Weddings are special times for brides and grooms, for their families and friends and for their parish community. The new beginning, the love, the promise and hope that weddings represent make their celebration a special and grace-filled time. The church welcomes its members to celebrate their weddings in the context of our prayer as Christians. Marriage is such an important event in Catholic life that we understand it as one of those seven unique encounters with God that we call sacraments.
Great care should be taken to see that the prayer surrounding this event is reverent, graceful, beautiful and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Sacramental celebrations, including marriage, are always rooted in the scriptures so that we can be nourished and strengthened by the Word of God. Likewise, sacraments are always celebrated in the context of community and are rightly filled with song, prayerful gestures and, at times, silence.
In this spirit, Sacred Heart Parish provides information and guidelines for planning and celebrating weddings. Once you have had the opportunity to read and understand the information contained here, feel free to contact the parish office for an initial appointment to begin the process of marriage preparation.
In planning a wedding, there are many considerations and decisions to be made through the entire process. To assist you in your thoughtful planning and perhaps to anticipate some questions, consider the following:
Time Line for Marriage Preparation
- The rite of marriage may be celebrated within Mass (with the distribution of communion) or within a liturgy of the Word.
- Two practicing Catholics ordinarily exchange marriage vows during a wedding Mass.
- If either the bride or groom is not Catholic or if one or both are Catholic but not practicing their faith, the rite of marriage may be celebrated during a liturgy of the Word (without the distribution of communion). Likewise, when the distribution of communion would exclude a significant number of those in the assembly (because they are not Catholic or are not practicing Catholics), it may be an appropriate choice to celebrate the rite of marriage during a liturgy of the Word.
- The rite of marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person is always celebrated in the context of a liturgy of the Word.
- Marriages that take place within a liturgy of the Word are full, complete and legal marriages and may be the preferred choice when the distribution of communion would exclude the bride or groom, family members or a number of your guests.
Since each couple is unique and each marriage celebration has its own characteristics, this time line is offered only as a general guide to planning your wedding at Sacred Heart Parish.
1 to 2 Years in Advance
6 Months to 1 Year in Advance
- Carefully read through all the information regarding marriage at Sacred Heart Parish which you have found on the parish website.
- Contact the Parish Office for an initial appointment. At that time, review the civil and church requirements for marriage, begin the necessary paperwork, determine a more specific timeline for marriage preparation.
- In any event, guidelines for marriage for Catholics in the State of Michigan require that the initial contact with the parish must be at least six months before the desired wedding date.
- Complete the pre-marriage inventory and review it with a member of the pastoral staff.
- Complete a group marriage preparation program from those approved by the Archdiocese of Detroit.
- Complete a natural family planning (NFP) seminar.
- During the marriage preparation process, the parish will provide you a copy of Celebrating Marriage, a small book that includes the readings, prayers, forms of the vows, etc., which can be used in a Catholic wedding. Carefully read through it and begin making selections for the wedding liturgy.
- Contact the music director. The date should be reserved with the music director of the parish regardless of who will provide the music for the wedding.
6 Months in Advance
1 Week Before the Wedding
- Plan the wedding ceremony with the priest or deacon who will witness your vows.
- Plan the music with the music director.
- Deliver to the parish office all the copies of the marriage license that you received from the county clerk along with the provided envelope(s) and other materials.
- Complete the rehearsal.
After the Wedding
- Register as a couple in the parish within whose bounds you reside.If you are changing to a new parish, notify your former parish or parishes of your departure.
Civil and Church Requirements for Marriage
Canon Law (which is the law of the Catholic Church) is complex regarding marriage. Each couple wishing to marry will review their particular situation with a member of the parish staff to determine their freedom to marry. In general, however, to be married in the Catholic Church, the following must be true:
- At least one member of the couple must be a baptized Catholic person.
- If either or both members of the couple have been previously married, every previous marriage on the part of either party (regardless of whether that occurred within or without the church) must be resolved by a declaration of nullity (an annulment) or death of the former spouse. This is also true for non-Catholic persons. If any prior marriages have already been declared null, the declarations of nullity must be provided.
- No wedding date may be set at any parish until all previous marriages have been resolved.
- The wedding ordinarily takes place in the parish of one or both of the parties.
- A Catholic person must provide a copy of his or her baptismal certificate issued within the last six months. A baptized, non-Catholic must provide a copy of his or her baptismal certificate (regardless of the date of issue) or a letter from the church of baptism testifying to the baptism.
- Additional documents may be required and/or additional paperwork necessary. If so, that will be explained to you at the time of your meeting with a member of the pastoral staff.
In the State of Michigan a valid marriage license, which is arranged through the county clerk, is required for marriage. Once issued, a license is valid for 30 days; there is a three-day waiting period between the day of application and the day it can be picked up. It is the responsibility of the couple to make arrangements for the license and to deliver it to the parish office one week before the wedding.
Preparation For Marriage At Sacred Heart Parish
Preparation for marriage at Sacred Heart complies with the guidelines of the Catholic Church in the State of Michigan and is typical of Catholic parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit.
- After an initial meeting with a member of the pastoral staff, the couple completes an on-line pre-marriage inventory called FOCCUS. A pre-marriage inventory is a series of statements about various elements of the couple’s relationship (such as communication, conflict resolution, marriage expectations, finances, family and friends, sexuality, children, etc.). Independently, the couple responds by agreeing or disagreeing with the statements and their responses are then collated. The fee for processing the pre-marriage inventory is $15.00 per couple and is paid on line.
- The couple meets (typically two to four times) with a member of the pastoral staff, trained in the use of the inventory, who will review with them the results of the inventory. The goal, of course, is to help the couple strengthen their relationship, identify potential areas for growth, and prepare for married life.
- Each couple also participates in a group marriage program approved by the Archdiocese of Detroit. These programs and their current schedules can be found on the website of the Archdiocese of Detroit, www.aod.org. (Click on ‘Being Catholic,’ then ‘Marriage and Family,’ then ‘Marriage Preparation.’) Couples are encouraged to schedule their program early in the marriage preparation process since the programs may fill up quickly.
- Each couple also participates in a seminar on conjugal love and natural family planning. More information and the current schedule for the seminar can be found at www.aod.org/nfp.
Important Information and Options in the Rite of Marriage
The Rite of Marriage allows for the possibility of many options. Some of these are noted here for your consideration.
Availability of the Church Building The church and related areas will ordinarily be available to the wedding party for 1½ hours before the scheduled time of the wedding until 30 minutes after the conclusion of the ceremony. The arrival of the wedding party, photographer, flowers, etc., should be arranged for that time period. Receiving lines at the church are not encouraged; the time taken for a receiving line will reduce or eliminate the opportunity for photographs after the wedding.
Scheduling a Time Weddings can be celebrated on Friday afternoon or evening at almost any time, depending on the parish calendar and the calendar of the presider. Saturday weddings can be scheduled no later than 1:00 PM because of the parish weekend schedule. A confirmed date is determined by the desire of the couple, the parish calendar and the calendar of the deacon or priest.
A Gathering Place The bride’s room in the Michigan Avenue vestibule is available to the bride and bridesmaids. It is quite a small room. There are no facilities for dressing in the church. The bridal party should plan to arrive at the church completely dressed for the celebration.
Rehearsal and Wedding Times Rehearsals are usually scheduled for Thursdays at 6:00 PM unless other arrangements are made. As a matter of courtesy to guests, the wedding party, and the parish staff, both the rehearsal and wedding must begin on time. The wedding party and other participants in the liturgy should make the necessary allowances for distance and traffic to be present at the scheduled times.
Respect for Our Place of Worship The church building is the place where the community gathers to worship God; it is the place where the sacraments of the church are celebrated. The wedding party and guests should respect the nature of the church, parish facilities and grounds. Likewise, food and drink may not be brought into parish buildings at any time. Alcohol is, of course, prohibited.
Flowers Flowers for the church are optional. If provided, flowers or plants should be real (never plastic or silk); they should be simple and tasteful and should be left in church following the wedding. Arrangements are placed on the sanctuary platform, never on the altar. The parish does not provide stands for flower arrangements. Flower petals may not be sprinkled in the aisle during the procession into church. The parish staff can make recommendations for local florists.
Runners Runners are also optional and, for reasons of safety and because of the bend in the aisle, are not encouraged. The aisle is 84 feet long and 6 feet wide. A runner may be secured to the floor with masking tape only. Runners are usually ordered or rented from a florist.
Pew Bows Pew bows may be used as long as they are fixed to the ends of the pews with a loop of ribbon, a rubber band, or a plastic pew hook. No kind of tape may ever be used. Someone should be designated to remove the bows at the end of the service.
Entrance Procession The entrance of the liturgical ministers and members of the wedding party should reflect the character of the liturgical action it is. Typically, the priest or deacon leads the procession, followed by the groom, the attendants (bridesmaids and groomsmen, walking singly or as couples), and the bride. Both parents may walk in with the bride, just as the parents of the groom may walk in with him. The bride and groom, as ministers of the sacrament of marriage, are encouraged to walk in the procession as a couple; as a couple, they may also welcome their guests at the main entrance of the church before the liturgy begins. The exact arrangement of the entrance procession is determined at the time the wedding liturgy is planned.
Readings and Readers Couples may invite family members or friends to read the scripture passages they have chosen and to lead the universal prayers during the liturgy. Those who are invited to read should have experience reading in church and be given the opportunity to practice their reading or prayers well in advance of the ceremony; therefore, the couple should provide the readers with the texts in advance. Readers should consult with the presider in church thirty minutes before the liturgy begins.
The scripture readings which may be used in the Rite of Marriage, along with a wealth of other useful information, may be found at www.foryourmarriage.org, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Unity Candle The lighting of a unity candle is not a part of the Catholic Rite of Marriage but may be included. If so, the couple will provide a three-inch pillar candle and matching tapers to be used with the parish’s unity candle stand. The lighting of the unity candle takes place after the blessing and exchange of rings.
Flowers to Our Lady The presentation of flowers at the image of the Blessed Mother is not a part of the Catholic Rite of Marriage but may be included if one or both members of the couple have a particular devotion to Our Lady. The couple provides the flowers and they are presented following the prayer after communion.
Photographs During the ceremony, photographers should remain behind the last pew of guests and keep their movements to a minimum; flash photos may not be taken during the liturgy. Group photos may ordinarily be taken before and after the ceremony depending on the parish schedule. Buildings and grounds are usually available to the wedding party for 1½ hours before the liturgy begins and for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the liturgy. Photographers may not bring screens or backdrops into the church or vestibule for formal, posed pictures.
Videotaping The wedding ceremony may be videotaped from a designated location near the tabernacle on the tile floor. Once the liturgy begins, the video equipment and operator must remain stationary. No portable lights may be used during the liturgy.
Specific questions regarding the policy for photographs and videotaping should be addressed to the parish well in advance of the wedding day. The couple to be married is responsible for informing the photographer and video operator well in advance of the wedding day.
Rice, Birdseed, etc. Throwing of rice, confetti, birdseed or any other material is not permitted for reasons of safety and aesthetics. Balloons or bubbles may be released outdoors if the couple wishes.
Donations No offering is expected of members of the parish who regularly support the parish financially and with their time and talent; in other words, active and financially supportive members of the parish community. From parishioners who do not support the parish in these ways, a minimum offering of $300.00 seems reasonable to help defray the costs of maintenance, materials, staff time, utilities, and so on. Donations go toward the general parish fund.
A gift to the deacon or priest is neither necessary nor expected. If a personal gift is made, it should be placed in an individual envelope with the name of the priest or deacon written on it.
The basic fee for the director of music is $250. Fees for other musicians are negotiated with them individually.
Music in the Rite of Marriage
The Rite of Marriage takes place within the wedding liturgy, either within Mass or outside Mass. Music is a basic and essential element of Catholic worship; certain parts of the liturgy must be done with music. The same principles that apply to selecting music for other liturgical celebrations also govern the choice of music for a wedding liturgy.
There are three basic criteria. Music chosen for a wedding celebration should enable the active participation of those assembled, and it must fit the spirit and structure of the liturgical event.
In choosing music for the liturgy, the focus is always the prayer and action of the community assembled. Those present should not be passive observers. The most important moments for music in the wedding liturgy are all the times for congregational song; therefore, music that the assembly can sing is an important category of music to think about for your wedding. This doesn’t mean that instrumental music has no place, but rather that its place is secondary. Appropriate use of instrumental music may be, for example, as a processional and/or recessional (although a strong hymn would find a place here, too). Music borrowed from the entertainment world does not suitably express the faith present at a Christian marriage. Some love songs may be fine music, and may have a place on your wedding day, but that place is not the wedding liturgy; consider the use of such music at the reception.
Click on the link at left--Music in the Rite of Marriage--for a selection of suggested music. You will find there an outline of the wedding liturgy and a list of music that would be suitable for a Catholic wedding liturgy. Many of the songs on the list can be found in our parish hymnal. The instrumental music is based on the repertoire of the parish music director. There may be other music that would be acceptable; check with the music director.
The couple may choose to hire the parish music director to play the organ and/or piano. Guest musicians may also be used, including family and friends of the couple and non-parish musicians hired by the couple. In choosing musicians, the criteria mentioned above should be kept in mind. The persons engaged should have knowledge and experience of Catholic liturgy, be capable and experienced at leading the singing and accompanying the song leader. The joint effort of the parish musician and a guest musician is a possibility.
Amplification of the musicians must be limited to the use of the church sound system.
The parish instruments are available for use by competent musicians.
It is the responsibility of the parish music director to review and approve all music used at your wedding liturgy.
It is essential
that you consult with the parish music director
before selecting musicians or planning the music.
The parish music director can be reached at (313) 278-5555 or