Monday, March 06, 2006

Something Old, Something New....

OK, Loggiaheads, it's time to pool your collective wisdom. And as nothing gets our kind wagga-wagga like questions of liturgy, this should be fun. And your input might help some of our number out, you never know.

Here's the scoop: I've got four weddings on the platter this year; two for family, two for friends.... I pray there'll be no funerals.

Because of my (relative) seasoning in the field, I've been asked to help plot a couple of the impending Nuptial Masses. It's nothing new; I've given liturgy assists for weddings before, anniversary Masses, funerals, etc. They're all a joy to help with, of course, but the weddings are particularly fun as they're wonderfully happy events, I get a relatively free hand (I've found that, way too often and with the exception of the flowers and the photos, the church portion of the day gets lost in the shuffle and takes a back-seat to The Reception) -- and, of course, it helps keep me sharp for the day when I'll have to plan my own....

No, I won't be Groomzilla or anything -- but it will be Marini-grade, I assure you.

Faced with giving pointers for this year's round of ceremonies -- which I'll be engaging in later in the week -- I'm kinda drawing a blank.... You know: particular hymns, rarely-invoked options and customs: the little touches which make for particularly memorable and uplifting liturgy, which a wedding celebration is, at least ideally.

The liturgy gives us a rich template to work from, one which isn't fully tapped-into as often as it should be. And so, I turn to you. Anything you've seen at weddings -- or had at your own -- that was particularly notable, in a good way?

Of course, I'm looking for things which are sanctioned by the relevant norms and customs, and I'm not planning the Great Econian Nuptials, either, so please keep ideas to those things which are licit and in keeping with the contemporary state of liturgy as practiced in the mainstream of Catholic life, or at least its somewhat sophisticated element.

We all have our Nuptial Mass horror stories, so those are best left out -- let's be constructive here. And, of course and as always, please, please, please, no fighting; remember that, at the end of the day, as long as it's licit, it's all a matter of taste.

Many thanks in advance. Knock yourselves out.



Blogger Jacob said...

I read that the unity candle isn't all that kosher... That's all I know. :)

6/3/06 10:49  
Blogger Greg Weidman said...

I'm tremendously pleased that, immediately following the exchange of vows, we brought flowers to the statue of the blessed mother, while a soloist sang "Ave Maria." We remember this moment each night when we pray a "Hail Mary" together.

If you can find a way to avoid the "You may now kiss the bride" bit, which is not a Catholic piece of the rite, and instead make a nice deal at the Kiss of Peace, I think this is a very nice bit of Catholic inculturation.

Good luck!

6/3/06 10:53  
Blogger John said...

I have heard many good things about the bride and perhaps her mother with her kneeling before Mary's altar (or in many cases these days, the Mary statue) and praying just for a moment after the nuptuals. I have not seen this myself, so I do not know exactly where it would fit, but this adds a decidely pious and religious element.

6/3/06 10:56  
Blogger MartinT said...

*The unity candle is a Protestant invention designed to make a ten-minute ceremony into a fifteen-minute ceremony--to be avoided.

*I've always found it amusing that even the most ardent feminist brides want to be "given away by daddy." Preferred: the groom processes accompanied by parents followed by bride; the families meet; then parents take their places (I realize this doesn't work well when families are not intact, but when they are).

Music? Less is more. Other than the service music, the Roman rite uses music to cover movement. There is nothing worse than an operatic soloist at a wedding. Either easy congregational music with music provided in order of worship (don't forget copyright permissions) let by an honest-to-goodness cantor OR just instrumental.

6/3/06 11:32  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...


Well, you asked for thoughts, here goes . . .

1. I really think the proposed entrance -- the couple entering together -- makes a lot more sense than the "traditional" one seemingly everyone favors: the bride escorted by her father or some stand-in, and then presented to the waiting groom. One time I had a couple do it.

2. Also, I'd say there should be, if possible, an opening song; if having everyone sing is not practical, how about a choir piece? (Can you get a choir for this wedding? Who says you can't have a choir for a wedding?)

3. Why not incense? I've offered it to couples, but no one thus far has taken me up on the offer. It would work better, obviously, with a Mass; in addition to all the usual spots in the Mass, it could also be used at the blessing of the rings, although I can't now recall what gave me that impression. If need be, I'll simply support that by saying we bless other things with incense, so what's the big deal? By the same token, I can't see why you couldn't go ahead and incense the couple, too.

4. The visit to Mary is nice; it's not really part of the rite, but it at least is consistent with the rest of our tradition, whereas the unity candle has nothing going for it.

5. About the unity candle; if it's going to happen, one idea I picked up somewhere was to have the Easter candle lit, and have the mothers take the light from there.

6. You know that almost everything in the liturgy is singable. I offer to sing as much of a wedding Mass as the couple wants, including the Eucharistic Prayer.

7. I think there may be special inserts for the Eucharistic Prayer for a married couple. To be honest, I've had few wedding Masses in my clerical career thus far.

8. Don't let the couple do anything else -- i.e., read, sing, distribute Holy Communion. Confecting this sacrament is their "job" in this liturgy.

9. I have the couple approach the altar -- if convenient -- for the nuptial blessing, which comes after the Our Father; thus visually linking them to the Eucharist present, at that moment, on the altar. I would sing it if they wanted. (No one has asked.)
You could even have a second set of prie-dieus right at the altar; just a thought...

That's all I can summon up; hope it helps...

6/3/06 11:42  
Blogger BaptizedPagan said...

Another custom that lots of my ruined-for-life former JVC friends and Catholic Workers have maintained is remembering that the collection and offering can be a real collection and offering; what better sign of the fact that the love of a marriage is supposed to overflow and spill out into the world than to have their first Eucharist as a couple present gifts to the parish church and/or to a non-profit or charity connected to the couple? Depending on how crunchy you are, you could even do a canned food drive, but that might unnerve your guests from outside Berkeley and Cambridge...

6/3/06 11:58  
Blogger BarbaraKB said...

Good music, good music, good music. Offer songs for the entire congregation to sing. Ones that ALL will know. There should be at least two songs that ALL can sing. Only ONE solo allowed. Please. Only one solo. Pay the musicians. Spend money on good musicians. It will pay back in a well-thought out and joyous liturgy.

A DETAILED program with explicit information about what's going on! Encourage couples to see program as a way to "explain" some things to the "masses" who are not Catholic (but PLEASE no preaching). Many folks who attend Catholic masses have NO idea what to do-- including family members who have not been to mass lately OR friends from work etc.

Fr. Martin and I disagree: Skip going to Mary. It's weird and distracts from the Mass. While I honor Mary (in my motherhood and in my daily life) this "going to her statue" belittles who she is.

I LOVE the incense idea! I would have loved Fr. Martin and incense. That makes more sense than visiting a Mary statue.

No children in wedding party under 10 years of age. None.

Finally, make sure you have good music... yeah, good music. And you OFTEN have to pay for it to get it!

6/3/06 12:30  
Blogger Talmida said...

Families process in, then attendants, then the priest, then bride & groom together. We did it 20 years ago. The church didn't want daddy giving the girl away, they wanted both sets of parents giving both bride & groom away. My Beloved & I rejected that - marriage is the ultimate statement of adulthood, and it felt too much like your parents walking you to the first day of school or something.

We came from opposite directions, met in the center aisle and walked up together, singing Praise to the Lord the Almighty the King of Creation (still my favourite!) along with the rest of the crowd.

My brother and his wife did this too, about 10 years later, but they stood at the inside door of the church prior to the ceremony and welcomed everyone who came in.

I don't hate the candle idea -- it might be really nice if the bride and groom still had their baptismal candles.

6/3/06 12:50  
Blogger Luke said...

1] I have always thought Unity candles as a kind-of eighth grade thing. The sharing in communion is the sign of unity (and will be week after week, year after year, for any married couple).

2] If the couple can't pronounce their vows without parroting the priest they probably shouldn't be getting married in the first place.

3] Ditto the ring formula. The couple needs to hold up the ring for all to see. The Roman rite is really impoverished compared to the Eastern rites (with crowns, anointing, procession around the altar, etc.

4] Trips to Mary are permissible only if the bride is a virgin and is terrified about what is going to happen to her. (In which case it is also permitted to sing "On Eagle's Wings," always using verse 3: "You need not fear the terrors of the night."

5] The Bride and Groom should be together at the entrance to the church where they, and their parents, perhaps, welcome their guests. I am presuming that the couple has met before this auspicious day and that the bride is more than a secondary part of a dowery of 60 acres and four heifers being handed over by a father who is very happy that he has one less mouth to feed.

6] Ditch the "Bridal Procession." The entire wedding party should be welcomed at the entrance to the church by the presider and then processes in arm in arm. If it can be done with lustily good congregational singing, fine; if not, have a good organ processional followed by a hymn when everyone is in place.

7] There are some very fine strophic wedding texts in circulation that can be sung to tunes that everyone knows.

8] In an ideal world the bridal party would sit in the front pews of the church with the rest of the assembly and come forward only for those moments that actually involved them. Even at the consecration of bishops the new bishop doesn't sit in front of the altar for the entire ceremony.

9] Have the presider invite everyone to extend their hands over the couple for the nuptial blessing and the final blessing.

10] Communion under both species is a must. (There is no better way of expressing unity and intimacy than by drinking from a common cup).

6/3/06 12:56  
Blogger Taz_Cat said...

Only allow the priest to sing the Mass if he has a very good voice. Also, "husband and wife" sounds better than "man and wife" when the couple are declared married. If booklets are being given to guests so they can follow the Mass, perhaps a nice quote from that most tasteful piece of literature "Deus Caritas Est" could be put within the booklet somewhere so people can reflect on the meaning of romantic love in a Christian context. (Only if the couple are fans of Pope B16 of course!!!)

6/3/06 13:13  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

Make sure that, if they have any overtly gay/lesbian friends/family members, that they people ARE NOT allowed to be members of the wedding party. After all, that might be viewed as sanctioning objective disorder and intrinsic whatever by the church. And we certainly couldn't have that!

Snark, snark.

6/3/06 13:46  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

I would politely disagree with Luke, above, about having everyone extend hands over the couple for the nuptial blessing.

In every sacrament there is an epiclesis, and this appears to be the only one in this sacrament.

One could make an argument that having the cleric do it is a little incongruous, since in this sacrament, the couple are the ministers of the sacrament; but that would suggest having them extend hands over each other, an intriguing notion, but one not in the rite. So I'd say, stick with what the rite provides.

6/3/06 14:03  
Blogger Luke said...

Re: Fr. Fox's comments. The imposition of hands is a symbol (meaning it bears many meanings and has been used for many different moments in the history of liturgy, not all of them epecletic.)
Furthermore, in the western tradition it is the couple themselves who are the ministers of the sacrament; the presider is there as a witness along with the other members of the assembly. The texts of the nuptial blessings seem to be just what they say they are: the gathered church's prayer for God's blessing upon the couple.

I think Fr. Fox is objecting to a blurring of distinctions in the variety of liturgical roles. I agree wholeheartedly with such a blurring. I just don't think that this is one of those cases.

6/3/06 15:45  
Blogger Dave Merkowitz said...

Keep the good ideas coming, we have a wedding in June and as a liturgical snob I need all the ideas to make it the centerpiece of the wedding day...

6/3/06 15:57  
Blogger RightJack said...

I believe the "unity candle" caught on because we fail to use the Rite of Marriage (ROM) well. The entrance procession envisioned by ROM is a sign of unity. If the couple speak their vows from memory or from discreet cue cards and if their voices are amplified then this is a great sign of unity. If the blessing and exchange of rings is not hidden in the huddle of bride/groom/priest but is out there in public and if the couple speak (amplified) the words for the exchange then this is another sign of unity. If Eucharist is celebrated, sharing in communion is another sacramental sign of unity.

Most distressing are words, signs and actions that pretend that two families of origin are becoming one. Simply not true. A man and woman are becoming one and beginning their own family. Thus, the superfluous unity candle is even more annoying when mothers and/or fathers of the couple get involved.

If you need a unity candle to make the point, then you've failed in the ROM's own offering of signs and symbols.

The public liturgy is never a time for inserting moments of personal piety. Thus, trips to Marian shrines are inappropriate in the ROM even if the couple has a true Marian devotion. When asked about this, I first inquire about the reason for the request (your devotion or your mother's expectation?). If the couple does have a particular Marian devotion, we make that part of the wedding rehearsal which has the added benefit of making the rehearsal a prayerful moment, too.

Wherever the bride and groom are seated, they should be seated and not forced to kneel through most of the liturgy, with their backs to their family, friends and guests. Least of all should they be kneeling in such a way as to block the assembly's view of the altar of sacrifice. When ministering the sacrament of marriage, the couple should be standing in a place where it is apparent that they are ministers. The priest/deacon should be in a place which signals that he is a witness of this, along with the assembly.

A worship aid should help those present participate but should not include every word of every prayer, action and scripture.

Music for the assembly must be eminently simple and singable. The ROM needs a cantor but not a soloist. In fact, the position of soloist is unknown in the Roman Rite.

6/3/06 16:37  
Blogger GregY said...

We used a binding cloth in place of the unity candle (this was in a Lutheran church so I'm not sure how this is done in a Catholic context). It was a powerful moment and we received many comments afterwards that others felt the same.

6/3/06 17:47  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

I like a lot of what RightJack says above. He gave me several ideas.

I arrange for the couple to be seated at a 90-degree angle to the assembly and the altar, with prie-dieus for when they kneel with everyone else.

The idea of having the couple read their vows from discreet cards sounds good; let's see if it'll work.

My comments earlier, about the visit to Mary's altar, was not recommending the practice, only indicating I didn't get too upset about it. I don't disagree with any of the critical comments about it that followed.

6/3/06 17:50  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

RightJack makes some excellent points, and given me some ideas. FWIW, I have the couple seated at a 90-degree angle to the assembly, and the altar, with prie-dieus so they can kneel at appropriate points.

I like the idea of having discreet cards for the vows; let's see if anyone goes for it.

When I spoke about the visit to the Mary altar, I was not encouraging the practice, just indicating it didn't get me to worked up.

6/3/06 17:53  
Blogger Gen X Revert said...

I have a June wedding and plan to use the Litany of Saints within the Mass. Haven't decided exactly where, but perhaps right after or before we exchange vows. Also, incense will be liberally used. NO unity candle schtick for us, and no presentation to Mary. I want to have the priest bless us at the steps of the Church before leaving,but don't want anyone to realize I got this idea from Godfather II.

6/3/06 18:11  
Blogger Paul F Ford said...

Janice and I processed together. We had a best man and best woman (my spiritual director), a maid of honor and a man of honor.

The cantor and assembly sang a litany of married saints.

Our rings were immersed in water from the River Jordan and we used wine from Cana in Galilee. These were displayed on a small table, at the foot of an icon of the marriage of Joseph and Mary from a retreat house for married couples outside of Paris.

We made our vows on the top step of the altar and the priest stood below us, so that the assembly could see us.

At communion time we were ministers of the cup. After communion we were led to sit beneath a wedding banner.

About Music

People don’t want to have their noses in a book in order to be able to sing a hymn. They want to see who is in the ‘parade’! The best choice for the wedding procession (indeed for all the songs at a wedding) is a psalm, canticle, or song with a refrain.

In By Flowing Waters: Chant for the Liturgy (The Liturgical Press) there are simple antiphons and psalms for the entrance, response, gospel acclamation, preparation, and communion.

The first volume (Year B) of the Psallite collection (the first 249 songs of the eventual 600+ song collection from The Liturgical Press) has the following antiphons suitable for use at weddings.

B-55 A New Commandment I Give to You
B-239 As a Bridegroom Rejoices
B-173 Because You Are Filled With the Spirit
B-118 Behold, the Bridegroom Is Here
B-18 God Remembers His Covenant For Ever
B-15 God's Love Is Revealed to Us
B-99 Here I Am
B-175 How Happy are You
B-236 I Will Dwell with You
B-22 Jesus Christ, the Same Today, Yesterday and Evermore
B-127 Keep Us in Your Name
B-245 Let Us Go Rejoicing
B-88, B-94 Live on in My Love
B-21 May God Bless Us in Mercy
B-249 May God Grant Us Joy of Heart
B-117 Merciful and Tender
B-8, B-224 My Soul Rejoices in God
B-248 Our God Has Blessed Us
B-59, B-80 The Earth Is Full of the Goodness of God
B-150 The Goodness of the Lord
B-230 The Spirit and the Bride Say, "Come"
B-124 Those Who Do the Will of God
B-103 Walk in My Ways
B-246 You Are God's Temple
B-174 You Have Given Everything Its Place

6/3/06 19:09  
Blogger Fred said...

I've sung in many choirs over the years, at many weddings. So, I made sure that I was involved with a choir when my own wedding was coming up. I knew the particular strengths of the choir: I knew, for example, that they had just sung Tantum Ergo during Lent, so it would make a good Communion hymn - alas, not my favorite version, but you gotta work with what ya got.

We also got a cantor (a real one, not a family member) to lead the Psalm and other songs.

The only thing I would say is to leave some discretionary room in there for the organist and the priest. Books present every option as if it's all up to the couple, but the priest may have certain preferences for blessings, etc.

The bride and groom should NOT be pressured to memorize (or write!) their vows. It's a full enough day without wondering what you'll actually say up there: "I do" is clear and simple. It's the consent of the couple that is essential, not their ability to perform lines from a romantic script.

Sitting, standing, and kneeling worked well for us instead of kneeling through the whole Mass.

6/3/06 19:09  
Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

The Litany of the Saints is a very nice idea, and I believe it can be used at the general intercessions. I admit I can't point to any specific rebric to that effect; I would simply point out that it is used in some Masses, and when it is, it appears in that fashion. And it's use is at Masses in which another sacrament is given: Easter Vigil and ordination.

6/3/06 20:38  
Blogger RightJack said...

I'd be interested in hearing Paul Ford's experience with using psalmody as the entrance song at a wedding. I'm not convinced that those who want to see who's in the parade are likely to sing a refrain they've never heard at a time when church-goers are more accustomed to hymnody. An alternative is to have instrumental processional music followed by a gathering song (hymn) to do what entrance hymns are intended to do.

6/3/06 22:56  
Blogger MartinT said...

The Irish have a marvelous nuptial blessing that is not unlike the litany of married saints mentioned above. It is like the blessing of holy water that tells the story of water in salvation history, but here it highlights couples from scripture. It's very nice, very nice indeed.

I might add how edified I am by these responses--that folks take the rite seriously and adapt the rite legitimately to local exigencies. The bottom line seems to be the duty to catechize the couple that marriage is a sacrament, that the ceremony is an act of worship. Doing so, I've found, actually takes a lot of stress off the couple--no longer do they have to worry about preparing for a performance which will be ruined should someone make the slightest mistake; instead, they come to realize that what is involved is really rather straightforward, simple human (homo adorans) activity: response in gratitude to all that God has done and is doing for these two who are now one--with prayers for the continued divine gifts on them.

7/3/06 13:48  
Blogger Matt said...

Here's the most important thing I've learned being a musician at weddings.

It is absolutely necessary that the music be PRINTED in the worship aid if you intend for people to even pretend they are going to sing it.

Too often, you have just a list of songs, as though we are spectators.

I also highly suggest having the entire assembly stand as soon as the procession begins...not waiting for the 'queen' to make her entrance.

Avoid "Here Comes the Bride" at all costs.

Keep things moving should only need a:

Gathering Song
Gospel Acclamation
Eucharistic Acclamations
Communion Processional

Avoid the veneration of Mary and Joseph. Encourage the bride and groom to do that at the rehearsal. There's no spot for it in the ritual.

And for the love of God, remember that there really isn't time for long solos during the liturgy. The presentation of the gifts takes all of 2 minutes...not a good time to be singing Mozart.

7/3/06 14:50  
Blogger Bernard Brandt said...

There is a lot of good liturgical music available from the East (Orthodox, that is). I recommend that you look at and in particular, to this site for wedding music:

Other than that, I recall that the Georgian hymn to the Virgin, Shen Khar Venakhi, which is usually sung at weddings, is heartbreakingly beautiful. I have seen sheet music for it, but can't seem to find anyone who has it right now. A MIDI of the hymn can be found here.

7/3/06 15:31  
Blogger justplaincath said...

I always wanted to have our parents and our brothers and their wives process before us, a symbol of the longevity of marriage itself. I was unable to do that, because by the time I married, my brothers and his brother had divorced. But it's still a lovely idea.

Isn't the wedding ring a sacramental? If it is, I believe very few know its role. I know that I don't.

Because a marriage creates a home, we used the song "Bless This House".

But I made sure that THE FAMILY HYMN, the one sung at every wedding and every funeral in our family, was sung at our wedding.
(Schubert's "Ave Maria"--it always gives me chills.) I think that having a family hymn, or creating one, is a really good idea.

It took us awhile to get married, and I had the person who made our cake put a clock on it with the following letters at noon, three, six and nine o'clock. The letters were GTIP, for God's Timing Is Perfect, and it was intended for the folks who always ask "What took you so long?" No one did ask, but I think some kind of symbol like that at the reception is pretty nice.

7/3/06 16:15  
Blogger Todd said...

My wife and I were married at the parish's Saturday evening Mass. We entered together after greeting people at the front doors. We had no unity candle. We changed no readings from the lectionary (the Rite offers the possibility to change #2). We asked two of the parish choirs to combine and sing at that Mass, then invited them all to the reception.

I've been a part of a choir at about a dozen weddings over the years. In one, we had dozens of candles lit for a Thursday evening wedding. The couple requested the Litany of the Saints as they entered.

7/3/06 17:04  
Blogger Greg Weidman said...

I understand the critiques of a meditation before the statue of the BVM that people have made, and they include some very good points. Because of my wife's and my devotion to the BVM, I'm still glad that we included it.

A note on the blessing of the rings. Of the prayers that are available for this, Option A actually blesses the rings, while Option B, oddly enough, blesses the couple and not the rings. Here's the text of Option B:

"Lord, bless + and consecrate N. and N. in their love and compassion for each other. May these rings be a symbol of true faith they share in each other and always remind them of their love and compassion. We ask this through Christ our Lord."

This is really odd, since the Nuptial blessing is supposed to bless the couple. If you use this option, the rings never get blessed properly. I strongly recommend Option A:
"Lord, bless these rings which we bless + in your name. Grant that those who wear them may always do you will and live together in peace and compassion. We ask this through Christ our Lord."

7/3/06 17:10  
Blogger Traditional Seminarian said...

First off, don't have the common extension of hands over the couple at the blessing. That promotes a "clericalization" of lay people. Second, don't have a unity candle, that's customary at protestant weddings. This couple is catholic, give them a catholic wedding. Use traditional music: hymns, the momorare for example, a nice processional with the bride, and of course no ridiculous instruments i.e. drums, guitars, etc. A nice pipe organ is very tasteful. I would also recommend having them receive communion while kneeling. Communion under both kinds is recommended with one cup for the couple.

7/3/06 20:13  
Blogger Patrick said...

We were more or less required to the church's choir at a rather steep price. The choir included a trumpter and a violinist. The trumpter played the bridal procession and the violinist played this that and the other thing. Honestly, it was the best money spent on the whole deal.

9/3/06 14:03  

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