Catholic weddings are beautiful, symbolic and full of wedding ceremony rituals, especially for non-Catholics seeing the pageantry of the church for the first time. When both partners have been baptized into Catholicism, the Catholic wedding ceremony you’re attending will likely be a wedding mass. A Catholic ceremony with a mass typically lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, while one without a mass is usually about 30 to 40 minutes.
Here’s what to expect at your first Catholic wedding ceremony.
If your first Catholic wedding ceremony will double as your first Catholic mass, you’ll want to have a general idea of what to do. Spoiler alert: Expect a service with multiple prayers, singing and mostly sitting. As a general rule, if others are standing, you should stand, and vice-versa.
Stand for the Introductory Rite.
After you enter the sanctuary, the ceremony will begin with the wedding party processing into the room with the priest leading the way creating the sign of the cross. “Gloria” is a hymn that might be sung during this time, followed by a prayer, and you will continue to stand.
Sit for the Liturgy of the Word.
After the prayer, the congregation will take their seats, and the lector will read from the Old Testament. When you hear “The Word of the Lord,” you should say “Thanks be to God,” if you feel comfortable. Next, will be a psalm, which you can sing the response to if you know it. Then another reading, which will end with “The Word of the Lord,” again. You should respond with “Thanks be to God,” if you feel comfortable.
Stand for the Gospel singing.
Next, expect a traditional song called a Gospel Acclamation, which you will stand for. A gospel reading will follow. To end this reading, the priest will say “The Gospel of the Lord,” and you can say, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ,” if you wish.
Sit for the Homily.
Next, you’ll be seated for a short sermon, called a Homily, about the importance of a Catholic wedding ceremony.
Stand for the Celebration of Matrimony.
This will begin the official Catholic wedding mass. The priest will ask the couple a series of questions, to which they will respond affirmatively. Next will be the vows. These may be similar to other wedding vows you’ve witnessed, or be unique to the couple. The couple will exchange rings and the priest will say a prayer over their marriage.
Sit for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
If you have attended a Protestant church in the past, you may know this tradition as “Holy Communion.” In Catholicism and at a Catholic wedding ceremony, the Eucharist is a symbolic recreation of the Last Supper Jesus consumed with his disciples before dying. You will sit as the bread and wine are prepared at the altar, then as the Eucharist prayer is recited. Next, a hymn called “Sanctus,” will be sung. After this hymn is over, you will kneel before standing for the rest of the Communion.
Stand for the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer will be recited or sang to kick off the Communion Rite, and if you know it, you can join in. Next, a blessing from the priest before a Communion hymn is sung. After this song, the congregation will kneel again.
If you aren’t Catholic, you probably shouldn’t participate in the eating of the bread or drinking of the wine at a Catholic mass (even if you’re Christian), including a wedding. While no one will be there to check your religious bonafides, this sacrament is typically reserved for those who share the same faith, so the option to stand silently as others go up to the altar to receive this sacrament is perfectly acceptable.
Stand for the dismissal.
Now you’ll continue to stand for one last prayer, followed by the dismissal and recessional out of the church.