Are wedding coins appropriate in a Catholic ceremony?

Are wedding coins or arras appropriate for a Catholic wedding? I’ve been told it’s “superstitious” but have never thought of it that way.

The custom of arras, or wedding coins, comes from Spanish culture. The groom gives to the bride thirteen coins, the number representing Christ and his apostles, as a token of his commitment to sharing with her his worldly goods. The coins are often kept as a family heirloom after the wedding. While such a custom is not an official part of the Catholic nuptial liturgy, customs of this sort are generally allowed by the Church to be included in Catholic wedding ceremonies. Other examples of such extra-rubrical customs are the father escorting the bride down the aisle, the unity candle, flowers presented to a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and even the ceremonial kiss of the newlyweds.

Such customs can be used in a superstitious manner by couples who do not understand their import, but they are not inherently superstitious. In and of themselves, they are physical actions that demonstrate the spiritual realities of the marriage that is being entered. For example, the coins represent the commitment of the couple to creating a new household; the father escorting his daughter represents that she is leaving her birth family to create a new family with her husband; the unity candle represents, well, unity; flowers for the Blessed Virgin represent love for the Blessed Virgin and the need for her intercession for the success of the marriage; the ceremonial kiss represents that the marriage must be both ratified (through vows) and consummated physically in order to be presumed valid. And so on.

Non-Catholic Christians often have trouble with the theological implications of physical actions representing spiritual reality but they themselves engage in such actions without fully realizing the import of what they are doing. (Many Protestant wedding ceremonies are chock-full of such actions, and sometimes even more of them than Catholics are accustomed to using.) Those non-Catholic Christians who ponder the actions that generations of non-Catholic Christians before them have engaged in many times leap to the false conclusion that the actions must be superstitious because they are uncomfortable with the idea that spiritual reality can be transmitted through ritual actions. This phenomenon may be why you were told that the custom of the wedding coins is “superstitious.”

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