Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I've grown to appreciate weddings in the past year. It started when I had a series of people that I really respect and love get married. The easiest example of this is my good friend and coworker Misty and her husband and my new friend Jacob. They were just so much in love that they made it easy for me to do the wedding. Recently, I had two awesome weddings in one weekend, my good friends James and Jennifer and the next day my friends Jeff and Amy. I used to HATE doing weddings. I got cynical.

So, I started to get cocky. I'm going to be the guy that does like 40 weddings a year and have people want to get married by him.

Now a new issue has reared it's head. It's not the wedding planner. I was worried about that phenomenon before and have only had one person have a wedding planner in eight years of priesthood. I tend to be a jerk to these people because they are totally unnecessary and will only serve to have another leader barking orders and creating chaos.

But, I just know that, after this dancing procession thing that appeared in the youtube machine...'s just a question of time until I have students that want to do this and I'm going to have to say, "no." I know it was cute. It would have been PERFECT for the reception. But it doesn't belong in the wedding liturgy. I'm hoping it will be five years before I get my first request. I'll let you know if I'm right or not.


The Golden Phoenix said...

Wow... I totally agree with you. I saw the video and thought "they ruined the whole thing." -Eduardo

Hillary said...

Yay, somebody agreed with you! So now I'm free to disagree, or at least offer another perspective :)

Some observations:

This took place in a protestant church - either it was a protestant wedding or an elaborate civil ceremony. Since these weddings tend to be way shorter than a nuptial Mass, a grand entrance that is 5 minutes long is appropriate and introduces the honored party who will assist and witness the vows. The processional did not necessarily need matched couples. It used recorded music. The music was completely secular and (respectfully) suggestive in nature. Programs were littered on the floor. Some movements were also somewhat suggestive, but not obscene as many dances can be. All of the dances were imbued with a spirit of joy. The overall effect was to draw attention to the wedding party and then pass it to first the groom, then the bride, then finally the couple proceeding the last leg together.

So, most Catholic parishes disallow throwing things (rice, flowers, programs??). Only live music may be done, and it must be explicitly sacred music or otherwise reflect the sacred character of the occasion. As far as I know a procession of the party is not required at all, because a normal Mass would have the only the celebrant and liturgical ministers. In the case of a nuptial Mass, then, it is entirely appropriate that the marrying couple, bride and groom together, be part of the procession because it is in fact they who confer the sacrament on themselves and are therefore the ministers of marriage.

That said, most American Catholic weddings do process the entire party EXCEPT the groom who kind of stands there sheepishly and receives the bride from her father or parents - contrary to what we just established. Most processional music, if joyful at all, is slow and restrained. The nature of the procession movement can be so somber, stilted, or dull, that it does not convey the great, happy longing that is about to be fulfilled.

In other words, then, our current wedding procession traditions that we hold most dearly already conflict with the liturgical guidelines and often do not convey the immense expected joy of the sacrament that we should be showing with our bodies through the very act of a procession! How can one say, then that the use of appropriate dance and movement somehow does not belong?

If you fixed the music to fit within the guidelines, limited the dance moves to exclude overtly sexual gestures, and put the focus of attention back on the idea that everyone gathered is joyfully processing with one heart to witness and celebrate one, if not two, sacraments, you might just end up doing far more justice to the nature of the liturgy than is presently done.

Hillary said...

Okay, now you've got me obsessed with this video. Here's the follow-up parody:

Fr.Dennis said...


I wish I had the opportunity to pick apart your commentary. But, I don't. But, suffice it to say, we don't agree and I'm pretty sure you know that most Catholics agree with me. I say most because I know that the ones that agree with you will be asking me to preside at their wedding.

Hillary said...

Fr. Dennis

You don't have to take your toys and go home!

If you read into what I wrote, which were mostly neutral observations of the video and reflection on current practice and teaching, you would see that I also AGREED with you: that PARTICULAR dancing procession did not belong in the Catholic wedding liturgy.

I further observed that the pure, joyous spirit of that procession gave it a far more sacramental character than most wedding processions we see, and that this video does challenge the status quo, even in the Catholic Church, as it well should. I asked "How can the use of *appropriate* dance/movement/gesture not belong?"

If the Mass is supposed to give us a glimpse of Heaven and help us enter into that most blissful union with God, why in the world don't we express our joy with our bodies in all liturgy processionals, and especially at weddings, which give us another sacrament by which to model that Union???

Did not the old Mass begin with the psalm "I will go to the altar of God / To God, the joy of my youth" ?

You don't have to give me an answer to those questions if you don't want to. I might be too busy to read it, you might be too busy to write one, you may not actually have one. You might see me as that annoying student you wish would just hurry up and graduate, or at least quit posting on your blog!

But, I do hope you have a pastorally sound answer for that couple who will seriously ask you to officiate their wedding and have a dancing processional. Just saying "No, and most Catholics are on my side" won't cut muster, nor does it satisfy their underlying reasons for asking.

Fr.Dennis said...


First of all, you're not the student that I wish would graduate or wish wouldn't post on my blog. He's graduated and moved away.

But you do have to admit that you seemed to say simultaneously that it's not a catholic thing and then say why it is closer to the way it should be.

"If you fixed the music to fit within the guidelines, limited the dance moves to exclude overtly sexual gestures, and put the focus of attention back on the idea that everyone gathered is joyfully processing with one heart to witness and celebrate one, if not two, sacraments, you might just end up doing far more justice to the nature of the liturgy than is presently done." Next thing you know, I'm going to be accusing you of being against liturgical dance before you were for it. :)

But, you're right. I am going to have to have a better answer than that. This blog is more just an expression of frustration at that reality. I mean, hopefully, I can ask why they want to do it, like what it means to them. I have to do that when people want to do the marian devotion at the end of a wedding. If they have a devotion and see it as a time of prayer, I allow it. If they do it because mom told them to, I usually explain its origins and ask them not to do it.

John said...

Interesting discussion.

Actually, wedding planners could probably be very helpful to those who are going to school and have the majority of their guests coming from out of town. There is so much to do...lists, ordering, arranging this or many details that it is good to have a professional who can help a couple to navigate all this, especially when family is so far away that they can't help out! So, if the wedding planner truly has the best interests and desires of the couple in mind, then that person should be a help rather than a hindrance.

Also, I also agree with both sides on the dance piece...I think that our actions need to be guided by our intent to glorify God and celebrate the Sacrament of marriage...but people differ in their opinions on what actions are appropriate for said glorification and celebration.

This reminds me of another issue...kneel/no kneel ... which has evoked apathy from some and strong feelings from others. Other than having bad knees and not liking kneeling for that reason, I personally see the kneeling or not as a non-issue...but I know people who get very distracted from their prayerful state if some people are not kneeling.

I think the same can go for dance. Some Catholics associate their faith so closely with the physical actions and words that occur during a mass that any deviation from what they know throws them completely off balance. Yet, I'm sure that there are many Catholics who would find themselves drawing closer to God through dance (if only we Catholics could break out of our more overly-serious approach to life....a good balance is best...not too frivolous, but also allow the joy of God's love to come through)