The Diocese of Charleston requires that those wishing to be married give a minimum of six months notice. Anyone contemplating marriage at St. Benedict Parish should contact the Parish Office regarding details and specific preparation available for this sacrament. The parish offers pre-marriage classes periodically during the year. Please contact the Pastoral Associate at the office to begin the wonderful process of your marriage in the Church at 843.216.0039. This online booklet contains the policies and procedures observed at Saint Benedict Parish and has been prepared to assist you in planning your wedding. While we are confident that your wedding will be a joyful celebration and a source of pride for you and your families, it must also be an expression of faith within a ceremony appropriate for a church setting. It is also our hope that your preparation for the wedding (which lasts a day) will not overshadow your commitment to marriage (which lasts a lifetime).
Days and Times for Weddings: While weddings may take place on any day of the week except Sundays, most are celebrated on Saturday or Friday evenings. The availability of our church is as follows: Weekdays (anytime after 4:00 p.m.), Saturdays (until 1:00 pm last time available). Exceptions to the above times are not possible. The time allotted for your wedding is roughly two hours (including gathering before the wedding, the ceremony, and pictures afterward). Please keep this in mind when scheduling photography.
A WEDDING IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Introduction - Since the Catholic Church believes that marriage is a commitment made for life, preparation for marriage must not only recognize that commitment but also seek to ensure that both parties are capable of making such a commitment.
Pre-Nuptial Questionnaire - At least six months before your wedding, you must contact the pastoral associate to discuss your intention to marry in the Catholic Church. Please remember, no date or time for a wedding can be confirmed until this meeting takes place. At that meeting, the pastoral associate will conduct the required assessment to confirm your freedom to enter marriage within the Catholic Church. The questions will deal with such matters as previous marriages, age, maturity, knowledge about marriage, intentions, to name a few. In order for the pastoral associate to conduct an accurate assessment, please be prepared to discuss any previous marriages. This includes those which took place before a Justice of the Peace or other civil official. Please note, generally the marriages of non-Catholics before civil officials (including Justices of the Peace) are considered valid by the Catholic Church. Thus, these parties are not free to enter marriage again in the Catholic Church without some disposition of that previous marriage (e.g. by death or through a formal process of annulment). Once the pastoral associate determines that nothing made known to her would prevent the marriage from taking place within the Catholic Church and proper Pre-Cana and/or other classes are taken, she will see that the wedding is placed in the parish records and confirm the day and time of your wedding in the Parish Mass Book. It is only then that formal plans should be made. There are several circumstances which may become apparent during the course of the initial interview. These include: a lack of readiness for marriage as assessed by the pastoral associate; a lack of appreciation for the spiritual and sacramental aspects of marriage; non-practice of the faith; the decision to permanently exclude children in a marriage; refusal to take part in a pre-marriage program or refusal to participate in the pre-marriage assessment, evaluation or counseling. When one or more of these circumstances is encountered, the issues must be resolved satisfactorily before any questionnaires or form can be signed by the pastor or pastoral associate.
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS AND PRE-NUPTIAL FORMS
Since marriage is a step recognized both by the Church and the state, it necessarily involves the gathering of information. This normally involves the completion of a standard set of forms by the pastoral associate or pastor who will be the official witness of your wedding. If you are a Catholic, baptized or confirmed in a parish other than Saint Benedict, we must have a recent baptism and confirmation certificate (dated no more than six months before the wedding is to take place). The couple is responsible for obtaining such certificates (by phoning or writing the parish where you were baptized). All documents submitted will remain on file in the Parish Office as a permanent record. If you were baptized in a faith community other than Catholic, you too will need a copy of your baptismal certificate. A certificate of whatever age will suffice. It will be returned to you after the appropriate information is copied and recorded. Often couples of different faith backgrounds decide to marry. There should be time devoted to discussing how each partner will contribute to the spiritual growth of the other and any children who might be born in their marriage. In instances where one or both of the parties to be married is under the age of 21, there may be a need to interview a parent or guardian to corroborate the statements which were made regarding maturity and readiness for marriage.
The specific preparation for marriage in the Catholic Church involves a program of listening and discussion. The stated policy of the Diocese of Charleston requires that engaged couples participate in a pre-marriage program best suited to their needs. The content of these programs centers on the areas of sacramentality, spirituality, communication, financial responsibility, family life, responsible parenthood, sexuality and continuing formation within marriage. There are a variety of ways in which this may be accomplished. Among these are the following:
Parish Marriage Preparation includes:
• A Theology of Marriage class is offered by the Pastoral Associate at the time of initial interview and completion of initial forms; and, at least two meetings with a couple on the Marriage Team to complete and discuss the Focus Program which deals primarily with communication in the marital covenant.
• The Diocese of Charleston offers various pre-marriage classes and experiences. To view the latest offerings, please go to http://www.sc-familylife.org/ and see Pre-Cana classes, Engaged Encounter Weekends and God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Life, to name a few.
THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY
Sacraments are always celebrations of the entire Body of Christ. Therefore, your wedding liturgy has special meaning for the entire parish community and should be celebrated with the joyful dignity that this implies. It is a time of prayer, promise, joy and hope. This special celebration should be carefully planned with the mutual cooperation of the pastor, pastoral associate and the couple. Your wedding will take place within the context of a ceremony which includes: questions regarding intent, the marriage vows and the blessing and exchange of rings.
Traditionally, the wedding ceremony of two Catholics takes place within the context of the Eucharist (Mass). However, the Eucharist is not something that should be taken lightly or assumed as a “nice background for our wedding vows.” If the couple to be married are not active in their Catholic faith, serious questions need to be asked. If they do not regularly attend Mass each weekend, then how important do they consider the Mass in their lives? Why would they expect to celebrate their wedding in the context of Mass when they celebrate nothing else in that context? Therefore, at Saint Benedict Parish, if a couple expects to celebrate their marriage vows in the context of Mass, they should be prepared to demonstrate that the Mass is important to them by their regular attendance at Mass long before their wedding takes place. If this is not the case, then they too will likely celebrate their vows in the context of a wedding ceremony. This includes readings from Sacred Scripture, the wedding ceremony (vows and exchange of rings), prayers, the optional rites of the “unity candle” and presenting flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the sign of peace, the Lord’s prayer and special blessings. Scripture readings may be chosen by the couple in consultation with the pastor or pastoral associae. Readers may be chosen from family or friends to read the first two Scriptural passages. Any person who is doing a reading in church should be a good speaker, familiar with Catholic liturgy and feel comfortable in a church building. Remember, this is the proclamation of the Word of God.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist (MASS)
Every wedding in the Catholic Church is celebrated with the Liturgy of the Word and the actual wedding ceremony. Two Catholics who marry must be married within the context of the Eucharist (Mass). If one of those to be married is not a Catholic, the couple may request that the Mass be celebrated at the wedding, but it is an option. It is important for these couples to seriously consider this matter. There are compelling reasons why an interfaith couple may not choose to request the Mass. Among these are: so that non-Catholic family and friends may fully follow and participate in the celebration of marriage, that the symbols be those of unity and not disunity when non-Catholics are not permitted to receive Communion, and that of the Eucharist not be celebrated amid a group of people many of whom lack an understanding of its meaning or faith in what is taking place.
• The Entrance Procession - In recent years, several options have emerged for this aspect of the wedding. There can be an entrance procession similar to that seen at Sunday Mass whereby the congregation is asked to stand and sing an entrance song while the wedding party and ministers enter, usually in pairs (including the parents and bride and groom). Some brides are escorted down the aisle by their fathers (and/or their mothers). At some weddings, the attendants are escorted down the entire aisle, at others they walk alone and are met by the groomsmen at the front of the church. In any case, the couple’s preference regarding the entrance should be discussed with the pastor or pastoral associate.
• Offertory Procession - If the Mass is celebrated at your wedding, you may choose to ask some family members or friends to bring to the altar the bread and the wine. This may include as few as two and as many as four people.
• Exchange of Peace - Before the Lord’s prayer (at the Liturgy of the Word or at Mass) a sign of peace is exchanged. At that time, some couples choose to present flowers at that time to their parents (and grandparents).
• Flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary - An ancient Catholic wedding custom is the presentation of flowers at a statue of the Virgin Mary shortly before the conclusion of the ceremony. The bride may perform this gesture accompanied by her new husband, her maid (matron) of honor, her mother or the mothers of the bride and the groom.
• Guest Presiders - Some couples ask a priest or deacon (relative or friend) other than ones assigned to this parish to be the official witness at their wedding. When initial contact is made with the parish, please indicate your intention to do so. That priest will then be contacted by Saint Benedict Parish. The guest priest or deacon, then, is expected to handle all the details of the wedding, including completing the Pre-Nuptial Information Form, obtaining the required documents, completing the other required forms, insuring that the couple is properly instructed, conducting the rehearsal and the wedding and submitting the papers to the parish following the wedding.
• Photography You are welcome to have a photographer take pictures and/or make a videotape of the wedding provided that there are no distractions during the liturgy. Taking pictures in the sacristy (before the ceremony) or in the sanctuary (during the ceremony) is not permitted. The operative principal is that the church is first and foremost a house of prayer and not a photography studio.
• Music at the Wedding Ceremony - Music is an important part of the celebration of marriage. It should not, however, overshadow the essential element of the commitment of the bride and groom to each other. Please contact the Parish Office for the name of our Director of Music who is able to provide the music for your wedding. If you choose to obtain someone else, please insure that they contact the parish so that we can be assured that the musician(s) is capable of providing the appropriate music for a Catholic wedding and is familiar with the ceremony and the parish’s musical instruments.
• Flowers - Flowers have traditionally been a part of the wedding ceremony. They are, however, optional. If you choose to have flowers purchased for use at your wedding, arrangements should be made with the florist of your choice. Please inform the florist that no arrangements may be placed on the altar of sacrifice. Flower stands should be obtained through the florist. It is customary to leave flowers in the church following the wedding as a gift to the people of the parish.
• Unity Candle - The use of a "unity candle" (a set of three candles) has become popular within the wedding liturgy. Two of these candles are lit before the ceremony and the center candle is lit by the bride and groom following the vows. The symbolism is that two candles (representing the baptism of the bride and groom) are now joined into one. If you choose to utilize this rite, please bring the three candle set to the church at the rehearsal.
• Post-Wedding Customs - Please ask those attending your wedding not to throw rice, confetti, birdseed, rose petals or anything else in the church or anywhere on church property. In addition to being a safety hazard, it is a superstition ill befitting the celebration of Christian marriage. In addition, the parish does not have sufficient maintenance personnel for this extra cleaning on weekends and without it the churches are not fit for use for other weddings or the parish Masses.
• Receiving Lines - Receiving lines are better placed at the location of the reception than at the back of church. Nonetheless, if you choose to have a receiving line at the church, please note that this limits your time for pictures since other weddings or parish Masses are likely scheduled following your wedding and you must leave the church in time for preparations for these celebrations.
• Additional Aspects - If you would like to include any other features in your wedding, they must be discussed with the pastor or pastoral associate beforehand.
• Fees and Suggested Offerings - Fees (e.g. for the services of the organist and cantor) and offerings are discussed with appropriate people.
• Rehearsal - Usually a rehearsal is conducted the evening before the wedding. The time is set after consultation with the pastor and pastoral associate. The normal time is the evening before the wedding. It is the couple's responsibility to see to it that no one in the wedding party has used alcohol before rehearsal or the wedding.