Courtesy of Rocco, I came across this set of guidelines designed by the USCCB for Catholic weddings. Too often in our culture, the Church wedding is just part of the trappings that goes along with the extravagant dress, the “wedding parties”, the flowers– plus the overdose of mushy sentimentalism. It’s a great photo-op. But these guidelines note that it is more than a photo-op, and that the Church should not be used as as a mere wedding prop.
My favorite point is the one concerning the wedding procession, which seems to be universally ignored:
“What the movies depict isn’t necessarily what the Church envisions. The bride and the groom enter freely and equally into marriage, and the entrance procession symbolizes that, as the couple approach the altar to stand before the Lord. The Rite of Marriage suggests that the liturgical ministers (priest, deacon, reader, servers) lead the procession, followed by the bride and bridegroom, each escorted by “at least their parents and the witnesses.” Perhaps the groom goes first, led by his attendants and escorted by his parents, followed by the bride, led by her attendants and escorted by her parents.”
This is what the Church calls for, and it is liturgically proper. And yet, how many Catholic weddings consist of a liturgically-inappropriate wedding procession — a secular organ tune, the slow march of bridesmaids, followed by the escort of the bride by her father, while the grooms stands shiftily at the altar rails? This is wrong on so many levels, not least for the symbol of the father giving away his daughter like a piece of property. In fact, the couple embrace the sacrament as equals, and in fact marry each other (again, I doubt many realize that). When I mention this to priests, they always agree with me, but are universally unwilling to mention this to wedding parties, so ingrained is the sense of entitlement.
I wish more Catholic couples would take these guidelines seriously. Yes, it is a small issue in the scheme of things, but it feeds into the larger issue of the loss of a distinctive Catholic culture.
For the record, my wife and I followed these guidelines almost to the letter — from the procession to memorizing our vows to the use of people in liturgical functions. We also used incense, and were told this was a first!