Liturgy Planning

If you are like most engaged couples, you may have discovered by now that the joy, excitement, and anticipation that accompanied the announcement of your engagement can quickly give way to anxiety, worry, and tension as you prepare for the “big day.” This section of the web page is to help you with the details of planning your wedding liturgy. As stated earlier, a wedding lasts for a day, but marriage is for a lifetime. Therefore it is important to keep the perspective that you are entering into a lifelong relationship of love, and not get bogged down with the details of wedding planning.

The Basilica provides a wedding coordinator who will assist you with liturgy planning. The wedding coordinator will be present prior, during, and after the wedding to attend to the bridal party, assist the florist, photographer, and ushers.  In this way the liturgy is more likely to run in a smooth and orderly manner.

Wedding Ritual

The Roman Catholic Church provides couples with a wedding ritual that is called “The Rite of Marriage.” The Rite of Marriage includes many options for prayers, scripture readings, and blessings. The couple can choose to have the Rite of Marriage to be celebrated during Mass, or to be celebrated outside of Mass. When celebrated outside of Mass, the rite includes scripture readings, the wedding vows, and a special blessing; it does not include Holy Communion. Often when one party is not Catholic, the couple chooses for the sacrament to be celebrated outside of Mass. At the Pre-Cana retreat, you will be given a booklet called “Together for Life” that will be used to plan your wedding liturgy along with your wedding coordinator.

Preparing the wedding liturgy is not difficult; it simply takes time, attention, and prayer. What is true for shower parties, rehearsal dinners, and the wedding reception is equally true for the wedding liturgy: if the basic elements have been prepared well ahead of time, everyone will be less anxious and really free to celebrate. It is important that you as a couple set aside time to prepare the wedding liturgy together. You will hear in marriage preparation sessions that communication is vitally important to a healthy marriage; let the process of preparing the wedding liturgy be an opportunity to practice that skill. Discuss the various options in the liturgy with each other, pray over Scripture readings and other texts, talk about the ways in which your families celebrated special events, be sensitive to one another’s tastes, and be open to new ways of doing things. With this in mind, preparing the wedding liturgy can bring you closer together and prepare you for married life, and the result will be a celebration that is festive and memorable for all involved.


The night before the wedding, a rehearsal will be held for the entire wedding party. This includes parents, the best man, maid (matron) of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl(s), ring bearer(s) ushers, readers, gift bearers, and anyone else who will be participating in any way in the ceremony. The parish wedding coordinator that has been assigned to you will facilitate the rehearsal.

It is important that the party be on time for the rehearsal. The bride and groom should ensure that the readers have their scripture passage prepared ahead of time, as they will practice during the rehearsal. If you are having a Mass, those presenting the bread and wine during the preparation of the gifts should also be present.

The marriage license should be turned in to the wedding coordinator at the rehearsal, and if any unity candles are being used, they should be turned in as well.

Liturgical Environment

Weddings are special and joyful for the Bride and Groom, as well as their families, friends, and the Parish community. The environment of the Church adds to the celebration, and this environment changes depending on the season of the liturgical year (Ordinary Time, Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc). Usually the environment is sufficiently decorated for a wedding, however to personalize a ceremony the couple may wish to add flowers, greens, candles, or other symbols to the already existing environment. Please keep in mind that the liturgical environment is set for a particular season, and may not be re-arranged. The following guidelines are provided to help you plan the liturgical environment for your wedding.

FLOWERS – Flower selection should be simple and in good taste. Arrangements should not overpower the focus of the liturgical environment. Arrangements should be placed lower than the altar, or to the rear of the altar area. They should not impede the movement of the presider or wedding party within the altar area. Nothing should be placed on the altar.

Some liturgical seasons lend themselves to floral arrangements (Easter & Christmas). Lent is a season of penance in preparation for Easter, so weddings are discouraged. However if there should be a wedding during the Lenten season, with regards to the penitential nature during the season of lent floral arrangements are not permitted in the sanctuary area.

Any preparations regarding floral arrangements or use of the plants must be discussed FIRST with the wedding coordinator.  If flower girls will be dropping petals during the entrance procession, they should be made of silk, not of natural flower pedals.

CANDLES – Candelabras should be provided and set up by the florist. Propane candles are preferred, however wax candles may be used if protected by a metal sleeve in order to prevent wax from dripping on the floor. Candelabras should always be placed behind the altar. Any use of candles must always consider the care of the Sanctuary and church, as well as express simplicity.

The “Unity Candle” has become a popular custom at weddings. However it is not a part of the Catholic rite of marriage, as the exchange of consent, the exchanges of rings, and the Eucharist are the signs of unity in a Catholic marriage. If a couple wishes to add this custom to the ceremony, unity candle sets should be purchased through local merchants. The Church will supply a stand and a small unity candle holder in the event it is not supplied by the wedding party. Candles should be brought to the wedding rehearsal and given to the wedding coordinator for set up prior to your ceremony. Often couples will choose to have the unity candle as a part of the rehearsal dinner, or the wedding reception instead of during the liturgy.

PEW DECORATIONS -If a couple chooses to have pew decorations such as flowers or bows, a florist will provide them. The draping of netting or other decor which blocks the entrance of the pews from the center aisle is not permitted to ensure the safety and security of  your wedding guests. Pew decorations may be attached to the pew with a plastic hook or elastic band. Tape, nails, tacks, or sticky substances are inappropriate.

RUNNERS – Some couples ask for a white runner down the aisle of the church.  The original purpose of runners harkens back to a time when church floors were made of dirt, stone or wood, and the runner prevented the dress from being soiled.  Now with carpet, the purpose for the runner no longer exists and therefore runners are not used at the Basilica of St. Paul.

CONFETTI – For safety and environmental reasons the use of rice, bird seedconfetti, and bubbles are not permitted anywhere on Church property.

DRESSING ROOM – The Damascus Room in the lobby of the church may be reserved as a dressing room for the bridal party. The room is subject to availability, and should be reserved and arrangements for key pickup should be handled through the parish secretary. Care of the room is the responsibility of the couple and family. A $100 refundable deposit will be required to ensure the room will be kept in order and the key returned.

WEDDING DECORUM – Your wedding is a most holy sacrament taking place in the Lord’s house, and we request that all guests and members of the wedding party approach this celebration with reverence and respect. It is expected that the wedding party will refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages or other substances prior to the wedding. Food, drinks, gum, etc, should not be brought into the Church. Inappropriate language or behavior cannot be tolerated. Because the sacrament of marriage will occur in the house of God, appropriate dress is required of all involved in the liturgy. Modesty is a virtue that is valued and treasured by the Catholic Church and we ask that all participants respect this virtue.

TIMELINESS – Because the Basilica is an active parish, there are many other liturgical events scheduled in addition to weddings. Accordingly, couples are asked to respect the limits of pre-wedding and post-wedding activities and ensure the ceremony starts on time. Arrival times for the wedding party will be established with the wedding coordinator. Thirty minutes will be set aside after the ceremony for photography. To allow enough time for photography, receiving lines should occur at the reception, and not after the ceremony.

PHOTOGRAPHS and VIDEOS – The Sacrament of Marriage is a sacred moment of rejoicing in prayer, song, and gesture.  While your desire to record this moment is understood, we ask that you observe the following so that the sacred joy of this day will be preserved.

The photographer will be allowed to be in the church for up to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the wedding and should conclude all photos and equipment breakdown within 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Liturgy.

In order to preserve the sacred nature of the ceremony, and have little impact on the assembly’s prayer, we have designated specific locations from which pictures and video may be taken and recorded during the ceremony. The wedding coordinator will advise the professional photographers of the locations within the church.

Once the bridal procession has begun, photographers and videographers are to remain in these designated areas. Only the lighting available in the church may be used.  No additional lighting may be brought into the church.  Posed photos after the ceremony are exceptions. Also every effort should be made to let wedding guests know that picture taking and filming is limited to the professionals hired by the bride and groom.