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In our Catholic tradition, a wedding is first and foremost a gathering for worship. For a man and woman, the giving of themselves and their entire lives to one another is a profound act of faith - in God and in each other. The songs, the prayers, the readings from Scripture, the blessings, the exchange of vows and rings - all are chosen to give expression to that faith. We encourage the couple to spend time and careful thought in the selection of these aspects of their wedding rite from the treasury of possibilities the Church offers for their use.


A very old saying in the Church states, "The way we pray is the way we believe." So the way we celebrate the rite of marriage at Old Saint Mary's reflects our faith and beliefs as Catholic Christians. We ask those who wish to celebrate their wedding here to observe our liturgical style of worship. These are described below, so please read them carefully. We receive wonderful feedback from couples about the beauty and meaningfulness of the ceremonies they experience here, even when it differs other churches.


What Ceremony is Best for You?

The Catholic Church provides for two types of wedding ceremonies:


  • marriage within the Eucharist (Communion), known as a Nuptial Mass

  • simple rite consisting of a Liturgy of the Word with readings from the Scriptures and the exchange of vows.


Both are powerful expressions of the meaning of marriage. When two Catholics marry, the Church encourages them to celebrate their union within the Eucharist that expresses their oneness in and with the Body of Christ. They may also use the simple rite if they wish.


When a Catholic and a non-Catholic marry, the simple ceremony is more appropriate. While a Mass is permissible, it tends to highlight differences rather than unity when both bride and groom cannot receive the Eucharist. As you meet with your priest to plan your wedding liturgy, you may wish to consider the following questions:


  •  What is our relationship to Sunday Eucharist? Are we faithful to the Church's worship or have we been away from the community's prayer? Do we desire to grow in a committed faith for the future?

  • If we are of mixed belief, how do we each feel about the ceremony and what it expresses? Are we sensitive to each other's needs and feelings in this choice? How can we best express our oneness?

  • Who will our guests be? Is the celebration of the Eucharist the best way to help them to be with us, to be comfortable, to pray with us and to participate in our wedding?


The Bride and Groom as Ministers

The sacrament of marriage is unique in that the bride and groom are ministers of the sacrament to one another. Their love gathers the assembly, their words in the presence of the priest and the assembled Church create the bond that joins them forever in Christ. In that sense they themselves preside at or host their wedding.


What does this mean in practice at Old Saint Mary's?

The new rite calls for a gathering rite similar to that of our Sunday Eucharist celebration, though more elaborate. The procession can be configured in various ways, but it should include the ministers, the priest, the bride and groom, their parents and witnesses.

  • The procession should express the mutuality of bride and groom as ministers of the sacrament, not focus solely on the bride.

  • The bride and groom are seated in the sanctuary facing the assembly as befits their role in the ceremony; their vows are spoken facing each other in clear view of the assembly.


The Presider

Ordinarily a priest assigned to Old Saint Mary's presides at weddings celebrated here. If you wish to have a visiting priest or deacon preside, you will need to discuss this with your priest contact who will communicate with him about our parish procedures and about the civil and ecclesial delegation that may be needed. Visiting presiders will be asked to observe parish customs regarding the celebration of the rite. Delegation is given with this understanding.



Two or three readings from the Bible and a sung Psalm are used in the Liturgy of the Word. Friends or family members who are asked to read the Scriptures, whether Catholic or not, should be believers who are able to proclaim God's word effectively and reverently. Copies of the readings will be provided for them in advance, and they should be present at the rehearsal to practice and become accustomed to our sound system.


Extraordinary Ministers of Communion

A wedding celebrated during a Mass will need Eucharistic ministers to help distribute communion. Both the bread and the cup are offered to those receiving communion. The number of ministers needed depends upon how many in the assembly are likely to receive communion. Some couples might wish to consider serving, with appropriate preparation, as Eucharistic ministers for their guests.


Other Ministers

You might ask family members and friends to carry a processional cross, candles, and the Book of the Gospels used in the Liturgy of the Word. Ring bearers and flower girls are not ministers, and their services are not required for the celebration of marriage. Before asking children to fill these roles, please consider their age and maturity. Will their involvement add to or detract from the joyful solemnity of the celebration?


Incorporating Diversity and Participation

Symbols drawn from the cultural heritage of the bridal couple can enhance the richness of the celebration. Likewise, if ministers or members of other faith traditions are present for the ceremony, appropriate adaptations can be made to make the ceremony inclusive and expressive of different religious traditions. We work with couples to plan the details of the ceremony and conducting the rehearsal.


In preparing the ceremony, look for ways to encourage your guests to actively participate in prayer and song. For example, much of the musical repertoire is familiar to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Preparing a program or worship aid for your guests can help everyone present feel welcome and at ease.


If you use a worship aid, we request that you fax (at 415-288-3838) or email a copy of the program to the priest you are working with for review before it is sent to the printer.



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