Catholic Wedding Ceremony Planning Checklist
by Robin Beth Schaer
12+ Months Before
- Begin to envision your wedding ceremony. Should it be long and symbolic? Short and sweet? Do you want to include all the wedding ceremony traditions or just the highlights?
- Pick wedding date and time preferences. Depending on your church, there may be times of year, or even times of the day, which are off-limits. Formal weddings are often held at noon, during High Mass, when a choir is available. A priest must clear weddings during Lent or Advent.
- Choose a location and officiant. Remember that most (or nearly all) priests won't marry couples outside a church. In fact, the wedding often must be held at the bride's home parish. The couple may need permission to marry in a different church.
- Explore your church's marriage requirements. You may have to show your baptismal certificate. Some churches require proof of communion and confirmation as well.
- If either you or your mate isn't Catholic, ask your priest about intermarriage requirements and possible conversion.
- If you're marrying in a Roman Catholic Church, you cannot remarry without an annulment if your first spouse is still alive. The process can be long and complicated, so if either one of you needs an annulment, start the paperwork now.
9-11 Months Before
- Meet with your officiant to discuss ceremony structure and marriage requirements. Your priest may want to help you to choose readings and blessings for the ceremony.
- Begin Pre-Cana, the premarital preparation program required by the Church.
- Ask your priest about dress requirements, such as covering one's shoulders for the bride. Also, inquire into any other rules specific to your ceremony site like no aisle runners or tossing items allowed.
- Choose your bridal party members. The Catholic Church prefers that both the best man and the maid of honor be Catholic (although only one must be). Make sure they understand what's involved.
6-8 Months Before
- Make arrangements with your church if you or other bridal party members want to participate in morning Mass and receive communion before the wedding.
- Consult with your stationer about invitations, programs, and place cards. You may want to order pew cards to ensure close family and friends are seated in the first few rows of the church.
- Choose ceremonial music and musicians. "Ave Maria" is traditionally sung at Roman Catholic weddings. Find out if the church provides performers.
3-4 Months Before
- Decide who will be part of the ceremony. Most churches allow two family members to read biblical passages during the ceremony.
- Consider ceremony and reception decoration needs, such as an aisle runner, flowers, wineglasses, and candles.
- Book a rehearsal-dinner site and finalize your guest list.
- If you are marrying in a Roman Catholic Church and wish to receive a Papal Blessing, contact the chancery office of your local diocese. They will send you an application to fill out and return to either the diocese or directly to an address in Rome (noted on the application). Some of the information that will be requested is the date of your ceremony and where it will take place, the phone number and address of the priest presiding over your wedding, and so on. There is a small donation fee, which varies from diocese to diocese. Return times also vary, from six weeks to two months.
2 Months Before
- Order ceremony programs if you plan to use them. It helps to have programs so your non-Catholic guests will understand the rich spirituality and symbolism of a Catholic wedding.
- Contact your church about posting Banns (a notice of your intention to wed). In the past, they were posted outside the church doors to allow anyone with valid reason to stop the wedding. Presently, Banns are printed in the church bulletin or announced during a Sunday service.
- Prepare and mail invitations. If you're concerned that your ushers won't know where to sit honorary guests, consider including pew cards for family and friends who should be seated in the first few rows of the church. Guests can present these cards to ushers at your ceremony as a sign that they should be seated in the reserved area. Otherwise, be sure to make introductions at the rehearsal dinner.
3-4 Weeks Before
- Have a final meeting with your priest.
- Finalize vows, readings, and other special ceremony details.
- Send rehearsal dinner invitations.
1-2 Weeks Before
- Touch base with your priest.
- Rehearse the ceremony.