Marriage Ceremony - All the Details
Sacraments are always celebrations of the entire Body of Christ. Therefore, your wedding has special meaning for the entire parish community and should be celebrated with the joyful dignity that this implies. This special celebration should be carefully planned with the mutual cooperation of the priest or deacon, the parish director of music ministry and the couple.
Some couples wish to ask a priest or deacon other than ones assigned to this parish to be the official witness at their wedding. When initial contact is made with the parish, please indicate your intention to do so. That priest will be contacted by Saint Kilian/Holy Sepulcher Parish to ensure that he is willing and that the required preparations will be done. The Diocese of Pittsburgh requires a Letter of Suitability for Ministry for all clergy participating in any liturgy or ministry within the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Wedding Mass
While the wedding of two Catholics normally takes place within the context of Mass, the Eucharist should not be assumed as a “nice background for our wedding.” If the couple to be married is not active in their Catholic faith, serious consideration must be given regarding the appropriateness of the wedding Mass unless they have intentions of becoming active once again.
The wedding of an inter-faith couple (a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian) is celebrated within a “wedding ceremony” rather than a Mass (see below). There are very practical reasons why an interfaith couple may not wish to avoid having a Mass. Among these are: so that non-Catholic family and friends may fully follow and participate in the celebration, that the symbols be those of unity and not disunity when non-Catholics are not permitted to receive Communion, and that the Eucharist not be celebrated amid a group of people many of whom lack an understanding of its meaning or faith in what is taking place.
The wedding of a Catholic and a non-Christian must take place in the context of a “wedding ceremony.” The directives of the Diocese of Pittsburgh dictate that in such circumstances the Eucharist may not be celebrated.
Elements of the Wedding Ceremony
The elements that are always present in the “wedding ceremony” are: readings from Scripture, statement of intentions, the exchange of vows, the blessing and exchange of rings, the Lord’s Prayer and a special blessing. Elements that may be added include: general intercessions (prayers of the faithful), the unity candle, and the sign of peace and an offering of flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Music is an important part of Catholic liturgy. It is required that the parish director of music ministry be involved in the wedding liturgy. The respective Director of Music is available to assist you in planning your celebration as well as providing the vocal and instrumental music. Our Directors can be reached by phoning the Parish Center (Saint Kilian 724-625-1665 or Holy Sepulcher 724.586.7610) or by means of the parish web site.
If you chose to employ additional musicians or vocalists to work with the parish director of music ministry, careful planning and collaboration is necessary and fees apply. If you wish to have other musicians supply all the music for the ceremony, the collaboration and presence of the parish director of music ministry is still required to ensure that the music selected is in accord with Church directives. Namely, all music before, during and after the liturgy is reflective of the reverence and dignity of the occasion, intensifies the Christian meaning of the liturgical service, and dignifies and enhances the sacredness of the wedding liturgy in a way that is consistent with the theological and liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church.
In addition to assure that the parish’s musical instruments and sound system are in working order before, during and after the ceremony, the parish director of music ministry must be present before and during the wedding ceremony and fees apply.
A more detailed discussion of the music for you wedding will be addressed in a separate informational handout provided by the Director of Music and included as a supplement to this booklet.
The Entrance Procession
In recent years, several options have emerged for this aspect of the wedding. There can be an entrance procession similar to that of a Sunday Mass where the congregation stands and sings an entrance song while the priest or deacon and the wedding party enter (including the bride and groom and sometimes their parents). Some brides are escorted down the aisle by their father (and/or their mother). At some weddings, the attendants are escorted down the entire aisle by the groomsmen, at others they walk alone and are met by the groomsmen at the front of the church. In any case, your preference regarding the entrance should be discussed with the priest or deacon presiding at the wedding.
A "crash" (a long white strip of cloth or plastic) is sometimes unrolled at weddings immediately before the wedding party proceeds down the aisle. While this has become a custom in some places, it is not permitted at either Saint Kilian or Holy Sepulcher. The safety of the wedding party and all guests is a serious concern.
Scattering Flower Petals
It is not permitted to scatter flower petals in the aisle before, during or after the ceremony.
Readings from Sacred Scripture (Bible) are always a part of a Catholic wedding. The Scripture readings may be chosen in consultation with the priest or deacon from a selection provided through the Church. Family members or friends may be chosen to read the Scripture (other than the Gospel). Any person doing so, however, should be a good speaker, familiar with Catholic liturgy and feel comfortable in front of people and in a church setting.
If the Mass is celebrated at your wedding, you may choose to ask some family members or friends to bring to the altar the bread and the wine. This may include as few as two and as many as four people.
A Symbolic Offering for the Poor
Another wedding custom is for the bride and groom to present symbolic gifts for the poor. This custom usually takes the form of a basket of canned goods or non-perishable items being carried with the bread and wine at the offertory procession (at Mass) or other appropriate time within a ceremony. This custom is a sign that the couple recognize that their wedding is taking place within a wider community about whose needs they are rightly concerned. This is completely optional.
Reception of the Eucharist
It is the directive of the Catholic Church that only Catholics may approach the table of the Lord to receive Holy Communion. If Mass is being celebrated as part of your wedding ceremony, please make this directive known to non-Catholics who may be attending.
Exchange of Peace
Before the Lord’s Prayer (at a wedding ceremony or a wedding Mass) a sign of peace is exchanged. At that time, some couples choose to greet their families and the wedding party. While permitted, the exchange of peace is completely optional.
Flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary
A Catholic wedding custom is the presentation of flowers at an image of the Virgin Mary shortly before the conclusion of the ceremony. This gesture is completely optional. The bride and the groom should perform this gesture together.
Please ask those attending your wedding not to throw rice, confetti, birdseed, or anything else in the church or anywhere on church property. Helium balloons are not permitted inside the Church and are not permitted to be released on Church property. In addition to being a safety hazard, the parish maintenance personnel have other duties on weekends.
Receiving lines are better placed at the location of the reception than at the back of church. If you choose to have a receiving line at the church, please note that may limit your time for pictures.
You are welcome to have a photographer or videographer record your wedding provided that there are no distractions during the liturgy. Taking pictures in the sacristy (before the ceremony) or from in the sanctuary (during the ceremony) is not permitted. The operative principal is that the church is a house of prayer and not a photography studio. Included with this booklet is a set of guidelines to be given to any photographer or videographer included in your wedding plans.
Flowers have traditionally been a part of the wedding ceremony. They are, however, optional. If you choose to have flowers at your wedding, arrangements should be made with the florist of your choice. If more than one wedding is scheduled for your date, you may arrange with the other couple to purchase flowers together. Please inform the florist that no arrangements may be placed on the altar. Flower stands are available at the church. The married couple is free to leave flowers in the church following the wedding as a gift to the people of the parish.
Pew Bows and Accessories
Pew bows are permitted; however, they must be secured with ribbon or rubber bands. Absolutely no tacks, tape or clip-on holders are permitted. Please inform the wedding coordinators if any pew bows, flowers or other accessories are to be kept as “keepsakes” as these items will be disposed of if left in the Church following the service.
The use of a "unity candle" (a set of three candles) may be considered an option in a wedding ceremony in which this custom is part of the non-Catholic’s tradition. This needs to be discussed with the priest or deacon well in advance of the service for permission to be granted. Two of these candles are lit before the ceremony and the center candle is lit by the bride and groom following the vows. The symbolism represents the baptism of the bride and groom now joined as one. If you choose to utilize this rite, please bring the three candle set to the church at the rehearsal.
If you would like to include any other features in your wedding, they must be discussed with the priest or deacon beforehand.
Altar servers are usually not needed for a wedding. However, if the couple has relatives or friends who regularly serve, they are most welcome to assist. An offering is usually given to those who serve at weddings and this is best handled through the wedding coordinators at the wedding rehearsal.
Parish Wedding Coordinators
Parish volunteers are provided to assist the celebrant and the wedding party to ensure the Mass or ceremony goes as smoothly as possible. Our Coordinators will contact you prior to the wedding day, attend the rehearsal and will be of as much help as possible during the wedding. No outside or freelance bridal/wedding coordinators are permitted to assist with the wedding ceremony or activities occurring on parish grounds (most especially within the Church).
Usually a rehearsal is conducted the evening before the wedding. The time is set after consultation with the priest or deacon who is to be the official witness for the ceremony, and after considering the parish schedule and the time of any other rehearsals already scheduled for that evening. It is the couple's responsibility to ensure that the wedding party is on time for the rehearsal.
It is extremely important that rehearsals and weddings begin at the scheduled time. The priest, deacon and music minister have parish schedules that must be met. Understandably, traffic and other issues may arise, but it is the responsibility of the couple to inform their wedding party and guests that they should allow plenty of time because the rehearsal and wedding begin as scheduled.
The couple must present the marriage license at least by the rehearsal. Due to the sometimes frantic activity on the day of the wedding it is important to also provide all the fees and donations at the time of the rehearsal. It is also helpful to bring to the rehearsal (and to leave at the church) those things that will be needed for the wedding (e.g. the programs, wedding candle, etc.).
Ushers for the wedding (usually the groomsmen) should arrive at the church no later than 45 minutes before the scheduled time for the wedding. They should be prepared to seat or otherwise assist guests. The groom and best man should go directly to the sacristy as directed at the rehearsal. Please do not bring any food or beverages into the church. No consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted by anyone at the rehearsal or the wedding. Violation of this policy or any public display of intoxication may mean the clergy will not be able to conduct the ceremony.
Seating of Guests
Because the church is a house of prayer, talking and conduct in the vestibule and the church proper should be in keeping with the sacred character of surroundings. Ushers should promptly escort guests to their seats. The mother of the groom and the bride should be seated a few minutes before the wedding is scheduled to begin. This should not be delayed in order to seat those who arrive late (they may seat themselves after the entrance of the wedding party). Again, weddings must begin at the scheduled time.
Both Churches have specific rooms for the bride and her party. The room is ample and may be used for gathering before the wedding and last minute details. There is an adjoining rest room and the suite may be locked during the wedding. Saint Kilian Church has a Bride’s Room on the lower level while Holy Sepulcher’s room is to the right upon entering the Church through the main entrance.
The bride, groom and wedding party may wish to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) before the wedding. Please arrange for a time to do so well before the rehearsal because there is usually little time to celebrate this sacrament appropriately after the rehearsal.