I understand how Michael Lawrence of New Liturgical Movement feels when it comes to preparing for Catholic weddings. I've been to such grand events, where every detail down to the flower arrangements on the reception tables was excruciatingly correct, but the Nuptial Mass itself was completely tasteless. And I'm not just referring to the groomsmen wearing black tie before six in the evening.
The "furniture wars" intrigue me. Once upon a time, the bride and groom stood, knelt, and sat, in the same central position before the altar. Now in some places they are situated over to one side, often sitting at one place, standing and kneeling for the vows or blessing in another place. If this is because the altar is too close to the front, that is the result of a bad renovation. Does it ever occur to a parish building committee that the space in front of the altar is not there to keep people away, but to bring certain important events closer? Of course, this is the same dilettante mentality that goes into organizing the "liturgy committee," as we discovered earlier this month. I am also dismayed by the need to break the decorum commonly associated with Sunday Mass (such as it is) whenever possible. If a priest is the least bit inclined toward chattiness or jocularity during moments of Catholic worship, he is more likely to have a field day with it at a Catholic wedding. Naturally, it has to end in applause, as if there are not enough opportunities to whoop it up for the happy couple elsewhere.
Someday, God willing, I'll be in a position to remarry in the Church. When I do, it will be a Traditional Latin Nuptial Mass. At least then I'll know what to expect. So will everyone else. The sung music will be Gregorian Chant in its entirety, with the propers led by a schola. The people will be provided with worship aids that allow them to sing the parts that every Pope of the first half of the 20th century begged them to sing -- you know, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei; what we call the "Ordinary of the Mass." (If I use a setting, I'm thinking of Herrman Schroeder's "Missa Gregoriana," which is based on a chant setting, and has parts for the cantor, schola, and people. Anybody know where to get a copy? If you have RealPlayer, the Kyrie can be heard by clicking here.) Three little words, "smells and bells," will be the rule of thumb. I'll even have the celebrant and his ministers in the procession, since I never did like them just walking out unceremoniously (and the traditional Nuptial Mass generally concedes this part to local custom). Finally, in the wedding program, it will be stated outright that applause for myself and my bride, in the presence of the King, is uncalled for.
My first wedding was in the Byzantine Rite. It was beautiful. I had a choir from my parish in Georgetown sing for that one. In a nod to the Western tradition, they did Mozart's "Ave Verum" for the prelude, and Duruflé's "Ubi Caritas" for communion. People underestimate the positive effect that good taste has in putting people at ease. But as to the event in question, alas, that was such a long time ago...