Europe 2010: Pt VII

The inside of the church where my SIL chose to be married was absolutely stunning. Beautiful artwork everywhere, lovely light. I consider the picture I started this post with to be one of my best, ever.

One interesting thing about this wedding (I’m not sure if it’s the case with all Catholic weddings, but I think so) was that the bride and groom sat up front with their Maid of Honor and Best Man,but all of the guests sat toward the back of the church.

Also in this picture on the top left side of the frame you can see a black screen where they displayed the words to the songs or other things that guests were meant to participate in. I’ve never seen anything like this at any of the stateside Catholic weddings I’ve attended. Is it done in the US?

Z and K stayed up front, sitting in or standing in front of those chairs, for the entire time. Those guests who were interested came forward to partake of communion at the appropriate time.

What I didn’t know, is that the “big moment” at this wedding was the exchange of rings. Though it’s certainly important in the US, I think most couples consider the first kiss as husband and wife to be the climax of the wedding ceremony. I was waiting for it… waiting for it… and it never came! They exchanged vows and rings and some more things were said in Polish and then all of the sudden they were walking out and everyone was headed outside to greet them!

We all stepped out into the bright sunlight to hug and congratulate the bride and groom. This is TH’s cousin Kuba.

While we waited to move to the reception hall I crept back inside to take a few more pictures of the beautiful interior of the church.

They were turning off the lights as I came in and I’m not sure which picture I like better! I love that the light in this one helps you focus on the chairs for the bride and groom.

Off to the reception! Believe it or not, the next post in this series is entirely made up of pictures of food. 25 pictures of different dishes!

19 thoughts on “Europe 2010: Pt VII

  1. In most Catholic weddings, the bride and groom do sit near the front. It’s usually way too long to stand! Also standing in front of the altar would be distracting for everyone.

    “The kiss” isn’t a traditional part of the wedding. We weren’t sure if the priest was even going to say “kiss the bride” until he actually did! So as far as what’s the “climax”, of a Catholic wedding – the vows are when the couple actually marries each other. (Did you know in a Catholic wedding it is the bride who administers the sacrament of marriage to the groom, and the groom to the bride? Not the priest? Pretty neat, huh?) The rings are a symbol of that commitment.

    Did they do Communion before the vows? In the US, it’s always done after. The point is that the vows are not the most important part, but Christ is. So the focus of the wedding generally isn’t the bride and groom, but God. (Though I suppose the order is something that could vary country to country). I know it’s something that frustrates brides who marry into Catholic families. On Weddingbee you always see posts like “I feel like my Catholic wedding isn’t about us!” But it’s not supposed to be! It’s supposed to be about Christ.

    I like the idea of that black screen. I always feel bad for visitors who have no idea what’s going on!

    J Reply:

    Also Catholic, and was going to reply with pretty much the same answer. At our wedding, we sat on the side of the altar, though I’ve been to Catholic weddings where they sit in front of it, as TH’s sister and her husband did here. We also had a little kiss right before we walked out (we didn’t have a Mass since my husband’s not Catholic, so the vows were pretty much the end of the ceremony), but I don’t think it was announced or anything. And Catholics also don’t do the “I now present Mr. and Mrs. so and so.”

    What I’ve never seen was that gap of empty chairs in front of the guests! Usually the first two or so rows on each side are reserved for immediate family, but after that people fill right in. Maybe it’s just because those first rows seem to be just benches, while further back the church has regular pews that are likely comfier to sit in?

  2. Normally they just have a sign in front with the numbers to the songs in the hymnal, but I like the idea of having the words on a screen up there. That means I wouldn’t have to look down & I’m sure they save costs on upkeep of the books!

    I am surprised that the guests sat so far back, but maybe that’s traditional over there. Family & wedding party were in the first couple of rows, and then everyone filled out behind them.

    I definitely agree that the kiss is not the most important thing, and looking back the rings exchange is the thing that is burned in my memory more. Our order was readings, homily, vows, and closing. We chose the quicker ceremony (aka without Mass) because our families are so varied in their religion and we didn’t want anyone to feel left out.

  3. I’ve attended Catholic weddings in the US and Germany and never seen such a gap between the B&G and the rest of the guests. Traditionally, as I know it, the B&G are on the alter with a kneeler and maybe chairs in the US and seated in similar chairs to those pictured in Germany. We stood during our whole catholic wedding although it was not a mass. Usually the wedding party (if there is one) sits in the first row followed by parents and grandparents and then maybe aunts and uncles. Traditionally, the brides guests sit on one side while the groom’s guests sit on the other but I’ve seen that less and less lately. It seems to be practice that the closer guests sit toward the front while i.e. work colleagues sit toward the back.

  4. What a lovely church and ceremony! During my Nuptial Mass, my husband and I were seated to the side of the altar, which is something very common in Catholic weddings but may vary depending on the Parish. Also, the vows and exchanging of the rings was our “seal the deal” moment. Both the Maid of Honor and the Best Man stepped forward with us as we recited our vows to one another. It was such an amazing moment because we were leading it ourselves, as Jackie mentioned above. What I also had incorporated into our Mass was after Communion, we presented two roses to Mary our Mother away from our guests and took that small moment in time to pray with each other.

    Love your photos! What an amazing trip!

  5. I’ve been to a few churches that use screens instead of books. It’s almost always because they don’t have traditional pews in which to keep books, so they put the words up on a screen.

    At the Catholic weddings I’ve been to/in (which is a lot) the bride and groom sit up front, to the side of the altar, together. The bridal party sits in the front row of pews, the family in the second row. Then the rest of the pews are filled depending on when the people got there. The only people at the back of the church are the people who were late!

    There are a lot of rules about communion. When my mom and dad got married, he was still Lutheran so he wasn’t allowed communion at his own wedding. Where at Protestant churches, anyone is allowed to partake in the bread-breaking ritual only Catholics who have gone through the sacrament of first communion and who are in a ‘state of grace’ (i.e. went to confession and are absolved of sins) can partake during a Mass. There are plenty of churches now who sort of gloss over the whole ‘state of grace’ thing, but traditionally, them’s the rules.

  6. Gorgeous church. Beautiful photography. Love those blue sunglasses too!

    My hometown Lutheran church went to a PowerPoint system to help the congregation follow along. They have a large wall area where they project hymns, prayers, liturgy, etc. It’s not a huge, modern church or anything but I think they found it was easier for people to follow the service.

  7. It’s a cute church.
    Normally there is an empty space between the pews and the altar, those benches seem to go pretty close up.
    In France the close family sits in the front benches and then everyone fills up behind it. There is no empty benches left up front.
    I’ve been to a few of my aunts weddings as a kid (often a bridesmaid) but I don’t remember much of the details…

  8. I’m Catholic, and have been to a TON of weddings, and never have I seen the guests not sit at the front! Also, the entire bridal party is usually up there, not just the MOH and BM.

    Also, I’m pretty sure most dioceses in the US have restrictions on screens and things being in the sanctuary – it’s not really liturgically correct.

    J Reply:

    As a cradle Catholic, I’d never before seen a projector or the like used but the parish that I’m currently attending does project the words/music for hymns on the wall at the front of the church. There are no screens or anything, just the creme-colored wall. We don’t use hymnals or even missals (except for some people who bring their own).
    I find it easier to listen to the readings when I’m not reading along and I like how it keeps everyone’s noses out of a book when we sing. :)

  9. These pictures are beautiful! I went to Poland last fall for a couple of weeks and I have to say I miss it. There’s so much art and beautiful sculptures (and crosses) everywhere.
    My boyfriend is Polish and he’s been here for almost 10 years. We’ve been together for more than 5 of them and I have to say that the food and candy are INSANE… in a good way :)

    Again, beautiful pictures!

  10. My Catholic family has a deep aversion to sitting near the front of the church. Maybe they associate it with only “big” events like funerals and weddings. Their entire (mostly Catholic) community will fill every row at the back of the church for a regular service, and the priest will have to come half-way down the aisle for his homily. It drives me crazy!

    leslie Reply:

    in most cases it’s because of the confessions. usually you should confess you sins before attending church, because then you’re “free from sins” and ready to concieve holy communion. when you’re not, you sit in the backseats of a church.

    in nower days those rules vanished, so people just sit in the back “cause we’ve always sat there”, not really knowing why….

    i think the screan is a nice idea! usually there are people at your wedding who have no idea what is going on, so it’s nice for them to follow everything without having to miss anything important. i don’t think that it’s liturgically incorrect….or at least i wouldn’t know why? it’s not in front of the altar, tabernacle or anything else….

    and actually, there are 3 “big moments” during a catholic wedding {when it’s not a mass, then it’s 4}:
    the vows, the rings and the blessings of the priest {mostly done with his stole wrapped around the brides&grooms hands}. the kiss is actually not a part of the liturgy and some might say it’s a very “american” thing :)

    p.s.: great pictures! i love catholic churches….and this one has lots of sculptures of saints….very pretty!

  11. Great photos! I’ve always been continually impressed with churches in Europe – even the smallest ones are absolutely beautiful!

    Your comment about all the guests sitting in the back of the church reminded me of a joke we have about Anglicans at my church – we all want to sit at the back! haha.

  12. Beautiful! In traditional Jewish weddings there is no “you may kiss the bride” moment either. Lots of reforms Rabbis will add it in at the end to satisfy couples who want that moment, but it isn’t actually part of the jewish wedding. The exchanging of the rings is probably the biggest moment.

  13. Beautiful church/wedding. To answer your question: It is not a typical thing for Catholic weddings to have the couple with their best man and maid of honor only up at front/guests at the back. in fact, I’ve never witnessed that and i’ve been to tens of Catholic weddings in different countries and of various ethnic communities within the U.S. To answer your other question about the lyrics/participation prompting screen thing: This is also not a typical Catholic thing. I’ve seen this type of thing at some Protestant churches (especiallly the more “contemporary” types of services), but only once at a Catholic church. In that case, it was just the way that particular parish wanted their mass made easier to follow along for its parishioners (So they would know the hymnal lyrics without having to look in a hymnal, etc.) Each Catholic parish is actually a pretty independent body that can make its own choices for its parishioners, in regards to those types of matters.

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks Anony! This was really interesting.

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