Priests attending weddings


We’ve been told that priests don’t attend weddings as guests. Rather, they are to be asked to be on the altar with the main celebrant or they do not attend. Is this correct?


I’ve never heard of that. I don’t think it’s up to the couple to invite the priest to concelebrate.


I think if you invite a priest, it would be awkward for him not to concelebrate. People would wonder why.
I had a priest friend celebrate my wedding because the pastor said he couldn’t do it on the date I wanted, and then he just showed up and concelebrated. He must have felt he should be there since I was an employee and it would have looked odd had he been in the pew.

If you’ve got a priest friend that is close enough to be invited, I’d ask him to concelebrate.
Now that you’ve mentioned it, I have never seen a priest simply attend in a pew for any of the hundreds of wedding I have played.


It would first depend on the nature of the wedding (e.g.: Catholic, Jewish, Secular, et c.)

For a Catholic Mass, the priest usually has two options, he can: 1) Concelebrate; 2) Attend in choir. A priest should never just sit in the pews with everyone else (if avoidable), and is given these two options (Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 128; GIRM (US), n. 114). The same goes for deacons.

So, if a priest was invited to a wedding which was a Nuptial Mass, the priest could concelebrate, or attend in choir. If it was not a Nuptial Mass, and just the Rite of Marriage, the priest must attend in choir (if at all possible).

Another scenario would be weddings which are not Catholic. In these situations, choir dress would seem appropriate, seeing that this is most often used when our bishops attend Orthodox liturgies.

I’m not sure what a priest would do at a secular wedding. Since it would be, by nature, nonliturgical, and nonreligious, choir dress would not be appropriate. A special note that one thing to be avoided in this case would be performing any benediction. I know a few people who wanted to have a wedding on the beach, so they contacted a Justice of the Peace. They invited a priest to give a general benediction at the end of the ceremony, thinking that this would validate there marriage (they were wrong, the priest refused).

All of that having been said, it’s import to recognize that a priest could not attend any wedding that is opposed to Church teaching (e.g.: same-sex weddings, second marriages of parishioners who were still married to the previous spouse). There are some gray areas in this regard, like what if the priest was invited to the second wedding of a Protestant or Orthodox friend or relative. I’m unaware of exactly what would happen.

I think that’s everything I know on the subject. Let me know if I got anything wrong/forgot anything.


At our wedding, my wife and I invited many priests to concelebrate. They were personal friends. Most concelebrated, but a few older ones chose to sit in the assembly and enjoy the ceremony. But that was 338 years ago.


Are you planning something special for your 340th anniversary?:smiley:


Naw, my guess would be that they’re saving it up for the big 350th.


ah yes, the fallible fingers strike … it seems like only 320 years … actually 38 …


Following-up on your “same goes for deacons” comment. Couple of questions: First, what degree of obligation is there for a deacon not involved in the ceremony to attend a wedding “in choir?” Thinking that typically a deacon invited as a wedding guest (and not a participant) would be attending with his spouse, and attending in choir leaves the wife alone in the pew. She presumably already does this many times in their home parish, so I’m thinking in the setting of being invited wedding guests, leaving the wife alone yet again may not be a great or appreciated thing.

Also, what is “choir dress” for a deacon? If the answer is alb and stole, then he wouldn’t be distinguished from any deacon who is formally part of the ceremony. And I’m thinking not many deacons - or parishes - have adult-sized cassocks & surplices.


Thanks for the chuckle. :slight_smile:


I’m going begin by cracking open the rubrics for this one.

Redemptionis Sacramentum [On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided
regarding the Most Holy Eucharist] states:

  1. Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations, which are acts of Christ and of the people of God hierarchically constituted, are ordered in such a way that the sacred ministers and the lay faithful manifestly take part in them each according to his own condition.

Redemptionis Sacramentum then cites the GIRM, which references priest in particular. However, as RS states, the liturgy is meant to show the people of God, “hierarchically constituted.” Indeed, deacons are clergy, and their order would not be made visible by sitting in the pews.

I’ll be honest: I don’t think anyone’s done much work on this. The permanent diaconate, as it currently exists, is a new thing for us all, and most people aren’t really sure what to do with deacons yet. They are certainly not laypeople, but they’re not priests either. That having been said, when choir dress was more commonly seen, deacons usually sat in choir, in the sanctuary. Granted, most of these men were celibate. The rubrics don’t mention deacons in particular, but they don’t mention bishops either. They simply state that the people of God should be visibly ordered hierarchically. I’m more comfortable with a deacon “sitting it out” in the pews for a non-Catholic liturgy, as this is more of a gray area, but for Catholic liturgies we are called to follow a certain precedence. Once again, this is not a authoritative statement, but I believe the rubrics are (quietly) calling for this. I’ve seen many a deacon (permanent and transitional) use choir dress in this way.

As to your second question, the deacon would wear a collar, rabat, cassock, fascia, and surplice. The biretta is optional. The deacon would don a stole for the reception of Holy Communion (if applicable), and would assist with the distribution of Holy Communion while wearing the stole before any EMHC were called on (if applicable).

The alb and stole are not liturgical catch-alls. I find it disappointing that we’ve started using them for everything, where choir dress is a more appropriate and ancient tradition.


Assuming a secular wedding between non-Catholic parties, I think the priest could simply wear a suit and clerical collar, and sit in the audience.

The priest would be correct to not attend a secular wedding between Catholics who do not have proper dispensation.


We have 5 Deacons. When not serving at the Altar each of them sits in the congregation with their wife. In regular clothes. I’ve seen this at Masses where they and their wives were invited guests.


We have Deacons who are friends. When my daughter was married they sat in the congregation with their wives in regular street dress. It was never suggested they do otherwise.


When our daughter was married my deacon husband sat with me after we both walked her down the aisle. His role that day was Father of the Bride and not deacon.


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