The form is the words that are used during the celebration of the sacrament. In Baptism, for instance, the form is I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In Marriage the form is the vow I, ___, take you, ___, to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
The matter is the physical element that symbolizes what the sacrament does. In Baptism, the matter is the water that washes away sin and the Chrism Oil that conforms us to Christ. In Marriage, the matter is the gift of body of the man and the gift of the body of the woman given freely and completely to each other in sexual union. Each time husband and wife engage in sexual intercourse, they ratify the vow they made at the Altar before God and his community of believers.
The words of the Rite give the best reason for both of them to do so. (Name), _____ take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If the rings are signs of love and fidelity should only one member of the couple pledge with a sign his/her commitment to this? Unequivocally, no.
This statement is not said for two reasons. First, it is not included in the Rite of Marriage. Second, the priest/deacon has been given the permission to preside over marriages on behalf of the Church and on behalf of the civil authority. His duty is first to the Church that he was ordained to serve. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church and therefore has a meaning and significance that is far greater than what the civil authority places on it. It is standard operating procedure for the civil authority to recognize Church marriages. It is not standard operating procedure for the Church to recognize civil marriages.
In the general intercessions, or prayer of the faithful, the Church intercedes for all of humanity. The following petitions are required:
- For the needs of the Church
- For public authorities and the salvation of the world
- For those oppressed by any need
- For the local community
The wedding ceremony may include prayers particular to the vocation of marriage and particular to the couple being married
The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other texts we will ever hear, for they not only give us information, they are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us, the means by which we come to know the depth of God’s love for us and the responsibilities entailed by being Christ’s followers, members of his Body. What is more, this Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy possesses a special sacramental power to bring about in us what it proclaims. The Word of God proclaimed at Mass is ‘efficacious’ that is, it not only tells us of God and God’s will for us, it also helps us to put that will of God into practice in our own lives.
The Word of God, then calls for our listening and our response in silent reflection, as well as in word and song. Most important of all, the Word of God, which is living and active, calls each of us individually and all of us together for a response that moves beyond the liturgy itself and affects our daily lives, leading us to engage fully in the task of making Christ known to the world by all that we do and say. (U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
The Liturgy of the Word is an integral part of all sacramental celebrations. The readings associated with the Rite of Marriage are meant to teach us something about Christian marriage. When a priest or deacon gives a homily, he will present a message to the assembled community that will expound on the readings by making them practical to the particular couple professing their wedding vows. Since this is a Rite of Marriage and therefore a Rite of the Catholic Church the readings must be taken from Scripture in accordance with the Rite of Marriage. A list of selected Scripture verses for the rite is available from your parish.
The Liturgy of the Word is an integral part of all sacramental celebrations. It consists of an Old Testament reading, “the writings of the prophets” which lay the foundation for our Christian faith, a psalm, “the memoirs of the apostles” which begin to put the Christian faith in practice and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a homily that is an exhortation to accept this Word and put it into practice and general intercessions.
The Scripture readings, homily, intercessions and music should flow like a symphony. They should build on one another and put each other in context.
The Rite of Marriage reflects this. According to the Rite, there may be three readings. If three readings are used then the first reading is from the Old Testament and the Second Reading is from the New Testament and the third reading is always the Gospel. If just a New Testament reading is chosen there must also be a Gospel chosen.
In the presence of a priest, deacon, or bishop it is not permitted for a lay person to proclaim the Gospel or indeed to fulfill any of the functions proper to their offices. This reflects the ancient tradition of the Church as expressed by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
You should also select someone who is a good reader and able to speak well in front of a group of people.
While guests are arriving at the church before the wedding, instrumental chamber music or sacred songs are appropriate. During the ceremony, liturgical music is in order. Since marriage is meant to be celebrated communally, this music should be somewhat familiar to the guests and contained in the hymnals at the church. If you have a wedding program, you could include the song numbers to help your guests participate.