Catholic Indian Weddings
The first of the traditions takes place around the engagement. It is a very widely practiced custom for the groom and his family to visit the home of the bride. In a rather moving ceremony, the prospective bride and groom exchange rings that are blessed by their parish priest. This begins the period of time for the couple to get to know each other better, but does not guarantee that a marriage will, indeed, take place. However, if they do decide that they wish to get married, the wedding can happen within 6 months time.
During the getting acquainted phase of the process, if the couple decides they do wish to be married, they are required to attend a Marriage Preparatory Course. They have the option of either a 1 day course or a 3 day course. In order to take part in this course, the prospective bride and groom must complete a form detailing specific things about their lives. Once completed, they are each required to swear an oath on the Holy Bible that they have been truthful and have not withheld any pertinent information. At this time, they also must bring forth their baptism certificates. For 3 Sundays in a row, the priest declares before the church congregation the decision of the couple to wed. This is done for the purpose of bringing to light any hidden or misrepresented information. If someone in the congregation knows of something that needs to come out, it is during this period that it should be told. A wedding is allowed only after the end of this 3 week period.
The bride’s family hosts a Bridal Shower, or a Bridal Luncheon, for the bride’s female friends and relatives. It is basically the last party the bride will give for them while still a single woman. The Bridal Shower is also a token of thanks to all the bridesmaids. A part of this ceremony includes the bride presenting gifts to her bridesmaids and serving pink cake that has a thimble hidden inside it. There is a legend that says the bridesmaid who receives the piece of cake containing the thimble will be the next one in the group to get married.
The Bachelor Party is a time honored tradition that is hosted by the bridegroom the night before the wedding. It is also called a “stag party” because it is for men only. This is the groom’s last night as a bachelor and he is expected to use this party as a way to enjoy that final bit of freedom. It is a night of drinking, revelry and merry making. However, prior to the start of the serious drinking, it is customary to raise a toast to the groom.
Sometimes the bride and groom will choose to host a combined party for their friends and relatives rather than have the separate Bridal Shower and Bachelor Party. This is known as the His and Hers Pre-Wedding Party. Many times this is easier and less expensive if the families need to cut costs, but these parties can be just as much fun as the 2 separate ones.
A Rehearsal Dinner may be held in order to get the families of both the bride and the groom together prior to the wedding. This is typically hosted by the family of the groom, especially when the wedding reception expenses are handled by the parents of the bride. Depending on preferences and budget, this dinner can be either an informal gathering at home, or it can be a more elaborate dinner held at an exclusive restaurant.
On the day of the wedding, the groom arrives at the church first. He sends a car to pick up his bride to bring her to the church. When the bride arrives at the church, she is greeted by her groom and his best man, who welcomes her with a kiss and her wedding bouquet. Following this welcoming of the bride, a priest leads the couple into the Church, where the choir sings a special song for the couple. There are 2 decorated chairs for the bride and groom placed before the altar.
The Wedding Mass begins with the couple walking down the aisle followed by the wedding procession. The ceremony is begun by the priest who first welcomes them into the Church and then gives them his best wishes. Hymns are sung and there are special selected readings from the Bible. The bride and groom approach the lectern accompanied by their close relatives. This is where they read Bible passages that were previously selected. The Homily is later delivered by the priest. This is a rather interesting lecture emphasizing the sanctity of marriage. Many times the priest chooses to make the Homily even more entertaining by including amusing little stories in it.
The Nuptial Rites must be attended by at least 2 people who serve as witnesses. Of course, this is usually not an issue when a full blown wedding is planned. This rite is the time for the priest to ask a few questions that must be answered truthfully by the couple. The priest will ask each of them if they have come to be married of their own free will. The answer to this question must be “Yes.” He will then inquire if they will love and honor each other as husband and wife for the rest of their lives, if they will willingly and lovingly accept children from God, and raise them according to the law of Christ and His Church. The answers to these questions must also be in the affirmative. This is normally just a formality as these things have been decided well before the actual wedding ceremony.
The priest next guides the bride and groom through the rite of The Solemn Promise. They are asked to join their right hands, which is symbolic of union. This is where they separately state their intention to take each other as husband and wife, saying the words “I, (name), take you, (name), to be my lawfully wedded wife (or husband). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” After the bride and the groom have each repeated these words to each other, the priest blesses them, and their union, pronouncing that “What God has joined, man must not divide.”
Once the time honored words are spoken, the priest then blesses the couple’s joined hands using Holy Water, as well as the rings. This is done to ensure that the bride and groom wearing these rings will always have deep faith in each other, do God’s will as well as always living together in peace, love, and goodwill. Rings are then exchanged by placing them on each other’s fingers while saying the words “With this ring I thee wed, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” This is conducted with a promise of fidelity and unconditional love. When the ring exchange has been completed, the priest pronounces them husband and wife. The groom is given permission to kiss his new wife, lifting her veil in order to do so.
Now that the couple has been joined in holy matrimony, the mass continues with the prayers of the faithful or petitions for blessings for the couple, followed by an offertory procession. Offerings, such as The Bible, rosaries, a house made out of thermocol (a generic term for Polystyrene), flowers, candles, and fruits are brought by the new husband and wife. These offerings are symbols of a happily married life. These special offerings are blessed by the priest. A sacrament of consecrated bread and wine, representing the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, is then given to the couple by the priest. The congregation is asked to recite Our Father, which is a Biblical prayer, together. Once this has been completed, the entire congregation takes part in Holy Communion.
The next part of the wedding is the Nuptial Blessing and the Recessional. After everyone has received Holy Communion, the communion service is conducted. The Mass is concluded with the newly married couple signing the register. This is a valid legal document of marriage which declares that the couple is married. A copy of the register will be sent to the Registrar of Marriages.
At the conclusion of the wedding, the happy new husband and wife pose for photographs at the altar with their bridesmaids and groomsmen. When the photos are finished, the couple link arms and walk back up the aisle while The Wedding March plays. Music is a big part of the Catholic weddings. A choir sings hymns specially chosen just for the Nuptial Mass. Guests are typically treated to a solo during Communion.
An event that all the wedding guests look forward to is the reception which follows the ceremony. This is held so that everyone can celebrate the wedding of the happy couple. Relatives, friends, and colleagues are invited to attend this event of feasting and merry making. Much time is spent in the planning of the Post Wedding Reception. Food selections must be chosen along with the amount of food that will be necessary to feed all of the guests. The bride chooses her wedding cake during this particular planning of the reception. This is usually something quite beautiful and elaborate. Some couples choose to have what is known as a Grooms Cake. If so, the groom gets to select the sort of cake he would like. At the cake cutting, the bride and groom each cut a slice and feed it to each other. This can become very amusing as it is sometimes a messy affair with the bride and/or groom ending up with cake on their faces.
When everyone has eaten their reception dinner, the Toastmaster will rise, get everyone’s attention, and propose the first toast to honor the newlyweds. This toast can be followed by other ones from members of the wedding party as well as the family. Anyone who has best wishes to bestow on the couple in this way is generally allowed to speak.
Once everyone has eaten dinner, had some cake, and finished with their toasts, it is time for the bride and groom to start off the party with their “first dance” together. During this dance, the father of the bride cuts in to dance with his daughter, while the groom dances with the bride’s mother. The bride is then handed off to the best man while her husband dances with the maid of honor. The next dance goes to the bride and the father of the groom, as the groom has a dance with his mother. Once this order has been honored, the rest of guests are invited to join them all on the dance floor.
The reception can last for several hours. However, following dinner and dancing, the couple typically will leave the reception to take off for their honeymoon destination. At this point, the couple will either adjourn to a changing room to trade their wedding finery for their traveling clothes, or they will simply leave wearing their wedding clothes and change at another location. Either way, when the couple is ready to leave the reception, it is done with much fanfare. All of the single ladies in attendance gather in a group to await the bride’s bouquet throw. Legend has it that the lady who catches the bride’s bouquet will be the next one to get married. It is quite typical for these young ladies to do whatever is needed in order to catch the bouquet. The bride turns her back to the group and tosses the flowers over her shoulder amidst squeals of anticipation from the laughing group of young women. The lucky maiden who catches it will then flaunt it by raising it high into the air so everyone can see.
Now, it’s time to wish the glowing newlyweds much happiness as they race to their waiting vehicle amid much laughter, cheer, and, possibly, a shower of birdseed or rice. Following the departure of the couple, guests usually remain a bit longer at the reception before gradually leaving also.
You can see that the Catholic wedding is a mix of the very spiritual and the best of fun for everyone involved. It’s a moving and beautiful ceremony that rarely leaves a dry eye in the church. The reception is where everyone else gets to join in on the fun. It is definitely an event not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be invited to attend one.