Customs at Matrimony

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I’ve been reading your excellent book, One Love, on the Order of Celebrating Matrimony. As always balanced, nuanced and helpful.   

Although I’m disappointed that the Holy See seems to have downplayed the entrance of bride and groom together as the preferred entrance rite; I get it.

The part that gets me though is your suggestion that other “customs” for the celebration such as the Unity Candle should not be dismissed.

This goes against all of my liturgical formation. We were taught that a custom is not something that appeared in last year’s Bride magazine but should have been an ongoing practice in the church for a long time (like 50 or 100 years) without ever having been rejected by the church. I was taught to be weary of accretions to the liturgy and to let the Rites speak for the themselves. Finally and most frightening  I can still hear my Eucharist prof sarcastically suggesting we keep our creative texts and made up rituals out of the liturgy.

So I’m taken aback by your suggestion that we be open to “customs” that a couple may bring for inclusion in the celebration of Matrimony.    Any further thoughts?

A:  Thanks for your comments on my book.

There are two reasons why I keep on open mind on the unity candle and other such customs at weddings. One is that the Catholic wedding ceremony has always tolerated variations, more than any other Catholic ceremony. Even the 1614 Roman Ritual created space for local customs because it was impossible to legislate a single form of matrimony everywhere. So, in my view, tolerance at weddings is a separate category from tolerance at other celebrations of the eucharist.

The second reason is that some couples make requests that I find are not offensive to the Catholic meaning of the celebration, but for some reason help them express their faith and love. I think that they deserve some flexibility, and the pastoral care that I give can bring unexpected dividends back to the parish.

Of course, when they ask for things that don’t fit, the answer is no.