The Catholic Church follows certain traditions and rituals in all its ceremonies. In the case of weddings, the couple has to adhere to certain guidelines of the church. For instance, the wedding has to take place in the church, and all the church’s proceedings take place as usual and are presided over by the parish’s priest. Similarly, all the activities of a normal service take place during the wedding ceremony.
So, does a Catholic wedding count as mass? A Catholic wedding only counts as mass if it takes place on a Sunday, a Catholic Church’s Holy Day or on the evening preceding the Sabbath (any time from 4 o’clock on Saturday). According to the church’s canons, attending service on any of these days counts as attending a typical mass and meeting the church’s obligation for attending mass during the week.
You may want to attend a wedding ceremony in your home parish or one in another church, but you are unsure whether it will count as mass, we will help you with all the information you need. We will also go deeper to find out the structure of a wedding mass, and what to expect by attending one.
Does Attending the Wedding Fulfill Mass Obligations?
For you to state that you have fulfilled the obligation for attending the mass of that week, the wedding you attend must take place on specific days set aside for a Catholic mass. If you attend the wedding on Sunday or at 4 p.m. on Saturday, you have fulfilled your week’s obligation, regardless of where the church is located.
If the wedding is on Saturday evening, you do not need to attend the service on Sunday, but the church does not forbid you attending the normal mass too. The church’s rules stipulate that whenever the wedding takes place on a day of mass, the church uses it as mass. So, if you attend the wedding on a Sabbath, you can count it as mass attendance.
A Catholic Wedding Ceremony
When two baptized Catholics have their wedding, they are joining in holy matrimony, and the church views their marriage as a sacramental occasion. Hence, the ceremony has to take place in the church (the dwelling place of Christ) under the guidance of an ordained priest. A typical Catholic wedding mass is called a Nuptial Mass, which takes place in the Catholic Church and lasts for less than one hour.
Do you still need to attend mass after the wedding? In case this is your first time attending a wedding in a Catholic Church, we will inform you of what to expect. We look at some of the most common features of a Catholic Wedding Mass.
The Introductory Rite
The priest leads the procession while the congregation sings “Gloria” then the opening prayer follows to start the ceremony. The groom and his best man arrive first, then the bridesmaids and the groomsmen follow. The maid of honor enters to pave the way for the bride, who enters in tow with her father/ male relative down the aisle. However, the procession order depends on the couple’s preference but with the church’s guidance.
The Liturgy of the Word
Upon conclusion of the opening prayers, everyone sits while the couple sits at the front of the church. The lector reads a passage from the Old Testament, a psalm, and final reading from the New Testament. After each of these readings, the congregation responds with “Thanks be to God”.
The congregation then stands for the gospel singing followed by a Gospel reading. The last segment is the Homily. It consists of teachings on love and marriage, which entails the essence and expectations of a Catholic marriage.
Rite of Marriage
These are the vows that mark the official wedding ceremony. First, the priest asks the couple some questions before proceeding with the vows and exchange of rings. Here, the couple can choose either one of the three choices of vows recitation. They can recite them to each other out of memory, read them from a text or follow the priest’s lead by responding with “I do”.
The couple can also consult the priest if they wish to write their vows or incorporate them to the traditional vows. The vows may be slightly different, depending on the church, but most of them have the same pattern. These vows are crucial since they are words of affirmation that the couple gives each other before the presence of God with the entire congregation as the witnesses. The couple exchanges rings, the priest prays over their union, then they exchange a kiss.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Just like a typical mass, there is the sharing of the Holy Communion, which symbolizes the last supper before the Crucifixion. First, there is the prayer of the Eucharist, then the Lord’s Prayer. The congregation sings the “Sanctus”; they kneel then stand for the rest of the communion. If you are a Christian, but not a baptized member of the Catholic Church, you can skip the Holy Communion.
The Conclusion of the Celebration
As the ceremony draws to a close, there is the Nuptial Blessings and the sign of peace. The presiding priest then dismisses the congregation after blessing them. The last juncture is the recessional, where either they play music, or the guests sing a hymn.
Upon conclusion of mass, the priest and witnesses sign the marriage certificate in another room away from the altar. They may decide to do it in the congregation’s presence or in a private room.
Choosing a Wedding Date
If you are soon to be married and you wish to have a Catholic wedding, the date selection is an important decision to make. It would help if you considered the availability of the venue, the priest and the guests.
According to the particular diocese, they can set their wedding date when they conclude an interview with the priest or after completion of all the preparations. The two have to use this time-window to ensure that they adequately prepare for the ceremony.
When planning a Catholic wedding, there are certain dates that you need to avoid. For instance, you can avoid holidays such as Good Friday, Advent, Holy Saturday or Lent. Having a wedding while the rest of the congregation is observing a holiday may be an inconvenience. Besides, most church leaders are likely to disapprove of a wedding on such important dates.
You can consult with your parish on the best day to have the wedding mass, this way, you will involve everybody, and they will all focus on your special day. You can also avoid major national and civic holidays or celebration weekends such as graduations and sports.
Since weddings in the Catholic Church have to take place in the Church or Chapel, it may be confusing whether attending it still counts as mass. It may also be a challenge if you are attending such a ceremony for the first time, but you are a non-Catholic. The wedding will count as mass as long as it takes place on a day that the church considers as a day for mass. It could be on the Sabbath, Saturday evening or one of the church’s holidays.
Given that the church also conducts the Nuptial Mass the same way as a typical mass, with the addition of the marriage ceremony, the wedding is just another mass of the church. However, if you still feel the need to attend a mass within the week that you have attended the wedding, there are no restrictions.