Monday, August 13, 2007

A wedding like you've never seen: the way it is supposed to be!

On Saturday, Piqua witnessed a rare event: a Catholic wedding conducted (very nearly) "by the book."

The couple whose marriage I witnessed are both Catholic, with family and friends who are active Catholics. They were very interested in the Mass being celebrated properly, and they were delighted when I told them we could use Latin--as much as they wanted.

Meanwhile, they were happy to have the procession to the altar take place as the ritual calls for -- as opposed to the "traditional" way everyone has seen. What do I mean? I mean, in a Catholic wedding, the ritual says "if there is to be a procession" (i.e., the wedding can begin with the couple in the front pew), the ministers (i.e., servers, readers, deacon) precede the priest, followed by the witnesses (best man, maid of honor), and then the couple walking together.

Yes, you read that right: nothing about the father escorting the princess--er, I mean, the bride--down the aisle. It is, possible, however, for the parents to escort the couple -- but that is only optional.

So, here's what we did: four servers preceded the priest (I honestly didn't think to rehearse it with the readers, but I think that would have made them even more nervous), and then the wedding party, then the groom and bride.

The couple loved the idea of incense, so we did that. The musician played "All Creatures of Our God and King" (my music director is looking for, and learning, proper entrance chants for a wedding), and that worked well, as I incensed the altar and crucifix. Then I stood in front of the altar as the couples came down.

The couple chose to have me intone the Sign of the Cross in Latin, and the Per Ipsum ("Through him, with him..." after the Eucharistic Prayer), and we used the Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei. I threw in a bit more Latin here and there. I sung quite a bit of the Mass, including the Roman Canon. The servers (all male) wore cassocks and surplices, and the bell-ringer did it perfectly; plus they had a lot of work to do with the incense, which was used at the Gospel, the offertory and the elevations.

The church was full, and with so many practicing Catholics, there were a lot of communions, which is wonderful. Many of these folks, I learned, frequent the classic form of the Mass, so this was perhaps their first experience of a solemn Missa Cantata in the new form. This is what one of the servers said: he was very familiar with the old-style Mass, but had never seen Mass celebrated as we did it--which was the proper, "high" form of the current rite.

One disappointment--not many people sang the Latin prayers. But then I realized: if you go the older, "extraordinary" form of the Mass, yes they use the Latin texts of the prayers, but they seldom sing them. Again, something that the current, ordinary form actually emphasizes (when you do what Vatican II said, which is to use Latin texts at least some of the time).

It was a joy having a wedding Mass in which the focus was on the Lord, not on anyone at the Mass, which unfortunately is what happens too often with weddings. I offer this for the benefit of those who may be planning a wedding, and don't realize what a wedding Mass is supposed to be like.

Also, for anyone planning a wedding: all those "add ons" you hear about invariably cost you money, and they can create problems: I've seen aisle runners that don't cooperate, they rip and trip; and I've seen a Unity Candle* not light when the big moment came. On the other hand, doing the Mass the proper way costs you very little--only what the musician gets paid, and that's a small price compared with everything else.

* By the way, you know who really pushes for the Unity Candle (which doesn't belong in the wedding -- at all!)? The mothers! It is their big moment.


mrsdarwin said...

Meanwhile, they were happy to have the procession to the altar take place as the ritual calls for -- as opposed to the "traditional" way everyone has seen.

Boy, I wish I'd known about this when I got married. I really did find the walk down the aisle the most stressful and terrifying part of the day, with everyone staring at me. I would have been delighted to just start up front with the focus not on me, but on the start of mass.

Anonymous said...

This sounds absolutely lovely, Father... I've been the organist at weddings on and off for 17 years, and have NEVER seen the procession in its proper form. It's always the bridesmaids, bride with father -- you know the drill. It's inspiring to read of a wedding where the focus is on Whom it should be, namely the Lord. I wish this couple a long, happy married life together. thanks for allowing us to share their joy. Regards, Patricia Gonzalez

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr.

It sounds wonderful. My Goddaughter is getting married in October. She and her family are converts (all 5 of 6 of them). She was beginning her senior year in HS when she came into the Church and is now getting married. She is going to have LOTS of Latin, smells and bells, and a reading from Sirach (for her Baptist family to hear for the first time!!)

The kicker is when she tells people THIS will be her first Catholic wedding!! She's never been to one before! It will be lovely.

Thanks for being a Godly man and priest.

Anonymous said...

wow, the people of Piqua are very blessed indeed to have such a wonderful Shepherd.

Anonymous said...

With so many divorces and stepdads involved, the couple walking together might help alleviate some of the stress of brides who don't know which dad to walk with...

Anonymous said...

About the Unity Candle--I once attended a (non-Catholic) wedding where the two mothers walked up the carpeted altar steps to light the candle, and when they turned to resume their seats in the congregation, one of them tripped and fell full length in front of the altar. She was not hurt, but surely mightily embarassed, and the collective gasp from the group was the loudest I have ever heard.

Anonymous said...

In response to one of the Anonymous statements above: Not all of us feel lucky to have Fr. Martin because not all of us agree with the way things are progressing. I know I will be scolded once again about "Do I want him to disobey the Pope?"

No, I just want the Church to be there for me as an aid in helping me reach the Father, and not the other way around of me being there to do only what the Church says.

Now, don't get all excited, I am just expressing my opinions, just as he is.- HTM

YoungCatholicSTL said...

I've been to a lot of weddings in recent years, and I've seen only one that was properly done, and that's because it was a Tridentine Mass wedding at the Oratory in St.Louis (my cousin's wedding). About 12 years ago, my aunt got married in a more traditional Novus Ordo mass in which the prayers were largely in Latin, communion was taken on our knees at the communion rail, etc. Other than that, I've seen all kinds of liturgical abuses at weddings. I'm glad to see it done properly. Keep up the good work on this blog.

Anonymous said...

HTM why don't you just become a Protestant if you don't want to do what the church says?

Diane Korzeniewski said...

A picture perfect wedding - literally.

Follow the link and see the Wedding Mass (Latin Novus Ordo) one of my fellow Assumption Grotto choir members had. The sermon was a classic too.

Music was all chant and sacred polyphony.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I'm sorry to disappoint you.

What I don't understand -- please help me to understand -- is why you seem to think that there's opposition between "reaching the Father" ("I just want the Church to be there for me as an aid in helping me reach the Father"), and what the Church offers and asks of you: "not the other way around of me being there to do only what the Church says"?

Maybe I totally misunderstood what you were trying to say.

But really, the very best thing I can offer you or anyone else is precisely what the Church offers. What is the alternative? I can offer my own stuff, or someone else's stuff -- but how can that be even as good as what Christ offers, through his Body, the Church?

beez said...


In answer to your response to HTM, I saw this in my own life. I thought I had the answers and that the Church was "imposing rules" on me.

It took years of misery before I finally understood what you are saying, that the Church doesn't tell me what to do to control me, the Church advises me on how to reach the Father.

When you stop equating freedom and license (the former being the ability to do what is right and the latter being the ability to do what you want), you start to understand that the Church is offering God's law, which is incredibly freeing.

Until then, well, it's like Augustine said:

"If you read the Gospels, and believe what you choose, you don't believe the Gospels, you believe yourself."

Kasia said...

Father, I appreciate your posting this information. I had no idea what the ritual actually calls for (though I knew the Unity Candle wasn't part of it), and since I'm hoping to be planning my own wedding for 2009, this is very good to know.

I for one wish you were my pastor. If you ever decide to incardinate into the Archdiocese of Detroit, let me know. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Fr. Martin,

Thank you for trying to understand and I am trying to think of the easiest way of expressing my disappointment without a long drawn out explanation that I am sure would not interest most people and might offend some.

I think at this point it would be best if I let it go. I'm sorry if I offended you or some of your readers. That was not my intent, I just felt compelled to express my opinion as have others.

Thanks again - HTM

Fr Martin Fox said...


No apology needed; you certainly did not offend me, and I don't see that any other commenter has cause to take offense. I certainly understand why you might prefer not to pursue it, and that's fine.

Anonymous said...

response to htm

I have to agree with others concerning your comments. I don't believe you need to apologize, you have the right to your opinion. The same as anyone else. However, I do feel that if the changes that are going to be made, and changes will be made, are too hard for you to swallow, then perhaps you need to take a good hard look at your core beliefs. When I was growing up, I went to mass every day, including Sunday, with my entire class. The whole school did. Sure I didn't always like it. But I did it. It's called obedience and respect. Perhaps you should look into another church. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you need a change in order to clear your head. You usually end up doing the right thing. Look at what a certain Martin Fox did. Now he's Father Martin Fox. Go easy on youself, lots of people are having a problem with these changes. I'm lucky. I grew up in the 50's and 60' so I remember the old mass. Relax, it's not as bad as you may think it is.

A side note to Father Fox. I've been to a couple of masses at your church. Why do you have so many people coming in late and walking around during mass? I've been to Protestant service before and I've never seen anything like it. You may make some people mad, but someone really needs to do something about it.

Sorry this was so long.

Fr Martin Fox said...


There are lots of things that need some sort of attention -- such as what you cite. But as to how to address it? I haven't seen the right way to do it, so I will put my energy elsewhere, till I have more clarity.

Anonymous said...

"I would have been delighted to just start up front with the focus not on me ..."

Sadly, most priests and liturgists don't even start this discussion because they know it's a minefield. I get openness to the Rite of Marriage as conceived from older couples, sometimes second marriages: people who appreciate the need for spirituality and a deeper reliance on God. When you get put through the ringer on peripheral items like photographer placement or the decolletage of dresses, you tend not to want to talk about the escort of both bride and groom by both sets of parents.

For the record, my wife and I were married at a regular parish weekend Mass, and I've known a handful of other couples who have done so.

"The musician played 'All Creatures of Our God and King'"

Not bad, really, but a psalm is always a possibility.

"HTM why don't you just become a Protestant if you don't want to do what the church says?"

Ah, yes: the SCGS mentality. Spirituality by subtraction.

For an in-depth daily series on the Rite of Marriage, try this link:


Anonymous said...

About HTM - I felt sad about the way some readers responded to this individual's remarks. It seems like the Catholic way is to twitch straight into defensive mode when questioned, and then attack.

If more in the church would be less defensive/offensive and more empathetic then maybe so many would not be leaving the church, never to return.

An organisation whose members feel compelled to defend it from the slightest questioning or variance of opinion and whose members become rabid and insulting to those who do question or offer a differing opinion, is usually known as a cult. This is exactly what the Catholic church seems like to outsiders when its members attack the confused, the curious, or the uncertain.

While you are feeling hostile toward HTM you might recall that many of the church's eminent theologians have expressed the same thoughts. It is one thing to worship the Lord and another to worship the church. Remember, the church is fallible and has made many errors in the past and will continue to do this as long as fallible human beings are running the church.
Go easy on those who are still putting together the pieces of the puzzle. Yes, faith is wonderful, but the greater gift is charity.
Your unkind remarks show none of that.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I agree, sometimes people get too defensive or aggressive; you especially see this online. Sometimes, it is because this medium can bring out the worst in people; other times, people don't realize their comments written down seem harsher than their comments would spoken, face-to-face.

I have to disagree with one thing you said:

"Remember, the church is fallible and has made many errors in the past and will continue to do this as long as fallible human beings are running the church."

We have to be careful here: the Church is both divine and human, just like Christ himself, whose Body she is. So we believe, as an article of faith, that the Church is, in fact, infallible, and the Church.

But that doesn't mean every member, or even leader, of the Church is infallible; as you say, they sin and make errors.

The same protection we believe God gives the pope in teaching on matters of faith and morals, he gives to the Church as a whole.

There is more to say about that, of course, I would refer folks to the Catechism. I've got to run now, but I'll try to post some relevant paragraphs later.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I had the great privilage of getting married in the Traditional Rite at St. Mary's in Chinatown, Washington, DC, with priest, deacon, sub-deacon, and clergy in chior.

My family is not Catholic, (in fact, many members ar irreligious,) and the solemnity blew them away.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your well spoken comments, Father.

One of the eastern monks once wrote that because men (meaning male @ female humans alike, I'm sure) are capable of evil and men are in the church, then evil is introduced into the church. The church itself is not evil. But evil can exist within the church.

We all saw this with the recent
molestation scandals when it came to light that many bishops ignored the evil some had commited and relocated them to various parishes where the same evil repeated itself. It would be impossible for any rational person not to know this would happen, therefore we can only assume evil was rampant in some corners of the church, both among the offending clergy and their superiors.

The bottom line is that we have a beautiful faith and a perfect theology, and countless fine priests such as yourself keeping things on track - but it is also indisputable that we have some rotten eggs out there too. And anytime people are intimidated from questioning, it gives evil a chance to thrive.

Anonymous said...

I learned after our wedding of the family escorting the couple down the aisle as more traditional. I wish I had known. With my parents divorced, dad remarried (and folks not gotten over it), and my huz's parents deceased, this would have been a great way to have all included. One thing we did was to have a photo of every one gathering out front of the church around us as we processed out. We had all family, wedding party, other friends, etc in the photo. Only Fr. wasn't in that particular photo, however.

We did not do the extras, as I read that they were not part of the rite. Again, the difficulties of divorced, remarried and deceased parents also made them difficult to do. I was glad to leave them off.

I would have liked to consider Latin, but our parish was not far down that road at that time...though they are now (but we've moved to the midwest near family to a sappy-clappy parish--another issue!).

Thanks for sharing so much of your parish and ministry with us on the Web!

Anonymous said...

Father...I'm soo excited to hear that someone has already experienced this Latin Wedding. As a future bride, my future husband and I are looking forward to hopefully having a traditional Latin/Tridintine wedding. I would love to discuss any details and formalities you know of that need to take place. If you could get back to me, I would love to converse with you.
Thank you for your service!
One in Christ with you,

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,
I am getting married in Aug. 2008. Both my fiance and I are very interested in learning how to correctly celebrate the wedding mass. Is there some way to get a copy of the rite. The local priests don't seem to know the rite. Our priest is very traditional but even he admits that he doesn't know exactly how it should be done. We knew about the unity candle and I just had the sense that the way the wedding party parades down the aisle must be wrong because it causes the congregation to turn their backs on the alter. So here are my questions...
Where can we get a copy of the rite? We'd like something official because we are forced have and pay for a parish wedding coordinator who is going to tell us how we should do everything. What can we show her? (We are getting married at a church that is not our priest's church. His new parish has no church building yet)
We are having trouble finding a small choir who knows traditional hymns and the latin responses. Do you know anyone in St. Louis?
As far as the procession, is there a source to go to so I can see what it looks like? It's hard for me to visualize what you describe in your blog posting.
Any other suggestions?
I was so excited to read your blog. The Church needs more priests like you.
God bless,

Unknown said...

Try going to