Marriage » Planning the Ceremony

Planning the Ceremony

Step 7: Determine if you will be married in a Mass or ceremony

Should we get married at a Mass or should we have a ceremony?

First, let's understand the difference.  Every celebration of Mass consists of a Liturgy of the Word (entrance rite, readings, homily, general intercessions) and a Liturgy of the Eucharistic (presentation of bread and wine, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Holy Communion).  When a wedding is celebrated at Mass, the rite of marriage takes place after the homily and before the general intercessions; the Liturgy of the Eucharist then follows. When a wedding is celebrated outside of Mass it is celebrated in a Liturgy of the Word in which the rite of marriage takes place after the homily and before the general intercessions.  The rite concludes with prayers and a blessing.

If one of you is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (and so will be unable to share Holy Communion if the wedding is celebrated during Mass), you may want to consider what this means.  Do you want to include something in this celebration in which only one of you will be able to take part? Who will your guests be? Is the celebration of the Eucharist the best way to help them to be with you and pray with you at your wedding?  If many of your guests are from outside the Catholic community, you may want to consider celebrating your wedding with the Liturgy of the Word. (If one of you is not a baptized Christian, Church law does not allow the wedding celebration at Mass.)

Some people seem to think that a couple is not really married unless the wedding takes place at Mass.  This is simply not true. Discuss your concerns with the staff member with whom you are working and make the decision that will provide the best context for your prayer and celebration.

Step 8:  Plan your Liturgy

A wedding, like any sacrament the Church celebrates, is a public celebration.  It is celebrated both for the particular persons receiving this sacrament, and in the context of the parish community.  In fact, your wedding is a public parish event, listed in the church bulletin, and all members of the parish are invited to witness your celebration of the sacrament.

Among the items you will want to consider:

Are the people who will be joining in your celebration mostly from St. Josaphat parish, or will they be coming from a number of parishes?

If they are from many parishes, it will be necessary to take into account the music they are likely to be familiar with through their regular Sunday worship.

Are most of those assembled going to be from the Catholic tradition, or are many from other Christian or non-Christian tradition?

Because those assembled are your guests, it is important they feel comfortable in joining in the prayer of this joyous occasion.  You may want to include touches from another religious tradition if a sizable number of your guests are from that tradition. If one of you is from another tradition, you may want to have your own minister present at the celebration.  We welcome the participation of your minister and would like to extend a personal invitation from the staff member working with you.

Some Options to Consider for the Wedding Liturgy

What is a "unity candle?"  Should we have one?
Every sacrament has a primary symbol, which shows us in a tangible way what we celebrate in the sacrament.  In the Catholic marriage ritual, this symbol is the exchange of wedding vows between the bride and groom. Over the centuries, an additional symbol has been added--the exchange of rings.  The rings have come to symbolize the permanence of the marriage vows (the unbroken circle) as well as the commitment in love to only one other person (the public wearing of the ring).

In recent years, a third symbol--the unity candle--has been used by many brides and grooms as an additional symbolic articulation of their vows.  In discussing your plans with the priest or deacon, you may find it helpful to explore whether or not you wish to include the unity candle in your ceremony.

Should we "make a visit" to the Marian shrine?
Bringing flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary shrine is a European custom added to the marriage ceremony, beginning around the time of your grandparents' wedding.  The bride took a floral offering to the Marian shrine as an expression of surrendering her virginity. In our time and culture, it may also be a prayer of invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary that God bless the wedding couple in their new life together.  With this latter meaning, the bride and groom visit the Marian shrine as a couple.

Are we supposed to bring roses to our mothers?
Another addition to the wedding ceremony is the presentation of a single rose or some other small floral tribute to mothers and/or grandmothers at the time of the exchange of peace.  While this seems like a very nice gesture, we ask you to consider whether you are singling out mothers at the exclusion of fathers or other important members of your families, and whether or not additional flowers (besides the corsage or boutonniere) are necessary.

Other customs (e.g., Arras, Lasso, Vinculo, Rosario, etc.)
In many countries other additions to the ceremony are customary, including the giving of symbolic coins (arras) by the groom to the bride while asking for God’s blessing on their material concerns in their married life.  The lasso is also used frequently in weddings when godparents (padrinos) place a cord/rope or a two-circled rosary over the heads of the bride and groom while a prayer of blessing is said. Similarly, a rosary (rosario) or prayer book (libro de oraciones) may be presented to the bride by godparents (padrinos).

Because some of these practices were in use before the contemporary liturgy, it is important to let the priest know ahead of time (certainly at the rehearsal) if you will be following some of these customs.  For example, the lasso once stayed on the couple until the end of the ceremony or mass. However, because the bride and groom will need to accept the gifts of bread and wine at the presentation, the lasso now is removed from the couple immediately after the blessing.

Select Your Readings
The workbook you receive at the Pre-Cana sessions has the many readings and prayers used most frequently at Catholic marriage celebrations.  The priest or deacon with whom you work will give you a different, more comprehensive workbook for planning your wedding, “Together for Life.”  This booklet provides a step-by-step outline for planning your celebration. You will be asked to spend some time together reading through the many options available to you and making the selections which best express your own sense of your wedding celebration.

Most couples find the selections in this booklet more than adequate; however, you are not limited to the options provided.  If you decide to select from other sources, be sure to discuss this with the priest or deacon helping in your preparations. Scripture readings are always proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word.  If you select a prayer or reading from some other source, the placement in the liturgy will have to be discussed with the staff member.

Step 9: Select Ceremony Participants

The Ministers of the Celebration
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the bride and groom minister the sacrament to one another; they are the celebrants of the ceremony.  A priest or deacon and at least two Catholic witnesses are also required to be present.

Ordinarily, one of the priests or deacons on the parish staff will preside at weddings celebrated in the parish.  On occasion, a couple may have a priest, deacon, friend, or relative whom they want to invite to preside at the wedding.  In this case, the couple should mention this to the parish priest or deacon early in the planning process. The involvement of a friend or relative in your preparation for marriage can be important to you and to him.

The marriage celebration includes selections from scripture and General Intercessions (sometimes referred to as the Prayers of the Faithful).  We encourage you to ask family members or friends to serve in your wedding as Lector or Reader. When choosing family members or friends, please select those who are accustomed to public speaking and have a familiarity with this type of reading.  Usually three Lectors are required.

Minister of Communion
If a wedding is celebrated during Mass, there may be a need for the service of Ministers of Communion for the distribution of Holy Communion.  Family members or friends who participate in this ministry in their own parish are welcome to assist with the distribution of Communion at your wedding.

Music Ministers
The parish music minister assists the couple in planning the music for the ceremony and is the organist/pianist for all weddings.  Please check Your Wedding Music Fact Sheet included in these Guidelines for more information.

The groom's attendants usually function as ushers and ministers of hospitality.  The bride's attendants, and, indeed, the bride and groom and their families may also act as ministers of hospitality.  It is a mature, gracious gesture for all members of the wedding party to greet members of the assembly as they gather to celebrate.

Altar servers from the parish will be scheduled for your wedding celebration.  If you have specific servers you would like, or have members of your family who fulfill this ministry in their own parish, please let the priest know as soon as possible.

Ring Bearers/Flower Girls
Couples are asked to consider the age of children involved in these roles and their ability to participate in a church service.

Step 10:  Plan Your Wedding Music

An integral part of your wedding liturgy is the music. As the Music Director at St. Josaphat Parish, my goal is to help create beautiful and fitting music for your Catholic wedding ceremony.

A Wedding Music Workshop is offered at the beginning of the calendar the year, providing you an opportunity to hear the various musicians and cantors/soloists available for your wedding celebration.  

Our next Wedding Music Workshop is on Sunday, January 27th at 7pm in the Church. Though it is not required to attend, many couples find it very informative and fun! You will have the opportunity to hear a variety of instruments and voices "model" standard wedding music repertoire.

Besides this workshop, I will meet with you at a mutually convenient time. At this meeting, I will outline the Order of Service for the wedding showing you the many places where music would be appropriate. After hearing the choices, it is easy to find things that you both like and that work well in the liturgy.

Please know that St. Josaphat’s Music Ministry is an excellent resource for vocalists (male and female) and instrumentalists. Our vocalists are professionals that regularly do solo work in and around the Chicagoland area as well as sing in professional ensembles. All instruments are available and come highly recommended: trumpet, flute, oboe, violin, cello, harp as well as combinations in trios and quartets. We even can book you a bagpiper! The musicians that regularly play our wedding are highly-qualified and offer a fair price. Booking and arrangements should be made through the Music Director. Pianists, harpists, trios, etc., for your cocktail hour or reception can also be booked.

You may even want to engage our Parish Children’s Choir, Adult Choir, or Contemporary Ensemble!

In following the liturgical guidelines of the Archdiocese of Chicago,  St. Josaphat does have some restrictions as to what you may choose to have played during the church service.  These can be discussed during your planning meeting.

Finally, if you have a family member or friend that would like to participate musically in the wedding, please get in touch with me to make arrangements as soon as possible. Oftentimes, extra rehearsals need to be scheduled to rehearse and learn the music. An additional fee for these rehearsals will be charged.

Our Standard Wedding Music Fees:

Director/Pianist/Organist: $225
Cantor: $100 - $175
Each additional instrumentalist - $225 (notable exceptions: harp and timpani are more expensive)

Congratulations and I am looking forward to working with you!  

Joe Labozetta, Music Director


Step 11:  Order Your Invitations

The church address for the printing of invitations is:
St. Josaphat Church
2311 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60614
St. Josaphat Church
Southport & Belden Avenues
Chicago, Illinois 60614
Our parking lot is located at 2312 N. Wayne Ave.
Just North of Belden on the West side of Wayne Ave.


Step 12:  Create a Wedding Program (or not)

Some couples find it helpful to provide a small booklet outlining the order of service.  Some couples also prefer to place all the musical responses for the congregation in the booklet.


If you choose to provide a program or participation aid for your guests, please remember that copyright notices are required for the printing of most music and texts for the participation of the assembly.  Permission for "one-time use" is usually gratis from the publisher. Check with the parish music director for more information on this part of your program preparation. He will be happy to assist you in putting this together.


Step 13:  Order Flowers for the Church (or not)


It has been traditional for wedding couples to provide floral decorations for church on the day of their wedding.  If you choose to, we encourage the use of fresh flowers with strong colors. Our church is large and ornamented; arrangements of white flowers and greenery tend to "disappear" in this large space.  If there is another wedding scheduled on your same day, you may wish to coordinate with the other couple. The priest or deacon can give you their contact information.


Sanctuary Flowers

Usually two large arrangements placed on either side of the altar will serve as beautiful and dignified decorations which everyone in church can see and will not interfere in any of the movements of the wedding party.  Except during the Christmas and Easter seasons, you are welcome to move any existing flower arrangements into the sacristy during your wedding as long as someone puts them back after your wedding. If you plan to do this, please make prior arrangements with the priest or deacon.


Please do not order any flowers to be placed upon the altar itself.  The altar is meant to be kept very simple--with only the gifts of bread and wine, the book of prayers, and the chalice and paten on it.


Other flowers

Be sure to let your florist know if you are choosing to make a floral tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary or are presenting flowers to members of your family.


Runner for the center aisle

If you wish to have a runner for the center aisle, this can be arranged through your florist.  The center aisle is 65 feet long -- we suggest an additional 10 feet of runner.


Pew decorations

If you choose to have bows or other decorations placed upon pews in the center aisle, please inform your florist that they are asked not to use tape on the wooden pews (it removes the finish).  Alternatives to tape are usually available. Also, if you wish to drape ribbon along the edge of the pew, be sure the ribbon will be removed before the wedding begins. It is against fire regulations to block access to the pews in this or any other manner.


Step 14:  Inform your Photographer and/or Videographer


The still photographer may take pictures at any time as long as the wedding ceremony is not interrupted. The photographer is not allowed into the sanctuary of the church and should never stand between the couple and the congregation.  Nor should any part of the ceremony (e.g., the procession up the aisle) be stopped by the photographer. Flash photography is acceptable. If time permits, the church is available for 90 minutes from your planned ceremony start time for the taking of pictures.  There may be a Mass or another wedding after yours. If the services start on time, there will be more than enough time for pictures. St. Josaphat Community Park behind the church is usually available for pictures (except during Advent, when Christmas Trees are sold.)


Please note: the photographer should never remove items from the altar or anywhere else before taking pictures.  


Video taping of the wedding is certainly permitted by a professional.  We ask that the taping take place from one spot only and without a sustained high intensity lamp turning on and off.  The videographer is not allowed to walk around with his or her equipment nor set up a camera in the sanctuary.


Please show these guidelines to the photographers so they are aware of the restrictions and abide by our rules. Then, tell them they too must talk to the priest or deacon prior to the ceremony.  These guidelines will help to make your ceremony more reverent, special, and prayerful. Photographers who do not follow rules will not be allowed to continue to photograph the wedding in church.