|St Leonard's, East Kilbride|
|a parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Motherwell|
ST LEONARD'S CHURCH, EAST KILBRIDE
PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE
Why prepare for Marriage?
The Catholic Church believes that the marriage bond is sacred and permanent. In the wedding ceremony the bride and groom administer the sacrament to each other by their declaration of consent. In this holy act, they are filled with the Holy Spirit who strengthens them for their life together.
This is what we mean when we talk about Marriage being a Sacrament. Christ's commitment to us is for always. He never takes back his promise or his "yes" to our lives.
Meeting with your Parish Priest
The first step is to contact the parish priest in the area where you live. Notice must be given to the Parish Priest at least six months, or earlier, prior to the desired date for your wedding. It is important to check that the date you have chosen is available before you book your reception venue.
Your meeting with the priest is an opportunity for him, to explain the marriage preparation process, to determine that you are free to marry (according to Church law and civil law), and to identify any special needs or requests you may have regarding the wedding day.
You will be told about the different documents you will need to provide (recent copy of your baptismal & Confirmation certificates, prenuptial investigation form, any necessary permissions or dispensations etc.
For most people marriage is one of the most important decisions and realities of their life; in it they form a community of love. For Catholics, marriage is not merely a civil contract but is a covenant between a man and a woman before God.
There is a danger in all the work that is involved in preparing for the wedding and reception - events which last a few hours - that as a couple you might lose sight of the importance of preparing for your marriage.
The Catholic Church, therefore, requires that everyone who is to be married in the Church, be prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage.
Marriage Preparation Course
The Marriage Preparation Course offered by the Diocese of Motherwell, Family Life Agency requires attendance of the couple at two consecutive Saturday workshops. The two sessions cover different topics and are designed to help couples who have decided to get married in the Catholic Church.
"These preparatory courses for marriage must be a journey of re-discovery. They must help us learn anew what our being tells us. They must help couples reach the true decision of marriage in accordance with the Creator and Redeemer". (Benedict XVI, 24th July 2007)
It is important that as a couple, you attend both sessions of the Course as you will receive a 'Certificate of Participation' from the Diocese. This 'Certificate' is to be given to the Parish Priest of the Church in which your wedding will take place. This will be lodged with the other documents relating to your marriage.
For more information: http://www.rcdom.org.uk/diocesan_agencies.htm (see "Family Life").
N.B. Some parishes may run their own Marriage Preparation Course, but you will need to contact the individual parish to find out when they are being held.
(There may be songs, especially love songs, which are very significant for a couple. These need not be used in the liturgy but can be used at some other time during the wedding day, e.g. during the reception.)
Instrumental music also has a place in the wedding liturgy, e.g. the processional (which should be followed by an opening hymn) and the recessional. Recorded music is not permitted. The "soap opera" wedding is not a good model for the Christian marriage liturgy.
Taped music is not acceptable for the liturgy. The liturgy is the action of the people there to worship, and music which is not "live" music contradicts this principle.
When choosing liturgical music, you may wish to ask the following questions to ascertain their suitability for the celebration:
Will this song help all present to open themselves to God: will it enhance the worship or be a distraction?
Does the music draw people into real participation or does it invite them to become mere spectators?
Is the song within the capabilities of those singing and playing it?
The Rite of Marriage offers great flexibility for couples to 'personalise' the celebration of marriage in the context of the Church's universal worship. The choices that the couple can and should be involved in relate to the lectionary (scripture readings) and the choice of music for the celebration. Of course, to ensure that Catholic teaching is brought out in the celebration of the rite, it is the priest or deacon who will guide the couple through the rite itself, to ensure that each couple has the opportunity to make wise suitable and choices. The notes which follow offer some suggestions which would help the couple in preparing the liturgy of marriage.
The wedding liturgy is an act of worship of the gathered community: it is a celebration of the parish community. The choice of prayers, readings and sacred songs should be an expression of the worship of the parish community and the gathered Christian assembly. Well-chosen selections can draw people into the celebration with heart, mind and spirit in a way that nothing else can. The couple will want those who come to the wedding liturgy to enter into the celebration by participating fully in the liturgy.
The celebration of the community's Sunday liturgy is the norm for all celebrations in a parish, including weddings. For this reason the couple should approach the parish clergy and music ministers to plan the liturgy for their wedding, and music, for the most part, should be that which is used for Sunday liturgies.
Singers and musicians must be aware that they are not on stage nor are they there to entertain; their role is to serve the worship of the community. An individual singer is not a "soloist" as such, but functions as a cantor whose role is to sing the psalm and be the "animator" of the community's song.
When planning the liturgy, there are several things to keep in mind and these can be explained through the rhythm of the liturgical celebration. For example, liturgical singing has a purpose: it always accompanies ritual and gesture and so the choices made should reflect what is happening at the given moment.
In order to prepare well, the couple should take some time to reflect on the appropriate scripture readings for the rite of marriage, as directed by the parish clergy. When suitable readings have been chosen, it will be easier to choose hymns for the celebration which should bring out the sentiments of the chosen readings.
Introductory Rites and Liturgy of the Word
- The Entrance Song should be a joyful song of praise and thanksgiving to God. This song may be sung during the procession or after the procession has been completed.
- The Liturgy of the Word comes always from the lectionary. The readings should reinforce some aspect of the meaning of Christian Marriage and, through the homily, be related to the couple's future life together. Normally the first reading comes from the Old Testament, followed by its psalm. The second reading comes from the New Testament. However, sensitivity should be taken to the liturgical season, for example, in Advent and Lent, one reading could be chosen to harmonise with the season's thought. During the Easter Season, the first reading comes from one of the New Testament Easter readings offered in the lectionary.
- The Responsorial Psalm which follows the first reading is an important sung part of the liturgy. There are various settings of Psalm 127 (recommended for weddings), although there are also suggestions for other psalms in the lectionary.
- The Gospel Acclamation is sung before the proclamation of the gospel. Led by the cantor, the setting chosen should be familiar to allow the assembly to participate well. It should also be appropriate for the liturgical season.
- The Prayer of the Faithful should retain the usual sequence of intentions, although special intentions may be composed by the couple, with the assistance of the clergy and the Marriage Preparation Day. The format in which they are expressed must conform to the principle that they are not in themselves prayers to God, but are intentions proposed to the faithful, who then pray for them in silence and by their response.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
- The acclamations of the Eucharistic Prayer: Holy, Holy; Memorial Acclamation: Great Amen are meant to be sung. Singing a setting of these used at the parish Sunday liturgy will make it easier for the assembly to sing. The same applies to the Lamb of God.
- The Communion Song should be about what the community is doing: i.e. receiving Holy Communion. There are many suitable hymns which can be sung at this point, and the couple should refer to the parish hymnal. Any other songs, especially a soloist singing "Ave Maria" or any other Marian song, should not be used at this point.
Preparing an Order of Service
It is not uncommon for the bride and groom to want to prepare an Order of Service for the celebration of Marriage . In such cases, however, the priest or deacon preparing the liturgy with the couple will advise on what is permissible . In order to reproduce the words of hymns which have been chosen, it is necessary that appropriate permission has been granted to do so (i.e. a copyright licence). An acknowledgement of copyright permission should appear on any printed material.
The Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed for all to hear, hence the assembly are engaged in active listening. When preparing printed materials keep this in mind. It is acceptable to note the reference for the texts used, however, it would not normally be the case that scripture readings be printed in their entirety. Readers at the wedding liturgy should be prepared, rehearsed and helped to appreciate the dignity of their ministry
The Preparation for Marriage is an exciting time in the life of the couple and the Church is here to help the couple make the most of the celebration. These notes provide a pastoral guide to the celebration of Christian Marriage and allow the couple to fruitfully celebrate a most beautiful rite of the Catholic Church.
After your wedding
Remember, you are not just preparing for a wedding day, but for a lifetime together. The Sacrament of Marriage "… places demands upon [you], it challenges [you], it calls [you] to be prepared to sacrifice [your] own interests for the good of the other. It requires [you] to exercise tolerance and to offer forgiveness. It invites [you] to nurture and protect the gift of new life". (BenedictXVI, Vatican City, May 5, 2010)
[This document is adapted from a booklet by the Diocese of Motherwell's Family Life Agency. The original formatting has been retained as far as possible.]