Do You Know Catholic Wedding Etiquette?

By: Jennifer Post
Image: Pixelchrome Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

For most people, the only type of wedding they would ever consider is a Catholic wedding. Whether it's a family tradition or you have come into your faith later in life, a Catholic wedding is a beautiful way to start your new life as husband and wife. But do you know all there is to know about proper etiquette? This comes into play more so when you're a guest at a Catholic wedding, since the bride and groom are often taking classes to learn how everything will work.

There are a few things that could happen at a Catholic wedding ceremony that will confuse non-Catholics. And, of course, you don't have to be Catholic to attend a wedding of such. The Holy Communion is one of those things that may leave some wondering what they should be doing. Normally, since not every guest in attendance will be Catholic, the priest will explain what is going to happen and direct the guests where to go and what to do. 

Even if you're not planning on attending a Catholic wedding, learning about history and traditions is never boring. The history of religion goes back thousands of years, but whether you believe in the Bible or not, it is rooted in history. And hey, weddings are fun! Take this quiz to see what you know about Catholic wedding etiquette.

Where are Catholic weddings allowed to take place?

A Catholic marrying another Catholic can marry nowhere other than the territory of a Catholic parish, usually the one in which they live. If the bride and groom belong to different parishes, the wedding usually takes place in the parish of the bride.

What do non-Catholics do when it is time to receive Communion?

Only those who have received the sacrament of the eucharist may receive communion during a Catholic wedding ceremony. The ushers will move row by row to allow guests to receive Communion, so those not receiving should remain seated.

What is the "Sign of Peace"?

In this tradition, it is a time to appreciate those around you and wish them good fortune and peace in life. You shake the hand of the person next to you, or people around you, and wish them peace, and they do it back to you.

Should you wear a hat to a Catholic wedding?

While there is so expressly written rule that you cannot wear a hat to a Catholic wedding, it is frowned upon and considered rude. Normally, the wedding invitation will specify what guests should wear.

What should one do upon entering the Church?

If you are Catholic, you will most likely dip your finger in the Holy Water and make the sign of the cross. Or, you could drop your right knee by the tabernacle. However, if you are not Catholic, you don't have to do any of these things.

What are the vows called in a Catholic ceremony?

While the verbiage will change from parish to parish, the words exchanged between the bride and groom are called the Rite of Marriage. For this, the entire congregation will stand, and the couple will recite their vows, which are actually the traditional wedding vows you are used to.

Is a Mass required for a Catholic ceremony?

Catholic ceremonies can take place with or without a Mass, and opting for the Mass will add about 15-30 minutes to the process. They are usually combined because of the Sacrament of the Eucharist representing the bond of love between the bride and groom.

Do you have to kneel to pray?

While the priest will ask you to kneel to pray, if you are not comfortable with that, especially if you are not religious, then you do not have to. The Catholic church has modernized, especially for weddings, to realize that some of these traditions cannot be forced on people

What should you do for the Introductory Rite?

The Introductory Rite is when the priest leads the way down the aisle carrying the cross. "Gloria" is a common hymn sung during that time, followed by a prayer, in which you will stand for all of it.

What type of dress should you not wear?

Keep in mind, you are not at this wedding for yourself, you are there for the bride and groom who invited you, and you are in a holy house. It is important to be respectful in as many ways as possible, and not wearing short or revealing attire is one way to do that.

What is proper attire for males?

Just like women, men should dress conservatively. Details about dress should be included in the invitation, but if not, it's better to err on the side of caution and go shirt, tie and jacket. You can always take off the jacket if needed.

What is different about Catholic wedding receptions?

While some receptions do start hours after a Catholic ceremony, this comes down to the timing of the chosen venue of the bride and groom, and not the Catholic religion. There is still music, dancing, food and cake!

Is it OK to be late for the wedding?

Since there are so many processionals and traditions that take place at the very start of the ceremony, it is rude to interrupt them. It is suggested to arrive 15-30 minutes prior to the start time so you can figure out where you're seated and chat.

Can you bring children?

It is commonplace in churches that everyone is welcome, and that includes children at weddings. However, the bride and groom can request that children not be present, so make sure you check with them before bringing the little ones.

Is alcohol permitted at Catholic wedding receptions?

There really aren't many difference between Catholic receptions and non-religious receptions. There might be more prayers and blessings, but everything else, including alcohol, will be the same.

Since the ceremonies are long, can you get up and leave throughout?

In the grand scheme of things, the ceremonies are not that long. They traditionally last from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Since you are witnessing the holy sacrament of marriage, it is highly frowned upon to leave during the ceremony.

Are there any colors off-limits for guests to wear?

It is tradition in most weddings that guests shouldn't wear white to weddings, but most important at Catholic weddings because white is a symbolization of virginity, and in the Catholic religion, women are meant to remain virgins until marriage.

What should guests do in between the ceremony ending and the reception starting?

Since there are usually long gaps between the end of a Catholic ceremony and the reception time, guests may find themselves with time to kill. There are no rules as to what they can do, so if they want to grab a drink or a quick snack, they are free to do so.

What kind of music cannot be played at a reception?

That Catholic church does not preside over the reception, so there are no church limitations placed on the type of music that can be played. The only limitation would come down to what the bride and groom like.

When can Catholic ceremonies not take place?

Churches are a place of worship and are usually open at all time for people to come and go. However, the church will close to the public when there is a wedding, but there are limitations on when weddings can take place. If the church has regular confession hours, the wedding must be completely over before that starts, which is why many Catholic ceremonies take place in the early to mid-afternoon.

Can the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony?

The tradition of not seeing each other before the wedding came from the time of arranged marriages. It was thought that if the couple had time to see each other beforehand, they would have time to change their mind and escape.

Can children participate in ceremonies?

Just as in non-religious weddings, kids can serve as the flower girl or ring bearer. There may be more specifics in a Catholic ceremonies, but the concept is the same.

Can you go to the reception but not the ceremony?

The Catholic Church is all about sacraments, tradition, and respect. If you are invited to the ceremony with the reception following, you are expected to attend both, or neither.

Can someone else officiate the wedding?

In a Catholic wedding, the couple must be married by a priest. If not, the marriage is not valid in the eyes, or law, of the church.

What happens if you don't kneel during prayer?

If you are not religious, or do not wish to kneel for prayer, no one will force you. Weddings bring together all sorts of people, and you get to retain your personal choices while attending one.

Where must a Catholic reception take place?

There are no guidelines for where receptions can take place after a Catholic ceremony. It can be in a garden, a barn or anywhere else that holds weddings.

What if you want to express your belief that the man and woman should not be married?

In Catholic ceremonies, the priest does not ask if anyone objects to the marriage. Instead, weddings are announced in newspapers ahead of the ceremony. If you object, you would come forward before the wedding day.

When should you clap at the end of the ceremony?

If the ceremony includes Mass, it will end with the sign of peace. If there is no mass, the ceremony will end with "Go in peace with Christ." There isn't usually a kiss at the end, and no clapping.

Who gives the bride away?

In Catholic tradition, no one gives the bride or groom away. They believe that the bride and groom give themselves to each other.

What sacraments need to be completed in order to have a Catholic wedding?

In order to have a Catholic ceremony, both the bride and groom must be baptized, have received first communion and been confirmed. Finding these documents doesn't take much time, but if one or both parties is converting, that is a much longer process.

Can Catholic weddings be sort of last minute?

Catholic weddings need to be planned around the priest's schedule. You'll also need ample time leading up to the wedding for the classes and meetings.

Who walks the maid of honor down the aisle?

Since the groom and best man enter the altar through a side door, the maid of honor is left to walk down the aisle alone. She is the last one to walk down the aisle before the bride.

Can other family members be included in the ceremony?

Having a loved one read a passage from the Old or New Testament is a good way to include a friend who couldn't be part of the wedding party, or a family member who has special meaning to you. This comes after the opening hymn

Can the bride and groom write their own vows?

While the bride and groom must recite the traditional Rite or Marriage vows, they can add their own vows as well. They can either be read by the bride and groom themselves, or by the priest.

When do guests give the offertory?

The guests can either do it before the processional or just after the recessional. The timing, though, will depend on the priest.

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