QUAERITUR: Weddings on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?

From a reader:

Can a couple get married on a holy day of obligation?

What about (more generally) on a Sunday (which, in a certain sense, is a holy day of obligation)?

The Rite of Marriage may be used anytime except during the Triduum.

A marriage that is celebrated on Sunday or a Solemnity, utilizes the prayers and the readings of the day. One of the readings from the wedding liturgy can be substituted, except on Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, or any Holy Day of Obligation. Such weddings would necessarily include the Gloria and the Creed, and, I would argue, a collection!  (Just to make it truly Catholic.)

That’s the universal law.

A local parish may have (a wise) rule against weddings on Sundays or Holy Days.  Father may, moreover, refuse to permit them for legitimate reasons (e.g., he will already be celebrating two Masses that day, or it would put an undue burden on the organist, servers, custodian, etc.).

If a couple reeeeeeeally wants to be married on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, they are welcome to do so at, I suggest, a regular scheduled parish Mass for that day, in the context of the parish Mass. This would mean no dramatic “look-at-me” entrance, no outrageous floral displays, no special seating for family members or the bridal “court,” and the music must be suited for the feast being celebrated.

I can hear the little shrieks of protest even now. “We’ll do it at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, we’ll supply our own priest, we’ll supply our own musicians!”  Fine.  If the pastor is willing to accommodate this, God bless his little pastoral heart. If not, he is perfectly within his rights to refuse to do so.

As an aside, regardless of all the promises solemnly sworn on stacks of Bibles and cross-my-hearts, situations like this – “We’ll provide everything for the wedding!” – nearly always result in problems… from the visiting priest who accidentally leaves the key in the tabernacle, to the guest organist who spills Mountain Dew on the console, to the headaches from phone messages like “SHE got to have HER wedding on Sunday, why can’t I?”

People have the right to the sacraments. They should not be impeded from receiving the sacraments.  However, they must be reasonable about the time and the place for the reception of the sacraments.

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  1. NBW says:

    Does the same apply to funerals? I saw a funeral service at a Catholic cemetery last Sunday and thought it a bit odd.

  2. APX says:

    This would mean no dramatic “look-at-me” entrance

    What? You mean like this?

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that many hotel wedding packages have a discount for weddings and receptions on Sundays because it’s usually not busy. Perhaps that is why some people insist on having weddings on Sundays.

  3. Lepidus says:

    I was wondering the same thing about funerals, NBW. I figured that I’ve sat through enough baptisms, First Holy Communions, wedding anniversaries, and Anointings at regularly scheduled Sunday Masses, that maybe I can get a little payback by scheduling my funeral at the regular Sunday Mass. :-)

  4. VexillaRegis says:

    I’ve heard that before: “We’ll bring our own organist.” First the visiting organist pesters me with e-mails and calls asking lots of questions regarding the organ, practice time, tuning of the reeds, keys, hymn books sheet music and what not. He or she then often gets cold feet or isn’t able to play well enough, and the bridal couple calls *me* one week before and try to pressure and guilt trip me into playing in my free time. So: No weddings or funerals at odd times, thanks.

  5. Hughie says:

    So our Lord had to be “reasonable about the time and the place for the reception of the” nails that attached him terminally to the cross?

  6. dans0622 says:

    NBW: a funeral Mass (is that what you mean by “funeral service”?) would have been allowed this past Sunday. They are not allowed on days of obligation, Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, and Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter (cf. GIRM #380).

    As far as marriage, my own wedding was on a Sunday, at the direction of the priest. It was not at a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass. This was not in the United States.

  7. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    The canon lawyer in my adds only: one can validly marry at ANY time whatsoever. Three PM on Good Friday. Sunrise on Easter morning. Midnight at Christmas. The rules cited above deal only with liturgy.

    [Yes, a good addition!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. mbrose says:

    My wife and I were married this past June, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29, of course!). We used the First Reading and Gospel for the feast, but had Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about marriage read for the Second Reading.

    On the brightest side, we got TWO new patrons for our marriage.

  9. All Souls Day may not be a holyday of obligation, but I know a couple that had a wedding liturgy on that day this year. That doesn’t seem appropriate to me at all.

  10. A.D. says:

    So sorry, APX. I tried. I only made it to the drunken bridesmaid before starting to heave. How disgusting! Bless Holy Church for keeping us on track with dignified regulations for weddings.

  11. wolfeken says:

    For the traditional Latin Mass, a wedding liturgy follows rubrics from the Collectio Rituum, which — of course — makes thing 100% clear as to when a TLM wedding should not take place:

    “The Nuptial Mass is not permitted on the following days: Feasts of the first or second class; on Sundays or holydays of obligation; within the octaves of the Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi; on Ash Wednesday; during Holy Week; on the vigils of Christmas, Epiphany or Pentecost; nor on All Soul’s Day.”

  12. Volanges says:

    “the visiting priest who accidentally leaves the key in the tabernacle”

    I’ll go you one better: the parish administrator who celebrates the marriage of two of his own parishioners in our parish church and leaves a ceramic bowl (OK, a ceramic Ciborium commissioned to commemorate the Holy Father’s visit to our province 29 years ago) full of consecrated Hosts on the ledge beside the Tabernacle. Yes, it was the first thing I spotted when I entered the church to close the windows because it looked like rain. I hoped against hope that it contained only unconsecrated bread but my heart sank when I saw pieces of the concelebration Host in among the other Hosts.

  13. NBW says:

    Thanks Lepidus and Dan.

    Dan, I think it may have been a service, now that you mention it.

  14. AndyMo says:

    “Such weddings would necessarily include the Gloria and the Creed”

    Just to be pedantic (because “technically correct” is the best kind of correct), ALL weddings should have the Gloria now. The Nuptial Mass in the MR3 now mandates the Gloria at all ritual Masses. On any day that the Nuptial Mass is not allowed, but a wedding is, a Gloria would be sung anyway.

    P.S. I suppose the exception would be on a Sunday in Lent. You would have to celebrate the Lord’s Day Mass instead of a Nuptial Mass, and therefore wouldn’t have a Gloria.

  15. Imrahil says:

    This would mean no dramatic “look-at-me” entrance, no outrageous floral displays, no special seating for family members or the bridal “court,” and the music must be suited for the feast being celebrated.

    I wonder about that.

    As for the first, walking down the aisle, if done not particularly slowly, takes about one minute and a half depending on the size of the Church. If there can be a wedding in the Sunday parish Mass at all – and it surely can – why should they not have it. Then, the floral displays, around here, usually are brought into the Church some days before and remain some days after it, for the decoration of regular Masses also. As for having special seats, there are a variety of reasons for that, such as a parents on First Communion (which is in a scheduled parish Sunday Mass), clubs in their flag-consecrations (which is in a scheduled parish Sunday Mass), the Mayor and member of the Veterans’ Club on Memorial Day (which in my parish is celebrated with a scheduled parish Sunday Mass, followed by a procession in violet vestments to the war-memorial, Our Father, Hail Mary, O Lord grant them, then followed by speeches and I had a comrade), and all such things. As for music, there is (though some do not like that) a variety of possibilities for it anyway, so why not have a couple of, say, matrimony-themed chorals. (Assuming they are actually chorals. If they are secular songs, as sometimes used for weddings – I am not commenting on the acceptability on the practice – they certainly have no place in a scheduled parish Sunday Mass.)

    If a parish celebrates the wedding of its members in public, why not have all of that.

    More important, it seems to me, is not to keep the non-wedding-guest parishioner longer than, say, a quarter of an hour in addition to the time he’d normally have spent at Mass.

    However, the things is somewhat theoretical. Hint: Weddings tend to be accompanied by celebrations. Hint: People have to go to work on Monday.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear @manwithblackhat,

    I totally agree.

    There are some dates where a wedding may be – now – allowed, but does seem unsuitable. Just off the cuff I’d enumerate 1st Advent, Immaculate Conception, Vigil of Christmas, Christmas, St. Stephen, St. Silvester, Octave of Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Fridays of Lent, Palm Saturday, Holy Week in its entirety, Easter Sunday and Monday, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Assumption, Christ the King, All Saints, All Souls and the Last Sunday of the year (whether or not that be different from Christ the King).

  17. dominic1955 says:

    When I got married, we had our wedding on the Vigil of Pentecost (TLM) and basically did the wedding beforehand and had the straight up vigil Mass.

    Church weddings (in general) go much smoother the less stuff you try to impose on the church part of it. Also, the less “princess for a day” garbage the better for everyone involved.

  18. Tim in NC says:

    Several years ago in my Atlanta parish, a couple was married during a Saturday Vigil Mass over a Independence Day weekend if memory serves me. The beauty of the scheduling would have made seating available for invited guests, since most regular parishioners would be out of town. The couple also hosted a reception for all Mass attendees in the parish hall. Kind of sounds like a certain gospel parable of another wedding feast.

  19. Rachel K says:

    APX, where did you find such a repulsive and tasteless video?! You must have searched for ages (alas, I think not). Post-modernists really do have their own rituals…

  20. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    I remember a wedding, held during the regularly scheduled Mass, at a military chapel, overseas. The couple were practicing Catholics and regularly attended Mass at that time and location. Their parents flew over for the wedding. And other than a couple extra people at Mass, it was close to the usual number.

    Their banns were read for a couple weeks prior and there was an announcement and invitation to the wedding for the parish in the parish bulletin. Only thing different from the normal Sunday Mass, the exchange of vows and blessings. Please note that they DID NOT have a wedding procession.

    Really not much different from the Sundays when there was an infant Baptism.

  21. Joe in Canada says:

    Alas! Collections are expected in weddings AND funerals in parishes in French parishes in Quebec. I was at a wedding where the English-speaking couple were married in a French parish and the parish demanded a collection – above and beyond the fee – even though the couple offered to give $200 extra!
    Dr Peters – I thought validity depended on the liturgical form. Under what circumstances could a couple validly marry at 3 pm on Good Friday?

  22. Denise says:

    The simple ceremony with no procession, special music, bridal court, etc is what our pastor allows for couples who are cohabitating.

  23. Siculum says:

    What about a priest who leaves the key in the Tabernacle as a matter of regularity? As in, 24/7?

  24. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Tim in NC and Sandra_in_Severn:

    My pastor has had at least two weddings that I know of done as part of Mass – not Masses held specifically for the weddings, but actual Masses. One wedding was done at the Easter Vigil Mass last year when I was present, and I heard of another wedding since then that was part of a regular Sunday Mass. In my non-clergy opinion, I think it’s a fabulous idea to marry in front of your church community. The straightforward beauty of the sacrament – no usher or bridesmaids or other unnecessary hoopla – is something good for little ones to see, and a good reminder for the adults.

    If I am ever blessed with marrying a good man, I will want my ceremony to be done as part of a regular Mass. Less stress on the priest, less stress on the couple, sacramental marriage just the same. Win.

    dominic1955: AMEN to no “princess for a day” thinking. I want to smack someone every time I hear, “It’s the BRIDE’s day,” or worse, the bride herself whining, “It’s MY day!” Those marriages are handicapped before they even start. I’d advise any man who hears such things about or from his fiancee’ to run and not look back, regardless of funds already spent. He’ll end up saving himself grief and money in the long run.

  25. For the traditional Latin Mass, a wedding liturgy follows rubrics from the Collectio Rituum, which — of course — makes thing 100% clear as to when a TLM wedding should not take place:

    “The Nuptial Mass is not permitted on the following days:

    That’s quite misleading. (And it doesn’t match what’s in the last edition of O’Connell, which edition of the Collectio is it?)

    Just because the Nuptial Mass is forbidden on a day doesn’t mean that having a wedding is forbidden or even discouraged, one would just use the propers of the day (with the commemoration of the impeded Nuptial Mass). Some of those days are days on which the Nuptial Blessing is forbidden and those are days when one should be discouraged from having a wedding, but the rules get quite complicated (and it’s a rabbit hole) and one can always have the Nuptial Blessing later. General legislation and indults in the 20th century quite cut down the “closed times” in which marriages were not to be performed in the traditional Mass.

  26. Stephen Matthew says:

    Dr. Peters makes an interesting point.

    Certainly non-Catholics may validly marry (be it naturally or sacramentally) without observing our liturgical or canonical provisions.

    If a Catholic is dispensed from form he could certainly marry at such a time.

    Now the trickier question is does a marriage rite, performed contrary to the law, provide for a valid marriage for Catholics (who are bound to correct form) attempting to marry in a Catholic rite? It would seem likely in this narrow case not to be a defect in form per se, but rather a breach of another sort having to do with what is prudent, appropriate, traditional, fitting, etc., and thus a valid sacrament.

    (Now if it were done on the wrong day with the intention of creating a scandal or as a sort of protest or some such, that could call into question the necessary intention which is another question…)

  27. dans0622 says:

    Stephen Matthew: Are you asking, for example, whether or not a Catholic couple who had a wedding Mass on Good Friday would be validly married? If the priest had the faculty to be the authorized witness and if there were two other witnesses, there would be no lack in canonical form and the marriage would be presumed valid and would be a sacrament. Certainly, such an event would be totally inappropriate and contrary to the law.


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  29. Volanges says:

    dans0622, of course the couple could be married in the office in a 10 minute ceremony without Mass or Liturgy of the Word. My friends did that after Sunday Mass, with only her parents and sister present. Her dad and her sister were the witnesses.

    When I read Paschale Solemnitatis #61 that says about Good Friday “All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick,” I have to presume that we are not to let a baby die unbaptized simply because the premature birth occurs on Good Friday.

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