Who may marry in our parish church?
The answer to this question is governed, in part, by the Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.
Generally speaking, resident members of our parish and Catholic students enrolled at IUP who are free to marry in the Catholic Church may celebrate their weddings at St. Thomas More University Parish. Alumni of IUP need to speak both to their present pastor, and to the pastor of St. Thomas More University Parish, if they wish to solemnize their marriage in this church.
Setting the date of the wedding
Following diocesan policy, couples are expected to contact the pastor a year in advance of the date on which they hope to celebrate their wedding. Dates will be booked only after freedom to marry in the Catholic Church has been established.
It is the responsibility of the engaged couple to secure the date with the church before making commitments with caterers, reception halls, etc.
Scheduling the time of the celebration
Weddings are scheduled with respect to the couple's wishes, and the availability of the church building and parish ministers.
Weddings are usually scheduled on Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m. through 1:00 p.m. To allow sufficient time for the 4:00 p.m. Mass on Saturday, the church and parking lot need to be cleared by 3:00 p.m.
Weddings are not scheduled on Sundays, Holy Days or other Solemnities. Weddings may be celebrated on a weekday.
There are occasions in the church year when the liturgical calendar discourages or prohibits the celebration of weddings.
What paperwork must be done?
Each engaged couple must meet with a priest or deacon to fill out appropriate paperwork. This is part of the process of determining your freedom to marry in the church and of recording your marriage in the parish archives.
The paperwork consists mostly of the gathering of biographical information and your testimony, under oath, of your intentions to enter into a Christian marriage according to the teaching of our church.
If one party to the marriage is not a member of our faith and/or church, other forms will be required. Any and all questions in this regard can be answered in consultation with the priest officiating at your wedding.
Preparing for the liturgy
In consultation with the priest or deacon who will officiate at the wedding, the couple will determine if the marriage is to be celebrated at Mass, or in a celebration without Communion. The determining criteria will center around what form of liturgy will best enable a particular wedding assembly to celebrate with the bride and groom.
In situations where either the bride or groom is not Catholic, Mass is normally not celebrated.
The couple will be provided with copies of Scripture readings most appropriate for use at weddings. In consultation with the priest or deacon who will officiate at the wedding, the engaged couple will select two or three passages from Scripture.
Non-scriptural passages are never used in place of the Scripture.
The staff member who helps the couple prepare the wedding liturgy will be available to respond to particular requests they might make regarding the celebration of their wedding.
In general and in particular, weddings celebrated at St. Thomas More University Parish are celebrated according to the worship books of the Roman Catholic Church: the Roman Missal, the lectionary and the Rite of Marriage.
In preparing the wedding liturgy, couples will be urged to incorporate elements which will encourage the active participation of those who gather for the celebration. This will include participation through song and spoken prayer.
Assistance will be provided from the director of liturgy and music so that the couple may prepare an appropriate worship aid to help wedding guests in their participation.
Environment of the worship space
The throwing of rice, rose petals or any other flowers, confetti, etc., on parish property or in the church, is not allowed. Also, we do not permit the use of an aisle runner.
A rehearsal will be scheduled for the evening prior to the wedding day. It allows the members of the immediate wedding party to become familiar with the environment of our church building and with the public roles they will assume as part of the liturgy.
The person directing the rehearsal will give a brief overview of the liturgy to help all concerned understand the prayerful nature of the celebration.
We ask that you make sure that all members of the wedding party, and all ministers of the liturgy be present for the rehearsal and that they arrive on time and behave in an appropriate manner.
The form on which you have indicated your selections of readings, prayers, songs, etc., should be left at the office no later than one month prior to the date of the rehearsal. The rehearsal itself is not the time for discussion and decision making.
Why no unity candle?
The unity candle is a commercial product of which no mention is made in the liturgical books of our church. The product is usually sold as a trio of candles, two small and one large with the expectation that the bride and groom share in lighting the larger candle with the light of the two smaller ones.
The unity candle has no real history of tradition in the Catholic faith. For this reason, we do not include it in weddings celebrated in our parish. The event may be considered for the rehearsal dinner or at the reception.
We do encourage you to prepare carefully the many signs and symbols of unity already available in the Rite of Marriage including, worship aids designed to encourage participation; musical selections that invite the participation of all present; careful preparation and rehearsal of the exchange of vows and rings; and the celebration of the word and of the Eucharist itself.
In addition to corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets, many couples desire to place floral arrangements in the church. Artificial flowers are not permitted as decorations in the liturgical space.
Please observe the following when making arrangements with your florist:
"Flowers, plants and trees, genuine, of course, are particularly apt for the decoration of liturgical space, since they are of nature, always discreet in their message, never cheap or tawdry or ill-made." (Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, #102)
Floral decoration should never impede the approach to or the encircling of the altar or any of the ritual movement and action, but there are places in most liturgical spaces where it is appropriate and where it can be enhancing.
A floral arrangement may be placed in front of, but never upon the altar. A floral arrangement may be placed in front of the ambo (lectern). The setting up of stands and vases elsewhere in the area near the altar and ambo should be discussed with the wedding coordinator prior to the wedding.
We are grateful for floral arrangements left in the church after the celebration of the wedding. Your flowers will continue to enhance parish worship and be a fine gift to St. Thomas More University Parish.
- The music director should be contacted through the parish office at least six weeks prior to the wedding. At that time, a meeting will be scheduled to discuss the music for the wedding liturgy.
- After the initial contact with the priest and before the first meeting with the music director, the couple should have selected the readings for the liturgy so they can use them to guide their choice of music. The music director will provide musical suggestions, as well as help the couple understand the importance and role of music in the wedding liturgy.
- An accompanist and cantor from the parish are provided for a fee. In general, we do not allow the use of cantors from outside the parish, but a guest soloist may sing an appropriately approved selection at your wedding. Other instrumentalists such as trumpet, guitar, flute and violin may be used. Please discuss this with the music director. Additional fees will apply.
- All musical choices should be reviewed by the music director. With regards to the choice of music, the church has always insisted that the music used in worship have artistic integrity. Generally, music appropriate to the liturgy is music found in Catholic hymnals. All songs should be tasteful and conducive to a prayerful atmosphere. Regardless of the special significance a song may hold for the couple, love songs and popular ballads most often are inappropriate and are best left to the reception.
- We encourage couples to prepare a worship aid for their wedding liturgy. A worship aid should include the order of the service, hymn numbers, and any other information which will help the assembly participate. Copyrighted material may not be used without written permission from the publisher or copyright holder. Acknowledgment of the permission to copy and the copyright owner's name must appear in the worship aid. The music director will assist you with this worship aid.