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CNP Feedback -
New Wedding Rite

Q. Dear CNP:

I'm writing to ask you some questions [see below] about the new rite for weddings (2016). Communication with presiders concerning expectations is sometimes difficult.

Wedding Organist

A. Dear Wedding Organist:

Let me make some general comments before responding to your specific questions.

The new Order of Celebrating Matrimony patterns much of the ritual for Wedding Masses on the same rationale as for any Mass. Hence the ideal is as follows:

  1. The priest meets the bridal party at the door of the church, greets them, and all process to the altar as the Entrance Chant ("May the Lord send you help…" or "At dawn, O Lord, fill us with your merciful love…" or "I will bless you day after day…") is sung. [There is a second option whereby the Priest greets the bridal party in front of the altar rather than at the door. The Entrance Chant is then sung as the Priest reverences the altar and goes to his chair.]
  2. The priest reads the Address (#52 or #53).
  3. The Penitential Act (including the Kyrie) is omitted.
  4. The Gloria is sung.
  5. The Priest prays the Collect.
  6. The Liturgy of the Word proceeds as normal. At least one reading must mention marriage explicitly.
  7. After the Homily, the Celebration of Matrimony takes place:
    1. Questions before Consent
    2. Consent
    3. Reception of Consent
    4. Acclamation [Priest: "Let us bless the Lord." All: "Thanks be to God."]
    5. Blessing and Giving of Rings
    6. Hymn of Praise by Congregation (optional)
  8. The Universal Prayer takes place.
  9. The Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory) and the remainder of the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as normal.
  10. After the Lord's Prayer, the Nuptial Blessing is prayed over the couple.
  11. The signing of the Marriage Record may take place at the end of Mass, either in the church or in the sacristy, but not on the altar.

This format now presupposes that there definitely will be singing at the Wedding Mass, necessitating a cantor and a liturgy sheet.

Because of how far the Church in America has skewed the rubrics for the opening of Mass in general, let alone what is expected to happen at a wedding, it's highly unlikely that any bride will choose to do what the Church wants (i.e. a processional with everybody, accompanied by the proper Introit). If you can talk the couple into this — great! But, obviously, some accommodation will likely be necessary.

Specific questions:

Q. As I read the document [Order of Celebrating Matrimony] the Gloria is required and preferably sung by the cantor with all invited to join in by virtue of the music being in the pew or the program.

A. Yes, the Gloria is sung. One can safely assume that the general rubrics for the Gloria at Mass will apply, i.e. it can be sung by cantor/congregation, choir/congregation, congregation alone or choir alone. The most likely scenario would be cantor/congregation. Although a responsorial format would be easiest to pull off at a wedding, I'd still make every possible effort to avoid this kind of Gloria. Remember also, that for the Wedding Ceremony without Mass there is no Gloria.

Q. Does no Penitential Act mean no Kyrie is sung? That's my reading but I want to be sure I'm correct since a bride has written me about having a Kyrie sung at her wedding.

A. Yes, the Kyrie is omitted.

Q. Is the Entrance Chant optional? Can a priest decide not to have that chant? Or, does the cantor start the chant when the processional music ends as the bride assumes her place at the front? Presumably the priest is already standing at the altar.

A. The Entrance Chant is no more "optional" than it is for a regular Mass. The accommodations to the ideal format (mentioned above) may need to include an instrumental processional, perhaps even for the bridesmaid and bride only, since this is so ingrained into our societal expectations for weddings. This organ piece, by itself, does not suffice according to the rubrics. To minimize the anomaly which an instrumental procession represents, one should sing the Entrance Chant either before or after the organ piece. As at a regular Mass, the Entrance Chant could loosely be interpreted as a "hymn," in which case it should be sung after the organ processional. In any case, I don't like that scenario — we wind up with two pieces of "opening music," and the hymn is just sung with everyone standing around — not what the rite intends.

Q. At #65, what is an example of an appropriate acclamation that may be sung or said there? Is this possibly omitted?

A. If possible, the Priest should sing the text, "Let us bless the Lord__." and the people, "Thanks__ be to God__." The music can be simple, taken from the dismissal at Mass: G F# E F# E D Use the same music for priest and people — and print it in the liturgy sheet. "Another acclamation" is possible. It could be the "Alleluia" (Gospel Acclamation), which was sung earlier in the ceremony, or the refrain for the Responsorial Psalm, or a phrase of a familiar hymn ("Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down."). Ideally, though, it should be a dialogue with the priest, even if he can't sing his part.

It should not be omitted.

Q. Further, #68 states that a hymn or canticle of praise may be sung by all. Is this hymn/canticle in addition to music during the Preparation of the Gifts?

A. The Hymn/Canticle comes directly before the Universal Prayer and the Offertory music immediately after. Sometimes I wonder whether the people compiling these ritual books actually consider what will happen if the rubrics are faithfully followed. Two pieces of music here, in such close proximity, seems just a bit silly. My suggestion, since this Hymn/Canticle is optional ("… may be sung …") would be to skip it altogether. Do some music (hymn, vocal solo, organ piece) at Offertory and leave it at that. Liturgy should not be cumbersome.

Q. Somewhere I read that if Psalm 128 is not sung as the Responsorial Psalm it is to be sung after the exchange of rings. Have you read that?

A. I've never heard of that — and it's certainly nowhere in the rubrics. It may have been a "suggestion" at a Wedding Music Workshop. It may be related to the rubric, "At least one reading that explicitly speaks of Marriage must always be chosen." Psalm 128 is the only psalm that fits the bill, but choosing another marriage-themed option for any other reading always suffices. I'm not sure that Psalm 128 would even qualify as a hymn or canticle of praise, as it speaks of "blessings" rather than "praises."

Q. In short, how would you do weddings? I'd like to have the precedent be one we could follow in the future and be in line with what the Church is asking.

A. I would put together a format with which you're comfortable, discussing it with whoever has ultimate clerical responsibilities for weddings on campus (rector? chaplain?). The priests who normally celebrate Wedding Masses there should be comfortable with the format adopted. They can sing their part of the acclamation, if they are able, and should agree with how the entrance happens (with allowable accommodations). Any visiting priest should be presented with the adopted format as normative. He should make changes only for the gravest circumstances.

Here is a sheet for a format we've put in place that uses an Entrance Chant (sung by the cantor) after the processional and a simple, non-responsorial Gloria [King David Gloria].

Introit Gloria (PDF)

I hope some of this rambling will help.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 01 February 2017

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