For both spiritual and practical reasons it is advised the first part of the tradition is that you contact your parish priest for counseling six to nine months before your chosen wedding date. It is now a modern tradition these couples are required to enter a retreat, called differently from parish to parish but ultimately is designed to help the engaged couple grow spiritually as they take on their new roles and establish a strong base. This is scheduled with other couples and led by Church "teachers" and other laypersons that have been assigned by the diocese for this purpose. After a successful retreat all other items pertaining to schedules, venues, flowers and the composition of the weddings participants may be pursued.
Another recent requirement for Catholic parishioners is the "Wedding Banns" which are the posting in the church foyer / bulletin board or actual announcement of the names of all engaged couples after the mass. Its purpose is to discover any impediments to the proposed marriage.
Tip: Auspicious as it may be, a big factor for agreeing on a wedding date is the actual availability of the preferred Church for the ceremony or venue for the reception. In predominantly Catholic countries, popular churches are sometimes booked a year or maybe even two in advance.
II. The Church Nuptials
The Gathering: Attendees are seated with the Grooms guests seated at the right side facing the altar and the Bride's guests are on the left. Then parents of the Groom are escorted to their seats in the front pews while the last to be seated will be the Bride's mother. The Father of the Bride waits for the Bridal Procession to turn over the Bride to the Groom.
The Attendants' Procession: The processional for the entourage.
Bridal Procession: Following the attendants, the bride's father takes the Bride down the aisle.
The Mass: The wedding mass is the same as any other mass but with additional rites.
Introductory Rites is the preparation and introduction on the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The intent is that the assembled group unites as a community properly prepared to hear God's Word and celebrate the Eucharist. This whole Rite is designed to bring people into a state of prayer and humility centering on Christ's grace given freely for our salvation and our reconciliation as sinners. Then the Entrance Rite, Greeting, Penitential Rite, and the Opening Prayer follow this.
Liturgy of the Word – proclamation of the Word of God. Liturgy celebrates the wonders of creation and gives thanks for the reality of redemption. Then this precedes to the First Reading, Responsorial psalm, Second Reading, Gospel and the Homily
Rite of Marriage. This covers the entire covenant rites. Currently, with permission from the Priest personal vows are now allowed during these rites. Then the couple is led through the Address and Statement of Intentions, Consent and exchange of Vows, the Blessings and Exchange of Rings, General Intercessions and the Profession of Faith.
Liturgy of the Eucharist corresponds to the words and actions of Christ at the Last Supper. The Eucharistic liturgy centers upon the altar-both a place of sacrifice as well as the table from which as Christians we are fed. The themes of sacrifice, thanksgiving and meal dominate. This also includes the Preparation of the Gifts, Eucharistic Prayer and the Memorial Acclamation.
Communion Rite expresses unity in the body of Christ. Through communion Christians are united with God in Christ and through Christ with one another in unity. The rites are now concluded with The Lord's Prayer, Nuptial Blessing, Sign of Peace, Breaking of the Bread and the act of Communion.
Concluding Rite is the conclusion of the mass and final blessings and the Dismissal.
The Recessional is where the bride and groom lead the entourage and the entire wedding party back down the aisle to lead to the reception.
III. The Reception
Banquets vary greatly in size and scale but technically a marriage is in legal terms the signing of a contract in the eyes of God and Man, over time people have tried to make the signing more festive, and thus we now have receptions to commemorate the event . Wedding receptions are parties that are held after the marriage ceremony, and they usually include a meal, a toast, dances, and other traditions. In customary sequence these traditions are the following: The Cocktails / welcome drinks; Formal photography for the newlyweds, family and the entourage; Introduction of the wedding party. In order: groom's parents, bride's parents, flower girl and ring bearer, bridesmaids and ushers, maid or matron of honor and best man, and at long last the Bride and Groom; The first dance; Champagne toast; The dinner proper or announcement for the buffet; Cutting of the Cake; Special dances in order: Bride with her father, then the Groom with his mother, and Wedding party dance; Bouquet toss; Garter toss, Last dance of the newlyweds and finally the acknowledgments and exit.
These components of a traditional wedding are still considered as the norm in modern nuptial celebrations. They are quickly modified or supplemented to conform to almost any theme that a couple may want to use in celebration of the beginning of their union.