Since the publication of the revised Order of Celebrating Matrimony [OCM] in 2016, the Liturgy Office has regularly received questions concerning the options for Scriptural readings at wedding celebrations. The OCM foresees the possibility of proclaiming two or three readings within a Nuptial Mass and in celebrations of Matrimony without Mass, depending on the preferences of the couple and minister or the liturgical nature of the day (e.g., solemnity, feast, etc.). In the case of wedding celebrations between a Catholic and a catechumen or a non-Christian, the Liturgy of the Word may consist of either one or two readings.
A full listing of Scriptural readings for the celebration of matrimony may be found in Chapter 4 of the OCM. The first reading should normally be taken from the Old Testament; however, during Easter Time, this reading is taken from the Book of Revelation. It should also be noted that, amongst the readings given for the celebration of matrimony, there are some which explicitly speak of marriage. At least one of these selections must always be chosen for every wedding celebration, and these are marked in the OCM with an asterisk (*).
In its Introduction, the OCM indicates that when a marriage takes place within Mass, the Ritual Mass for “The Celebration of Marriage” is normally to be used. However, on those days listed in nos. 1-4 of the Table of Liturgical Days, the Mass of the day is used with its own readings. Paragraph 34 of the Introduction additionally notes:
Nevertheless, since a Liturgy of the Word adapted for the celebration of marriage has a great impact in the handing on of catechesis about the Sacrament itself and about the duties of the spouses, when the Mass “For the Celebration of Marriage” is not said, one of the readings may be taken from the texts provided for the celebration of marriage.
The USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship has recently clarified that this exception does not apply to Solemnities and other days listed in nos. 1-4 of the Table of the Liturgical Days (cf. OCM, 56). Rather, one of the day’s prescribed readings may be replaced with a marriage reading only in those rare cases where a wedding is celebrated at a regularly scheduled Mass with the parish community on Sundays of Ordinary Time and Christmas.
Sometimes, couples ask that poems, song lyrics, or non-scriptural readings be read in lieu of the proclamation of Scripture in the Liturgy of the Word. This practice is not permitted by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which indicates that it is not “lawful to replace the readings and Responsorial Psalm, which contain the Word of God, with other, non-biblical texts” (61). When encountering these types of requests, it can be helpful to explain that the Liturgy of the Word is a privileged moment to encounter God’s teaching on the sacredness of marriage and to be filled with confidence and hope by the power of that Word proclaimed. Alternatively, non-scriptural readings, when appropriate for the setting of Christian prayer and the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage, could be used as an introduction to the ceremony before the entrance procession, as part of the homily, or as a statement or commentary at the time of dismissal.
Lastly, couples will often request that friends or family members be invited to proclaim the pre-Gospel readings. Parishes typically welcome such persons to function in the role of reader; however, it is important that those chosen to proclaim the readings have the requisite ability and experience to carry out this ministry properly. Experience has also shown the wisdom of asking readers to practice aloud during the wedding rehearsal so that they can become comfortable with the acoustics of the space and the liturgical setting of the celebration.