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A Guide to Catholic Wedding Ceremony Rituals

A beautiful Catholic wedding with flowers on the sides of the pews, and a bride and groom standing at the altar

A Catholic wedding ceremony is steeped in tradition and spiritual symbolism. If you’re planning a Catholic wedding or attending one as a guest, it’s helpful to understand the various rituals that take place during the ceremony. In this guide, we’ll delve into the customs and significance of a Catholic wedding, helping you appreciate the beauty and depth of this sacred event.

The Processional

The processional is the beginning of the wedding ceremony when the bridal party, officiant, and the bride and groom enter the church. The order of the processional may vary, but traditionally, the groom enters with his parents, followed by the bridal party, and finally, the bride and her father or escort.

The Liturgy of the Word

Following the processional, the Liturgy of the Word takes place. This part of the ceremony includes readings from the Old Testament, a responsorial psalm, a reading from the New Testament, and the proclamation of the Gospel. The priest or deacon typically delivers a homily reflecting on the readings and the sacrament of marriage.

The Rite of Marriage

The Rite of Marriage is the central element of a Catholic wedding ceremony. It begins with the Exchange of Consent, also known as the wedding vows. The couple declares their intention to marry and their commitment to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives. After exchanging vows, the couple exchanges wedding rings, symbolizing their unity and commitment.

The Nuptial Blessing

Following the exchange of rings, the priest blesses the couple with a special prayer called the Nuptial Blessing. This blessing invokes God’s grace and protection upon the newlyweds as they begin their married life together.

The Unity Candle

Some Catholic wedding ceremonies include the lighting of a Unity Candle. The bride and groom each light a separate candle, representing their individual lives, and then use their candles to light a larger central candle. This symbolizes the joining of their lives in marriage and the unity of their families.

The Offertory

During the Offertory, the bride and groom present gifts of bread and wine, which will be consecrated during the Eucharistic Prayer. They may also offer additional gifts, such as flowers or a donation to the church or a charity.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the second part of the Mass, during which the priest consecrates the bread and wine, transforming them into the body and blood of Christ. The couple and the congregation participate in the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign of Peace before receiving Holy Communion.

The Final Blessing and Recessional

After the Eucharist, the priest gives a final blessing to the newlyweds and the congregation. The couple then makes their way down the aisle, followed by the bridal party, marking the end of the ceremony and the beginning of their life together as husband and wife.

Additional Catholic Wedding Traditions

Beyond the standard rituals of a Catholic wedding ceremony, there are several other customs that couples may choose to incorporate into their celebration. Here are a few examples:

The Arras (Coins)

In some Catholic cultures, the groom presents the bride with 13 gold coins, called arras, during the ceremony. These coins symbolize the groom’s promise to provide for his new wife and represent Christ and his 12 apostles. The bride accepts the coins as a symbol of her trust in her husband’s promise.

The Lazo (Wedding Lasso)

Another tradition found in some Catholic weddings is the use of a lazo or wedding lasso. The lazo is a large rosary or cord that is placed around the couple’s shoulders, symbolizing their unity and commitment to each other. The lazo is typically placed by the couple’s godparents or close family members.

The Veil

In some Catholic ceremonies, a veil is placed over the bride and groom’s shoulders, symbolizing their unity and the protection of their marriage under God’s guidance. The veil is often held by members of the bridal party or the couple’s godparents.


A Catholic wedding ceremony is a beautiful and sacred event filled with rich traditions and spiritual symbolism. By understanding the various rituals and customs, you can better appreciate the depth and meaning of this special celebration. Whether you’re planning your own Catholic wedding or attending one as a guest, this guide will help you navigate the ceremony and participate in the joy of this momentous occasion.

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