Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Advice for Planning Your Nuptial Mass: Interview With a Catholic Wedding Coordinator

Kate C. and I went to college together.  She started dating her now-husband at the start of her freshman year! Kate got involved with being a sacristan for the daily and Sunday Masses on campus, and our chaplain later suggested she apply for an open wedding coordinator position as an extension of her sacristan duties.  A few years after I graduated, we ran into each other at my friends' wedding, which she coordinated during her senior year.  In my experience, figuring out a wedding day timeline, from getting ready to traveling to photos to the Mass to the reception, was one of the biggest challenges, due to the sheer number of vendors, locations, and logistics involved.  So, figuring she's seen the gamut of wedding Masses and gained some serious insight into planning the liturgy and how it fits into the rest of the day, I asked Kate to share her experience, along with a few secrets!

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Kate, her husband Joe, and their impeccable cake manners

Well first, let's talk about what a church wedding coordinator does.  Can you tell me about your responsibilities?  How is being the sacristan for a nuptial Mass different from being the sacristan for a regular Mass?
The responsibilities of a sacristan are to set up, clean up and care for the church before and after a Mass.  A church wedding coordinator can also be the sacristan for weddings, but is primarily there to make sure the wedding goes smoothly and to act as a liaison between the church and the couple.  As a sacristan at a nuptial Mass, it means my focus is split between the preferences of the priest and of the bride and groom for things like how the chapel is set up.

Working on your college campus must have meant you knew a lot of the people at the weddings you coordinated.  How often were you scheduled for the weddings of your friends and acquaintances, and what was it like to be there for their Masses?
I enjoyed seeing my friends fall in love and get married at the Mount. It was an honor to see them get married, and a blessing to watch so many couples follow Christ's teachings so passionately, despite their weaknesses.  I guess was truly able to see the human element of marriage more clearly by watching my friends, relatives, and acquaintances get married.  As a coordinator, I went to a wedding once or twice a month. During my senior year, I went to about 20!

You're a twin!  You were engaged at the same time, and you've mentioned to me, in the past, the craziness of helping plan your sister's wedding.  What was it like, and did you bring in any of your official wedding coordinating experience?
Yes, I have a twin sister.  The dynamics of two weddings within a year of each other is another blog post!  For now, I'll say weddings, babies, and funerals change family dynamics, and because of that, it's important for brides to take care of their mental and spiritual health.

Your job, as a sacristan and coordinator, is to help the bride and groom's wedding Mass go as smoothly as possible.  What's the most helpful thing a couple can do to simplify things for themselves and make your work easier?
The most helpful thing a bride can do is plan ahead.  I know that there are a lot of tiny details and they can be overwhelming.  Two essentials are, first, knowing who will pick up flowers for the church, and second, choosing your readings ahead of time.  It saves both the sacristan and the bride headaches. The couple should also keep extra copies of their selected readings and music.  I can't tell you how many liturgical ministers lose music and readings!

I'd love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on!  Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you?  Any funny or otherwise memorable ones?
One couple, an acquaintance of mine, shocked me when they chose John's account of the Passion for their Gospel reading (NB from Stephanie: This is the wedding where Kate and I ran into each other!) .  It was interesting to hear of the sacrifical nature of marriage so openly discussed at a wedding. 

At another wedding, I spent 30 minutes talking to the visiting Franciscan Priest about whether he should wear shoes during the wedding. He insists that the sanctuary should not be marred by unclean shoes. He said if Moses didn't wear shoes in the pressence of God, he shouldn't wear shoes near the tabernacle where Christ is pressent fully.

I also once consoled a flower girl who cried when she realized she wasn't going to marry her brother, who was the groom. She was about 5 years old at the time. I think it was a testament to her brother's character and faith. I was privileged to see this unique family welcome their son's bride into the family.

How did your coordinating experience come into play when planning your own wedding?
When I was planning my own wedding, my experience helped my husband Joe and I plan our wedding liturgy with ease. We knew we wanted a Latin liturgy, so we were able to communicate our desires with the three concelebrating priests.  Even though Joe didn't get the full Latin mass he hoped for, my experience as a sacristan helped me work on a compromise between us and the priests, to have Latin responses to the Mass parts.

Any other advice or planning secrets you can share with Catholic brides-to-be?
Obviously, prudence about what to compromise and when is necessary.  Just because you're getting married doesn't mean you'll get every wedding detail that you want.  As long as your fiancé is the man of your dreams, the details will fall into place.  The happiest brides (and the ones most ready for marriage) are completely focused on God and their fiancés.  These brides are invested in wedding planning, but they know even if they don't get this or that, their marriage is what's paramount.  So, don't stress out, roll with the planning punches, and focus on spending your life with your fiancé.  Honestly, no flowers, pictures, or decorations can compare to building a life with him. 

Here area couple things that are good to know for planning your day: First, any flowers you purchase to decorate the church may act as a donation, including vases.  Different churches have different police, so ask the sacristan how the flowers are handled after the wedding Mass.  Second, though you technically don't have to pay to get married in the Church, parishes may ask for a small donation to help pay the priest, sacristan, and other staff.  Third, delegate tasks to others the day of your wedding.  You will not have time to do it yourself!  Things like handling the flower delivery should be handled by a friend.  Lastly, note that you won't have the church for the whole day.  You may have only 2 or 3 hours to get in, get married, and get out before another function needs to start.  So, try your best to be on time!

Just for fun, I would love to hear your best piece of advice for Catholic marriage, in general!
Remember that love is not a feeling, but an action. You will not always like your husband but your vows compel you to always choose him, over and over, for a lifetime. That is the secret to love and marriage: one must choose love repeatedly. 

Thanks so much, Kate!  Here, if you're planning your nuptial Mass, a few other offerings to help you out:

1 comment:

  1. I was really worried and shed lots of tears during the week of my wedding. But walking into that hall was such an amazing moment. I would suggest these wedding venues for any event of under 100 people where you want an elegant atmosphere for a very reasonable price.



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