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Bride and Groom as Readers at Wedding Mass

Date: October 24, 2021
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In the Vietnamese wedding Mass, the bride and the groom usually read the Lectionary. Some people say that the bride and the groom shouldn’t do it because of the following reasons. First, some brides and grooms can’t read the Lectionary very well. Second, they don’t wear the clothes of the minister of the Word, but rather a wedding dress and a suit. For these reasons, some parish priests prohibit the bride and groom from reading the Lectionary. On the contrary, some people say that the bride and groom should do it because many have the ability to read well and they can practice the readings. Moreover, they would love to read the Lectionary for their solemn wedding Mass. -- D.T., Phu Cuong, Vietnam

A: The rules and customs for weddings can vary widely from one country to another and even from one region to another. Therefore, what I say may not apply where there are specific customs or norms issued by the bishop with respect to this topic.

Although, strictly speaking, a bride and groom are not impeded from reading at Mass, this is not generally recommended and is often discouraged.

The official rituals are silent on the topic of who does the readings, saying only that the Liturgy of the Word is carried out in the normal manner and with three readings. The Italian ritual offers the option, after proclaiming the Gospel, of bringing the Book of the Gospels to the couple to be venerated by a kiss.

Nor would the fact of wearing traditional wedding garb be necessarily an impediment. Although in some places the reader customarily wears special vesture for this ministry, it is not an absolute rule that admits no exception.

However, in 1996, the Pontifical Council for the Family issued an interesting document, “The Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage.” This document offers the following reason why it is better for the bride and groom not to act as readers. 

“68. The proclamation of the Word of God is to be made by suitable and prepared lectors. They can be chosen from among those present, especially witnesses, family members, friends, but it does not seem appropriate for the bride and groom to be lectors. In fact, they are the primary receivers of the proclaimed Word of God. However, the choice of readings can be made in accord with the engaged couple during the phase of immediate preparation. In this way they will more easily bear the Word of God in mind so as to put it into practice.”

This is, I believe, a good reason why it is best to avoid having the bride and groom do the readings. It is also possible that the strong emotions that the couple usually experience on this day could be detrimental to an optimal proclamation of God’s Word.

The choice of readers who are truly suitable and carefully prepared is important as it is a sacred ministry in which the Lord becomes active and present through the ministry of proclamation. In this way the aim of this proclamation will be reached “so that by their hearing the readings from the sacred texts the faithful may conceive in their hearts a sweet and living affection for Sacred Scripture” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 101).

At the same time, if there is a long-standing custom in Vietnam and especially if it is specifically approved by the bishops, it is a legitimate option.

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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