The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Catholic Wedding Ceremony

Are you eagerly looking for the perfect guide to planning a Catholic wedding ceremony? GREAT! You’ve come to the perfect place.

This article discusses Catholic wedding traditions, requirements, and logistical details for your Catholic wedding ceremony. You will walk away confident in your planning abilities and with a better knowledge of what to expect when planning a Catholic wedding ceremony.

Understanding the Sacred Covenant

It is first important to get a better idea of what the Sacrament of Matrimony is and how this ties into planning your Catholic wedding.

St. Augustine Catholic Church in Phoenix uses the Catechism (CCC 1638-1642) to beautifully summarize what the Sacrament of Matrimony entails. It states:

“The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses. God himself seals the consent of the spouses. Therefore, a marriage which is ratified and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. Furthermore, this sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to attain holiness in their married life and to accept responsibly the gift of children and provide for their education.” 

Proper Planning and Attention

Because of this sacred covenant established during a Catholic wedding ceremony, it’s important that proper and thoughtful planning goes into the creation of this special day.

Unlike a mere social event, a Catholic wedding ceremony is a deeply sacred time that unites a couple in a covenant blessed by God. By carefully planning this, the couple demonstrates their commitment to honoring the teachings of the Church and their awareness of the lifelong commitment they are about to enter into. Moreover, adequate planning ensures that the wedding ceremony aligns with the rich traditions and rituals of the Catholic faith, incorporating elements such as the Rite of Marriage, Nuptial Blessing, and the Eucharist.

Proper planning for your Catholic wedding ceremony also benefits the couple’s inner preparation, (guidance from priests, learning the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, etc.) fostering a solid foundation for their married life together. Through intentionally investing time and effort into planning a catholic wedding ceremony, the couple not only celebrates their love but opens themselves up to the graces and blessings the Sacrament bestows, resulting in a strengthened union and relationship with God. After all, preparing well for your wedding day will be so rewarding and worth it in the long run!

Traditions and Requirements to be aware of

Next, it’s important to be aware of certain traditions and requirements when planning your Catholic wedding ceremony.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is deeply rooted in the Church’s rich history and theology. This makes the Catholic wedding ceremony a sacred and solemn occasion. One of the primary requirements for a Catholic wedding is that at least one person must be a baptized Catholic. The marriage must also take place within the confines of a Catholic church or chapel.

Furthermore, leading up to your wedding day, the couple must undergo Pre-Cana counseling, (pre-marital counseling) and marriage preparation courses to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament they are about to receive. During the Catholic wedding ceremony, the sacred covenant between the couple with God and the couple’s commitment to love, honor, and cherish one another until death due part mirrors the relationship between Christ and His Church. 

The key elements in a Catholic wedding ceremony are 3 biblical readings, the exchange of vows and the exchange of rings, the prayer of the faithful, the nuptial blessing, and the celebration of the most holy Eucharist. Through adherence to these traditions mentioned above, the couple can fully embrace the beauty and sacredness of the Sacrament of matrimony and foster a marriage built upon faith and love. 

Paperwork, paperwork…

Don’t forget about the paperwork!! This is often overlooked, but important to note when planning your Catholic wedding ceremony. There is required documentation that is necessary to have when planning your Catholic wedding. You will need:

  • Marriage preparation completion 
  • Baptismal and confirmation certificates (you must request these from your Baptismal church 2-6 months prior to the marriage)
  • Marriage license from your county (you must obtain these 4-30 days prior to your marriage, but varies by state)
  • Affidavit of being free to marry

All of these components are necessary and required both legally with your State and Sacramentally with your church.

Legalities of a Catholic Wedding Ceremony

Now that we know the legally required documentation for your Catholic wedding ceremony, it’s time for the fun stuff: choosing the Catholic church and the date of your wedding! 

Selecting the right church and date for your Catholic wedding is a crucial decision that requires careful consideration and planning. Here are a few things to consider when selecting the best church and date for your special day:

Start Early: Begin the process sooner than later to have ample time for research, booking, and preparation. Catholic churches often have busy schedules. Securing a date well in advance is essential and will ensure you are able to get the desired day you wish for your wedding. 

Attend Mass on a Regular Basis: If you are not already attending a specific Catholic church, start attending Mass regularly at different churches in your area. This will give you a feel for the parish community, reverence, and its liturgical style. (Note: Some parishes require you to be registered parishioners to get married there)

Consider Location: Select a Catholic church that is convenient for you and your guests in terms of its location and accessibility. If you have family and friends coming from out of town, consider proximity to accommodations and transportation options. 

Consult with a Priest: Meet with the priest or pastor of the church you are interested in and discuss your desires to get married there, as well as inquire about their availability. From there, the priest will be able to guide you through the marriage preparation process and provide you with any necessary instructions.

Check for Liturgical Dates: It is important to note that due to previous scheduling, many parishes already have preplanned events and specific times weddings can occur. Also, consider various Feast Days within the church calendar that may have a special meaning to you and your spouse. Moreover, remember that there are days in the liturgical calendar in which weddings in the Catholic Church do not take place – Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and although there is no specific universal rule on this matter, most couples avoid getting married during Lent as it is a period of penance and reflection.

Season and Weather: Do you prefer a warm, sunny 75-degree wedding, or the magic of the fresh falling snow on a cold December day? Take your preference into account when choosing a date for your Catholic wedding. The season you plan your wedding also impacts the cost. Summer weddings are more popular and thus, are more costly than weddings in winter. 

Holidays: Having your wedding on a holiday weekend is typically more expensive, as they are more popular wedding dates. However, the benefit to doing this is that you and your guests likely already have time off of work so no vacation days are needed. Another thing to consider is preparation time. For example, a New Year’s Eve wedding is definitely magical, but that means the “week before” wedding prep will fall right on Christmas.

Family and Guest Availability: One of the most important aspects of a Catholic wedding is being able to share it with those who you love most! Check with essential family members and close friends to ensure their availability for your special day. This is especially important for those who need to travel. Though you and your spouse want to choose the best date for you, remember to consider those who will share in this special moment with you. 

Logistics: Consider the timing of your wedding, especially when it comes to planning the reception afterward. It is better to be conscious of how much time you have and ensure you have sufficient time between your Catholic wedding ceremony and the reception. 

Venue and Vendors: Consider holding your reception in a venue that best makes your wedding visions come to life. Also, consider hiring Catholic vendors! They understand the sacred covenant that is sealed in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Plus, it is always nice to know your money is supporting other small Catholic businesses. For a directory of Catholic wedding vendors, check out The Catholic Bridal Collective.

Beginning Marriage Preparation

You did it! Now that you’ve officially locked in your wedding date and location, it’s time to truly begin the planning process.

As mentioned above, preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church involves several essential steps.

The first is the Pre-Cana marriage counseling preparation. It serves as a foundation for preparing for the sacrament while also strengthening the couple’s relationship, communication, and understanding of each other.

The Pre-Cana marriage counseling sessions help provide valuable insights when it comes to the spirituality and theology of marriage, financial matters, conflict resolution, natural family planning, openness to children, family of origin, sexuality, intimacy, etc. Essentially, Pre-Cana counseling is what opens up couples to dialogue around what to expect in marriage, how to prepare for it, and how to be married. 

Planning the Liturgy

One of the biggest parts of planning your Catholic Wedding ceremony is choosing your Catholic wedding readings. Usually, the couple has the freedom to choose the scripture passages for their Catholic Wedding from a variety of pre-selected passages (unless the day of your wedding happens to fall on a day in the liturgical calendar that certain readings must be read). This portion of Mass is the Liturgy of the Word and consists of:

  1. First reading from the Old Testament
  2. The Responsorial Psalm
  3. Second reading from the New Testament
  4. Gospel reading from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). 

The couple will usually choose who will proclaim the scripture readings, while the priest will always read the Gospel. The responsorial psalm is sung by the cantor, who is also selected by the couple. 

When selecting your scripture passages for the Liturgy of the Word, it is crucial for you and your fiance to take careful consideration when selecting and praying about which readings stand out and resonate with you. If needed, connect with a priest for guidance on how to best choose readings for the Liturgy of the Word.

In addition to the readings, the couple will also have a chance to select music for the liturgy as well. It is helpful to connect with the liturgical director at the parish where you intend to get married to get guidance on selecting music, information about selecting a cantor, etc. It is important to select music that is prayerful and gives glory to God in your Catholic wedding ceremony.

Here’s a helpful post we put together to help you select your ceremony music!

To Sum It Up

Taking into consideration all of these elements when planning a Catholic wedding ceremony will help you best prepare for your special day and feel more at peace with all the decisions that you make leading up to the wedding day. 

PS. Love these wedding photos? Check out more of this wedding here!

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