1. Unity Candle - This is not a part of the Catholic Marriage Rite.
Many parishes do not allow a Unity Candle as part of the Marriage Rite. It seems to be a duplication
of the main
liturgical symbols of the consent of the couple and exchange of rings. It would be better done
at the wedding reception before the dinner or festivities begin.
If your parish does allow for
this action, it is best done after the exchange of rings, before the General Intercessions.
It should be brief and if music is used to accompany the action,
it should also be brief, only accompanying the action, and not prolong the ceremony.
way to reinterpret this action in accordance with Catholic tradition is for the presider to
make mention of the light of Christ that the bride and groom received at baptism, and how
this light will continue to burn brightly in their married life. Of course, this interpretation
could only be used if both were baptized in a Christian tradition that used the Paschal Candle
as part of the Rite of Baptism.
2. Flowers to the Blessed Mother - This is not part of
the Catholic Marriage Rite. It is a devotion that was inserted into Catholic weddings many years
ago. The devotion gave the
bride an opportunity to pray for Mary’s protection in the new marriage. In the midst of
a celebration of unity, it seems out of place for the bride to go to Mary alone. Today, if this
devotion is used, the couple often goes to the Blessed Mother together.
If this is done in your
parish, it is should be inserted after the prayer after communion in a Mass, or after the Lord’s
Prayer, before the Solemn Blessing in the Rite outside Mass. The music used during this devotion
should accompany the action and not extend beyond it.
3. Hispanic Wedding Rituals* - These
are not part of the Catholic Marriage Rite in the United States, but are often inserted when
requested by couples of Hispanic heritage.
a. Arras (coins) - Before there was an exchange
of rings, the exchange of arras symbolized the exchange of vows. When the Roman Rite became
established in Spain, the rings took the place
of the arras.
If this symbol is used today, it duplicates the exchange of rings. There is usually
a dialogue that takes place between the bride and groom. This dialogue may need to be adapted
it is meaningful in today’s age.
Typically, this exchange takes place after the exchange of rings. There is no need for music
to accompany this action since there is dialogue that accompanies it.
b. Lazo - This is
most often a double-looped rosary that is placed over the shoulders of the couple. It symbolizes
the sacramental union that has taken place. It is usually placed
on the couple after the arras are given.
c. Veil - This veil or mantilla can be placed
on the couple’s shoulders before
the lazo is given, and so be held in place by the lazo. It has become known as a symbol of
and is fitting placed around the shoulders of both the bride and groom.
d. Book and Rosary - This
symbolizes the role of prayer in the married family, and the instruction of children in prayer.
While a small missal and rosary have in the past been only
given to the bride, it would be appropriate that the groom also receive these symbols, since
he too is called to be a man of prayer and teacher of their children. It is also appropriate
that a Bible be given instead of a missal, since missals are no longer used by the assembly
at Mass, because Mass is celebrated in the vernacular.
The giving of these symbols could be
incorporated into the General Intercessions. So when an intercession about the couple being
strengthened by prayer is read, the two symbols could be
Other cultural symbols from various traditions (Native American, Filipino, Vietnamese,
African American, etc.) are not part of the Marriage Rite of the United States, but may be
the discretion of the pastor, providing they are not tied to superstition, and support the
of Catholic marriage.
Note that a revised Marriage Rite for the United States is currently being
prepared by the Bishops’ Committee
on the Liturgy. When it is approved by the US Bishops and recognized by Rome, it will replace
the current Rite of Marriage. There is no timetable for when this new rite will be approved
an implemented. The Office of Worship will prepare and implement appropriate catechesis when
a new rite is promulgated.
* To gain more insight into Hispanic wedding rituals, read the bi-lingual book, Gift
and Promise, Don y Promesa, published by Oregon Catholic Press. It can be ordered by calling 1-800-548-8749.