Part 2 The Rite of Marriage

Chapter 22 The Rite of Marriage
First Typical Edition 1969

Preliminary Questions


The Rite before 1969

Marriage and the Second Vatican Council


Importance and Dignity of the Sacrament of Marriage (#1-7)

Choice of Rite (#8-11)

Preparation of Local Rituals (#12-16)

Right to Prepare a Completely New Rite (#17-18)

Outline of the Rite of Marriage

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Compare the theology of Marriage presented in the Introduction to the Rite of Marriage with that presented in the Code and the Catechism.

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An excellent bibliography on the Sacrament of Marriage by Joseph Martos can be found at  Chapter XII Marriage

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The Rite before 1969

Collectio Rituum (Benzinger Brothers, New York, 1964)

Four Chapters:  1)  The Rite of the Sacrament of Matrimony During Mass  (p 268);  2) The Rite for the Sacrament of Matrimony When Mass is Not Celebrated (p 277);  3)  The Rite for Assisting at Mixed Marriage (p 287);  4) Exhortation Before Marriage (p 289).

Chapter 1)  The Nuptial Mass had one fixed formula.  First Reading Ephesians 5; Gospel, Wedding at Cana.  One formula for the nuptial blessing.  It is for the bride, not the husband.   It is prayed during the Communion Rite, after the Lord's Prayer but before the embolism Libra nos.   

Chapter 2)  Introduction, prayer,  Ephesians 5:22-33 (Wives should be submissive to their husbands...)  Gospel:  Matthew 19:3-6 (Is it permissible for a man to divorce his wife for any reason whatever?")    Exchange of consent.  Blessing and exchange of rings.  Prayer.  Nuptial blessing (for the bride).  Final blessing and dismissal.

Chapter 3)  This rite (for "mixed marriages") is used with the permission of the Ordinary.  This same rite is used for disparity of cult but all references to baptism are omitted.   1) Exhortation; 2) exchange of consent; 3) exchange rings; 4) "I declare you to be man and wife."

Chapter 4) The "Exhortation Before Marriage" was the standard wedding sermon / homily.

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Marriage and the Second Vatican Council

1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), December 4, 1963: CHAPTER 3: THE OTHER SACRAMENTS AND THE SACRAMENTALS

59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.

62. With the passage of time, however, there have crept into the rites of the sacraments and sacramentals certain features which have rendered their nature and purpose far from clear to the people of today; hence some changes have become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times. For this reason the sacred Council decrees as follows concerning their revision.

63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms:

a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.

77. The marriage rite now found in the Roman Ritual is to be revised and enriched in such a way that the grace of the sacrament is more clearly signified and the duties of the spouses are taught.

"If any regions are wont to use other praiseworthy customs and ceremonies when celebrating the sacrament of matrimony, the sacred Synod earnestly desires that these by all means be retained" (41).

Moreover the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 52, of this Constitution is free to draw up its own rite suited to the usages of place and people, according to the provision of Art. 63. But the rite must always conform to the law that the priest assisting at the marriage must ask for and obtain the consent of the contracting parties.

78. Matrimony is normally to be celebrated within the Mass, after the reading of the gospel and the homily, and before "the prayer of the faithful." The prayer for the bride, duly amended to remind both spouses of their equal obligation to remain faithful to each other, may be said in the mother tongue.

But if the sacrament of matrimony is celebrated apart from Mass, the epistle and gospel from the nuptial Mass are to be read at the beginning of the rite, and the blessing should always be given to the spouses.

3. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ("Lumen Gentium"), November 21, 1964: Article 11.

It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church .  ...the sacrament of Confirmation ... Taking part in the eucharistic ...   the sacrament of Penance ... the sacred anointing of the sick  ... Holy Orders ...  Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church, help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the people of God. From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.

Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

16. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ("Gaudium et Spes"), December 7, 1965:  CHAPTER I: FOSTERING THE NOBILITY OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY

47. The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. Hence Christians and all men who hold this community in high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which men today find help in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which parents are assisted in their lofty calling. Those who rejoice in such aids look for additional benefits from them and labor to bring them about.

Yet the excellence of this institution is not everywhere reflected with equal brilliance, since polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society. Finally, in certain parts of the world problems resulting from population growth are generating concern.

All these situations have produced anxiety of consciences. Yet, the power and strength of the institution of marriage and family can also be seen in the fact that time and again, despite the difficulties produced, the profound changes in modern society reveal the true character of this institution in one way or another.

Therefore, by presenting certain key points of Church doctrine in a clearer light, this sacred synod wishes to offer guidance and support to those Christians and other men who are trying to preserve the holiness and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value.

48. The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.(1) All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love "are no longer two, but one flesh" (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.(2)

Christ the Lord abundantly blessed this many-faceted love, welling up as it does from the fountain of divine love and structured as it is on the model of His union with His Church. For as God of old made Himself present(3) to His people through a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Savior of men and the Spouse(4) of the Church comes into the lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He abides with them thereafter so that just as He loved the Church and handed Himself over on her behalf,(6) the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.

Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother.(6) For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.(7) By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfill their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.

As a result, with their parents leading the way by example and family Prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness. Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.

As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness. Widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation, should be esteemed by all.(8) Families too will share their spiritual riches generously with other families. Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church,(9) and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all men Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another.

49. The biblical Word of God several times urges the betrothed and the married to nourish and develop their wedlock by pure conjugal love and undivided affection.(10) Many men of our own age also highly regard true love between husband and wife as it manifests itself in a variety of ways depending on the worthy customs of various peoples and times.

This love is an eminently human one since it is directed from one person to another through an affection of the will; it involves the good of the whole person, and therefore can enrich the expressions of body and mind with a unique dignity, ennobling these expressions as special ingredients and signs of the friendship distinctive of marriage. This love God has judged worthy of special gifts, healing, perfecting and exalting gifts of grace and of charity. Such love, merging the human with the divine, leads the spouses to a free and mutual gift of themselves, a gift providing itself by gentle affection and by deed, such love pervades the whole of their lives:(11) indeed by its busy generosity it grows better and grows greater. Therefore it far excels mere erotic inclination, which, selfishly pursued, soon enough fades wretchedly away.

This love is uniquely expressed and perfected through the appropriate enterprise of matrimony. The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and a ready will. Sealed by mutual faithfulness and be allowed above all by Christ's sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in mind, in bright days or dark. It will never be profaned by adultery or divorce. Firmly established by the Lord, the unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of wife and husband, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love. The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice.

Authentic conjugal love will be more highly prized, and wholesome public opinion created about it if Christian couples give outstanding witness to faithfulness and harmony in their love, and to their concern for educating their children also, if they do their part in bringing about the needed cultural, psychological and social renewal on behalf of marriage and the family. Especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed in the dignity, duty and work of married love. Trained thus in the cultivation of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to enter a marriage of their own after an honorable courtship.

50. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.

Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfil their task with human and Christian responsibility, and, with docile reverence toward God, will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice,(12) married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate. Among the couples who fulfill their God-given task in this way, those merit special mention who with a gallant heart and with wise and common deliberation, undertake to bring up suitably even a relatively large family.(13)

Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.

51. This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased. As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain. But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered.

To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life. But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love.

For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life. Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.(14)

All should be persuaded that human life and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this world alone. Hence they cannot be measured or perceived only in terms of it, but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny of men.

52. The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity. But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, it needs the kindly communion of minds and the joint deliberation of spouses, as well as the painstaking cooperation of parents in the education of their children. The active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation. The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account.

Children should be so educated that as adults they can follow their vocation, including a religious one, with a mature sense of responsibility and can choose their state of life; if they marry, they can thereby establish their family in favorable moral, social and economic conditions. Parents or guardians should by prudent advice provide guidance to their young with respect to founding a family, and the young ought to listen gladly. At the same time no pressure, direct or indirect, should be put on the young to make them enter marriage or choose a specific partner.

Thus the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family. Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote their authentic nature, to shield public morality and to favor the prosperity of home life. The right of parents to beget and educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded. Children too who unhappily lack the blessing of a family should be protected by prudent legislation and various undertakings and assisted by the help they need.

Christians, redeeming the present time(13) and distinguishing eternal realities from their changing expressions, should actively promote the values of marriage and the family, both by the examples of their own lives and by cooperation with other men of good will. Thus when difficulties arise, Christians will provide, on behalf of family life, those necessities and helps which are suitably modern. To this end, the Christian instincts of the faithful, the upright moral consciences of men, and the wisdom and experience of persons versed in the sacred sciences will have much to contribute.

Those too who are skilled in other sciences, notably the medical, biological, social and psychological, can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family along with peace of conscience if by pooling their efforts they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favoring a proper regulation of births.

It devolves on priests duly trained about family matters to nurture the vocation of spouses by a variety of pastoral means, by preaching God's word, by liturgical worship, and by other spiritual aids to conjugal and family life; to sustain them sympathetically and patiently in difficulties, and to make them courageous through love, so that families which are truly illustrious can be formed.

Various organizations, especially family associations, should try by their programs of instruction and action to strengthen young people and spouses themselves, particularly those recently wed, and to train them for family, social and apostolic life.

Finally, let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another(16) in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life,(17) by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again.(18)

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Overview 1969

1.  The working group [coetus 23] which prepared the Ordo Matrimonio was headed by Fr. P.-M. Gy, O.P. [who was my Doctor Father / thesis director].

2.  Fr. P-M. Gy, O.P. told us in class at the ISL that the Rite of Marriage was one of the first of the revised sacramental rites to appear after the Second Vatican Council and consequently the method of composing the Praenotanda had not yet matured.  The ritual books published before 1965 did not benefit from "Praenotanda" but, if anything, they had "de defectibus" that is, a list of "what to do" in case something went wrong.  (E.g. you are the presiding priest at the celebration of the Eucharist and at Communion time, when you taste the Precious Blood, you find that it isn't wine, what do you do then?  You go to the "de defectibus.")  As the various sacramental rites are revised, the working groups developed a certain "standard format" for the material contained in the Praenotanda.  (The 1990 Second Typical Edition of the rite incorporates this format.)

3.  Be aware of the date when reading the text.  The Rite uses the vocabulary and concepts of 1969.  It can take into account the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and in particular the text of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes (December 7, 1965)  but is written 14 years before the Code (1983) and 25 years before the Catechism (1994). 

4.   The Rite of Marriage which we will study in detail is the first typical edition of 1969; this is the ritual which is currently (2003) in use.  In 1990 the Latin text of the Second Typical Edition was published.  However, because of publication of Liturgical authenticam, and the changes in personnel at ICEL, the BCL, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, we do not yet have an approved English translation of the 1990 text.  The Latin editio typica is awaiting translation into English, the approval of the USCCB, and the confirmatio of the Holy See.  This process will probably take several years.  From what I have seen of the 1990 second edition, the changes are relatively minor and consequently the thorough study of the first edition will not be time wasted.  

5.  In conjunction with the Rite of Marriage we will ready and study those passages of Sacred Scripture contained in the Lectionary for Weddings.  The scripture readings given in the 1990 Second Typical Edition have already been published in the 2001 edition of the Lectionary (Volume IV, Ritual Masses) approved by the USCCB and are available in the study edition (the big blue book) published by LTP which each of you have.  We will study the texts from this Second Typical Edition, even though for the first years of your priestly ministry the people whose marriages you will be witnessing will probably only have access to the readings and planning helps based on the First Typical Edition

6.  The "time-line" for the approval of liturgical books has changed over the years.  The Latin text of the first typical edition of the Ordo Matrimonium appeared March 19, 1969, went into use July 1, 1969 in Latin, was translated into English, approved by the USCCB, received the confirmation from Rome, was printed in a ritual book and in the hands of pastors by August 28, 1970.  The Latin text of the second typical edition of the Ordo Matrimonium appeared 1990 and the English text has not yet come to the USCCB for approval.

7.  There seems to be no uniform practice in the translation of Matrimonio.  Sometimes the word is translated Marriage, sometimes Matrimony.

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Importance and Dignity of the Sacrament of Marriage

Note to the reader:  The selections from the Rite of Marriage are printed here under the "fair use" act. It is presumed that each student using this web page has purchased a copyrighted edition of the text and is using it to follow the commentary.

1. In virtue of the sacrament of marriage, married Christians signify and share in the mystery of the unity and fruitful love that exists between Christ and his Church (fn 1. Ephesians 5:32); they thus help each other to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and rearing children; and they have their own special place and gift among the people of God. (fn 2. Corinthians 7:7. LG no. 11 [DOL 4, no. 141].)

Comment 1:  This opening article states the reason why marriage is a sacrament.  Be aware of the passages of Scripture upon which this theology is based.  Note that the sacrament gives grace 1) to help each other attain holiness and 2) to welcome and rear children.  This is one of the first official instances of the incorporation of the change in the "ends of marriage" brought about by Gaudium et spes.

2. A marriage is established by the marriage covenant, the irrevocable consent that the spouses freely give to and receive from each other. This unique union of a man and woman and the good of the children impose total fidelity on each of them and the unbreakable unity of their bond. To make the indissoluble marriage covenant a clearer sign of this full meaning and a surer help in its fulfillment, Christ the Lord raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, modeled on his own nuptial bond with the Church. (fn 3. GS no. 48 [DOL 19, no. 271])

Comment 2:  This definition is taken from Gaudium et spes and changes that given in the 1917 Code.  It is this definition that is incorporated into the 1983 Code and the 1994 Catechism.

3. Christian couples, therefore, are to strive to nourish and develop their marriage by undivided affection, which wells up from the fountain of divine love: in a merging of the human and the divine, they remain faithful in body and in mind, in good times as in bad. (fn 4. GS nos. 48, 49 DOL 19, nos. 271, 2721.)

4. By their very nature, the institution of marriage and wedded love have as their purpose the procreation and education of children and find in them their ultimate crown. Children are the most precious gift of a marriage and contribute most to the well-being of the parents. Therefore, married Christians, without in any way considering the other purposes of marriage of less account, should be steadfast and ready to cooperate with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will constantly enrich and enlarge his own family. (fn 5. GS nos. 48 DOL 19, no. 2711, 50.])

5. A priest should bear in mind these doctrinal principles, both in his instructions to those preparing to be married and when giving the homily during the marriage ceremony; he should relate the homily to the text of the sacred readings. (fn 6. SC art. 52 IDOL 1, no. 521, SCR, Instr. Inter0ec, Sept. 26, 1964, no. 54 IDOL 23, no. 3461.)  The bridal couple should, if necessary, be given a review of these fundamentals of Christian doctrine; then the catechesis for marriage should include the teachings on marriage and the family, on the sacrament itself and its rites, prayers, and readings. In this way the bridegroom and the bride will receive far greater benefit from the celebration of the sacrament.

Comment 5a:  Note that the instructions and the homily are to be based on the theology embodied in the rite itself.

Comment 5b: Today, some 35 years later, it seems unnecessary to state that "the homily should be based on the readings" but this was written in 1969.  Today it can remind us of the tremendous gift the Second Vatican Council made to the liturgy in restoring the importance of Sacred Scripture.

Comment 5c:   When is this catechesis to be given?  In the contemporary American context it is a challenge to find time for the couple to participate in a pre-nuptial theological program.

6. In the celebration of marriage (which normally should be within Mass), certain elements should be stressed. The first is the liturgy of the word, which brings out the importance of Christian marriage in the history of salvation and the duties and responsibilities it involves in the sanctification of the couple and their children. Also to be emphasized are: the consent of the contracting parties, which the priest asks and receives; the special nuptial blessing on the bride, by which the priest implores God's blessing on the wedding covenant; and, finally, the reception of holy communion by the groom and the bride and by others present, which above all is the source of love and lifts us up into communion with our Lord and with one another. (fn 7. AA no. 3 IDOL 16, no. 2321; LG no. 12 IDOL 4, no. 1421.)

Comment 6a:  Marriage should normally be in the context of Eucharist because Eucharist celebrates and remembers what Marriage celebrates and remembers.   An exception to the "normally" 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.

Comment 6b:  Note which elements article 6 considers primary:

Liturgy of the Word
Asking for and receiving consent of the parties
Nuptial Blessing
Holy Communion

7. Priests should first of all strengthen and nourish the faith of those about to be married, for the sacrament of marriage presupposes and demands faith. (fn 8. SC art. 59 IDOL 1, no. 591.)

Comment 7a:  The Latin text reads "Imprimis pastores foveant..."  Père Gy noted in class that "In primis" [translated here "in the first place"] is not just first in the sense of 1, 2, 3, etc. "In primis" means "First of all..." in the order of intention:  first and foremost.  In other words, among all the things the priest is thinking about and concerned about, his primary and over reaching purpose in this encounter is to "strengthen and nourish the faith of those about to be married."   Today when we are concerned about M-! forms and dispensations and annulments and Saturday Mass schedules, it easy to forget what is "the most important thing."

Comment 7b:  The sacrament "presupposes and demands faith."   Father Gy said in class at the ISL that he wanted to add the words "If neither party has faith, they are not to be married in Church."   But the editors decided that this fact is evident from the text as it stands. -- The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council teaches that sacraments not only presuppose faith but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it" (SC 59). Consequently the question may be asked if baptized non believing Christians contract the sacrament validly? This question is discussed at length by Michael G. Lawler in Marriage and the Catholic Church (Liturgical Press, 2002) Chapter 3, "Faith and Sacrament in Christian Marriage" pages 43-65. This article can also be found in Theological Studies 52(1991) 712-31.

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Choice of Rite

8. In a marriage between a Catholic and a baptized person the who is not a Catholic, the rite of marriage outside Mass (nos. 39-54) shall be used.  If the situation warrants and if the local Ordinary gives permission, the rite for celebrating marriage within Mass (nos. 19-38) may be used, except that communion is not given to the non-Catholic, since the general law does not allow it.

In a marriage between a Catholic and one who is not baptized, the rite in nos. 55-66 of the ritual is to be followed.

Comment 8:  This article refers to "mixed marriage" and "disparity of cult".  Not that the celebration of the eucharist at a mixed marriage requires the permission of the local Ordinary who will request a good reason for the permission.

9. Furthermore, priests should show special consideration for those who take part in liturgical celebrations or hear the Gospel only on the occasion of a wedding, either because they are not Catholics or because they are Catholics who rarely if ever take part in the eucharist or who apparently have lost their faith. Priests after all are ministers of Christ's Gospel to everyone.

Comment 9:  "Priests ... are ministers of Christ's Gospel to everyone."  Here Père Gy makes reference to I Corinthians 9:16-23 (Second Reading, Fifth Sunday of the Year, Cycle B)

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it! ...

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

The preacher must always know his audience.  This is especially true of the special congregation present for weddings and funerals.  [Père Gy inserted the same admonition into the Rite of Funerals.]

10. In the celebration of marriage, apart from the liturgical laws providing for due honors to civil authorities, there is to be no preferential treatment of any private persons or classes of person, whether in the ceremonies or by external display. (fn 9. SC art. 32 IDOL 1, no. 321.)

Comment 10:  This article address a situation that is not common or customary in our American pastoral experience. 

11. Whenever marriage is celebrated during Mass, white vestments are worn and the wedding Mass is used. If the marriage is celebrated on a Sunday or solemnity, the Mass of the day is used with the nuptial blessing and the special final blessing according to the circumstances.

The liturgy of the word as adapted to the marriage celebration, however, is a highly effective means for the catechesis on the sacrament of marriage and its duties. Therefore when the wedding Mass may not be held, one of the readings from the texts provided for the marriage celebration (nos. 67-105) may be chosen, except from Holy Thursday to Easter, on the solemnities of Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, or Corpus Christi, or on holy days of obligation. On the Sundays of the Christmas season and in Ordinary Time, the entire wedding Mass may be used in Masses that are not parish Masses.

When a marriage is celebrated during Advent or Lent or other days of penance, the parish priest should advise the couple to take into consideration the special nature of these liturgical seasons.

Comment 11:  The 1969 first edition of the Rite of Marriage was published before the revised Roman Calendar  which went into effect on January 1, 1970.  Consequently the 1969 rite was not able to benefit from that document.  The 1990 second edition of the Rite of Marriage revises #11 in its #34 which reads as follows:

34. Whenever matrimony is celebrated within Mass, the ritual Nuptial Mass is used, with sacred vestments which are white or of festive color. On days which are listed under numbers 1-4 of the table of liturgical days, the Mass of the days is used, with its own readings, the nuptial blessing being included, and, if it seems suitable, the specific formula of the final blessing. If however, during the Christmas season and throughout the year matrimony is celebrated at the Sunday Mass of the parish community, the Sunday Mass is used. However, since the Liturgy of the Word designed for the celebration of matrimony should have considerable force in giving a catechesis concerning this Sacrament and concerning the responsibilities (munera) of the spouses, when the Nuptial Mass is not said, one of the readings may be taken from the texts provided for the celebration of matrimony (nn. 179-222).

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Preparation of Local Rituals

12. Without prejudice to the faculty spoken of in no. 17 for regions where the Roman Ritual for marriage is used, particular rituals shall be prepared, suitable for the customs and needs of individual areas, in conformity with the norms of the Constitution on the Liturgy art. 63 b and 77. (DOL 1, nos. 63 and 77.) Decisions on this matter are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See.

In making adaptations, the following points must be remembered.

13. The formularies of the Roman Ritual may be adapted or, as the case may be, supplemented (including the questions before the consent and the actual words of consent).

When the Roman Ritual has several optional formularies, local rituals may add others of the same type.

Comment 13:  This directive gave the USCCB (and ICEL) permission to compose "original" prayers adapted to local, pastoral needs.  For example, to incorporate the "traditional" American vows into the ritual (25 B:  I, take you, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.") and the fourth alternate form for the final blessing (126 #4).

14. Within the actual rite of the sacrament of marriage, the arrangement of parts may be varied. If it seems more suitable, even the questions before the consent may be omitted as long as the assisting priest asks for and receives the consent of the contracting parties.

15. After the exchange of rings, the crowning or veiling of the bride may take place according to local custom.

In any region where the joining of hands or the blessing or exchange of rings does not fit in with the practice of people, the conference of bishops may allow these rites to be omitted or other rites substituted.

16. As for the marriage customs of nations that are now receiving the Gospel for the first time, whatever is good and is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error should be sympathetically considered and, if possible, preserved intact. Such things may in fact be taken over into the liturgy itself, as long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.(fn 9. SC art. 37 [DOL 1, no. 371.)

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Right to Prepare a Completely New Rite

17. Each conference of bishops may draw up its own marriage rite suited to the usages of the place and people and approved by the Apostolic See. A necessary condition, however, is that in the rite the priest assisting at such marriages must ask for and receive the consent of the contracting parties (fn 11. SC art. 77 IDOL 1, no. 771.) and the nuptial blessing should always be given. (fn 12. SC art. 78 IDOL 1, no. 78)

18. Among peoples where the marriage ceremonies customarily take place in the home, sometimes over a period of several days, their customs should be adapted to the Christian spirit and to the liturgy. In such cases the conference of bishops, according to the pastoral needs of the people, may allow the sacramental rite to be celebrated in the home.

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Outline of the Rite of Marriage

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

Comment 19a:  The reasons for celebrating Marriage in the context of the Eucharist go deeper than "receiving Holy Communion" together.  At the Eucharist we remember -- and thus, by this remembering / anamnesis, we are taking up into and become present to the paschal mystery of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. 

The total self-giving of Jesus to the Father culminating on Calvary is the type of the self-giving of the spouses to one another.   The total union of Christ and the Father is the sacrament of the union of the spouses.  The words of Christ "not my will, but thine be done" are the desire of the couple.  The petition / epiclesis of the eucharist to change the bread and wine into a sacrament is parallel to the epiclesis of the marriage to make this union a sign of something more, something divine; and the petition to change those who eat and drink into the Body of Christ is parallel to the epiclesis of the marriage to change make the bride and groom one body.  And how is this achieved?  In Eucharist by eating the bread (we become what we eat -- parallel:  sexual intercourse; the wife and husband enter into intimate union with one another) and by drinking the cup.  We become one body by "blood poured out in love." 

Comment 19b:  The rubric "he greets the bride and bridegroom in a friendly manner" may not seem unusual today, but in 1969 it was entirely new to direct the priest to say something without giving him the exact words to say.  Liturgy was defined as "the words in the liturgical book."  That an act or a phrase could be liturgical without being in the book was something rather revolutionary.  (This is one of the reasons why the sermon was not considered a part of the liturgy; the words were not prescribed.)

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)

Comment 118:   Regarding the prayer inserted into the Hanc Igitur of the Eucharistic Prayer: 

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To Think About

Compare the theology of Marriage presented in the Introduction to the Rite of Marriage with that presented in the Code and the Catechism.

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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 03/19/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at