When my husband and I were engaged, one of the first things we did was sit down to figure out which state to get married in. We finally made the decision when we thought back to the first time we had walked into the church I was attending in Raleigh, North Carolina. As our eyes took in the blue, star-covered ceiling, the glow of the stained glass windows, and the old wooden pews, we glanced at each other and tried to hold back our smiles. We weren’t even engaged yet, but a little piece of us knew: someday, that’s where we could get married.
It feels fitting, therefore, that since we chose our wedding location based on our church that the ceremony was the number one thing our guests commented on most. Not my dream-come-true wedding dress. Not the details I had agonized over (I was working as an editor at a national wedding magazine when I got married. To say I put a lot of pressure on the aesthetics of the day is an understatement). Not even the signature cocktails!
Four years later, we still receive affirmation from loved ones about the joy and reverence of our wedding ceremony.
Our wedding certainly wasn’t perfect, but I can gratefully say that our ceremony was one thing that felt as near perfect as it could be.
Ways to Share Your Faith Through Your Wedding Ceremony
Between planning my own wedding, attending many, and serving as a volunteer on my church’s wedding committee for a few years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some truly breathtaking, Holy Spirit-filled ceremonies. I’ve also seen a handful of weddings that left guests awkwardly stumbling through their participation in a nuptial Mass, prayers interrupted by clicking cameras, and couples nervous about how non-Catholic guests may react to certain moments. There are countless ways to lovingly share your Faith through your wedding, ranging from simple to creative. I would consider these five to be the essentials.
Print a thorough program.
I know a multi-page program costs extra money and time to create. Both of those things are in short supply during the last few months of wedding planning. But let’s be honest: Catholic liturgy can be overwhelming to someone who has never experienced it and has no idea what to do and when to do it. The absolute best thing you can do for those beloved people in your life is to give them all the tools they need to follow along with and understand your ceremony.
At a minimum, include the order of the ceremony with the responses and actions guests should be aware of, should they choose to actively participate. This includes both the verbal responses and the physical responses—when they should sit, stand, or kneel. To make it as easy as possible to follow along with, consider including the text of the greeting, Penitential Rite, Gloria, readings, Rite of Marriage, and Liturgy of the Eucharist as well. Your officiant will be the best resource as you work through this!
You may also want to consider adding brief explanations to different parts of the Mass, explaining their significance and meaning. While this isn’t as necessary as the former details, it undoubtedly helps people understand what is going on and enter more deeply into prayer alongside you.
Here’s an example of a portion from my wedding program:
Gospel Reading (Mark 10:6-9)
Before the Gospel, the priest will state its origin. All respond “Glory to you,
O Lord,” while making a small cross on their foreheads, lips, and heart. This
serves as a reminder to us to keep the Holy Scriptures on our minds, on our
lips, and in our hearts as we work to spread the Good News of the Gospel of
“From the beginning of creation,
God made them male and female.
For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore, what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
People: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. (Please be seated)
Request an unplugged ceremony.
In this day and age, it’s rare to witness an entire ceremony during which no one, from teenagers to sweet grandmas, pulls out their phone to snap a picture. The best way to keep this to a minimum is to request an “unplugged ceremony.”
Cameras/phones can far too easily become a distraction to you, to other guests, and even to the person taking the photo who is focusing on their composition rather than remaining truly present to you and to God.
On a lesser, but still very important note, guests popping out into the aisles or blocking the photographer’s view can be a huge hurdle to getting beautiful photos you’re paying a professional to take. In most churches, the photographer is restricted to certain areas, so even one guest unexpectedly in the way can ruin their shot. An unplugged ceremony helps them to do their jobs well and get the best results they can…resulting in photos you can happily share with your guests later!
Here is how we made the request in our program:
Please note: Lisa and David ask that out of respect for this sacred place and the sacrament they are about to receive, all guests please keep all cameras, cell phones, and other technology put away and on silent for the duration of the ceremony. In appreciation, they would be happy to share pictures from their professional photographer with you after the wedding. Thank you!
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Choose your readings and songs with care.
While a Catholic ceremony doesn’t offer the unlimited options that getting married, say, on a mountain would, don’t believe that this means your ceremony won’t be personal to you and your husband-to-be. Take the time to pray, together and individually, about the options for your first and second readings, Gospel and Gospel Acclamation, and Responsorial Psalm. Which ones resonate most with your relationship, your vision for your marriage, or your prayers for your future together? Since these readings are one of the most significant ways you can “personalize” your ceremony, be sure to make them count.
As long as your music is religious in nature and played live, there can actually be quite a bit of flexibility in the choices. Do you want your ceremony to feel joyful and exuberant? Solemn and contemplative? Sweet and lighthearted? Music helps set any of these tones and more.
Get to know your officiant.
Many guests at your wedding may be most familiar with ceremonies officiated by close friends, family friends, or mentors—likely all people who know the bride and groom extremely well. Hopefully, you know the priest or deacon who is officiating your wedding. But if, for whatever reason, you don’t (perhaps due to schedule changes, a wedding in a city you don’t live in, or new clergy at the parish), schedule a meeting with him at least a few weeks before the big day. Better yet, invite them to dinner!
Take some time to share a little bit of your story, your testimonies, why you chose your readings, and what you’re most excited about as you look ahead to married life. You don’t get much (if any) say in the message of the homily. But if your officiant knows the two of you and what’s important to you, he can be equipped to personalize it as he sees fit.
Pray for your guests.
For some guests, your wedding may be the first time they have ever stepped foot into a Catholic church. What an incredible opportunity for you to welcome them with open arms! As you count down the days to your wedding, take some time to lift your guests up in prayer.
Ask for healing from any fears or wounds that may have kept them from the Church in the past. Pray that their eyes, ears, and hearts may be open to the Holy Spirit.
And then, sweet friend, sit back and let God work through the Sacrament you have so generously invited your guests to witness.
What would you add to this list? Let us know below, and if you’re currently planning a wedding, please know of our prayers for you!Ways to Share Your Faith Through Your Wedding #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Lisa Kirk is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a wife, mama, and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She loves city life, Sunday brunch, and the beauty she uncovers (almost) daily in her vocation. In between snuggling with her toddler and dating her handsome husband, she blogs about family, faith, and feminine style here.