It’s natural to hold a catholic wedding when at least one of the parties getting married is catholic.
Other times, couples choose to have a catholic wedding because one or more of their parents are devout Catholics.
Whatever the reason, it’s always good you have a heads up as to how a catholic wedding is conducted, its arrangement, and of course length.
How long is a catholic wedding? A catholic wedding ceremony can run anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour.
This disparity in time frame is largely dependent on whether the wedding will be held with or without mass.
A wedding ceremony with mass would take about 45 to 60 minutes while one without would last about 20 to 30 minutes.
When answering the question, how long is a catholic wedding mass?
The major factor to consider is how long the communion rite will take. More guests taking the communion usually leads to a longer wedding mass.
Parts of A Catholic Wedding
1. The Procession
Catholic weddings typically start with the procession. The groom and best man first enter from the side of the church.
The bridal party (often in pairs) enters next, followed by the maid of honor (who usually enters alone).
Once everyone is in their place, the congregation will rise as the bride makes her way down the aisle escorted by her father or a male relative.
On getting to the front of the church, the male relative will “give away the bride” (a tradition where the bride’s escort hands her over to the groom) and the congregation will be signaled to sit down.
Music is a significant part of the processional. You can decide to go for a hymn or settle on only an organ or string instruments.
2. Greetings, Hymn and Opening Prayer
After the procession comes the greeting.
Here the officiant will welcome the guests, introduce the couple to the wedding reception and declare the purpose of the gathering.
It’ll sound something like “Dearly beloved and honored guests, we are gathered here today to witness the coming together of….and…”
After the greeting, the officiant will lead the congregation in a hymn.
It’s advisable for the couple to meet up with the priest to discuss the hymns and readings they would like to have in their wedding ceremony.
Immediately after the opening hymn, the officiating minister will lead the congregation in the opening prayer.
The couple has six options to choose from.
After the procession, greeting, hymn, and opening prayer, the bishop will signal for the guests to have their seats.
3. Liturgy of The Word
The liturgy of the word also known as Bible wedding readings will come next.
Traditional catholic wedding ceremonies have 4 readings followed by a homily. These readings may be recited by the priest, family members, or friends of the couple.
The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament.
Many couples opt for a reading from the book of genesis because Eve and Adam are the first examples of a marriage in the Bible.
The second reading is a responsorial Psalm from the book of Psalms. The cantor will sing the verses first and the congregation will sing back the response.
The next reading is usually taken from the New Testament and could be recited by a family member or friend.
The Gospels are not included in this reading. There’s another reading dedicated especially to them.
Soon after this, the priest will take the last reading from the Gospels. The congregation will be required to stand for the gospel reading.
4. The Homily
Next, the priest will reflect on marriage using the selected readings as a basis.
He will explain the readings and then shed more light on the values that form a successful catholic marriage.
5. The Rite of Marriage
The rite of marriage, also known as the celebration of matrimony, comes after the homily.
At this point, the priest will again signal for the congregation to stand.
He will first read from a short passage and then will ask the couple questions about their consent, fidelity, and parenting.
Next, the couple will declare their desire to be married.
This part is essential for the marriage to be acknowledged by the state. It usually goes something like “I …, take … for my lawful wedded husband/wife…”
6. Exchange of Vows and Rings
Vows are usually a declaration of love for your partner and your willingness to support and care for each other as you spend forever together.
Depending on the parish and officiating minister, you might be allowed to write your own vows to each other or be permitted to at most change a few words from the traditional vow.
The couple can decide to recite their vows off the top of their heads, read them out from a book, or simply respond “I do “ as the priest reads them out.
Whatever the case, the exchange of vows is where the couple gets to pledge their unwavering support and loyalty to one another.
Afterward, the officiant will bless the rings with a prayer and Holy Water and then signal for the couple to slide the rings up each other’s fingers.
7. The Pronouncement, Profession of Faith, and Universal Prayer
After the exchange of rings, the priest will present the couple to the congregation, pronounce them man and wife and ask that they share a kiss.
If the ceremony is held on a Sunday or solemnity, the priest will lead everyone in reciting the Nicene Creed (“I believe in one God…”).
In other cases, the officiant will lead the congregation in the “Prayer of the Faithful”, everyone will take the Father’s Prayer and then the couple will get on their knees before the officiant who will pray for them.
The Eucharist also called the Holy Communion or Lord’s Supper is the major difference between a wedding that includes mass and one that doesn’t.
This part of the wedding ceremony kicks off with the offertory song. Everyone will sing this as the altar is prepared for the bread and wine.
Next, the congregation will take the Eucharist prayer.
The Eucharist prayer consisted of three acclamations: Sanctus (“Holy, Holy”), Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen.
After the acclamation, the communion rites will begin. This is usually the major determinant of the length of the wedding ceremony.
The couple will kneel down (either at their places or before the altar) and the priest will invite everyone to say a silent prayer for them.
After this, he will extend his hands and bless their union. This is called the Nuptial Blessing.
After the nuptial blessing, the officiant will invite the congregation to offer each other a sign of peace (this is usually a handshake or kiss accompanied by the words “peace be unto you”).
Immediately after the sigh of peace, the priest will break the bread while the congregation sings “Lamb of God”.
At the end of the song, the congregation will kneel.
It’s at this point that the priest will begin distributing the communion to first the newlyweds and then members of the congregation who are confirmed Catholics.
9. Concluding Rites
The concluding rite is the final part of the wedding ceremony. It includes the Blessing, Dismissal, and Recessional.
The officiant will pray for the newlyweds and the attendees asking God to bless them — this part may be sung or simply spoken.
After this, the officiant will dismiss everyone asking them to “Go in peace “ to which they will reply “Thanks be to God”.
Lastly, the newlyweds will exit the church followed closely by the bridal party and the officiant.
This part is often accompanied by lively recessional music.
Frequently Asked Questions About Catholic Weddings
Is having mass compulsory in my catholic wedding ceremony?
Including mass in your catholic wedding ceremony isn’t compulsory. This is especially true if your significant other isn’t a catholic.
However, If both of you are Catholics, odds are you’ll have to opt for a wedding ceremony that includes mass.
Nevertheless, there are still cases where although both parties are Catholics, they’d prefer a very short wedding.
In such a situation, you could opt for a wedding without mass.
Must my wedding guests receive communion?
It is not compulsory for your wedding guests to partake in the communion rite.
You can choose to restrict the commission rites to only you and your significant other.
And even if you throw it open to everyone, only baptized Catholics will be allowed to participate in the communion.
The length of a catholic wedding rides on two major factors:
- The kind of wedding I.e, will the wedding be done with or without mass?
- The number of guests eligible for receiving the communion.
While a wedding without mass could last about 30 minutes, a wedding with mass could last at least 45 minutes or even more.
If you’re looking to make your wedding ceremony as short as possible then your best bet would be a wedding without mass.