A Roman Catholic wedding is a long, complicated event.

Besides all the cultural wedding customs and various traditions (i.e. something old, something new, the rehearsal dinner, which family pays for what, etc.), there is this whole other set of religious protocol to follow. To wit, you will usually have not only a short wedding ceremony, but also a full mass. The wedding sacrament takes place between the Liturgy of the Word (i.e. readings, gospel and homily) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (i.e. communion). When you put all the ceremonies together, you may be in the church for up to two hours. Be prepared.

Most Catholics will want to have a wedding with a mass; a couple can request only a simple ceremony, and a priest can perform one, but there is a bit of a negative connotation to this. Plain marriage ceremonies are generally given to those couples who have some sort of problem with the church, or with whom the church has some kind of problem. If a partner is non-Christian, for example, that couple may not be allowed a full mass. If two unconfirmed Catholics want to get married, they will almost certainly not get a full mass, since they are not full members of the church. In short, a short wedding is a punishment: you are not allowed the full benefits of the church; you do not receive as many blessings (etc.) as those who are having a full mass.

This seems to be a remnant of the Catholicism of the middle ages; people used to buy masses along with indulgences in order to purge their own sins or the sins of their dead relatives. If you have a full mass with a wedding, then you are seen as being blessed and purified much more than a common ceremony. Your marriage will be recognized not just by the priest, as representative of heaven, but by heaven itself and the trinity thereof. And you definitely want the approval of heaven on your wedding. If you aren't recognized by god, is your marriage really valid? Is your family valid? Are your children bastards, and will their baptisms be valid?

Yeah. So it's some heavy stuff. I don't know how many people take this into consideration--probably many of them simply want to get married in a full mass because the Catholic church is their church, their family, their community, and a part of their life. But if you dig deeper, this is what you will find.

sources: my head, http://www.ultimatewedding.com/articles/get.php?action=getarticle&articleid=638, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10005a.htm

Catholic Wedding

...by a woman who had one...

I do dislike to be pedantic, or a killjoy, or mean, but the information in the write-up above does not tally with my experience, or indeed my education on the subject.

The catholic wedding ceremony takes something hovering around an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes. Our wedding was a little closer to an hour and fifteen minutes, largely because we chose to do the wedding both in Spanish and in English, and chose a longer first reading, and to give flowers to Our Lady. Also, the priest who assisted at our wedding thought it a very good joke to tell everyone assembled that I'd gone and lost the marriage license the night before the wedding, and THEN to deliver a very succinct and moving homily.

The Catholic Wedding does indeed consist of the Liturgy of the Word, The Blessing of the Marriage, The Marriage Ceremony, and The Liturgy of the Eucharist. The married couple has ten places to make choices about which particular words get spoken. Usually, the priest assisting at the wedding will suggest choices that may be better, depending upon his knowledge of the couple. After the Wedding Ceremony, but before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the couple may give flowers to The Blessed Virgin. This takes a total of three minutes, including the walk to the Lady Altar and back. At no time is anyone told that "shorter is shameful."

If two unconfirmed Catholics wish to get married in the church, then the procedure is to get the two of them confirmed before the wedding. The post-confirmation party can serve as an engagement party. A couple in my Pre-Cana group did this.

There is a myth that Catholics who marry non-Catholics are thought unworthy of full honors, and have to marry in the Rectory, and are otherwise punished. This is simply not the truth. The non-Catholic partner is not given Eucharist. This is the only difference in the ceremony. Sometimes, the priest assiting at the wedding will ask if the non-Catholic partner wishes to convert. The only real problem comes when someone who is divorced wishes to marry in the church. This the church will not do.

Please note, our wedding started at two-ish. It was a full ceremony. We walked a mile and a quarter from the church to the reception. We made it by 3:30, and I was in heels. So, to sum up: the wedding takes the same amount of time as regular mass, problems with non-confirmed status and non-catholicism are easily solved and usually not problems, and this image of the Catholic Church as some kind of living relic of the Middle Ages is just baffling.

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