A Catholic wedding is not only a big commitment but also a critical aspect of Catholic life. It binds a man and woman in the eyes of the lord. A Catholic ceremony is full of spirituality and symbolism. It also brings your family and friends together to celebrate and rejoice in your celebration.
If you’ve decided to hold a Catholic wedding, it’s important to understand all the different aspects and how much time is needed for each. This brings us to the question, how long is a Catholic wedding ceremony?. We’ve put together a guide of what’s included, whether you need it as well as any additions you might want to make.
Average Catholic Wedding Length
On average, a Catholic ceremony can take 45 to 60 minutes. The actual length will depend on whether the wedding is celebrated with or without Mass. The latter can take 30-45 minutes.
Can I shorten it, do I need to have Mass?
A Catholic wedding without a mass is shorter – the structure determines the duration. Whether you choose to shorten it or not will depend on what both of you agree. If you’re in a hurry to go to the wedding reception, you can hold a ceremony without all the blessings and prayers involved. That being said, you should keep with your beliefs regardless of how long the ceremony will take.
Couples can decide whether they want to celebrate their marriage with the Catholic Mass or do without it.
When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, a wedding without a mass is strongly encouraged, regardless of whether individuals or parents are devout Catholics.
If one of you is part of another religion, you can also have another ceremony at a later date that combines both two cultures.
Without a mass, the ceremony can take up to 45 minutes. The actual time will depend on elements such as homily, music, readings, possessions, etc.
If both Catholic, Mass is encouraged during the ceremony. But again, if you want a quicker wedding, this may not work for you. A wedding ceremony with a mass can take up to one hour (60 mins).
Nuptial Mass vs Celebration of Marriage
A nuptial mass can be part of a wedding ceremony. It’s held when two Catholics want to get married. Some members of the parish are welcome even when they don’t know the bride or groom at a personal level.
Normally, the bride and groom kneel before the priest at the altar. The parents and witnesses seat beside them. Under the guidance of the priest, there could be a few customization options. Most of them have to do with Psalms, Hymns, and scripture readings. The order of the wedding can vary slightly (depending on the church), but you expect the majority of the below to be present.
The altar is prepared for the liturgy of the Eucharist. Then, the bride, groom, and their treasured guests can help with the preparations. The priest will say a few prayers for communion.
The couple kneels before the altar and the priests offer the blessings.
Sign of peace
The priest invites the couple and the guests to share the sign of peace.
The priest distributes the communion to the newlyweds.
Blessing and dismissal of guests
The final blessing is offered to the couple and guests.
A nuptial mass adds about 15 to 20 minutes to the ceremony.
In the celebration of marriage, the bride and groom exchange their vows in the presence of a church minister or priest. Everyone stands including the couple, and the witnesses are positioned near them. This ceremony can take up to 30 minutes. If you’re celebrating the communion of your love, this can take another 20 minutes. The inclusion of a wedding celebration should be identical to that without a mass.
Since the celebration of marriage won’t take place with the mass, it follows immediately after the nuptial blessing.
Depending on your preferences, a celebration of marriage can happen with or without mass. Not to mention, there could be some flexibility in the structuring.
Can I add my own traditions?
Yes. While the priest does not allow couples to write their vows, they can express love more personally. But again, couples can publicly include their statement in the program as a sign of love.
Many couples choose to add their own twists after the ceremony, rather than as part of a traditional Catholic ceremony. This ensures traditional values are allowed to mix with more traditional values.
At Story Amour we always encourage couples to put their own spin on their big day, no matter religion or race. You don’t have to include every tradition in your wedding – just focus on those that are meaningful to you.
Do I need to have the wedding in a Catholic church?
No. You can choose to get married in a Catholic church or alternative venue. Ask any couple that believes in the Catholic faith why they would like to get married in the church, and you’ll hear many different reasons. Some say it’s the right thing to do; others say it’s a family tradition, etc. However, there are more profound reasons why you should choose to wed in a Catholic church.
Creates a spiritual bond between couples
Getting married in church by its very nature is exclusive. Spouses are strengthened with a special sacrament.
The church gives the couple graces
Getting married in a Catholic Church gives a sanctifying grace that reflects natural love for husband and wife. Some see it as an instrument for spiritual growth and holiness.
The church helps the couple fulfill their baptismal promise
For most Catholics, a marriage is more of a social gathering. Some Christians prefer a wedding ceremony held in a church parish. The local bishop will ensure the ceremony is held more appropriately.
Catholic Ceremony Timeline
A Catholic wedding ceremony is a beautiful celebration of love, devotion, and faith. The event’s timeline is full of meaning and significance, representing the history of the Catholic Church and the couple’s journey to this sacred union. It is a time-honored tradition passed down through the generations, and each element carries a special significance. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect during a Catholic wedding ceremony timeline.
The entrance rites begin with the processional, where friends and members of your immediate family head down the aisle and take their seats on either side. The groom and the best man enter next from the side of the Church, then the groomsmen and bridesmaids escort each other side by side before the maid of honor gets in alone. The processional ends with the bride’s grand entrance accompanied by her father or another male relative.
There is another option of the processional, where the priest and servers enter first, followed by the lectors who will be reading during the ceremony. The groom then enters with his best man and groomsmen, followed by the bride and her bridesmaids. Processional choices are morally neutral and entirely up to the couple getting married.
Opening Prayer and Rites
Once everyone is in their place, the priest or deacon will welcome everyone and ask for the blessing of the Lord. The priest will lead the opening prayer, asking for guidance and strength during this particular time.
Liturgy of the word
The first reading is usually from the Old Testament, followed by a Psalm, then a second reading from the New Testament. The Gospel reading is always last and is typically read by a deacon, priest, or lector. The homily, or the sermon, is given by the priest or deacon after the Gospel reading.
The priest may also say a few words about the sacrament of marriage and what it represents. The lighting of the unity candle follows the opening prayer, a special moment for the couple as they each light their candles and then use them to light the larger central candle together. This is a symbolic gesture of their two lives coming together as one.
Rite of Marriage
Following the liturgy of the word, its time for the rite of marriage. The priest invites the couple to declare their consent to be married. The bride and groom each state their intention to marry the other and solemnly vows to each other, promising to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives.
Exchange of rings
The next part of the ceremony is the exchange of rings, which symbolizes the couple’s love and commitment to each other. The rings are blessed by the priest or deacon and then exchanged between the bride and groom. As they exchange rings, they may say traditional vows such as “With this ring, I thee wed” or write their vows to each other. Each partner slides the ring onto the other’s finger, and a kiss seals the deal!
Lasso and Arras
There is also the option of having a lasso placed around the couple as they exchange rings. The lasso is a cord or rosary that is placed around the necks of the bride and groom while they say their vows. This is a symbol of their union being blessed and sanctified by the Church. The arras are 13 coins that are blessed and given to the groom by his mother or another close female relative. He then gives them to the bride as a symbol of his willingness to provide for her and their future family.
An offertory song is usually sung during this time. Family members or close friends bring forward the gifts. The gifts are usually bread and wine, which will be used during the communion but can also be anything else significant to the couple. The bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ and will be consecrated during communion. They are placed on the altar by the couple as an offering to God.
The congregation stands, and the priest leads them in the Lord’s Prayer. They may sing or recite the Lord’s prayer in unison. When they have finished, the priest says a short prayer, and everyone sits down. With everyone seated, the priest or deacon will give a brief homily about marriage.
The nuptial mass continues with the nuptial blessing. The priest prays for the couple, asking God to bless their marriage and give them the strength to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. He also blesses any rings or other jewelry that the couple is wearing. The newlyweds then exchange a sign of peace with each other and the congregation.
The couple may choose to receive communion together or separately. If they decide to receive together, they will go to the altar and kneel side by side. The priest will then place the host in the groom’s mouth and then the bride’s. If they choose to receive separately, they will each go to the altar one at a time to receive communion.
The guests then line up before the priest to receive communion. The ushers will direct the guests where to go. Usually, only the Catholics partake in the holly communion, but if there are non-Catholics present, they may come forward to receive a blessing from the priest with their arms crossed over their chest. After communion, the priest gives the couple and the congregation a final blessing.
Blessing and dismissal of guests
The guests stand as the priest recites the dismissal. He blesses the couple and their families and friends and sends them off with good wishes for their future together. The newlyweds lead the way out, followed by their families and guests.
As the newlyweds and their guests exit the Church, they are usually met with a shower of rice or confetti. A recessional song is typically played during this time. The couple leads the way out, followed by their parents and the guests. The recessional is a joyous occasion and a time to celebrate the new marriage!
Couples can hold a Catholic wedding if either or both parties are Catholic or not. A wedding ceremony without a mass normally takes 30-45 minutes. If it has a mass, it can take up to one hour. The difference in time is due to the communion of rite and liturgy of the Eucharist in wedding ceremonies with Mass.
While the overall length of the ceremony can change, a 30 minute to 1 hour overall is a good guide to follow when planning your big day.