Be doers of the word and not hearers only. - Letter of James 1:22

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Changes to the Celebration of Matrimony

The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, a revision of the former Rite (Ritual) for Marriage, has been issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments*. This revision includes a number of changes and updates affecting various aspects of the marriage rite. The changes will be initiated on September 8, 2016 (The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and all churches in the English-speaking world must be in compliance by December 27, 2016 (The Feast of the Holy Family). If you, or a member of your family plans to be married at St. James, please note these important changes.

These changes will undoubtedly cause some trepidation, as new ways demand that we let go of something with which we were comfortable, and now accept and get familiar with something new. Change is always difficult, and sometimes even painful. However, one of the great gifts of humanity is our ability to adapt and grow, allowing us to continue on this, our Camino of life.


The changes incorporate the revised prayers as found in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, as well as some new “conversational” exchanges between the presider and the bridal couple. For the first time, three rituals typically found in Latino and Filipino cultures have been formally incorporated into the rite, including the placing of the veil, the arras and lazo.

Two of the most noticeable changes are the use of the word matrimony in place of marriage and the new requirements set forth regarding the liturgical procession.  In order to understand and fully appreciate the changes, it’s helpful to understand the reasoning behind them.

The name for the event is now called "matrimony." The two words "marriage" and "matrimony" can be found in other official books, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law. Both English words translate the same Latin word, matrimonium. However, "matrimony" refers to something broader than the ceremony of marriage; it expresses the entire way of life that the engaged couple desire to enter. By the Sacrament of Matrimony, Christian spouses signify and participate in the mystery of unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church. Therefore, both in embracing conjugal life and in accepting and educating their children, they help one another to become holy and have their own place and particular gift among the People of God.**

Matrimony, when celebrated with and within the Church, is not only a personal and public event, but a liturgical event as well and is therefore governed by the rubrics of the Church.  The entrance procession, whether at a weekend mass or wedding, tells us who we are and who will preside over the particular celebration; the presider is always last.  For example, at a Sunday celebration, the priest enters last; at confirmation, it’s the bishop and for a wedding, it is the couple. To clarify a common misconception, the presider does not “marry” the couple. The couple, themselves are ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony, with the presider serving as the Church’s official witness. The presider can be either a priest or deacon, with the deacon permitted to preside over the Rite of Matrimony within or outside of a Nuptial Mass.

Therefore, beginning September 1, 2016, all wedding celebrations at St James, regardless of whether it was booked last year or last week, will have the entrance procession take the following form:

Cross Bearer
Acolytes (altar servers/candle bearers)
Presider (Priest and/or Deacon)
Groom’s Parents (if not accompanying the groom)
Bride’s Mother with escort (if not accompanying bride and her escort)
Junior Bridesmaids and Ushers as couples (if any)
Bridesmaids and Ushers- as couples
Flower Girl/Ring Bearer (if any)
Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor as couple
Groom with Parents
Bride with Parents
Bride and Groom together

To assist us in letting go of the “old, traditional way,” allow me to remind us all that some of these traditions developed at a time when marriages were arranged for both political and strategic reasons. A female offspring was seen as a piece of property, and something of a bargaining chip, or pawn, to be used by her father. Her father escorted her to the waiting groom, a veil covering her face. The best man stood close by the groom to ensure he didn’t try to escape, for the honor of his family was at stake. The blusher veil covered the face of the bride until after the exchange of vows; this done so that if the bride was somewhat lacking in physical beauty, the exchange of vows made it too late for the groom to run away.

This traditional way, which has been passed on for centuries with few modifications, spoke against the very theology of Sacred Scripture, which is oft proclaimed in the readings of a couples wedding.  “God made them, male and female He made them” (Genesis 1:27); they are equal and suitable partners for one another, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:1-23) or, “So also husbands should love your wives as your own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5: 28).

So while it may be disconcerting at first, I think you will agree that looking at the changes within the context of scripture, they are much more in keeping with Catholic teaching as they relate to the partnership that is created when a couple marries.

In closing, allow me to share with you this blessing, which sums up quite nicely, the prayer I believe we all hold in our hearts as we stand witness to the joining of two lives in holy matrimony:

N. and N., the Church shares your joy
and warmly welcomes you,

together with your families and friends,
as today, in the presence of God our Father,
you establish between yourselves a lifelong partnership.
May the Lord hear you on this your joyful day.

May he send you help from heaven and protect you.
May he grant you your hearts' desire
and fulfill every one of your prayers.
(from the Order of Celebrating Matrimony)

Thank you in advance for your continued support and patience as we all adjust to this latest round of changes. Please be assured that Fr. Jerry and I will be most happy to review the changes in greater detail, with every couple planning to celebrate their wedding at St. James.

—Fr. Jim

*The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is a
Congregation of the Roman Curia that handles most affairs relating to liturgical
practices of the Latin Church.

** "One Love: A Pastoral Guide to The Order of Celebrating Matrimony," Paul Turner,
page 2.