The Catholic Rite of Marriage
The liturgical rite (religious ceremony) that is used to celebrate weddings in the Catholic Church is called The Order of Celebrating Matrimony. It is comprised of three different options for the celebration:
- The Order of Celebrating Matrimony within Mass (when two Catholics marry)
- The Order of Celebrating Matrimony without Mass (when a Catholic marries a Christian who is not Catholic)
- The Order of Celebrating Matrimony between a Catholic and a Catechumen or a Non-Christian
A History of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony
The Order of Celebrating Matrimony has a long, rich history. The English version of the first edition was published for use in the United States in 1969. This followed a mandate for the renewal of all Catholic liturgical rites found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which resulted from a gathering of the world’s bishops known as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). However, the Catholic marriage rite has even earlier roots in multiple sources including ancient Jewish ritual, early Christian prayer books from Rome, and fragments of liturgical texts from medieval France, Germany, Spain, and England.
Beginning in late December 2016, the Church in the United States uses the second edition of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, which incorporates a rich theology of marriage that has emerged in the Church over many centuries.
About the Ceremony
It honors and affirms marriage as a mature, freely chosen, life-long commitment of mutual love and fidelity between one man and one woman. In the eyes of the Catholic Church the bride and groom are the primary ministers of marriage. In other words, they confer the sacrament on one another. The priest or deacon who presides directs the flow of the liturgical celebration and serves as the Church’s official witness to the marriage.
As the pivotal part of the ceremony begins, which includes the exchange of vows, it is fitting that the couple be front and center, facing the assembly so that all present are able to see and hear the marriage take place. This part of the longer ceremony is known as the Celebration of Matrimony and has four main elements:
- The Questions before the Consent when bride and groom are asked about the freedom to marry, fidelity to each other, and the acceptance and upbringing of children
- The Consent, which is the declaration and reception of marriage vows
- The Reception of the Consent when the priest or deacon accepts the couples vows
- The Blessing and Giving of Rings
These actions are preceded by an entrance rite, a Liturgy of the Word with Bible readings proclaimed, and a homily. They are followed by the Universal Prayer or intercessions offered for the couple and the larger needs of the Church and world. The ceremony also includes a special blessing given to the couple. If the marriage takes place within the Mass, this Nuptial Blessing is given just after the Lord’s Prayer, before communion. If the marriage takes place outside Mass, then the blessing immediately follows the intercessions.
Ave Maria Press publishes a binder and ritual cards for The Order of Celebrating Matrimony for ministers to use during Catholic weddings. You can purchase it here: The Order of Celebrating Matrimony Complete Set.