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May 02, 2005


Eileen R

Still not buying it. As Sandra pointed out, we've been doing it this way since the Middle ages in the English speaking world. Why is there no leeway in the Church for the cultural traditions of the British Isles and plenty for every other culture on the face of the earth?

For us, the practice does have a symbolism other than reflecting old English marriage law. It represents leaving your parents to become one with your spouse, as per Genesis. It's that last time a woman is a daughter *first*, and this is terribly important to most women. I don't see what's so un-Christ centred about them wanting to take that ceremonial walk to the altar. It's expressing a *different* aspect of Christian marriage, not an unChristian aspect.



You said: I don't see what's so un-Christ centred about them wanting to take that ceremonial walk to the altar. It's expressing a *different* aspect of Christian marriage, not an unChristian aspect.

Response: Sometimes obedience is called for. Obedience is a virtue. We all want our own way. When we practice obedience in the world it is spiritual preparation for accepting obedience of God's will. See it as a spiritual exercise.



I have never given this any thought before today but the universal rite seems really beautiful to me. this was not even suggested to me before our Catholic wedding 13 years ago but I would have been very receptive to it. generally the pre-Cana prep back then was very lame, I hope it is better today but I doubt it very much!

Eileen R

Well, since I'm a) not getting married, b) not in the diocese of Philadelphia, that doesn't really enter into the discussion, does it?

Secondly, it's bit unclear whom one would be obedient to in this case. Did the bishop straight out order couples not to do this? Or are we talking heavy handed liturgists making a suggestion into a "Thou Shalt Not."


The English custom is reflects English common law, in which children were considered the property of the parents (esp., the father, who had custodial rights). So strong was the English concept of the child-as-property (which may be treated at will) that 19th Century American reformers of the English legal tradition initially tried to use anti-animal abuse laws as the only potential means then available of preventing even the most vicious and perverse forms of child abuse, neglect, and labor-slavery.

Following this view of parentage, in the English view of marriage, the father "gave away" the daughter to the husband, who was then the primary identity of the marital couple ("the husband and the wife are one, and the husband is the ONE," as the common law maxim went).

Obviously, English custom should be banned from Catholic use as debasing to the genuine Catholic views on parentage, women, and marriage. Philadelphia is right and should use the occasion as a "teaching moment" as to the nature of genuine Cathoic conceptions of these matters. This is what genuine reform of Catholic liturigical practices should be all about, certainly not acquiesing to such particularly obnoxious Anglo-American traditions or the sentimental stupidities of brides and their families.

Mike Petrik

I agree with Eileen R. When my daughter marries we shall be obedient to our bishop, and if he prohibits the practice of a father walking his daughter down the aisle then we shall obey. But that does not mean that we have to like it or refrain from respectful criticism. Obedience and disagreement are not mutually exclusive.


there are many places in a marriage where a couple's obedience to the authority of the Church will be appropriate and necessary, but imo how they enter the church for the wedding just isn't one of them.

David L Alexander

"As Sandra pointed out, we've been doing it this way since the Middle ages in the English speaking world."

Were you there?

There is no "thou shalt not" at issue. There does not have to be. The purpose of rubrics is to say what is done, not what is not done. And while there is a tolerance for local custom, this one essentially has its roots in the fact of the young woman being a piece of property, the title of which is being handed over from the father to the husband. This may reflect a Protestant view of marriage, in which the notion of the wife's "obedience" is taken too literally. But it is not the Catholic one.

It's not about daddy and his little girl. If that's what you want, give her a cotillion when she's eighteen. This is a marriage. It's about the bride and groom, appearing before God.

That's not the invention of feminists. Read the ritual itself if you doubt that.

Mike Petrik

A was unaware of the maxim you quoted. Is it related to the "rule of thumb" maxim?

Bill Cork

Please note, though, that the rubrics do allow for "local custom." This is a key point that folks aren't paying attention to. There are LOTS of "local customs" around the world. There is the "unity candle" that folks in the US are familiar with. There is a group of customs prevalent among Hispancs and Filipinos, including the "lasso," giving of coins, spreading of a veil over the couple. There is the custom of placing flowers before the statue of Our Lady. The rubrics acknowledge the legitimacy of "local custom" (20). The rite has an entire section on "Preparation of Local Rituals," from paragraphs 12 on. There is generous provision for "the marriage customs of nations that are now receiving the Gospel for the first time," so that "whatever is good and is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error should be sympathetically considered and, if possible, preserved intact."

Bill Cork

"This may reflect a Protestant view of marriage, in which the notion of the wife's 'obedience' is taken too literally. But it is not the Catholic one."

Where does this attitude come from? We are talking about a practice that was centuries old in the English Church before there was such a thing as Protestantism. And it is highly questionable whether in fact the English tradition says what some want it to say. The Sarum Rite, which includes the giving of the bride, is a CATHOLIC RITE, developed BY CATHOLICS for CATHOLICS expressing a CATHOLIC USAGE.


I was married 12 years ago and my husband and I walked down the aisle together, as suggested by our priest. It made sense to us, and my father didn't mind. Our priest also suggested that together we greet our guests as they entered the church.


Bill - good point about local custom. I don't dislike the proposed changes at all, but don't see where saying that suddenly the giving-away is OUT really does much good; no matter where it came from, it's been around for a while and there's a certain element of shutting the barn door after the horse is gone if some priests are trying to eliminate it entirely. (Wouldn't mind seeing the sand thing go myself, but that's just personal dislike).

Frank Sales

I may be ridiculed for this, but I kind of like the symbolism of the father giving away the bride. I know nothing about the origins of the tradition, but today it says "up til now i was primarily responsible for protecting and caring for this wonderful person, I now charge you with that honour". Yes, of course there is a reciprocal duty of love and care between spouses, but I think most men have a visceral feeling that they have a duty protect their wives and children from "bad stuff" and giving away the bride is a recognition between the two men of this duty.

Ok. Now call me a caveman.

Eileen R

Obviously, English custom should be banned from Catholic use as debasing to the genuine Catholic views on parentage, women, and marriage.

Hold on! *Obviously*?

My old rhetoric teacher used to teach me, "Never use the word 'obviously' when there's a good chance, someone will answer back, "No, it's not obvious at all."

For example, the idea that English common law held the child, or when we come to that *wife*, as *property* is an example of applying modern conceptions to the past and coming up with erroneous interpretations. You'll find plenty of descriptions of marriage contracts that will sound offensive to modern ears, talking about how the husband or father, as head of the household, had authority over the woman, but you won't find anything about your kids or wife being your *property*. There's a real difference.


"Why is there no leeway in the Church for the cultural traditions of the British Isles and plenty for every other culture on the face of the earth?"

What Eileen said. Also, what Bill Cork said: "The Sarum Rite, which includes the giving of the bride, is a CATHOLIC RITE, developed BY CATHOLICS for CATHOLICS expressing a CATHOLIC USAGE."

I'd like to challenge the claim that the English custom reflected the view that the bride was, to quote one poster above, "a piece of property." Please, let me see the evidence that a husband in medieval England, finding himself financially hard pressed, could legally sell or even mortgage his wife to raise funds. (Extra-legal wife selling, as described here (http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/hardy/pva283.html) doesn't count.) That whole "women as property" conceit is at best a metaphor that is useful for some purposes, but it should not be confused for a literal description of the law of England.


If Italy can be considered as a non English speaking country, then I have news for you. The custom of the bride being accompanied to the altar by her father is very entrenched there as well. I know, as I was married there and I walked my sister to the altar, since my father had died by that time.

But there is a difference: did anyone notice that the rubric quoted by fr Rob states that the priest can greet the spouses at the altar as well. What happens in Italy (in the weddings I have attended) is that the father (or substitute) walks with the bride half the way (or 3/4) through the isle, at which point they greet the groom and then the spouses walk the remaining portion up to the altar, where they are greeted by the priest.

In this way one respects the tradition of leaving your parents to form a new family (I know that Genesis refers to the husband for that, but it's a small t tradition I am referring to), while respecting the rubric that sees the spouses as celebrants and the altar as the location for the sacrament.


Btw, the "custom" loophole is a lot more complicated canonically than people may think. It is not simply "what we've been doing for a long time." I won't go into details, but be assured that canon law means something different than that when it refers to local custom.


Interesting discussion! My husband and I used the new rite when we got married about 2 years ago: began with a Mass procession and the assembly singing the entrance hymn, greeted people outside the church before hand, etc. We were fortunate to have some excellent catechesis about the liturgy at our marriage preparation weekend. I felt very strongly that our wedding liturgy should include the elements of a Mass from beginning to end.

Funny story: After the Mass, our photographer (who had no religious affiliation whatsoever) approached us and said, somewhat awkwardly, "You know, I really like how you guys did things. It just seemed more like a sacrament or something." I had to agree with him. :-)

Eileen R

What happens in Italy (in the weddings I have attended) is that the father (or substitute) walks with the bride half the way (or 3/4) through the isle, at which point they greet the groom and then the spouses walk the remaining portion up to the altar, where they are greeted by the priest.

That's pretty much how it's been done at the weddings I've attended.

Actually, doing the research it's beginning to appear that the father giving the bride to the groom is more than an English custom, it's just that in a lot of places it used to take place *before* the couple entered the church. And since it used to be people were married in front of the church door, it would appear the English just moved that bit inside.


Roberto - same here. I've been mostly to Protestant weddings, but what they would do is have the father walk the bride most of the way up, then there was a sort of handoff to the groom where they would do the "Who giveth this woman" bit, and then the bride and groom would go up to the altar together. Is there a "speaking bit" in Italy, just out of curiosity? Or do they just do it silently?

Catherine L

I grew up in New Orleans; and while it is English-speaking (now, anyway) the legal structure and customs all arose from the Catholic cultures of France and Spain. I can't even count how many Catholic weddings I've been to and always the father walked the bride down the aisle. The groom was usually standing next to the pew where his parents were seated and the bride took his arm and they proceeded to the sanctuary to greet the priest. Call me dense, but I don't see how that conflicts with what Fr. Rob wrote. I still have a lot of years before my daughters of marriageable age. I guess I should start breaking this to my husband now.


Sonetka: It's a greeting! Hello, how are you, customary italian kiss on the cheek (between groom and father-in-law, that is) and then the spouses keep walking to the altar, where they are greeted by the priest and the Mass starts.

There is no "giving away" of the spouse. The message is more of a recognition that a new family is about to start and the old family connections are changed (not destroyed). I do not find anything un-Catholic about the whole thing, even if it has connections to protestant customs.

To me the real big problem is that the Church ceremony is taking a back seat to the reception. I remember that I (and my wife and my sister at her wedding) had to keep correcting people who asked us at which restaurant we were going to hold the wedding. They meant the reception, but for them that was the important part. We kept insisting that the central part was the sacrament being received in the Church. The reception was just the communal rejoicing AFTER and BECAUSE of the sacrament having been celebrated.


The rites call for a respect of local custom; in this country the "local custom" is for a father or both parents to walk the bride down the aisle. There is nothing anti-Catholic in it and it is what guests, the couple, and the family are expecting. With all of the other BIG issues that the church needs to deal with both in marraige prep and in other places where it runs the risk of alienating people (Contraception, divorce, etc, etc), why the HELL would it want to force something so FREAKIN' MINOR down people's throats as a little change in the processional that is a teeny tiny deal to the Church but might be a HUGE deal to brides and families and alienate people over something this small? UGH, I am looking for a job in Philly right now, but I know I'll go back to my parents in Michigan to get married when the time comes! The marraige customs and little superstions are romantic and dramatic and don't detract from the sacrament one bit. How disgustingly un-pastoral; whoever is coming up with this needs to find real problems to deal with.

Dorian Speed

I am incapable of discussing this rationally. :) The celebrant at our wedding proposed that we walk in together, or that we have our parents escort us. I couldn't deal with it. I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle, and he did. And I don't think anyone in the church saw it as him handing me off to my husband as chattel. My father passed away right after the birth of my first child, and his walking me down the aisle is one of my favorite memories. I'm normally dispassionate about these kinds of things and of a "rules exist for a reason" mindset, but I just think the whole thing is ridiculous.

Frank, I will be a cavewoman with you. Well, not "with" you, as I am currently the property of Og, my husband.

Mike Petrik

I agree with the point Elizabeth so passionately makes. The Church has real challenges; this just isn't one of them. That said, I will obey my bishop as I should. But that doesn't mean that forcing such a change isn't just plain goofy. I have always thought of walking my daughter down the aisle and giving her away in exactly the same sense as Eileen R. describes. I would be saddened to not have that chance, and my daughter would be angry. But we would, of course, obey. Many people thought the no eating meat on Fridays was goofy too, but that did not give any of us the license to disobey.

Zhou De-Ming

Minor multi-cultural memo: From a Chinese perspective, perhaps it really doesn't matter who processes in with whom, as long as the ceremony takes place. What is REALLY important on a wedding day is the banquet after the ceremony.


"why the HELL would [the archdiocese of Philadelphia] want to force something so FREAKIN' MINOR down people's throats as a little change in the processional that is a teeny tiny deal to the Church but might be a HUGE deal to brides and families and alienate people over something this small?"

I'm sure it's because the archdiocese has successfully stamped out all other deviations from the GIRM and other liturgical abuses .

chris K

I don't know. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I know, I know, it's the true expression of the rite or something. But we are already hearing that that is up for interpretation just like a "living will" will be. When was this rite established and who were the cooks? I've seen too many changes and so-called correct symbolism over the years that were supposed to express what Vat II stipulated. Like, when my brother was married in the confusing times of changes left and right - 1967. We had a very orthodox and strict German pastor who insisted that he had instructions that all of the attendants had to sit together in the first pew - to make everything more communal or something! It just seems odd that in this instance, the "powers" are insisting on the concentration on the "sacrament" when it is really hard most Sundays to concentrate on anything but the personality of the priest playing some self conscious role of audience conductor - (and now with the GIRM, having to wave both hands up and down for the faithful to have another new sign to acquaint them with when to stand, again). So, here we'll have another instance of lots of people processing down the aisle with the first attention given to ministers, etc. and the ones everyone is still going to be looking for (dressed a little bit more formally) seeming to just be part of the group effort. Better the Italian example given above. Frankly, I think the little jingle of bells when the priest and altar servers used to enter the altar space where everyone's attention is directed in their prayers (ha!) before mass begins put much more attention on the sacrament. And if it's the sacrament that is most important, get rid of the elevated chair that's taken its place, front and center. Ahhh, common sense, where was it left?

chris K

Oh, and I meant to add that, in this day and age, with the couple processing down to the altar together, a lot of traditional folks just might think they'd already married each other or got hitched somewhere else before this formalizing ceremony!!

Mark R

Just because something was done one way in the past, it does not necessarily follow that that is the way it should be done now...Any more than just because something is newer it is therefore better


Elizabeth: If it's such a "freakin' minor deal," why do people have to be so adamant about it, even if the reasons are explained to them? If they doesn't obey little things, will they obey big ones?

BTW, First Commandment says we're not supposed to be superstitious, either.

Couples who use the Catholic Church as a pretty backdrop for pictures (not all do, but many) can ignore Church teaching and (most times) get married in a Catholic Church. Not the same with not doing the ceremony the way they want to.

With all that said, putting the smackdown on this stuff is probably not the pastoral way to handle it.

Fr. Rob Johansen

A few remarks:

I am struck by how, after Amy pointed out my citation of the rubrics, the discussion went right back to the suitability and justifiability of continuing the American custom, rather than any effort to understand, interiorize, and embrace what Holy Mother Church has given us. It appears that many of just want what we want, and the Church can go hang.

It strikes me as odd, and at least requiring explanation, that so many serious Catholics should seemingly reject outright the liturgy of the Church as it has been given to us by the Church.

In response to Bill and others, I would say that "local custom" cannot be used to simply throw out that which the rubrics provide. Local custom can modify the provisions of the rubrics, not stand them on their head. The rubrics call for the bride and groom to be greeted and process in together, and the concession is granted ("may") to having them accompanied by their parents. Nothing like the bride's "grand entrance" and being given away by Dad is envisioned.

Furthermore, the citation of the Sarum rite is a nice try, but that rite has been in desuetude since the 16th century. The test for the liceity of a custom is not "I can find it in some liturgy somewhere..."

I would point out that I don't advocate "forcing" this matter down anyone's throat. As I wrote on my blog, I explain the rite to couples and encourage them to do it as the Church provides. But ultimately I let them decide.

I would also say that it is precisely the Church's job, and that of her priests and bishops, to help us to "toe the line" in the liturgy.

Finally, I would also note that while this is indeed not the biggest problem confronting the Church, I believe Our Lord had something to say about being faithful in small matters, so as to be found worthy in greater ones. I'm pretty sure it's in Luke 16.


Well, just another non English speaking country, Czech rep., where as far as I know it is well established custom that bride walk the aisle with her father and groom with his mother. I were to just very few weddings and i think that there are alo more recent trend that some time the two enter together.

Of course from other side of the pond is difficult to establish what exactly they are doing in archdiocese of Phil., but "enforce" change of schu well established custom just look too much like sort of re-education, and forced and unnecessary one. Yes, I read part of discussion on weddings and whims sub previous article, but this seems to me (from very far distance I acknwowlege again) more of sort "Thou shall not kneel!" liturgical enforcement than sound adoption of universal practice which seems not so universal after all..:-)

RP Burke

A reply to Fr. Rob Johansen.

Local custom can modify the provisions of the rubrics, not stand them on their head.

I think at issue in the preparation of wedding liturgies is whether there is a 'bright line' between modifying and head-standing. Especially when confronted with "If I can't have my way ..."

Zhou De-Ming

Fr. Rob, you wrote: "It strikes me as odd, and at least requiring explanation, that so many serious Catholics should seemingly reject outright the liturgy of the Church as it has been given to us by the Church."

But that is what I get every Sunday...as my local parish liturgists and priests "seemingly reject outright the liturgy of the Chursh as it has been given to us by the Church," and they improvise.

The priest and his liturgical staff improvise the Entrance of the Introductory Rites. What is "Gather Us In?" It is nowhere found in GIRM 48.

The priest and his liturgical staff, including Music Minister, have all manner of unapproved variations of the Gloria, in contradiction to GIRM 53: "The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text."

The priest almost always improvises the Collect. (Although I am sympathetic, because of the abysmal quality of translation into English.)

The homily in the parish is often given by a layperson, in violation of GIRM 66. Of course, a word game is played, and it is called "a reflection" or "a report." Still, it is what is spoken from the Sanctuary between the reading of the Gospel and the Profession of Faith, in Church on Sunday.


After this sort of formation, week after week, in following our parish leaders who "seemingly reject outright the liturgy of the Church as it has been given to us by the Church," is it any wonder that folks get upset when somebody says, "Oh, but at YOUR wedding or YOUR relative's funeral, you have to follow all the rules!"

Give me a break.

Dorian Speed

So, I gather that "they may be escorted by at least their parents" is the part that means, "not just one parent."

Right? Just wanting some clarification.

I would like for everyone to cease speculating that, if a bride wants to walk down the aisle on her father's arm, it must mean that the couple isn't properly "formed," doesn't understand the true meaning of the sacrament, is dissenting from Church teaching, whatever.


"but that rite has been in desuetude since the 16th century"

That would come as a surprise to Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Anglican Use Catholics, for whom the Sarum Use lives on in the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Divine Worship.

"I am struck by how, after Amy pointed out my citation of the rubrics, the discussion went right back to the suitability and justifiability of continuing the American custom, rather than any effort to understand, interiorize, and embrace what Holy Mother Church has given us."

Ever since Cardinal Bugnini and his minions got the commission to "implement" the liturgical directives of Vatican II, we're been falling in line more or less regularly to whatever new directive has come out of Rome (or ICEL), though perhaps not with the alcrity with which good Communists greeted changes in the party line. That, however, is not good enough for Fr. Johansen. We must "interiorize" and "embrace" the change. We must, as it were, kiss the rod. I find myself wondering whether the Vatican bureaucrat who wrote the current rubrics made any attempt to "understand", much less "interiorize" or "embrace" the customs that it now appears he was attempting to displace all over Europe and the West.


When we were married 12 years ago, the priest made it clear this was a Mass, not a fashion show. We were allowed to have only 3 attendents, no ring bearers or flower girls, decorations were limited to flowers on and around the altar, and the priest and altar boys processed in first, which is when everyone stood. Then after a short break, my dad and I came in and met my soon to be husband in the aisle. This was all great with us, and we just did as we were instructed. Oh, the wedding attendants all had to go to confession by the day before the wedding, and dh and I had to make a general confession. There was very little confusion at our wedding Who was the Guest of Honor!

Fr. Phil Bloom

As my seminary rector used to say, "Boys, if you are going to die on a barricade, make sure you choose the right one." This ain't much of a barricade to die on, but I will be interested to see how the priests in Philadelphia finally resolve it.

I did my niece's wedding last month and, yes, my brother walked her down the aisle. I was more interested in getting the bride and groom to the altar than how they got there.


This is a bit of a tangent, not exactly off-topic, but are there any priests out there who actually have said "No," not merely to those couples who want to use the church as a prop, but who do not have the proper formation for a marriage? That is, given what I think is a scandalous number of annulments, which indicates an aborrent failure of the marriage preparation process, instead of recognizing years later (and many children later) that there "never was" and never should have been a marriage, at least in the sacramental sense, shouldn't we say beforehand, "No, you are not ready and the sacrament will not be administered to you"?

Fr. Rob Johansen

RP Burke:

I have already indicated that Dad "giving away" the bride in the Entrance Rite is not the liturgical hill I would choose to die on.

However, if, on a more central issue, a bride or groom were to say to me, in effect, "If I can't have my way..." I would politely inform them that the liturgies of the Church are not their personal property to do with as they like, nor are they mine. If they wish to have their marriage solemnized by the Church, that must include on their part some desire or intent to mean what the Church means by marriage. Part of that is to use the marriage rite offered by the Church. If they cannot or do not wish to do so, they are free to get married elsewhere.


Universal Church...let's look beyond "Roman Catholic" and look at the Catholic Church.
In the Eastern Rite the couple begins the wedding service...together..standin with their family and priest... in the narthex of the church where the betrothal and exchange of rings takes place. At our local Melkite church some couples insist on bridesmaids and groomsmen but that’s an American custom not originating in the homeland of many of the Lebanese churchgoers.

Frank Sales

I've never been to a Catholic wedding where the father or both parents DIDN'T walk their daughter down the aisle. Not that that means anything, just that for a proscribed liturgical abuse it seems to have been nearly universal.

Thanks Father Rob, I've finally found an area where I dissent from the Church! I'll continue give the matter the study and prayer it deserves, although there is no immediate urgency since I was married 8 years ago.


Fr Rob,

I totally agree with your last comment (and many of the previous one), but I would like to offer a comment and a question:
1) The fact that some people are questioning he importance of this issue does not mean that they want to reject everything that Mother Church teaches.
2) What am I misunderstanding of the alternative that the priest meet the couple near the altar, and hence that the "traditional" bridal procession takes place at least part way? (I have exlained previously the significance of such method) I feel that if the problem with this approach is explained beyond the "it's in the rubric" response, people would follow it more easily.

David Kubiak

Any "rubric" that tells the priest to go to the front door and greet people "in a friendly way" indicates from the start that we are not dealing here with real rubrics at all, but with Bugnini and Co. once again trying to foist a social program down people's throats under the guise of liturgy.

Matrimony is the least liturgical of all the Sacraments, and thus the most susceptible to local custom. I think the Church should be much more interested in having the bride and groom present themselves in the state of grace rather than in attempting to dictate how the family chooses to walk down the aisle.

(Did I see someone above refer to "Cardinal Bugnini"? Thanks be to God it never came to that.)


The bride being walked down the aisle by her father is long established custom contra legem in the english speaking world. Furthermore, it constitutes an explict centennary custom and, unless explicitly revoked, constitutes a law in and of itself.

Eileen R

Wait a second. Roberto is right. These rubrics don't even ban the bride and father walk! Look at them!

At the appointed time, the priest, vested for Mass, goes with the ministers to the door of the church, or if more suitable, to the altar. there he greets the bride and bridegroom in a friendly manner, showing the that the Church shares their joy.

If more suitable, to the *altar*.

Well, that's what's done. The bride and her father walk to end of the aisle, where the groom takes her arm, and then the two of them proceed together to the altar.

So, why is this against the rubrics here?

Well, the next bit goes If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.

But wait. What if there isn't a procession? How do the couple get to the (if it's more suitable) altar to be greeted by the priest? Do they teletransport?

I think the more reasonable answer is that they come in, but not in a liturgical procession with priest and crucifix and all.

Dorian Speed

I agree, Eileen. That's what we did - my dad walked me down the aisle; I joined my groom there, and we walked up together to kneel in front of the altar.

That would seem to fit the rubrics, perhaps? I'm still a bit confused by "at least their parents."

Sandra Miesel

I checked both my old Missal and Fortesque's 1917 edition. No mention whatsoever of how the bride and groom arrived in front of the priest to be wed. So why is it necessary to specify that now? Why are old customs to be swept away? Only in the first world or will Hispanics be told they can't throw a lasso over the couple? And what about the bouquet offered to the Blessed Virgin? etc etc

Claiming that a father giving away the bride is an eevil Prottie custom is a red herring. The Roman father tranferred power over his daughter to her new husband when marrying under "manus". Christianity didn't changed that concept in the ancient Roman world

Except for a decree of Trent we could invoke the medieval Tuscan custom of being married at home by a notary, with attendance at a subsequent Mass optional.


"Did I see someone above refer to 'Cardinal Bugnini'? Thanks be to God it never came to that.)"

Ouch! Sorry about that. I wasn't thinking, and certainly didn't mean to give him a posthumous promotion.



And people wonder why the weekend liturgies are so messed up. If we experiment, do local custom, which means do whatever you want - in wedding, why not ever mass?


Zhou De-Ming

Dear TP, I made a similiar argument, but in the opposite direction, at 3:18 PM above: If the priests, liturgists, and music ministers improvise so freely with the liturgy on Sundays, why should they be surprised if folks don't much care to follow all the rules for weddings? So far, no answer to my question.

Charlotte Allen

Gosh, my father escorted me and both my sisters up the aisle for our marriages, and the photographs our family still has of his taking his daughters to altar at the start of these three weddings (each of us dressed in the bridal style of the year in which we got married) are some of the most precious in our possession, as he is no longer with us.

I had no idea until quite recently that this custom was supposed to be contrary to Catholic rubrics, since I'm a cradle Catholic and the custom of a father's escorting his daughter to the altar has prevailed in every Catholic wedding (representing a range of ethnic groups) that I've ever attended--and some of those go back to the 1950s. I've never associated the custom with anything particularly sexist, and it certainly didn't denigrate the role of the bridegroom at my wedding. He was the key figure there, as far as I was concerned. At the steps of the altar my father retreated and my husband and I walked up the steps to the altar together. It was a simple wedding: two flower girls (my little nieces) and one attendant, a married friend of mine.

It seems to me that the contemporary practice of not having the bride's father escort her to the altar (which often means that the bride walks up all by herself) is the degenerate concession to the feminazis--and a practice that unduly calls attention to the bride in her elaborate gown as the "star" of the wedding. I was determined to make my own wedding as anti-feminist as I could. I picked the reading from Ephesians 5 in which St. Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands. Afterwards people asked me if I'd been "forced" to select that reading. I told them, hell no--that every marriage needs a head, and my husband was the head of my marriage.

What exactly is supposed to be wrong with the Use of Sarum? It dates back to the 11th century. Its Mass was the Mass of Chaucer and Thomas More and it's the Mass of today's Anglican-rite Catholics--which is good enough for me. Furthermore, wives have never been regarded as the property of either their husbands or their fathers under either English common law nor the Church's canon law.


Excellent point Zhou De-Ming:
What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

I think what peeves most people on this thread--people who are overall good, obedient Catholics (not spoiled "this is my special day" cultural Catholic brides)--is that this is one more sign of the arbitrariness and, shall I say it, deceit of the liturgical establishment.

Forty years ago Catholics were told, "We MUST turn the altars around, Vatican II commands it" (false), We MUST move from Latin to English, the Pope has ordered it (false). We MUST remove the altar rail, this is what the Church has ordered (false). And this has continued up through the present. Good people are understandably a little cynical. Is this really required or is this just the current liturgical change de jour which is a pet favorite of a group of liturgisti with influence?

James Kabala

Does anyone know for absolute, 100% certain that fathers do not give away the bride in continental Europe? Some commenter in one of these threads claimed that they do do that in Italy after all. I find it interesting that American Catholics seem to have adopted the practice so universally. The Irish and the French Canadians might have already been under some British influence before coming here, but would the Polish, the Italians, etc. have taken so easily to the custom if it was really so contrary to their old country experience?


My wife and I walked down the aisle together 15 years go and also greated our guests together at the door of the church. We particularly liked the symbolism of greeting the guests at the door of the church, and welcoming them to the liturgy vs a receiving line at the reception...


Zhou De-Ming

Some references:

"The ceremony will begin in the normal way, with the bride, sometimes on her father's arm (although this is a matter of personal choice), and bridesmaids processing down the aisle to the groom and priest. You and your groom may choose the alternative greeting ceremony. In this version, just before the start of the ceremony the guests will assemble in the church porch to greet you on your arrival. You will then walk with the priest down the aisle to the altar, followed by the guests." (WeddingGuideUK Roman Catholic Weddings.

"Then, the doors opened and the organ overhead thundered out the orchestral suite No 3 in D Major by Bach as the four groomsmen processed two by two up the aisle, followed by Adam, Nicky's 13-year-old brother and best man, carrying the two black ring boxes. Hard on his heels came the groom. Following a French tradition, Nicky walked up the aisle with both his parents. Nicholas and Yvonne. He had wanted to look like a prince on his wedding day, and he did. His smile, though somewhat nervous, stretched from ear to ear: in fact he radiated so much happiness that the guests could be forgiven for not taking in his 'contemporary-retro' look of cream fine wool boot-legged suit and brocade waistcoat. Soon after he took his place in the apse beside his little brother, another stirring at the south door heralded the arrival of the bride. This time, it was the turn of Synan O'Mahony to make sure that everything was right with his fabulous designs; her attendants' lavender silk-crep corsets and skirts, overlaid with French lilac Chantilly lace. The four bridesmaids, followed by the matron of honour, Georgina's sister Cecilia, and the little flowergirl, her cousin Caoimhe Kelly, processed up the aisle to Tchaikovsky's /Waltz Of The Flowers/. Whatever had gone before, nothing had prepared the guests for the appearance of the bride. As she entered the church, she exuded a sense of magic. Her long hair tumbled loose down her back, the white silk-crepe hourglass corset dress accentuated her exquisite figure, its diagonal seams alight with cut glass crystal beads - a staggering 20,000 of them in all. And behind, there was a six-foot train. At Georgina's side were her father Bertie and her mother Miriam, as she moved to join Nicky at the steps of the altar. The bride and groom took each other's hand, and the service started immediately. It followed the basic Roman Catholic Wedding Mass, but the readings, the prayers and music were all the couple's own choice. This was such a family and friends wedding that as many as possible took part, friends like Ciara Moore and Betty Sherlock who read the two lessons, and Cathy Vard who sang in Gaelic. Throughout the whole service, Nicky and Georgina appeared to be on a different plane from everyone else, totally aware of what was going on, but in a private world of their own, saying their vows in clear voices, without a stumble, and exchanging the rings without a slip. Before lighting the marriage candle, Nicky read the prayer for the newly married couple, chosen by him. What would anyone give to get Ronan Keating to sing at their wedding? Nicky and Georgina just asked Westlife' mentor and he obliged, with their favourite song /I Love The Way You Love Me/. There was a little sob as Cecilia listened to it. In keeping with tradition were the Prayers of the Faithful, one a prayer for musicians, and one, read by Noel Ahern, for world peace. He can only have been thinking of his brother, the Prime Minister, who brokered the Peace Accord in Nothern Ireland. As the service drew to an end, the penultimate prayer, the Miracle Prayer, was read by Jennifer, a cousin of Nicky's. This was found by Nicky's grandmother, who had it copied for all her family. She gave it to the teenage Nicky when he went to try his fortune as a football player in Leeds. Then he kept it in his 'goalie' bag, and it is with him still. As Father Kevin Bartley said to the bridal couple: "It is very encouraging for people of their generation to take a lead from their commitment to each other and to their faith." When it was all over, Nicky and Georgina, made their way down the aisle to thunderous applause, as they were showered with lilac and cream rose petals."
(Irish Prime Minister's Daughter's Wedding, in France)

I think I will quote Sponge Bob in regard to the efforts in Philadelphia: "Well, Good Luck with That."

Courage Man


Reading this thread is the first time in my life I think I've ever been glad that I have exclusive same-sex attraction.


"If we experiment, do local custom, which means do whatever you want - in wedding, why not ever mass?"

No, it doesn't mean "do whatever you want" -- if what you're talking about is the time-honored custom of having the bride escorted down the aisle by her father. If, on the other hand, you mean the unity candle, I'm perfectly happy to throw it out as an unjustified accretion (arising out of fairly recent Protestant innovations).

But let's do as Fr. Johansen urges, and read "what the rite actually says." Well, lo and behold, as Eileen and Roberto have already pointed out, it *doesn't* exclude the tradition of the bridal procession. It says that the priest greets the bridal couple at the door "or if more suitable, [at] the altar." IOW, the rite is perfectly consistent with the bride and her father coming down the aisle, the groom coming in from the sacristy to meet her in front of the altar, and the priest greeting them there. I'd say that conforming with the centuries-old tradition of our ancestors is perfectly "suitable." It may be true that the bridal procession is not explicitly described as "part of the sacred liturgy," but that's a far cry from saying that they are not "appropriate."

The more I read about this the more it sounds like yet another example of liturgical "experts" forcing their twisted interpretations of liturgical texts on the laity, as in the case of those geniuses who gave us "Environment in Catholic Art and Worship."

Zhou De-Ming

Here's a version of the Philadelphia Story that doesn't sound so harsh, from April 27:

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced some changes in how brides should walk up the aisle -- placing less emphasis on the bride and her father and a little more on the bride and groom.

It's a time honored tradition -- a father walking his daughter down the aisle. Father Daniel Mackle says the church doesn't want to change that, but they do want to make some adjustments:

"The pattern sometimes is that when the father brings the daughter up, there are acutally two separate processions. All of the bridesmaids come up the aisle first, and when everybody is in place then the bride just comes with her father alone.

"The marriage rite (now) asks that it be a single procession. So the father with the bride will come up with the bridesmaids."

Mackle says the church feels as if the focus has been on the bride alone instead of the bride and groom.

And, he says, there is now a new option where the bride and groom can walk down the aisle together with their families. Mackle says parishes will slowly implement these changes.

Daniel Mackle is (was until Jan 2005) head of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship. Without reading the actualy Newsletter on which the Philadephia Inquirer article is based, I'm not sure that it is all as drastic as the media makes it sound.

fr richard

"NY" above mentioned part of the Byzantine rite for marriage.


After the betrothal in the narthex, the couple join right hands, and the priest hands them each a lit candle (representing that they bear the light of Christ.) The the priest places his stole over their joined hands and leads them to the front of the church. (In Ukrainian custom, he also wraps an embroidered ceremonial cloth around their joined hands.)

When I have a couple that absolutely insist the father "walks the bride" I allow this to happen part way into the church, where the groom is standing. Then I meet them and lead them up. This has never failed to satisfy.

This compromise solution was mentioned in another post above, but I didn't notice much, or any (?) endorsement of that position.

Instead, many emotional posts about this OR that.

Weddings should be occasions for great joy and prayer. Instead, too often they are battles for "stuff" inside or outside of church, with many possible combatants ready to take up arms.

Weddings are really hard for priests because of this, but even harder for the couple when the war trumpets blow. And that's a shame.

Thomas Hurley

I think the provision in the rite that the priest may meet the couple at the altar must be envisioning the possibility that there may be no procession to the altar including either member of the couple--in that case obviously the priest may simply meet the couple at the altar. This doesn't mean that the bride-and-father procession is in conformity with the rite, because the instruction goes on to say: "If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses." It seems to me from this that if there is a procession at all, the rite intends the couple to process up together.

Fr. Rob Johansen


Your suspicions about liturgical experts' "twisted interpretations" of rubrics aside, please explain to me how, as you describe:

the bride and her father coming down the aisle, the groom coming in from the sacristy to meet her in front of the altar, and the priest greeting them there

is consistent with:

"If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom."

The rubrics clearly presume that the bride and bridegroom are processing together.

Sorry, I don't see the consistency.

David Kubiak

Assuming that clerical authority has the power to dictate these things (which I by no means would grant)a literal reading of what Fr. Johansen quotes quite easily could encompass "and then the bride [escorted by her father down the aisle] and the bridegroom [processing from the sacristy]."

And what on earth is the priest doing marching in the wedding party? Quite a bizarre "menage a trois" in my view.


Fr. Rob Johansen: "You can't expect people, conditioned by decades of American custom, TV shows and movies, etc., to just accept such a change overnight."

The references to "condition[ing]," "American" custom, and "TV shows and movies" create the unfortunate impression that you view people's attachment to the traditional practice with a degree of contempt. "She only wants to walk down the aisle with her father because she has some silly romantic dream of a wedding like the one she saw on TV."

It sounds condescending. And when people feel that they are being condescended to, they are not likely to enthusiastically "embrace" what is being proposed.

Haven't the liturgical types got something better to do than think up silly new rules like this one?

Victor Morton

David K. wrote:

a literal reading of what Fr. Johansen quotes quite easily could encompass "and then the bride [escorted by her father down the aisle] and the bridegroom [processing from the sacristy]."

Except that that wouldn't be "a procession" (singular) ... it would be two processions.

Further, the grammatical construction of the rule ...

"If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and bridegroom."

... is that "the bride and bridegroom" is constructed as a single semantic unit. The comma with "and" before the last item in a series is usually used only in certain cases, one of which being (as in this case ... the others clearly don't apply) an internal "and" in the last or next-to-last item. So the two together are a single entity.

Further, if "the bride and bridegroom" were to be construed as sufficiently separate entities for entering from two places to be permitted, the rule would read something more like:

"If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, then the bride and finally the bridegroom."

And on a separate issue ... the "menage a trois" line was beneath the high standards your comments usually maintain here and elsewhere, David.

Zhou De-Ming

Hmmm....it seems Fr. Johansen is grumbling about marriages today. Not only here, but later on his blog he complains about the old "make your own vows" weddings of past decades:

Well, if your wedding vows consisted of this kind of maundering, and you were permitted to do so by Fr. Feelgood at an allegedly Catholic wedding, guess what? You're probably not married, after all.

That's right. Using vows of your own composition, rather than those prescribed by the Church, potentially invalidates the wedding. Acccording to the canon lawyers I have spoken to, unless the self-composed vows are a fairly close approximation of those provided in the Ritual (in which case, why bother with writing your own?), they are quite possibly defective, thereby rendering the marriage invalid.

So, if you, or someone you know, got married in a ceremony which featured such "groovy" vows, it might be a good idea to talk to your parish priest and see if you need a convalidation.

Oh, well. Makes me glad that my wife and I married as non-Catholic Christians. Of course, we had a little surprise, too. It seems that the County Clerk did not sign the forms properly, and when we returned from our honeymoon, we received a notice from the County Recorder saying that our marriage paperwork was not complete and unacceptable. We had to drive back out to the little place where the pharmacist/county clerk worked and get him to sign it. I guess he was distracted.

I must admit that, in general, I avoid church weddings. Which is o.k. As I mentioned before, in Chinese culture, it is not the wedding ceremony that is so important as the (big, long, loud) banquet afterward. And there are no glasses to clang with chopsticks in church (who here knows what that tradition means?).

James Kabala

There is much truth in what Kathie says. Previous posters have shown that, whether the bride-and-father procession is a good idea or a bad idea, its roots go back hundreds of years and it was invented by Catholics, not Protestants. It is indeed condescending and silly to just dismiss it as the product of television.

David Kubiak

It is hard for me to imagine a degree of sarcasm inappropriate to the description of some of these rites dreamed up in the last forty years -- strained, labored, and artificial attempts to construct sacral moments that correspond to the latest notion of what people are supposed to be feeling according to "renewed" theological trends.

Canon law continues to maintain in continuity with pagan Roman law that the essence of marriage lies in the mutual consent of a man and woman legally capable of contracting the marriage bond. The priest or deacon is consistently said to "assist" at the ceremony as the witness of the Church, thus making clerical intrusions into the wedding party a great ceremonial oddity.

Canon 1119 would seem to settle the matter:

"Apart from a case of necessity, in the celebration of marriage those rites are to be observed which are prescribed in the liturgical books approved by the Church, or which are acknowledged by lawful customs."

If the traditional entrance of the bridal party is not a "lawful custom" in many parts of the Catholic world it would be hard to imagine what is. Catholic people have not been vigilant in protecting for themselves that most Catholic of concepts, the right of immemorial custom. This seems to me like a good place to start.


So far I'm not sure I've seen a post from someone currently planning a wedding. For what it's worth, here's my story. My wedding is in August.

My fiancé and I, who plan to walk down the aisle together, recently attended a wedding music workshop at our parish.

The trumpeter was exhibiting all the fanfares she could play when the bride began her procession down the aisle, after all the attendants had marched in. She added as an aside, "Sorry, guys, the ceremony is all about the bride. The reception is for you."

This is what a musician in a Catholic Church should be teaching about the sacrament of matrimony? It's only about the bride?

This disturbed us profoundly because it shows a great lack of understanding of the nature of the sacrament. There’s so much silliness that’s been allowed to creep into the wedding ceremony that I wonder how much that has contributed to the dissolution of marriages.

There were so many brides at the workshop alone or with their mothers. And most of the grooms that were there looked bored and disinterested. Or excluded from the real decision-making going on between the bride and her mother. Maybe it’s time we began trying to correct for these misunderstandings, even by little steps like these.

Maybe, just maybe, if women stopped insisting on making their wedding into a beauty pageant, men wouldn't feel shut out. Then there might be room for her to make some compromises that would help him to feel like the day was about THEM not about HER.

If the ceremony is all about ME that sounds like a receipe for disater going into a marriage. Then maybe being pregnant will also be only about me, and changing diapers will also only be about me, and raising the children will also only be about me.

Mark Shea recently wrote: “In the Western Church, the priest does not "marry" people. He is the witness to, not the minister of, the Sacrament of Marriage. The ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage are the husband and wife, who give the Sacrament to each other. This mutual self-giving love is the most vivid earthly image we have of the mutual self-giving love of the Blessed Trinity and of the love Christ has for his Church. It is light years from the secular picture of Marriage as a "contract" where each party has to guard its "rights." In Marriage we give ourselves completely as Christ gave himself completely. Any vision of Marriage less than this is not the Christian vision.”

Did you catch that? Mutual self-giving love of husband and wife: the image of the Trinity.

How many Catholics getting married today understand the significance of the sacrament?

As I understand it the bride and groom process down the aisle after the priest in their role as the primary ministers of the sacrament.

In a previous post someone mentioned Ephesians 5. That passage describes marriage, the one-flesh union of man and woman, as an image of Christ's union with his Church.

The cross is properly inderstood as the wedding bed where the bridegroom, Christ, consummates his union with his bride, the Church, who springs from his side as Eve did from Adam's. Wives are to be submissive to their husbands just as the Church is to Christ. Husbands are to serve their wives just as Christ serves the Church, laying down his life for her. Which is a better image of this reality: woman approaching the altar with her father or woman approaching the altar with her husband? Of course the one isn't WRONG and the other RIGHT. It's about which one is deeper, which one better expresses the meaning of the ritual.

I don’t say this because I think that the custom of the father giving his daughter away is a bad one. I heard a feminist professor at Boston College on NPR the other day talking about why she told her father he couldn't walk her down the aisle (it almost broke his heart but she didn't care it was HER day) she didn't want to partake in a ceremony that was based in treating women like property. I thought if the liberal feminists are against it then there must be some merit in the custom ;-)

And I'll admit, I always had a vision of walking down the aisle with both of my parents ever since my first communion day when I processed down the aisle with them bearing the gifts. I do think it’s a nice symbol of leaving one's parents to start a new household, an image of community and continuity, the parents giving a public blessing to the new couple.

However, I put that image aside when I started studying the theology of the body and realized the greater depth of meaning in the Church's rite.

And the more I hear that the wedding is all about the BRIDE, the more I am sure that I want it to be about US not ME. If I process down the aisle alone or with my father or with both my parents and not with my groom, I will change the focus of the ceremony. I will help to perpetuate a wrong image of marriage. Instead, I plan to act as a minister on my wedding day, not as a queen. And I will let my groom be a minister for me.

This isn’t about liturgists monkeying around with the liturgy, it’s about the nature of the sacrament. Watching all those brides busy planning their big day, I kept thinking that if they stopped and thought about the symbolism in the actions, and found out what the Church teaches about marriage and why it’s a sacrament, maybe they would not feel as if the liturgy was a game or a show and realize that the liturgy is instead the outward sign of the inward reality.


This is a very interesting thread.
I(an Englishman) married my Spanish wife in Spain and the custom then (22 years ago!) was for the bride and groom to meet at the church door and then walk together to the altar for the Nuptual Mass.If this seems to be dieing out in Italy and New Orleans, as has been sugested elsewhere in the thread ,I suspect that it results from "Anglo-American" cultural pressures stemming from media dominance.These pressures are also evident in the rise of the concept of "Father Christmas" in Spanish culture.This character was virually unknown a generation ago and the present giving element of Christmas time was centered upon the Feast of the Epiphany (the presents being brought to children by the Three Kings on the eve of that Feastday).The aforesaid pressures plus commecialisation and secularisation have lead Spaniards to incorporate this new concept of "Father Christmas" and often two sets of presents now have to be bought if one is to "keep up with the times".To me this is a rather dispiriting example of the further loss of the religious element of the whole Christmas period.(A slight deviation from the original area of discussion but I hope it illustrates my point!)

Charlotte Allen

I'm with James Kabala. Many of the wedding customs of the English-speaking Catholic world are just as old and authentically Catholic (even if Anglicans did adopt them) as those of the Continental world. The bride's father as escort speaks to the familial and social aspects of marriage--for the bride and groom will soon be starting a family of their own if they can. We didn't get the idea from television but from what our own ancestors did.

I think that many of us on this thread are tired of being presented with some liturgical innovation and then told that Vatican II "forbade" some time-honored and beloved earlier practice, such as singing in Latin or praying the rosary at a funeral wake or having the bride's father escort her to the bridegroom. I've got a convert friend who tells me every single darned time I bless myself with holy water as we're leaving the church after Mass that this is improper because the holy water is a symbol of baptism so one should bless oneself only when going into the church. Charity forbids me from responding, "Oh, drop dead" (in the vestibule of the church!), but I've been blessing myself on the way out since I was a kid, and I don't see any harm in it. I'm sure that the new procession-entrance at weddings is very nice and meaningful, but why force it on people in the place of an equally meaningful ancient custom?

What does trouble me about nouveau weddings are strapless evening gowns for brides. In terms of etiquette, they're evening gowns and technically improper for an afternoon function--and they also don't strike me as modest enough for a church. Shouldn't the bride wear some sort of little lace jacket that could be taken off for the reception? Or am I just an old prude? I know that God made the human body and loves it dearly, but there's a time and a place for everything.

RP Burke

A reply to Zhou De-Ming.

The clinking of glasses. Ah, yes, I remember from my own wedding reception, and the many others I attended in Boston (where I grew up and was married) ...

It's a message from Dr. Pavlov that the bride and groom should kiss. When it started at my reception, I simply ignored them. Several friends came up afterward when the clinking stopped, sans kiss, to congratulate me and bemoan their own lack of guts to (not?) do the same at their wedding.

RP Burke

A reply to Charlotte Allen et al.

Now wait a minute. First, there's no reason people can't pray the Rosary at a wake. I disagree with those who say it's inappropriate.

But there is now an actual liturgy for the wake, that includes readings and the opportunity for the eulogies that don't belong at the Mass. What is necessary and sufficient is the wake liturgy or some other official liturgy of the church. Sure the rosary can be a supplement, but there's no need for a priest or deacon to lead it as if it were part of the official liturgy for the dead.

When I go, the liturgy at the wake will be the appropriate hour from the Liturgy of the Hours, depending on the time of day. I've been working on instructions and music brochures for several months now.

chris K

Something is missing when "the sacrament" is spoken of as if everyone will be able to distinguish the merits of the different sacraments by osmosis or something without actions that display these differences. There are outward symbolic presentations in all of the sacraments. It is necessary and should be very human in its presentation in order to honor the original intention in the mind of God.

For instance we have:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

We have in the symbolic tradition and history, a beautiful presentation of an adorned bride approaching her husband. Today, of course, that spiritual concept has been lost to a shallow materialism, but the intention of the symbol of a bejeweled bride should not be totally abolished. Nor should the innocent approach of the bride (the church) to a waiting husband (Christ) be lost in some "gather us in" mob scene that walks together without any distinction between actors. The ultimate union of the couple comes after the blessing and the ceremony and should not, to my mind, be implied that it has in some meaningful way already taken place and is only there for its anointing. I think there is a lot of pride and unnecessary judgment in the false worries that "it's all about the bride". Well, one could say the same about the "strange" gestures of the body or elaborate vestments in the sacrament of ordination. Like that too is "all about the man" being ordained rather than only the mysterious "sacrament". Too much beauty in the human expression of the mysteries of the Church has been given over to the ordinary. It all has to somehow be explained by uncomplicated rational gestures - which everyone should admit,in humility, is impossible.


Mr. Hurley and Fr. Johansen are right. I focused on para. 19 and failed to pay attention to para. 20.

That said, I reserve the right to complain that para. 20 is a prime example of what C.S. Lewis (speaking of the work of the Abp. Bugninis of his own communion) referred to as "liturgical fidget." Really, Abp. Bugnini and his staff were let loose like 8-year-olds in a candy shop, and allowed to toss aside centuries'-old tradition, because they thought their way of doing things was somehow more symbolically appropriate. And instead of providing adult supervision, I'm afraid that Paul VI let them get away with it, making necessary the painfully long "reform of the reform" that we are going through now--and which, God willing, will eventually lead to a revision of paragraph 20 to permit the custom of the English-speaking peoples (and perhaps of other Europeans as well).

(Fortunately, all this is moot for me. I was married according to the rite of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/occasion/marriage.html)

Zhou De-Ming

Thinking overnight about this temptest in a bridal vail, I understand why most Catholic clergy that I have met, priests and deacons, hate doing weddings. Yes, once in a while they have the pleasure of marrying a really holy young couple. But mostly they get not-very-active "cultural" Catholics for whom this is "the high point" of the girl's life, especially for her parents. And it is and endless battle of "We want this." "No...maybe...o.k." until, thanks be to God, the thing is over and the priest gets his church back.

I also realize the wisdom of Canon Law in only trying to manage the weddings of Catholics--the whole rest of the world can follow their own traditions, and every valid marriage between baptised Christians is also recognized as sacramental. Whew! Good call. Of course, that also means to Joe and Jenny Methodist can be married naked in the forest, a la Adam and Eve, and that, too, could be a perfectly valid and sacramental (non-Catholic) wedding, from the viewpoint of Canon Law. [Hey, I live in the San Francisco area; these things happen.]

Personally, I think my Chinese evangelical church had a reasonable approach, of course it is also greatly influenced by Chinese culture. It also, seems to me, to be very Scriptural.
- fulfill all legal and sacramental obligations of State and Church in a minimal way (we really minimized the involvement of the Church in weddings, to a simple gathering celebrating the union of the couple in song and Scripture readings, almost always including Ephesians 5, and a blessing).
- have a grand Wedding Banquet to which you invite all extended families and church community, which last for hours. Chinese banquests tend to have round tables which seat 10 people. The newlyweds visit each table. Red is the color of weddings, and red is everywhere, as well as the Chinese "double happiness" character.

If you look in Scripture, there are hardly any trace of "wedding ceremony," but there are Wedding Banquets from Genesis to Revelation, including the Wedding at Cana with Jesus.

So my advice, which you all may ignore: minimize the legal and ecclesial aspects (NO procession!);
maximize the banquet, and the joyous participation of all family, friends, and faith community in celebrating the new couple, the new household, the new domestic church!

Now, back to arguments over European traditions!

Maria Ashwell

Well, due to various choices in our lives, my husband and I had a nuptial Mass that was really a convalidation, having been married civally some 3 years earlier. I thank God in heaven everyday that it all came about the way it did. We processed in with the priest (along with our two little daughters), had dear friends lead the music (all liturgically appropiate), no bridesmaids, flower girls, flowers, unity candle etc. It was exactly what we wanted, and my husband, who can't stand the current state of modern American wedding days was so happy. It was focused on the sacrament and also the great joy of being in communion with our Church once again. We invited all guests back to our tiny townhouse where we had great food and the most decadent white chocolate mousse cake you can imagine.
I don't think you can be heavy-fisted with norms and rubrics, BUT given the way most culturally Catholic couples approach this sacrament, it is about time for proper formation and catechesis. If this means that it makes many people rethink their attitudes about marriage and family life in the Church, thank be to God I say.


I thought about this overnight. I think, had I known about this rubric and its reasoning, I might have accepted it.

I can also think of family reasons to have all our immediate families process in with us. My husband's parents have been deceased since well before our marriage; my parents are divorced, they got issues after 20 years, and dad's remarried. Why highlight all these things by the typical procession? Every one walk together. We did get a big photo of every one as we walked out of the church on the front sidewalk. It's a fave though I can't see faces.

My husband & I have always thought we really liked the wedding itself more than the reception--not to say we did not enjoy celebrating with family and friends, but the beauty and meaning of our marriage mass outshone all of that!

Zhou De-Ming

My wife and I celebrate our 18th anniversary this weekend. Looking back, we realize that getting married is a lot like jumping out of an airplane together with one parachute. The decorations and music on the airplane, the procession to the door, the last words on board, really don't matter much after you jump.

It's what you do after you jump, after the wedding day, that determines the very serious outcomes, good or bad.

Julie Fernandez

My husband and I were married ten years ago. At that time, our priest suggested that we process in with both of our parents and we thought that sounded like a great idea. He went first, and then I joined him at the altar. I'm glad we did it that way; it was very meaningful and involved all four parents, rather than just my father.

K Hammer

Well, as a result of this thread, I've learned that my parents walked to the altar together (1948, rural Ohio), and my mom says that was standard procedure at that time. But I think I've seen only brides escorted by fathers, or both parents, at weddings I've attended.


I once attended the wedding of a Catholic Nigerian couple living in Los Angeles. I've forgotten some of the details, as it was quite a few years ago, but I think the bride and groom came in, if not actually side by side, then in the same procession up the aisle. They were accompanied by a middle-aged married couple who were present as their "sponsors" in matrimony, and who were dressed in traditional African style. The bride, however, wore a western-style white wedding dress.

The reception afterwards was great fun, too, especially if you like Nigerian food. :)

But the absolute most festive celebrations I've ever been to are Sikh weddings. The festivities last a whole weekend, and my Sikh friends tell me that even that represents a serious curtailment of the traditional practices, made necessary by Americans' work schedules.

James Kabala

I believe that the wedding depicted in the film "Bend It Like Beckham" was a Sikh wedding. The Sikhism of the main family was never explicitly stated, but I inferred it from such details as men with the middle name Singh and a picture of a guru on the wall. The lavishness certainly matched Kathie's description.


I grew up in Philadelphia, and couldn't get married in the parish of my birth because we are attached to the Liturgical norms of 1962. If I remember correctly, Father Mackle was in charge back in 1998 as well.

Since I have no liturgist in this fight, I can sympathise with everyone and no one on this point.

I would suggest more catechesis for everyone involved in this temptest on the purpose and meaning of liturgy. It sounds like they could all use a refresher course.

On a side note, I think David Spade studied acting under Father Mackle. (Of course, I've so blocked mentally most of what occurred, I could have the wrong priest. However, his name does ring a bell).

(Phone Conversation)
Me: Hello, Father?

Father: (sigh) You again?

Me: Yes Father, thank you for your time. I was wondering if..

Father: No.

Me: Father, it's a very small parish, and the pastor has let me know there is nothing planned for that date. We can provide our own priest, a Jesuit in fact.

Father: No.

Me: Father, my family goes back some five generations at the parish. I still send money to it, although I live on the other side of the country now. My parents were..

Father: No.

Me: I was baptised and confirmed..

Father: No.

Me: We're not looking to cause any trouble, I'm simply..

Father: No.

Me: Father, I talked with the pastor. Have you seen the variations that are allowed in Nuptual Masses? I could list the things that are "allowed". I just want to be married in the manner of my parents and grand..

Father: No.

Me: Is there any chance you'll reconsider?

Father: No.

Me: Thank you for your time, Father.

Father: By the way, we're having our annual drive for the building fund. Please don't forget to donate.

Me: Of course Father, God bless you.

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