SALT LAKE CITY — The Catholic Church views marriage as a sacrament; therefore, the wedding ceremony most properly takes place in a church. Only the local bishop can give permission for a Catholic wedding to be celebrated in another place.
Other aspects of marriage in the Catholic Church are unique, as well.
“The Catholic Church sees the Sacrament of Marriage as all about relationships – it’s about a relationship with God, a relationship with each other, a relationship with the community, a relationship with their children,” said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City. “The man and woman are entering into the most important relationship of their lives. There is no other relationship like this.”
At the wedding, Jesus celebrates the couple’s marriage and continues in company with them, Bishop Wester said. “I often told couples preparing for marriage that the greatest gift that they can give their children is their love for one another. But it’s not static. You don’t just do the wedding on the wedding day and then go about living your lives and expect this sacrament will remain vibrant. It will always be there, but to keep it dynamic and passionate you need to keep working on relationships, including with Jesus Christ and each other.”
Not every couple asking to be married in the Catholic Church recognizes that their wedding is a symbol of the heavenly wedding between Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church, said Father Ken Vialpando, pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Ogden.
“Sometimes, we have the requirement that they have to attend Mass every Sunday of the four-month marriage preparation period and comically, one couple said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. You mean we have to go to Mass every single weekend during the preparation?’” Fr. Vialpando said. “They’re in it for the long haul. It’s not just the pomp and circumstance that they’re going through to walk down the aisle in a nice white beautiful dress. They need to recognize the longevity of it. It’s for life.”
The rituals of a Catholic wedding also can easily be conducted improperly.
“The Catholic understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage and its celebration is not simply the Catholic equivalent of what Protestants do in their church; we have a very special, powerful understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage that is very different from the larger Christian community,” said Monsignor Robert Bussen, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Cedar City.
For example, Catholic priests do not perform weddings, he pointed out. “The ministers of the marriage are the couple, not the priest. The priest never says ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife,’ because we don’t. They do.”
Also, the ritual calls for the couple to say their vows themselves, not repeat the words after the celebrant, or reply ‘I do.’ “It is very important that they understand that this is their great priestly moment,” Msgr. Bussen said. “This is when they make Christ present for the people just as completely as the priest does, celebrating the Eucharist.”