Marriage rite

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: A book I read describes an adaptation to the marriage rite in another country in which the couple holds a cross while they make their vows. 

My question is, if a couple comes to me and wants to do this, how much leeway do I have to adapt the rite? Or what do I have to seek permission for, and from whom? I did a wedding recently in which the groom loved the idea and the bride did not, so nothing came of it. Had they both wanted to do this, I don’t know what my options would have been.


A: I’m pretty reluctant to add new elements to rituals in general, yet I realize that certain rituals seem to tolerate them more than others, such as those of holy week, funerals, and, of course, weddings.

The Order of Celebrating Matrimony 42 gives conferences of bishops the authority to add customs into the ritual. That may be what happened in the case you cite.

More to your question, OCM 29 says, “attention should also be given to the appropriate use of options provided in the rite as well as to local customs, which may be observed if appropriate.”

I repeat what I’ve said before about that paragraph: There’ll be quite a few differences of opinion over what is “local” and what are “customs”. But if you’re looking for justification, that’s the only place I know in the ritual to argue it out.

I try to remind couples that the two central symbols of a wedding are the words of consent and the rings. Other symbols (candles, flowers, crucifix, veils) may be expressive, but nothing should detract from the main symbols. Their words matter. Their rings are an everlasting reminder–right on their person–of the commitment they have made.