- Where do we begin?
Begin by identifying the parish responsible for your wedding. This is the parish in which either the bride or the groom maintain a primary residence. The pastor of either of those parishes has both the right and the responsibility to perform the ceremony. He is called the “proper pastor.” The proper pastor, upon request, usually gives permission for a member of his parish to be married in another parish. As a courtesy, the bride or groom who lives in his parish makes this request.
- Who can be married at St. Patrick Church and its chapel, Saint Thomas the Apostle?
A pastor may marry any qualified couple in the church he oversees. Our parish is blessed with very many weddings. Our first priority is given to those who are parishioners, that is, those who live in the parish. We also have a long-standing tradition of accommodating “summer visitors” in situations where either the bride or the groom, or an immediate family member maintains a primary or secondary residence in the parish. Due to the sheer volume of weddings, we are unable to accommodate those couples who have no real connection to the parish or even to the town.
- Who may set the date for the church wedding?
This must be done by the bride and groom. It is, after all, your wedding. Your wedding cannot be arranged by others. We do not set wedding dates over the telephone, but only face-to-face with both the bride and the groom at the initial interview.
- Is it permissible to hold our wedding outdoors, rather in a church or chapel?
No. While you may hear of this happening in other dioceses, the bishops of the Diocese of Fall River have for many years required that the weddings of baptized Christians take place in a church or chapel.
- What times are available for weddings at St. Patrick Church? At St. Thomas Chapel?
For proper decorum, we need to keep two hours between worship services. Also, we are able to hold no more than one wedding or funeral per day. Due to the parish Mass schedule, we are unable to accommodate Sunday weddings. Please refrain from hiring a reception hall until after you have scheduled your proposed wedding with the church.
Mondays – Fridays:
• The church and chapel are both available from 10:00 a.m.
• The church and the chapel are available from 10:00 a.m through 2:00 p.m.
The chapel holds Sunday Masses in July & August, but is available for weddings from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Take note that the chapel seats only 200 people and has no heat or air conditioning, nor does it have much off-street parking. The main church has all these things and a much larger seating capacity.
- May we invite a priest relative or friend of the family to perform the ceremony?
Yes. We welcome priests from outside the parish to perform wedding ceremonies. Following standard operating procedure, the visiting priest must obtain a Letter of Suitability from his religious superior. Next, the Bishop of Fall River will issue him permission (called faculties) to perform the particular wedding. Lastly, the pastor of the parish must delegate the visiting priest to celebrate the wedding in that parish. If the visiting priest comes from outside the State of Massachusetts, he will need the permission of the Massachusetts Secretary of State in order to officiate.
- Do we also need to schedule our wedding rehearsal at the time of the first interview?
Not necessarily. You may choose to schedule the rehearsal as the date of the wedding approaches. Simply make rehearsal arrangements with the church office. The parish has volunteer wedding rehearsal coordinators. A wedding rehearsal coordinator will contact you in advance of the rehearsal. The coordinator will also be available at the church to assist you on the day of your wedding.
- What is the fee for the church and for the priest?
The Catholic parishes of Falmouth have a standardized church fee of $500 for weddings. This includes everything required for the dignified celebration of the Sacrament, with the exception of the musicians. It also includes a $10 stipend to the priest. If there is some sort of financial difficulty, speak to the pastor.
- What does it cost to have musicians at our wedding?
Prices will vary. The matter is between you and your musicians. You are most welcome to make arrangements with the parish music director, if you wish, or, if you prefer, to hire other musicians. Whomever you choose must be familiar with the norms of the Catholic Church for liturgical music. Not all musicians have this specialized knowledge.
- When is a Nuptial Mass most appropriate?
It is expected that Catholics who approach the church for the Sacrament of Marriage are practicing their faith. Two faith-filled Catholics would want the celebration of Holy Mass on their wedding day. For Catholics, a Nuptial Mass is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a sign of belief in the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist on the day of their wedding. It would be difficult to understand why two Catholics would not want the celebration of Mass at their wedding.
- When is a Nuptial Mass not appropriate?
There is a ceremony outside of Mass designed to be used when one party is a practicing Catholic and the other party is unbaptized. One of our ordained deacons usually presides at weddings outside of Mass.
- What about the situation when one party is a Catholic but the other party belongs to another Christian denomination?
Those in communion with some other Christian denomination would not want to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church once they understood that the Eucharist is for Catholics the ultimate sign of our unity with the Lord and with each other. Out of respect for non-Catholics present, it is often best to deemphasize the religious differences by foregoing the celebration of Mass in preference to a Liturgy of the Word. Better to stress our commonality as a worshiping community rather than our differences. One of our ordained deacons usually presides at weddings outside of Mass. Clergy from other Christian denominations may also be able to participate.
- Can the bride be “fashionably late?”
A wedding is not all about the bride. To purposely arrive late is to disrespect your wedding guests and to potentially disrupt the schedules of the church and its staff. Begin at the time you have chosen to begin. There will be a coordinator present at the church to guide you through the normal confusion that occurs before a wedding. When a wedding does not arrive on time, there is sometimes the need to adjust the ceremony so that it at least ends on time.
- Are there any guidelines on music used in worship?
Yes. The Church has clear guidelines regulating liturgical music. Sacred music is prayerful, spiritual, and often bible-based. There are also priorities as to which parts of the Mass are sung. There are very few popular or secular tunes that meet the criteria for use in a liturgical setting. Recorded music is not appropriate in solemn worship.
- What about the church flowers for our wedding?
Flowers can enhance the worship environment. God created the “lilies of the field,” after all. This is the reason artificial flowers are not good enough for Divine Worship. If you chose to use cut flower arrangements, dry flower arrangements, or live plants, they should be natural. Just make sure the floral pieces do not interfere with the sightline to the altar, ambo, presider’s chair, or tabernacle. Also, be sure that the placement of your flowers does not interfere with the ritual movement, processions, etc. of the liturgy. If you decide to use pew-end pieces, take care that the mechanics do not mark or scratch the wooden surfaces. By the way, you are welcome to take your floral pieces with you after the wedding. Flowers are expensive and recycling them at your reception would be budget conscious. Of course, you may also leave them in the church, if you wish.
- Is there anything we should know in advance before we decide hire photographers and videographers?
Yes. Hire professionals who have experience working in church settings. A good photographer or videographer will be so discrete that you would hardly know that he or she is filming during the ceremony. A good photographer or videographer would never stop ritual action in order to get a good shot of the subject. A good photographer or videographer has some common sense, in other words, and respects the sacredness of the moment. As a note, photographers and videographers are not allowed in the sanctuary at any time during the wedding ceremony.
- Do you have any advice on the use of rice, flower pedals, confetti, soap bubbles, etc.
Yes. Avoid these superstitious fertility symbols. Discourage your guests from throwing things at you or at each other. Not only is it silly, but it also leaves unsightly litter.
- Where in the ceremony does the priest say “Who gives this woman away,” “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” and “You may now kiss the bride.”
He doesn’t. It may be very “Hollywood,” but it’s not part of Catholic wedding rite. The celebrant has no right to add or subtract rituals or words.
- Tell us about the ancient custom of the unity candle. What does it mean? Who lights it? When does it occur in the ceremony?
Frankly, nobody actually knows the answers to these questions. Consequently, the celebrant will have no idea what to do with it. The unity candle was invented in the 1970’s by a candle manufacturer intent on increasing sales. It is not now nor has it ever been part of the Catholic wedding ceremony. Thankfully, the unity candle has gone out of style. If you must have a unity candle, why not light it at the reception dinner?
- Can dogs in bow ties, babies in red wagons, toddlers barely able to walk, or small children carrying signs reading “Here comes the bride” or maybe “Last chance to bail out” be in our wedding procession?
Your wedding is a sacred event as you and your future spouse stand before God and before God’s people in order to exchange your solemn vows. “Cutesy” is inappropriate.
- Following the wedding, may we hold a reception line outside the church and/or a photography session inside the church?
You can if it does not interfere with others arriving for the next church event. Check with the church office beforehand to see whether or not there is a window of opportunity.
- When do the bride, groom, maid of honor, and best man sign the marriage register?
The marriage register and the civil license are completed and filed by the priest or deacon who performed the wedding. If you ever need a church marriage certificate, it is obtainable at St. Patrick church office. The celebrant returns the completed civil license to the Town Clerk. A civil marriage certificate is obtainable at the Town Hall.