February 26, 2021

Spring 2021 Marriage Supplement

Couples should seek ‘mind of the Church’ when planning wedding liturgy

Andrew Motyka, director of archdiocesan and cathedral liturgical music, plays the organ for his sister-in-law’s wedding Mass at St. Mary Church in Indianapolis in October 2019. (Photo credit: Amy Counts Photography)

Andrew Motyka, director of archdiocesan and cathedral liturgical music, plays the organ for his sister-in-law’s wedding Mass at St. Mary Church in Indianapolis in October 2019. (Photo credit: Amy Counts Photography)

By Ann Margaret Lewis

A great deal goes into planning for an engaged couple’s wedding day, but without proper focus, couples can make a crucial mistake in this process.

Andrew Motyka, director of archdiocesan and cathedral liturgical music, has worked with hundreds of couples as they have prepared for their wedding ceremonies. He points out that the number one mistake he sees couples make when approaching their wedding ceremony is that they “spend a lot of time, energy and most of all money preparing for their wedding, but not nearly as much effort into preparing for their marriage.”

While there is much to consider when planning a wedding, including cultural pressures, Motyka notes that most couples approach ceremony planning as if trying to make it “a big show, rather than a focus on the sacrament.” This, he says, takes away from the truth of the event.

Of course, the Church requires couples to participate in a sacrament of marriage preparation program prior to the wedding. This program isn’t a mere formality, but something a couple should take seriously. With a solid understanding of the sacrament, Motyka says, a couple can turn their focus to the planning of their wedding ceremony in a more effective way.

Being a Church liturgy, the wedding ceremony is not merely the couple’s big day, but a celebration of the entire Church, says Motyka. If a couple can recognize that their wedding liturgy, their sacrament, is bigger than just the two of them—that it involves “the mind of the Church” itself—they’ll have an easier and more meaningful time planning and participating in the wedding liturgy and in married life, he says.

Motyka recommends that when planning their wedding liturgy, a couple should become familiar with the words of the Rite of Marriage itself and really understand them. “[Ask yourselves] just what is happening here? What are the readings focusing on? What do the prayers and propers of the Mass tell us? Try to get into the mind of the Church on these things,” he suggests.

To help couples study the marriage rite, resources that include appropriate Scripture readings and wedding vows can be obtained from the pastor marrying the couple or the parish’s wedding coordinator or office.

Motyka recommends that couples become familiar with, or even memorize, their vows.

“They’re not long,” he says, “only a couple of sentences. If you don’t know just what you are vowing for the rest of your lives, what are you doing?”

He recognizes that some people might be too nervous to recite a vow from memory, and it is acceptable for the couple to repeat the vows as spoken to them by the celebrant. “But it’s important to be very familiar with what you are promising.”

Thinking with “the mind of the Church” is equally important when couples choose the music for their ceremony. For this, Motyka stresses that a couple work closely with their parish music director.

“It’s common nowadays for people to go straight to YouTube and come up with their own set of music for the liturgy,” he says. But music directors “have planned and played for many weddings. They know what works, and they know the local guidelines of the parish and diocesan church. They also probably know several pieces that [the couple might have] never heard or thought of before.”

Thinking with “the mind of the Church,” is part of the music director’s job, he says. They should be familiar with Church documents that express what is and is not appropriate for such a liturgy and can guide a couple in making good choices.

“Are you choosing hymns or psalms just because it says ‘love’ once or twice?” Motyka asks. It would be better, he notes, to examine pieces that express the fullness of sacramental marriage.

He believes the focus on a wedding ceremony being a show rather than a sacrament comes from the wedding industry itself. According to theknot.com, the average cost of a wedding in the Midwest is $20,000-$30,000, which feeds into a $53 billion industry.

“We need to nip this trend in the bud,” says Motyka. “Weddings are a sacrament, and we need to draw couples, parishes and the rest of the Church into the idea that this sacrament, central to society, doesn’t need to be crushingly expensive.”

This cost, he says, is one reason why some people are choosing not to get married at all.

“We could set an example by celebrating weddings without trying to go ‘over the top’ with decorations, flowers, all of the expenses of an elaborate reception, or even a professional wedding planner,” he says. “There is nothing stopping you from getting married on a Sunday. Speak with your pastor.”

Motyka concludes that if we, as a Church, focus on forming good Christians, we should then encourage them to build good marriages.

“You won’t remember too many details from your wedding day,” Motyka adds. “But you will absolutely benefit from the good understanding, formation and work that goes into building a solid marriage.” †


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