The Celebration of Marriage Within Mass

[The ritual outline that follows is based on the Catholic Church’s revised Order of Celebrating Marriage © 2012, ICEL.]



• Procession (with music) 

• Entrance Hymn/Song (optional)

• Greeting and words of welcome 

• Collect 


What this is about?

• Setting the atmosphere 

• Welcoming people officially, putting them at ease, and making them feel welcome 

• Preparing the assembly to listen to God’s word. 


Ways of doing it 

• Two forms are provided for the Entrance Procession.  

• In the first form, the priest and servers greet the couple at the door of the church.  The procession then takes place: servers first, followed by priest, then couple, possibly with parents and witnesses.

• In the second form (pastorally more common), the priest and servers assemble in the sanctuary. When ready, the bride, or the bridal couple, and attendants process to the sanctuary and are greeted by the priest.

• It is usually difficult to have congregational singing when the bride is walking down the aisle. Organ/Instrumental music is normally best during this moment of the rite. An appropriate entrance song could be sung once everyone is in position. 

• The priest warmly welcomes the guests in his own way and invites them to enter fully into the liturgical action rather than just watching it. 



• Old Testament or New Testament Reading 

• Responsorial Psalm (sung, if possible)

• Gospel Acclamation (sung, if possible)

• Gospel 

• Homily 


What this is about?

• Listening to the scriptures and responding. When the scriptures are read, God speaks to his people. 

• You also speak to your guests through the choices you make. 


Ways of doing it

• Spend time deciding which of the scripture readings are most appropriate for your marriage. It is usual to have a Gospel reading and either one or two others, from the Old and/or the New Testament. 

• You may decide that all the readings should have the same focus or theme; or you may allow each of the selections to focus on a different aspect of marriage that you wish to be part of your own. 

• Avoid undue haste while reading, and from one reading to the next. 

• Make sure the readers can read well, and have had time to practise beforehand in the church with the microphone. Have them pause before saying, "The word of the Lord" in order to evoke the response, 'Thanks be to God.'

• Provide a short period of silence after each reading to allow the assembly to reflect upon hearing God’s word. 

• Responsorial Psalm. The Psalm after the first reading is for reflection on the word of God. The cantor (good singer) leads the assembly in the response and normally sings psalm verses alone. 

• The Gospel acclamation (Alleluia) is ideally sung because it is an affirmation of praise by the Assembly to God in Christ whose word we welcome in the Gospel.  The Alleluia/Gospel Acclamation may be omitted if it is not sung [GIRM (2010) par. 63c]. 

 During Lent, the Lectionary provides alternatve acclamations before the Gospel, as the word Alleluia is not sung during this penetential time.

• Non-scriptural readings may not replace the scriptural readings. They could, instead, be included as a reflection at the back of the service booklet.



• A short exhortation (or Introduction) by the Priest 

• Questions Before the Consent 

• Reception of the Consent 


What this is about?

• You marry each other 

• You make the promise to each other 


Ways of doing it

• Position yourselves in such a way that it is clear that you marry each other rather than in a way that seems to say that the priest is marrying you: e.g. face the congregation, or stand side-on, rather than with your backs to the congregation. 

• Choose, adapt or compose an introduction. 

• The questions the priest will ask you are the same ones you signed on your Pre-Marriage Inquiry Form. 

• The declarative form - 'I, (Name), take you. . . ' - is strong and places the emphasis on the couple who promise each other . 

• The question form - '(Name), do you take (Name) to be your ...' looks as though you are promising the priest something. 

• Memorise what you are to say, or read them from a book held by one of the attendants. Repeat the words after the priest only if you feel unable to say them on your own. 

• Everyone may applaud after the priest receives your consent. 





What this is about?

• A richly symbolic action that seals your commitment to one another. 


Ways of doing it 

For the Blessing: 

• Choose a blessing from the samples in the Order of Celebrating Marriage

For the Exchange: 

• Choose a blessing from the samples. 

• Memorise what you are to say, or read them from a book held by an attendant; repeat the words after the priest only if you are unable to say them yourselves. 

• Have one partner place the ring halfway on the other's finger; the other partner then slides the ring to its proper place, symbolising 'yes'. 





What this is about?

• Praying for the needs of the church, the world and local community and the issues that are important to you. 


Ways of doing it 

The structure of the ritual is: 

• The Priest introduces the intentions (with an invitation to prayer addressed to the assembly present); 

• A reader announces the intentions, ending with: 'We pray to the Lord.'

• Everyone prays silently and/or with a common response, 'Lord, hear our prayer.' 

• After the response to the final intention, the Priest finishes with a final concluding prayer (addressed to God).

• The bride and groom, or parents, or several friends may be involved. 

• This is a particularly apt time for you to pray for each other and for your parents. Your parents may also wish to pray especially for you both. 





What this is about?

•Preparing the altar for the Eucharist. 


Ways of doing it 

• Bread and wine are brought to the priest or to the couple and placed on the altar. This is a good way of involving your families or other special friends. 

• Music is appropriate to cover the ritual action - a congregational hymn/song, solo or instrumental music could be used. 

• The priest prays the Prayer over the Offerings. Select from the samples in the Order for Celebrating Marriage. 





What this is about?

• Prayer of praise and thanks to God the Father for his goodness to us. 


Ways of doing it 

• There are several Eucharistic prayers to choose from. These will be found in the Roman Missal, or in the Sunday or Daily Missals which are readily available. 

• The Preface expresses why we thank God today. 

• The Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer should ideally be sung (lead by a Cantor/Choir if possible), because they are important acclamations by the whole assembly. 

• Singing helps to lift the Eucharistic Prayer to a higher level and maintains the celebratory atmosphere during this climax of the Nuptial Mass.



(during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, after the Lord’s Prayer)


What this is about?

• The Church asks God to bless your marriage. 


Ways of doing it 

•Choices are available. Choose one that you think is particularly appropriate for your Marriage and, if possible, one that harmonises with the themes in the Scripture readings.




What this is about?

• Prayerful preparation for communion by remembering we are called to become what we receive in Communion – the Body of Christ (cf. St Augustine). 


Ways of doing it 

• All turn and greet those close by with the customary sign of peace. 

• The couple greets their families. 

• Communion under both kinds is a particularly appropriate expression of union with Christ’s body and his paschal mystery. 

• It is very appropriate to sing a Communion hymn as people process to communion.  It gives outward expression to the community’s 'union with' Christ during this moment of the Marriage ceremony.




(during the Concluding Rites)


What this is about?

• A blessing-prayer by the community for the newly-married couple. Also a prayer that the couple may become blessings for the community. 


Ways of doing it 

• Priest places his hands on the head of the couple and prays the blessing over them. 

• The couple stands facing the congregation, as all present pray the blessing. 

• Parents of the couple join the priest in praying the blessing prayer over the couple. 





What this is about?

• Required by law. 

• Points to the broader social dimension of your marriage.


Ways of doing it 

• Bring a small table (and chair) to a central point. 

• The signing should not take place on the altar as this is reserved for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

• Photographs may be taken during the signing provided the photographer does not dominate or disrupt the action. 

• This might be a good time for everyone to sing or to listen to some appropriate religious vocal, choral or instrumental music. 

• Due to the liturgical context of the Marriage ceremony, popular love songs are best reserved for use during the wedding reception. 





Ways of doing it 

• Bride and groom leave first, followed by the attendants. 

• All come to congratulate the couple and then mingle and walk out informally. 

• This recessional movement is best accompanied by vibrant organ/instrumental music to keep the atmosphere heightened and celebratory.





Cultural and ethnic customs can certainly be used in the marriage ceremony. We mirror God both in our diversity and in our unity: Many cultures, one people; many creatures, one Creator; many persons, one Lover of all. Before deciding to incorporate any of these customs we should evaluate them to see if they are appropriate for communal worship. Criteria which might be used in this evaluation are: 

Does the action or symbol make sense?

E.g., When only the father of the bride accompanies her to the altar, what does this action say? It may be more appropriate for both father and mother to present their daughter since they are both her parents. 

Is the action or symbol understood?

The meaning of a good symbol is immediately apparent and does not have to be explained. When an action or symbol reflects a specific culture or ethnic background and is not understood by the entire worshipping community, its inclusion is questionable. If it is included, a brief explanation should be provided by the priest or printed in the marriage booklet.

Does the action or symbol encourage participation?

If an action or symbol encourages the congregation to take the role of an audience it should not be included. 

Some examples of cultural or ethnic customs that are sometimes included are: 

• Presentation of the couple to the community

The community present at the marriage is there to witness the commitment of the couple and to reaffirm them in this commitment. This affirmation is a form of blessing and can be made concrete in a number of different ways. For example, the community may extend their hands towards the couple during the Nuptial Blessing, or they may applaud after the exchange of consent or at some other suitable time in the celebration. 

• Placing flowers at the statue of Mary

Some couples may wish to dedicate their marriage to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before the Recessional, the couple (or bride) take a special bouquet of flowers to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and place it there. They remain at the statue for a brief moment of prayer and then return to the centre. 


Rite of Marriage The information regarding the Rite of Marriage was revised in consultation with Dr Paul Taylor, Executive Secretary, Bishops Commission for Liturgy (May 2014)




From the Catholic Inquiry Centre 


 Is it any wonder that over the centuries of Christian reflection the Church has come to see marriage as a sign of the unconditional love Christ has for us, and a sign of the unity in which we as Christians are called to live?

    • What's special about marriage? When a couple marries in the Catholic Church, the ceremony speaks of love, permanent commitment, fidelity, openness to children, and perseverance in good times and bad. It is these qualities which make marriage a unique relationship. There is no other human relationship which requires so total a commitment between two people.  In fact, marriage is more than a relationship. It is a union, a communion, between husband and wife. Their life together is now very different from their lives as two separate individuals. Once married, everything they do is done with the other in mind. They do not lose their individual identity, but that identity is enriched by sharing life with the other partner. Their marriage holds out an extraordinary challenge: to become so completely united that everything they do, big or small, is geared towards strengthening and deepening their union. There is no development unless both develop, no happiness unless both are happy. And so their communion grows through their years together. It can never remain static.  Day by day husband and wife seek a greater knowledge and understanding of one another. They celebrate and deepen their communion through the most intimate form of communication possible between two people: through sexual intimacy. In the union of sexual intercourse, the couple are also opened to the possibility of children. As the fruit of their love, children expand the marital circle of love and challenge it to achieve new depths.
    • The sacredness of marriage If this is the ideal to be sought, it can be seen that marriage is different from other human relationships. There is something sacred about it. That it is possible for a couple to love each other in this way is a gift from God. In their acceptance of this gift, a couple not only experience a communion with each other, they experience a sustaining love which is bigger than their own individual efforts. They are drawn into a communion with God who assists and empowers them in their efforts to strengthen and deepen their married life.  For the baptised there is an even more profound dimension to this sacredness. For the baptised, marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a sign. This loving communion that exists between a husband and wife is the clearest sign and indication available of the extent to which God loves the human family. That's why the scriptures use so many marital images to describe God's relationship between God and God's people. Just as married love is a commitment to grow in intimacy, to permanence and to fidelity in good times and in bad, so God's love for us is all these things.  Yet, our understanding of marriage as a sacrament goes even further than this. Not only do a couple mirror or reflect God's love, they embody the presence of Christ is a unique way. They are tangible signs of what it means to be a Christian. In short, the sacrament of marriage reveals to us the intimate relationship we share with Jesus. We are his beloved.  In St Paul 's letter to the Christian community at Ephesus, he urges husbands and wives (in terms appropriate to his day) to mutually surrender to one another in love. He then continues:Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother to be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a very great mystery, and I refer to Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5.31-32) So, when a couple marries in the Catholic Church, they are not simply saying 'yes' to each other. They are saying 'yes' to the Christian community: Yes, we commit ourselves to being a sign of Christ's love to you'. 'Yes, we will strive to love one another so totally and unconditionally that you will see in us the love Jesus has for you.' Yes, we will love each other forever, because that is the way Christ has promised to love his Church and, by the witness of our lives, we will make his extraordinary promise believable.' In turn, the community of faith offers its support to the couple as they journey through life. It also undertakes a responsibility, not just to support and nurture marital vocations, but to call its couples to ever-greater heights of faith and love.
    • Preparation for marriage The Church believes in the sacredness of marriage and urges couples to prepare well for this special day and married life. The aims of marriage preparation courses are several: to support you in recognizing the need for good communication and constant love; to help you to examine the level of commitment that is required for married life; to assist you in understanding the Church's teaching on the sacrament of marriage and the vocation to married life; and to explain the Church's teaching on sexual morality. In addition, the course provides an opportunity to prepare for your marriage ceremony. The Catholic Society for Marriage Education (CSME) aims to promote and support marriage and family life in the Catholic vision by encouraging marriage and relationship education for couples considering marriage and for married couples. Their website links to all the organisations that are members of CSME who provide pre-marriage education through Australian Catholic agencies. Look before you leap! suggests some questions for anyone thinking about marriage. 
    • Celebration of marriage  See top of the page. What is involved in a celebration of marriage in the Catholic Church? The Rite of Marriage comprises four parts: The Introduction and Welcome; Liturgy of the Word; Liturgy of Marriage;Concluding Rite. During the Introduction, the couple declare their intention to marry and the assembly pray an opening prayer.  The Liturgy of the Word consists of Readings from Scripture (between one and three readings) and a homily. The Liturgy of Marriage includes the exchange and reception of consent, the nuptial blessing, the blessing and exchange of rings, the Prayer of the Faithful, the Lord's Prayer. During the concluding rite the civil documents are signed and the parents or family pray over the couple. This is followed by the blessing.  What is the difference between a Catholic marriage with a Nuptial Mass and one without it?With a nuptial Mass you celebrate Mass and receive the Eucharist. If Nuptial Mass is not celebrated, usually Holy Communion is not distributed. If both the bride and groom are Catholic and most of the congregation are likely to be Catholic the nuptial mass would be customary. If one person is not a Catholic, and a large number of the guests are not Catholics, then the couple may choose not to have a Nuptial Mass.
    • The marriage rite itself  Gathering together Four or five people who know the guests warmly greet people at the door of the church, welcome them, and show them to seats at the front of the church. They should keep an eye open for people who are strangers or who appear ill at ease. Two or three people hand out the wedding booklets. The priest mixes with the guests as they arrive. The priest leads in the bride and groom, escorted by their parents and attendants.The musicians begin playing 10-15 minutes before the wedding is due to begin. You do not keep people waiting by arriving late. If the bride arrives several minutes early this will allow time for photographers.Reserve the front two seats for family but not segregating the rest of the guests into 'his' and 'hers' by filling from the front of the church on both sides, as people arrive. Encourage people to introduce themselves to one another. Arrange for the attendants to sit in the body of the church and to come forward only as required. Arrange the chairs for the bride and groom facing the congregation or at an angle so they can be clearly seen. Bride and groom sit with their families until after the Homily. They then come forward for the giving of consent.
    • Who may marry? Can a divorced non-Catholic person remarry in the Catholic Church? The non-Catholic would have to have an annulment or a dissolution of the marriage. The process depends on the situation of the earlier marriage. If he/she married a Catholic in a civil ceremony without permission the annulment process will be straight forward. If both people were baptised non-Catholics there would be a formal annulment process. Whichever the situation, the couple would be advised to speak with either their parish priest or the personnel of the local diocesan marriage tribunal as soon as possible. It can be complicated so it best to get advice first hand from your local diocesan marriage tribunal. It is also best to make inquiries sooner rather than later to avoid upsetting marriage plans.Can first cousins marry in the Catholic Church? The law of the Catholic Church determined that marriage between first cousins is invalid. However, it is possible for the diocesan bishop to relax this church law, that is, to grant a dispensation from the law in a particular circumstance. Therefore, it is best for the couple to speak with their parish priest as soon as possible. Can I marry a non-Catholic in the Catholic Church? Provided that both persons are free to marry, it is permissible to marry in the Catholic Church. All that is expected is that the Catholic party will undertake to do what is possible to bring children up as Catholics and the non-Catholic is informed of this undertaking. The priest who is going to do the wedding will arrange the necessary paperwork for permissions and help you to plan a suitable ceremony. The priest celebrant will give some direction about marriage preparation programmes. Can a Catholic marry a non-Christian in the Catholic Church? Assuming that both persons are free to marry, it is possible for a Catholic to marry a non-Christian (a person who is not baptised) in the Catholic Church.It will be necessary for the Catholic to speak with the parish priest and obtain a dispensation to marry a non-Christian. This dispensation is readily given. The Catholic person will be asked to make a promise to do all in his or her power in order that any children are baptised and brought up in the Catholic faith. The non-Christian person must be informed of this promise
    • Place of marriage  The Church is the place where the Community gathers for Eucharist, and where she welcomes new members in the sacraments of initiation. It is most fitting that it is also the place where the Church witnesses the sacrament of marriage. The celebration of marriage in a Catholic Church is a reminder that this is the celebration of a sacrament, that your life as husband and wife is blessed and sustained throughout the marriage by the presence and love of God. Will a marriage in the Anglican Church be recognised by the Catholic Church? With permission, marriage in the Anglican Church will be valid and recognised by the Catholic Church. Before celebrating a marriage, the Catholic person should speak to his or her parish priest, who will assist the Catholic in requesting permission for a marriage to be celebrated in the Anglican Church. There is a form he has to fill in and send to the Bishop's office. What is required of the Catholic person is a promise to do your best to bring up any children as Catholics. Is it possible to have two celebrations of marriage, one in the Catholic Church and one in the Orthodox Church? It is not possible to have two marriage ceremonies, one in the Orthodox Church and one in the Catholic Church, because the sacrament can be received only once.  In a situation where one person is Catholic and the other is Orthodox, the appropriate course of action is to decide in which Church you will have the ceremony.  If you decide to have it in the Orthodox Church, then the Catholic person should speak with the parish priest and explain the situation. The priest will assist the couple in obtaining permission for the marriage to be celebrated in the Orthodox Church.  Sometimes, but not always, the Orthodox priest may allow a Catholic priest to participate in the Orthodox service. Can I have my wedding in the gardens?

      For a long time, the practice in most of Australia is that Catholic weddings take place in the Catholic Church and not in secular surroundings such as gardens and parks or reception halls. The reason is to minimise the devaluation of the religious dimension of marriage. In some circumstances, (e.g. to meet the sensitivities of non-Christians) the bishop may give permission for the wedding to take place in suitable settings.

    • Timing of marriage My fiancé and I want to get married on Holy Saturday. Is that possible? The Ordo, or official calendar of the Church, says all Masses are prohibited on Easter Saturday (before the Easter Vigil) and all celebration of the sacraments, other than penance and anointing of the sick, is strictly prohibited, which rules out the sacrament of marriage. Ritual Masses (of which marriage is one) are also prohibited on Easter Sunday. This is because Easter is the pinnacle of the Church year, when Christians focus on celebrating the Resurrection of Christ and renewing their baptismal promises. Ritual Masses are also prohibited on Easter Monday. However there is no explicit rule about the rite of marriage (outside of Mass) being celebrated on that day. Having said that, it will often be hard to find a church that can accommodate a marriage on Easter Monday, due to the pressure of Easter and since it is a public holiday many will not have staff available.
    • Sustaining marriage While you celebrate the sacrament of marriage in a very special way on your wedding day, the sacrament of marriage is a source of grace, of God's presence and blessing, every day of your marriage. This does not mean that there are not times that can be very difficult. Some parishes and dioceses may have supports for married couples and families. Some organisations or movements have as their particular focus the support of married couples. Some of these include: Teams of Our Lady; Marriage Encounter.
    • Marriage breakdown Where can I find out information about the annulment process? Information about the annulment process is available in several books that are available in catholic bookstores. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has written a very good one, Marriage, Divorce and Nullity. Alternatively, you could contact your parish priest or else the Tribunal Office in your diocese. There are two different processes for the declaration of nullity of a marriage.The simpler process is used when a marriage is invalid because the marriage took place contrary to the laws of the church. For example, a Catholic may have married in a civil ceremony or in another church without a dispensation from the diocesan bishop. A Catholic may have married a non-Christian without a dispensation. In both of these cases, the marriage would be considered invalid. The second process is more detailed and lengthy. It is used when at the time of the marriage there were issues that affected the consent of either or both of the spouses. If the spouses did not consent to marriage, as the church understands it, then it is possible that the marriage could be judged to be invalid.

On what basis can the Church judge that a husband or wife did not consent to a marriage? 

      There are a number of reasons why the church judges that a marriage is invalid, based on the lack of consent. We could think about consent in any situation. True consent involves acting freely - without force or fear. It involves knowing to what one is consenting. In the case of marriage, this involves consenting to give oneself to the other person, and giving consent to the church's understanding of marriage. This means consenting to fidelity to one person for ever. and being open to having children. To make a promise means that one must have the capacity to fulfil the promise. A couple of examples may be helpful. If a person marries knowing that if the marriage does not work out, then they will obtain a divorce, it would seem that the person is not committing forever. If one spouse is unfaithful during the courtship and again shortly after the wedding, there is a strong possibility that the person did not have the capacity to commit to fidelity. 

What happens in a formal annulment process?

       The annulment process aims to examine a marriage to determine whether or not - at the time of the marriage - the marriage was valid. Therefore, the process involves an initial interview with the spouse requesting the annulment, the result of which will be the tribunal interviewer leading the person to formulate a petition whereby he requests that the tribunal examine his marriage for validity, based on particular reasons. During this interview, the person (the petitioner) will be asked to nominate several people who would be willing to be interviewed concerning the marriage. These people should be people who knew the couple at the time of their marriage, preferably before and after the marriage. The other spouse (the respondent) will be asked to participate in the process. So, if possible, the petitioner should provide contact details. The respondent also will be asked to provide the names of several people who will acts as witnesses to their marriage. Usually three witnesses for each of the former spouses is sufficient. They may be interviewed again. A written record of all the interviews is kept.When all the documentation, including the statements of the witnesses, is complete, the documents will be examined by personnel of the Tribunal - people appointed by the Bishop to carry out specific roles. After a first decision is made, a second examination of the documentation takes place - by different people. If the second decision agrees with the first decision, then that is the end of the process. Not all marriages that are examined in the tribunal are declared null. 

Can a divorced person be an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist?

     There are two separate issues here. The first situation is that people may divorce. The second situation is that some divorced people may remarry. The church understands that some marriages end in divorce. The church has a process, usually called an annulment process for people who have divorced and wish to remarry. The annulment process is not like a divorce. It is a process whereby the Church looks at the situation of the first marriage and after careful examination and procedures in keeping with church law, recognizing that the marriage was never a valid marriage, declares it null. The church does not make a valid marriage null, it merely passes judgement on whether or not at the time of the marriage, the couple actually gave their consent to marriage and did so in accordance with the laws of the church. If a marriage is declared null, then the people are free to remarry. So either
      1. a person has been divorced and chooses not to remarry or
      2. a person, whose first marriage is declared null, chooses to remarry,

may both hold a position in the church. On the other hand, a person who is divorced and remarries without the first marriage being declared null, is not free to receive the Eucharist and so cannot be a Eucharistic minister. At the same time, the church does have concern for such a person, (that is, divorced and remarried without an annulment). The person should be encouraged to attend Mass, to participate in Church events, so that he or she is part of the community of the parish. A person in this situation should be encouraged to speak to their parish priest. He might be able to suggest that he or she make an appointment with the tribunal and hopefully, their situation can be rectified. Alternatively, the person should be encouraged to contact their diocesan tribunal office.

The material in the second part of this  consideration of marriage was prepared  by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference with thanks to Catholic Ireland for the use of their content. The material may be reproduced for non-commercial use provided this notice is included. Copyright © 2005.

From: 12. The Sacrament of Marriage. Published by  Catholic Enquiry Centre. Copyright ©, The Australian Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church.