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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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  

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