of the Rite of Marriage

The Structure and Elements of a Catholic Wedding

Comments

The Engagement Ceremony

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

What does the Catholic wedding ceremony look like?  Are you able to describe its structure in outline form?  Why does the nuptial blessing take place after the Lord's Prayer?  What is the difference between the rite celebrated for a mixed marriage and and that celebrated in the case of disparity of cult?

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Bibliography

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.,  Before You Say 'I Do': Four Things to Remember When Planning Your Wedding Liturgy. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1989. ISBN 0-86716-130-2. $1.95.

"Planning Your Wedding Liturgy" Catholic Update Video, St. Anthony Messenger Press, V2080.  Saint Meinrad Archabbey Library

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Introductory Notes

Before studying the structure and elements of the Rite of Marriage,

1.  Review the methodology of liturgical/sacramental theology.

2.  Review the meaning and function of the axiom Lex Orandi.

3.  Review the meaning of Structure and Elements of a Rite in general.

4.  Review how the fourfold structure of the Eucharist  (Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning) is the model for all the sacraments.  [These terms are employed for scriptural reasons (Luke), for catechetical reasons (basic 500 word English vocabulary); and for theological reasons (sacraments are more verb than noun). For more information on the fourfold structure of the Eucharist, see Chapter 71 Teaching about the Eucharist, Ten Things I Learned About The Mass, part 5. The Four Movements of the Mass are the model for all sacramental celebrations]

Outline of the Rite of Marriage

Praenotanda (#1 - 18)

Chapter 1.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass (#19 - 38)

Chapter 2.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage Outside Mass (#39 - 54)

Chapter 3.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage between a Catholic and an Unbaptized Person (#55 - 66)

Chapter 4.  Texts for use in the Marriage Rite and in the Wedding Mass (#67 - 127)


The "ritual edition" published by Catholic Book Company (©1970) arranges the material as follows:

Decree of the Sacred Congregation

Introduction (#1 - 18)

Chapter 1.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage During Mass (#19 - 38)

Chapter 2.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage Outside Mass (#39 - 54)

Chapter 3.  Rite for Celebrating Marriage between a Catholic and an Unbaptized Person (#55 - 66)

Chapter 4.  Order of Mass with the rite for celebrating marriage

Chapter 5.  Texts for use in the Marriage Rite and in the Wedding Mass (#67 - 127)

Appendix I:  Communion under Both Kinds

Appendix II:  Homiletic notes for the New Readings

Comment:  With the addition of the Order of Mass in Chapter 4, this ritual book contained the complete text of the Rite of Marriage During Mass and in those cases where (in 1970) your Lectionary did not yet include the new readings for marriage, or your Sacramentary did not yet include the new prefaces or eucharistic prayer intercessions for wedding masses, the Rite of Marriage could serve as your sole liturgical text.  The date (1970) is also the reason for the inclusion of Appendix I.  This information was not yet readily available in the ritual books.

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The Structure and Elements of a Catholic Wedding

Part One.  Gathering Rites

Welcoming the community at the door of the Church
Procession
Gathering song
Greeting by the couple
Opening Prayer
[Unity candle]

Part Two.  Story Telling

Old Testament Reading
Psalm
New Testament Reading
Gospel acclamation
Gospel
Homily

Part Three.  Vow Taking

Asking for consent 
Exchanging vows
Acceptance of vows
Blessing of rings
Exchange of rings
[Cultural symbols]
[Unity candle]
General Intercessions

Part Four.  Meal Sharing

Setting the Table / Preparation of the Gifts
The Eucharistic Prayer [with special intercessions]
The Communion Rite
        The Lord's Prayer
        The Nuptial Blessing

Part Five.  Commissioning

Prayer after Communion
Announcements:  Thank you, Invitation to reception, etc.
Blessing
Presentation of the couple
Dismissal
Procession

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Comments

1.  Eucharist has a four fold structure:  Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning. Marriage has a similar fourfold structure:  Gathering, Story Telling, Vowing, Commissioning.  When they are combined, the Gathering, Story Telling, and Commissioning are not duplicated, thus resulting in a fivefold structure:  Gathering, Story Telling, Vowing, Meal Sharing, Commissioning.

2.  Whenever an sacrament (or other sacramental action, e.g. religious profession) is celebrated within the Eucharist, the action always takes place after the Gospel.  This is because the action (baptism, marriage, ordination, profession, anointing, etc.) is seen as a response to the Gospel call.  E.g. it is because I have heard the Gospel and wish to respond to it that I choose to be ordained, professed, married, baptized, etc.

3.  Marriage should always be in the context of Eucharist because Eucharist celebrates and remembers what Marriage celebrates and remembers.   An exception to the "always" occurs when the celebration of Marriage (a sign of unity) would take place within a Eucharist (a sign of unity) at which the bride or groom, for some reason [e.g. not a Roman Catholic], would not share the Communion table (and thus posit a sign of disunity).   It is not good liturgy or theology to posit signs of disunity during signs of unity.

4.  While Marriage should always be in the context of Eucharist, we presume that the couple actually intend Eucharist.  Be alert for those cases when the couple "wants a Mass" merely (or primarily) because it will make the wedding "fancier" or "more solemn."

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The Engagement Ceremony

The Book of Blessings contains an order for the blessing of an engaged couple. In the USA edition, it is found at nos. 195-213. The order is included in the Latin typical edition of De Benectionibus.  The same chapter was included in the second typical edition of the Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium of 1990 and will be in the vernacular editions of the (1990) marriage ritual once they are prepared and approved.

Four prefatory paragraphs precede the ritual text of the blessing itself. The first recalls the important responsibility of parents to prepare their children properly for Christian marriage. "The betrothal of a young Christian couple... is a special occasion for their families," who may wish to mark the occasion with prayer.

If the order of blessing is celebrated within the circle of the two families, "one of the parents should preside. But when a priest or a deacon is present, the office of presiding more fittingly belongs to him (provided it is clear to all that the blessing is not the celebration of the sacrament of marriage itself)."

The order of blessing may be adapted to the circumstances of the place and the people involved. It may also be used for the blessing of more than one couple, for instance, when engaged couples come together for their premarital preparation (such as at an Engaged Encounter weekend).  Note that "neither a formal betrothal nor the special blessing of an engaged couple is ever to be combined with the celebration of Mass." 

The USCCB has not established any particular law concerning betrothals.   It seems that these few norms from the two liturgical books satisfactorily address the issue of betrothals and that further legislation is not necessary or even desirable.  (Adapted from a private response from Ron Krisman, former director of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.  Used with permission given 11/25/2002.)

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To Think About

1.  Know by memory the structure and elements of the Rite of Marriage.

2.  What ethnic variations in the ritual are you aware of?

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/08/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at tomrichs@psci.net.