Wedding and Eucharist

I need someone to set me straight on some recent anger I’ve had. I am in the process of preparing for a wedding, and my fiancée and I recently met with the priest overseeing our wedding. We are fairly new to the parish and don’t know the priest well at all. It should also be noted that my fiancée is not that put off by any of this but I am.

Among other things, one of the sources of frustration is the fact that we don’t appear to have much of a say in the wedding Mass itself. We were hoping to arrange the Mass such that only my fiancée, I and the celebrant received Holy Communion. A good friend of mine was recently married in which they did this and some other friends of ours were married the same way. I even looked at a wedding pamphlet these friends had from the parish where they were married that they were able to fill out according to how they wanted certain parts of the Mass conducted. In addition to choosing specific readings and songs, it had a section in which they could select various options for Communion, such as “Communion for Couple Only” or “Communion for Everyone”. It also had a section with options for the sign of peace, where they could have everyone give the sign of peace, the couple would just exchange the sign of peace with each other, they would exchange it with themselves and the wedding party & immediate family, etc.

So my fiancée and I believed that we would have some say in these sorts of things. But when my fiancée brought up the idea of not having Communion for everyone and just having it for the two of us, the priest seemed insulted that we would even suggest it. He immediately shot it down, made it clear that this is not an option for us, and told us that everyone attending a Mass has a right to receive Communion.

I’ll explain some of the reasons why I did not want to have Communion for everyone. For one, whether you want to call it judgmental or not, the simple fact of the matter is that far too many Catholics today regularly receive Communion when they probably should not. This is not a judgmental assumption but is a simple fact. Even a book as elementary as “Catholicism for Dummies” acknowledges this. There are a plethora of people who receive Communion with unconfessed mortal sins, and this is not even debatable. So generally speaking, I did not want our wedding Mass to be just another service in which a bunch of people end up receiving Communion when they probably should not. I think it sets a bad example and I was hoping to set a better example for our friends and family with our wedding. (I understand that this Mass is not “my” Mass but Christ’s. However, it is only being held on account of our wedding.) Not only that, but I don’t want to be a party to people receiving the Holy Eucharist when they should not because they feel too “awkward” in front of everyone else not to, or for whatever other reason. My fiancée herself feels embarrassed any time she doesn’t receive because she thinks people look at her as if she’s a horrible person for not being able to receive. This type of mindset has been demonstrated by others in the family as well who are not as familiar with Catholicism and much more likely to fail to give the Holy Eucharist the proper reverence.

Further, I know specific people who have admitted that they are not in mortal states which are amendable to receiving Communion, yet they most likely will receive anyway. For example, one of my immediate family members probably hasn’t been to confession in 20 to 30 years, he no longer attends Mass and even recently started occasionally attending a Methodist service. He certainly cannot honestly describe himself as a practicing Catholic. He has also divulged instances of fairly recent and mortal sin. I all but guarantee that this person will receive the Holy Eucharist if it is distributed to everyone, if for no other reason than the fact that he will feel awkward not receiving in front of the entire church, and/or also the fact that he does not take religion in general or Catholicism very seriously, much less give the Holy Eucharist the proper reverence.

Another example is another immediate family member who is not a practicing Catholic. She raised her children as Catholics up to a point, but does not attend Mass or Catholic services of any kind and has even expressed doubts about whether she believes God even exists. There are other beliefs which are extremely anti-Catholic and even disturbing. My fiancée knows this person will feel extremely uncomfortable with not receiving Communion at our wedding and in front of everyone, and that she will therefore probably receive. In fact, this specific individual was a large reason why we wanted to limit the distribution of Communion to just my fiancée and me – to avoid putting this person in an awkward position with the likelihood that it would result in her choosing to receive when she should not.

A third example is an unmarried couple with whom we are friends. This couple lives together despite being unmarried and have admitted to having sexual relations. Also, as my fiancée and I don’t have a sexual relationship, the male friend said that although he admired us for that, he could never do something like that in a relationship. So in addition to this and other admissions to having a sexual relationship, he also indirectly admitted here that he “lives” with the sin in their relationship and accepts it, rather than it being a case of them occasionally making a mistake. And yet at a recent wedding we all attended for another couple, there he was, going up to receive Communion.


(From above…)

At the time I witnessed this above situation, among countless and consistent other similar situations, I have repeatedly told myself that this is precisely what I don’t want at my wedding. Although I realize that I cannot possibly know the situation for every single person and that it is not for me to judge, I do know for a fact that at least some people should not receive the Holy Communion. There is a difference between being loving and non-judgmental versus being cowardly and standing for nothing. It is not simply a matter of me not wanting people to receive the Holy Eucharist when they should not, but also of not wanting to put people in uncomfortable positions at our wedding. Yet now it is apparently not an option for us.

Another thing that has been irritating me is the fact that at the two weddings I mentioned above in which our friends had the option to limit the distribution of the Eucharist, these were both weddings with very conservative priests and/or in very conservative parishes. As I have observed some other attitudes by our priest that make me uncomfortable, I took this as another indication that he is not conservative enough at all. I don’t know if this is truly an indication of that or not.

So to make a long story short, can someone give me his/her take on the typical practice for what a couple has a say in for their wedding Mass? Is it common for the couple to be able to limit Communion such as in the occasions that I’ve seen, did these just happen to be exceptions, or what? Am I being too critical here with my disappointment or was I reasonable to expect some sort of say?

Actually, those among the faithful who are properly disposed should not be denied the right to receive Holy Communion.

Frankly, I understand your concerns. I have a few relatives in the same boat as yours. However, we also need to look at the bigger picture. The Mass is a public event. It is the Church’s public prayer. What you might do is to include the guidelines for receiving Holy Communion in your wedding programs, or, maybe ask the celebrant to make a polite announcement before the distribution of Holy Communion that only properly disposed Catholics may come forward to receive Our Lord.

Now, Pope Benedict XVI addressed this matter in Sacramentum Caritatis wherein he wrote:

The distribution and reception of the Eucharist

  1. Another moment of the celebration needing to be mentioned is the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. I ask everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, to make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament. For the rules governing correct practice in this regard, I would refer to those documents recently issued on the subject. (151) All Christian communities are to observe the current norms faithfully, seeing in them an expression of the faith and love with which we all must regard this sublime sacrament. Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence. (152)

In this regard, I would like to call attention to a pastoral problem frequently encountered nowadays. I** am referring to the fact that on certain occasions – for example, wedding Masses, funerals and the like – in addition to practicing Catholics there may be others present who have long since ceased to attend Mass or are living in a situation which does not permit them to receive the sacraments. At other times members of other Christian confessions and even other religions may be present. Similar situations can occur in churches that are frequently visited, especially in tourist areas. In these cases, there is a need to find a brief and clear way to remind those present of the meaning of sacramental communion and the conditions required for its reception. Wherever circumstances make it impossible to ensure that the meaning of the Eucharist is duly appreciated, the appropriateness of replacing the celebration of the Mass with a celebration of the word of God should be considered. (153)**

I hope this helps you try to see both sides of the argument.

Hi, Steve.

Congratulations! That makes two of us getting ready for a wedding! :slight_smile:

That said, yes, I think you are being a bit judgmental in your desire to limit the distribution of the Holy Eucharist at a wedding Mass.

While St. Paul explicitly warns the Corinthians not to receive the Eucharist unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:28) it is not our place as lay Catholics to determine whether someone we know is worthy of the Blessed Sacrament, not even when serving the priests as a Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. It should be noted that only a few of our own priests and bishops in the U.S. exercise this option of denying the Eucharist to, say, outspoken pro-abortion politicians–for reasons I note below.

Yep, there are a lot of Catholics who think that they have to receive every time they come to Mass. A few almost never take it because they are too scrupulous about their worthiness. Many more may receive while in a state of mortal sin.

I guess the point is that only God knows, ultimately, what the hearts and minds are of the people who receive Him. You never know what others might have done prior to receiving, despite your past knowledge. A person who you might know has had an illicit affair might have gone to confession days before. He’s under no obligation to tell you this, of course.

Likewise, your fiancee could have taken the Lord’s name in vain by mistake before the wedding. A confession is needed, yes, but would you be the one to make sure that she does so before vows and the Eucharist are done at the Mass?

The power of the Eucharist should not be denied to those with contrition in their hearts. There is no sin that Christ cannot forgive, so it’s important that we as lay people never try to restrict access to the Sacraments. It’s not our right, no matter how well-intentioned. We are expected to police ourselves and let God determine judgment.

My priest, when I was worried that many of my friends (Sci-Fi geeks of all backgrounds) would step up for communion, he reminded me that he does remind people at weddings and funerals that this communion was limited to Catholics only. But–he didn’t say that he was trying to separate the “mortal sinless” from the “full of sin.” :slight_smile:

If you are genuinely adamant in preventing people from conferring bad things upon themselves by receiving the Eucharist unworthily, you could opt for a wedding ceremony with the priest alone, and not a Mass.

Good luck and prayers to you and new bride-to-be!

I would not attend any wedding where the wedding couple decides for me if I am worthy or not to receive Communion.

Have you considered having a wedding outside Mass? I hear it’s a legitimate option. Both my fiance and I’s immediate family are not Catholic, and there will only be about ~5 people at our wedding who could possibly receive at all. I haven’t gotten to the real planning stages yet, but we were considering this.

We’re there. Albeit with a hint of reticence, we are choosing the vow ceremony over the Mass.

Actually, if you read my initial response, that is the same recommendation that Pope Benedict XVI made in Sacramentum Caritatus.

Concur with the above. If you do not want people to present themselves for Communion, do not invite them to a Mass. :frowning:

And, if you should cull your guest list NB: While you have every right to limit attendance to a reception to invited guests, you cannot arbitrarily prevent people from attending the ceremony, whether or not in the context of a Mass.


I would agree with the other posters. You have two options really - opt for a wedding ceremony with Mass, in which case everyone present who is properly disposed to do so has a right to receive Holy Communion; or you go for a ceremony without Mass - in which case perhaps you, your fiancee and immediate family could attend Mass separately the evening before the wedding.

It goes without saying that we all dislike the thought of persons receiving Holy Communion when they are not in communion with the Church or are in a state of mortal sin, but it is not right to deny it to all because of the irreverence of a few. I’ve seen in churches which are major tourist attractions notices on the missalettes which tell visitors of the importance and significance of the Eucharist to Catholics, and that only Catholics in a state of grace should approach the altar to receive the sacrament. You could put a note to that effect in the booklets, or make this point verbally to guests asking them to respect the teaching of the Church and your own personal views on this matter. I don’t think that would be unreasonable.

We had several options when planning our wedding mass, however the only options we had concerning the Eucharist was if we wanted to receive both the host and wine or just the host.

Our priest always makes an announcement at weddings stating that only catholics who are prepared to receive should come up to receive.

Sorry - but as strongly as you may feel about this it is absolutely NOT your place to determine who is and who is not worthy to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Yes - I’ve been to a Nuptial Mass where they have done that before, and frankly I felt cheated as all heck that as a faithful Catholic I could not receive when I took the time and effort to attend the Mass. How horrible it is to have Jesus in front of you and not be able to receive Him. :frowning:

So - I think you need to make the decision to either have a wedding outside of Mass, or open the Eucharist to everyone and let the priest handle who receives and who doesn’t. He SHOULD make an announcement (and you can put this very clearly in your programs) that only those in a state of grace and in good standing with the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion.


Steve, if this troubles you this much you should not have a Mass for your wedding. Go to Mass earlier with your fiance and leave it at that. This is going to be an occasion of sin for you if you sit there thinking about who is going to communion . Not good if you are attempting to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Well . . . I’m glad to know my and the OP’s thoughts conform to the Pope’s suggestion. I confess I didn’t read all the fine print. :o

I appreciate all the responses on this and it is helping me to see the other side of the issue. It seems, to my surprise, that the option of only the bride and groom receiving is not common at all. I wonder, then, what is the deal with the couples I know who were provided this option, to include an actual pamphlet that had this listed as an option in the same way as the readings, music, etc.? In this case, it seems like it’s the regular routine in the parish or diocese to make the Communion arrangement optional. I’m also thrown off because the last time I witnessed this it was with the most devout Catholic couple I know and one of the most devout and knowledgeable priests on Catholic theology. I believe the priest is even a specialist on Canon Law. So now I’m getting thrown for a bit of a loop. Much of my frustration with this came from my experience with other Catholics who I consider much more devout and knowledgeable than most. Did these couples and priests get it absolutely wrong?

And what about the consideration that a Catholic bride and groom would like to receive Christ at their wedding, but due to the make-up of the attendants from all types of different religions, mass distribution would result in a confusing and haphazard situation in which numerous random people would stand to receive, numerous others would stay in their pews and refrain, and the rest would look around in confusion trying to figure out what to do? Or how about a wedding in which the bride and groom want to receive but the groom’s entire family is Protestant and not happy with the fact the groom converted? In this case, the bride’s side would mostly go up to receive while the groom’s side of the church would all have to remain seated, thereby creating a divisive and what could be argued is an even worse “exclusionary” situation. Could these be reasons for the limitation of distribution to just the bride and groom? Or is the answer in these cases the bride and groom will have to accept not receiving Christ at their wedding?

I do still disagree with any insinuation that a Catholic shouldn’t be troubled by the thought of someone receiving the Holy Communion unworthily, or that such an option for a wedding Mass equates to the couple deciding for everyone that no one else present is worthy to receive. At one wedding I attended, for example, you’d be hard pressed to convince me, or any rational person, that the bride had effectively “decided” that her own father, a Catholic apologist, or the rest of her extremely devout family, all of whom are responsible for bringing her into the Faith (to include both of her parents whom she specifically thanked for showing her the path of Christ) were unworthy receive Communion. Nor could you convince me that the groom had decided that for his equally devout family, to include the brother whom the groom practically believes has never committed a single sin and has recently considered a call to the priesthood. To add to that, I myself never considered for an instant that either the bride or groom had made a decision for me that I was unworthy of receiving Christ.

But in light of this information, on the best community I know of for guidance on the Faith, I now feel a lot better about having the Holy Eucharist for everyone. So I thank everyone here for that. But I’m still evaluating all of this.

If a priest celebrates Holy Mass in public, he cannot licitly deny Holy Communion to those who are properly disposed to receive the Lord.

If it were actually licit to do so, these may be reasons for limiting Communion to the bride and groom. As I and others have stated previously, if there are going to be tensions, there are a few options. There could be a marriage ceremony in the church but without the Mass - that is a perfectly valid option; in which case the relatives who would wish to attend Mass would often do so on the eve of the wedding. If there are going to be Protestants at the wedding at which Mass is going to be celebrated, they will know they are going to a Catholic ceremony and they should respect the regulations. I think that a kind note in the booklet or have the priest make an announcement regarding the significance of the Eucharist for Catholics would be appropriate. If you think that a ceremony is going to be so divisive, I would opt for the first option. However, I don’t think it need be divisive once the “protocols” are explained in advance - I would think far more highly of a non-Catholic who stayed in his seat to pray and who did not receive Holy Communion out of respect for our beliefs than one who unworthily received Communion merely to blend in or avoid the possibility of tensions.

No one is insinuating that we shouldn’t be troubled by the thought of one receiving Holy Communion unworthily. What we are saying is that you do your best to respect the Holy Sacrament, the laws of the Church, and the rights and dispositions of the persons present. You may not be saying that good Catholics are unworthy to receive Holy Communion at your wedding, but you are denying them the right which is theirs to receive the Eucharist at a public celebration of the Holy Mass…So I think you’ve got several points to consider: can you, as we have suggested, strike the best balance possible between giving due respect to the Holy Eucharist, Church laws, and the rights & dispositions of those present? Are you going to be able to take measures to ensure that non-Catholics or Catholics not in a state of grace know the Church’s position on reception of the Eucharist? Can you avoid major & unresolvable tensions, which might end up spoiling the whole day (and beyond)? Perhaps if you cannot answer “yes” to these, you should seriously consider not having a Mass within the marriage ceremony.

You seem to be looking at some sort of Wedding planner that is riddled with incorrect information. What you need to be looking at is the RITE of MARRIAGE. this does in fact give you certain limited options, like for example the choice of readings.
Mass however is always a parish community act of Liturgy. Therefore any member of the parish may attend and if properly disposed receive Holy Communion at Communion time.

The Marriage Ritual for Canada says this in the Pastoral Notes:
“An inter-church wedding usually does not include a Mass. This is for two reasons – the non-Catholic members cannot participate fully in the Mass; also, the Mass may be unfamiliar to the non-Catholic friends of the couple.”
“While not compromising Catholic doctrine, pastors are reminded that a wedding is an occasion for emphasizing unity, not separation.”

Thirty-four years ago I opted for a marriage within a Liturgy of the Word because my husband would not have been able to receive Communion. I’d do the same today.

I’m a middle-aged, long-time married woman and also a businesswoman who’s see a lot in life, but I’ve never come across any statement so blatently and unapologetically selfish as this. I’m hoping that it’s a hoax . . . something posted to read interesting responses, perhaps.

If not, if this is a genuine, honest post from someone who is sincere about wanting to keep Holy Communion to yourself and your bride and the priest (oh how very generous to include him!), then all I can say is best of luck to you and your fiancee.

We can look at this from a practical perspective. The bridegroom would never eat and not feed his guests. It’s a sin against charity, generosity and hospitality.

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