Sacraments of Service / Mission / Vocation:
Matrimony—Weddings at St. Mary’s
The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
Many regulations, ecclesial and civil, surround marriage. Requirements for your marriage preparation are not arbitrary, but come from the universal Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Province of Michigan, the State of Michigan, and our local church in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. A couple is expected to demonstrate evidence of our Catholic Christian faith being present and practiced in their lives and must show a willingness to take the time and make the necessary effort for proper religious preparation for the reception of the sacrament.
The Catholic Province of Michigan requires a minimum of six months preparation time for all marriages. (We recommend one year or more!)
Parish Wedding Guidelines for St. Mary’s Church
Although beginning a marriage with the wedding is a very special event for an engaged couple, it is also more than the personal exchange of vows and rings. Weddings are liturgies, public rituals of the community, celebrated with family, friends and the rich traditions of our faith. By choosing to receive this sacrament in the Catholic Church, a couple is seeking a particular celebration, in a particular spirit. It is an event with boundaries and rules which the couple agrees to respect. We have assembled some practical resources for couples looking forward to their wedding liturgy, especially since Catholic weddings do not much resemble television weddings!
Our Parish Guidelines for Marriage Preparation are viewable here, [PDF format] and include the answers to many common questions (including costs). [Updated April 2021] Understanding these guidelines is very important. These guidelines include information that will help avoid unpleasant surprises closer to the wedding date.
Reserving a Date for the Wedding Liturgy at the Church
To reserve a wedding date at St. Mary’s, the couple should contact our parish office (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible once they know they want to be married at St. Mary’s. While there is a minimum of six months preparation time for all marriages, we strongly advise couples to contact the parish one year or more before the proposed wedding date.
The following details must fall into place before the proposed date will be scheduled on the parish calendar:
- Previous marriages? Catholic and non-Catholic people who have been through any previous marriage ceremony should consult with the Catholic pastor and parish staff to see what special documentation will be necessary in their specific cases to ensure that they are free to marry. Contact the parish at least 18 months in advance of the tentative wedding date. Dates cannot be held for couples waiting for a declaration of nullity from the Tribunal confirming their freedom to marry. The date should be set after the declaration is obtained, a process that sometimes takes 12 months or more.
- Requested Date. Talk to the parish office to see if dates you are interested in are available. The parish will mail you a Wedding Information form and our parish guidelines.
- Interview. Couples who are parishioners need to speak with either Fr. Ron Hutchinson or Fr. Rob Mulderink to formally begin the process. Couples who are not parishioners need to meet with the priest at the parish where you are registered and have him email or call our office to confirm that he has met with you and you are free to marry.
- Deposit. The couple signs and returns the Wedding Information Sheet and pays the deposit.
Preparing the Wedding Liturgy
A Catholic liturgy is, in a way, pre-planned. The order of service is set, but the couple is given the opportunity to choose among the many options available throughout the liturgy. When they contact the church about a wedding date, the parish staff will provide them with helpful materials so that they may examine and choose among the options for scriptures, prayers and music in the liturgy.
Scripture Readings for a Wedding Liturgy
Choosing the scripture readings is perhaps the most important of the choices that an engaged couple will make for the wedding liturgy. These are the scriptures that the couple desires to share with the people who will gather to witness this sacrament. The scriptures selected provide a foundation not only for the liturgy, but also for the marriage itself. Prayerfully and carefully selecting these readings is a very important step in preparing the liturgy.
It is customary to choose three readings: one from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), one from the New Testament, and one from the Gospels. For pastoral reasons, one of the first two readings may be omitted. In addition to these readings, a Psalm is sung after the first reading.
An engaged couple is encouraged to read through these scripture passages and pray over what they read; to talk with each other about the readings and carefully select the ones that speak to them and their marriage. After the readings are chosen, they serve as the foundation on which the rest of the wedding liturgy preparations (music, hospitality, etc.) can be put together. A collection of the Suggested Scriptures for Weddings is available here for your convienience [PDF format].
For the person who has been asked to read scripture at a wedding liturgy, there are some important points to be aware of:
Prepare the readings ahead of time. Get to know and understand the passage well. Practice out loud.
Participate in the wedding rehearsal. Ask to see the book of scripture from which you will read so that you can see how the text is laid out on the page. Ask to speak at the microphone at the rehearsal so that you know what to expect during the wedding liturgy.
The day of the wedding, make sure that the readings are at the ambo (reading desk) and in which order. Do not carry any papers with you to read the scriptures, but use the ones provided.
Proclaim the scriptures more slowly than the tempo you use for everyday speaking. Speak clearly, without haste.
Music for a Wedding Liturgy
The parish director of liturgy and music ministries (email: email@example.com) guides all engaged couples in making appropriate decisions about music and musicians for the wedding liturgy. Please read through the Wedding Music Guidelines [PDF format]. A list of Music Suggestions for a Wedding Liturgy is also available for your convenience [PDF format].
Photography/Videography for a Wedding Liturgy
There are some necessary restrictions on recording the wedding liturgy with camera or video. Any person responsible for photography/videography must be familiar with these restrictions and willing to work within the necessary boundaries. Please be familiar with our Guidelines for Photography / Videography [PDF format] and forward these guidelines to anyone responsible for photos and video at your wedding liturgy.
Flowers and Decorations for the Wedding Liturgy
There are some necessary restrictions on what is appropriate for a wedding liturgy at St. Mary’s. The Guidelines for Flowers and Decorations [PDF format]are available here for your convenience. Any person responsible for flowers or other decorations must be familiar with these restrictions and willing to work within the necessary boundaries. This document includes information that will help avoid unpleasant surprises!