Marriage Ministries


We are happy that you are getting married and that Saint Bernard’s is the place you have chosen for the wedding. This information will provide you with some tips about planning your ceremony and answer some of the questions you may have about it.

Who to Talk to Places for Weddings Times of Weddings Rehearsal Music
Wedding Attire Decorations Unity Candel Programs Rice, Etc.
The Cost? Your Belongings Photographs Procession Guest Seating
Ceremony Participants Spiritual Preparation Music Guidelines    

Who to Talk with About the Arrangements
Planning the wedding ceremony should be done with the priest who is presiding at your wedding. Be sure to talk to him about your choices of readings, how you want to process in, and other decisions you make about the ceremony. Arrangements for use of the facilities must be made with Mike Ellingson, our facility scheduler. Music must be arranged with Anne Roberts, our Music Director.
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Places for Weddings
Weddings in the Catholic Church are religious ceremonies and should take place in a church. At St. Bernard’s we have two places where you can have your wedding: the church which seats around 750 people, and the Good Shepherd Chapel, which will seat approximately 80 people.
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Times of Weddings
Please remember that we have to work around the weekend Mass schedule at the parish. Weddings may be planned for any time in the morning after 10:00 a.m., in the afternoon until 2:00 p.m. and in the evening after 7:00 p.m. While the Church does not forbid weddings during the seasons of Lent or Advent, you should remember that they are “penitential” seasons. If you  have your wedding at that time of the year, it is appropriate to respect the spirit of the season in planning your decorations, etc. The parish will not change the seasonal colors or style of its liturgical decorations because of the wedding
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The rehearsal should take place the evening before the wedding. It will take approximately one hour. Plan your rehearsal dinner to take place about an hour and a half after the time scheduled for the rehearsal itself. I.e. if the rehearsal is to start at 6:30 p.m., do not schedule the dinner before 8:00 p.m. Please plan the time of the rehearsal so that those who must attend will have time to get to the Church. We suggest that you ask everyone to be at church fifteen minutes before the time scheduled. People who are late for the rehearsal keep everyone waiting and throw off your dinner plans.

Everyone who is to take part in the wedding ceremony should attend the rehearsal - bride, groom, attendants, readers, parents, flower girls, ring bearers, ushers, Eucharistic ministers, etc. It also helps if you are having the ceremony videotaped that the person doing that attends. If you are having a unity candle, bring it, along with the tapers, to the rehearsal so that we can set it up and have it here for the ceremony the next day. BRING YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE TO THE REHEARSAL so that Father knows that you have it and he won’t have to send you home for it on the day of the wedding because you forgot to bring it in all the rush. No wedding will take place until Father has the marriage license in hand!
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Guidelines for music are included in this booklet. Please respect them and do not ask Father or the organist to “bend the rules” just for you. The wedding is a sacred ceremony. Only music fitting to the occasion will be allowed. The final authority on this matter is the priest and the parish music director. Secular music that has special meaning to you can be played at the reception.
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Wedding Attire
Wedding attire  should be in good taste, i.e. modest and appropriate for church. In choosing their wedding dresses, brides should be aware that there will be times during the ceremony that they will need to be seated and to kneel. Do not choose a dress that makes this difficult! 
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Keep them simple. Remember that there is only so much room in the Sanctuary. Candelabras and excessive flowers clutter things up and tend to distract from the simplicity of the wedding rite. A couple sprays of flowers (one for the front of the altar and one in front of the pulpit) should be sufficient. If you choose to get a flower spray for the front of the altar, please be sure it is not higher than the top of the altar (3 ½ ft).

If you plan to have decorations on the ends of the pews, they must not be attached with thumbtacks or other means that may mar the finish of the pews. If you choose to use pew decorations, please designate someone to collect them after the wedding. A small spray of flowers for the guest book table adds a nice touch. A corsage or boutonniere for the organist and cantor are appropriate but not required.
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Unity Candle
Many couples like to make the lighting of a “unity candle” part of the wedding ceremony.  If you decide to include this in your ceremony it is up to you to provide the candles (one large and two smaller ones). You can purchase these candles, suitably decorated from either Zeigler’s (11th and Cincinnati west of Lewis) or the Catholic Book & Gift Store (32nd and Yale). You do not need to buy a holder for the candles, we have one at the church for you to use. Be sure to get candles that are at least 12 inches long. If you don’t ,the smaller candles may burn out before it is time to light the large candle. The smaller candles make nice keepsakes to give to your moms .
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Some couples like to put together a keepsake “program” that lists the order of the ceremony, and the names of the participants. Father has sample copies of such programs done by other couples and will be happy to share them with you so that you can use them as a guide. Before it goes to the printers you should check it out with Father and the music director to be sure that you have everything in the right order and the names of musical pieces and composers spelled correctly.
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Rice, Birdseed, and Bubbles
We do not allow the throwing of rice or birdseed at the church. Both rice and birdseed can cause people to slip and fall . Some couples have provided guests with bubble bottles as they leave the church. This is perfectly acceptable.
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How Much Does It Cost?
There is no charge for use of the church, bride’s room or dressing room for the groomsmen if you are a parishioner. Couples who are not members of the parish who wish to use our facilities are asked to pay $200 for the use of these facilities to cover the cost of utilities, etc.

If you wish to use the parish hall for your reception, we ask a fee of $250 to cover utilities and set up. A fee of $75 is also charged for clean up.  A member of the parishes' maintance team will be present during the reception to assist the wedding party with their needs which is the purpose of this fee.  If you wish to use the community room, the charge is $150. Stipends for musicians are outlined in the section on music guidelines further on in this booklet. The priest does not charge for his services, but a stipend is appropriate. The amount is up to you.
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Taking Care of Your Belongings
Someone should be designated to make sure that any wedding gifts brought to the church are removed. In addition, ask a friend or family member to see that the bride’s room is cleaned up and those personal items (clothing, makeup, hair curlers, etc.) are returned to their owners.

The same goes for the groom’s dressing room if you use one. The parish will not be responsible for personal items left at the church.
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You will probably be using a professional photographer. It is advisable to take as many pictures as you can BEFORE the wedding ceremony and as few as possible afterwards, otherwise your guests may be kept waiting an excessively long time for your arrival at the reception. Restrict pictures after the wedding to a few group pictures of the wedding party. Pictures of the bride and groom with family members, etc., can be taken at the reception. Please let it be know to the guest that no flash photographs should be taken during the wedding.

To have someone jumping up and using a flash as you come down the aisle or are exchanging vows, is distracting and very bad etiquette. If you want a videotape of the wedding, a place will be assigned to the operator of the video camera and he/she will be expected to stay in that place, not move around and distract from the ceremony. Bright video lights may not be used.
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The Wedding Procession

It is suggested that you do not choose children under five years of age. They may look cute, but there is a good chance that they will decide at the last minute that they do not want to walk down the aisle in front of all those strange people!

We do not advise the use of an aisle cloth. It serves no useful purpose and on the tile floor of the church it may slip and cause a fall.
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Seating the Guests
A good rule of thumb is to have at least two ushers.

You may run into some problems regarding who sits where if you have divorced and remarried parents or other family members. It is up to you to solve these problems before the rehearsal and to let the ushers know ahead of time who will be seated where. Please let the priest know if you anticipate any problems of this nature so that he is aware of them beforehand.

Depending on circumstances (e.g., the number of groomsmen and bridesmaids and whether or not you are having a Mass) the front pew is reserved for wedding party. The readers also may sit in the front pew in front of the pulpit. If you need more than one pew for immediate family members be sure to let us know.
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Participants in the Ceremony
In addition to the regular complement of groomsmen and bridesmaids you will need one or two people to read the scripture passages you have chosen. In choosing readers try to pick people who are used to speaking in public. A nervous reader usually rushes the reading and people cannot hear what they are saying.

If you are having a Mass, you may need two people to help with the distribution of the Eucharist. These Eucharistic ministers must be Catholics who are authorized to help with the distribution of Holy Communion. If you do not know anyone who can help with the distribution of Holy Communion, ask Father and he may be able to suggest someone. Also, if you have a Mass, you will need two or three people to bring down the gifts (bread and wine) at the offertory time. Readers and gift bearers do not have to be Catholic but it helps if they are since they are familiar with the Catholic Rite of Marriage and the Mass.
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Spiritual Preparation
Please don’t forget that your wedding is a spiritual ceremony which marks a profound change in your life. Catholic brides and grooms should prepare for their wedding by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially if it has been some time since they have been to Confession or if they are aware of any serious sin on their soul. Difficult as it may be during all the confusion and hurry of preparing for the wedding, it would be a great idea if the couple could find some time, either together or alone, for some quiet prayer, reflection, and perhaps discussion of their feelings, fears and hopes with a priest or some other wise spiritual counselor. It could greatly help to bring some peace and calm into what is usually a rather frantic and confusing time in their life.
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Music Guidelines
The Rite of Marriage is a solemn exchange of vows, a Sacrament of the Church and an act of worship on the part of all those present to offer thanks and praise to God and to ask God’s blessing on the couples’ life together. For this reason, ALL MUSIC during and before the ceremony must reflect the reverence and dignity of the occasion, intensify the Christian meaning of the liturgical service, and dignify and enhance its sacredness. For this reason, secular tunes that may have special meaning or romantic associations for the couple (e.g. songs they first heard together or songs one has written for the other) are not appropriate. “Pop” tunes do not fulfill the requirements of liturgical music. Because of this the following types of music are not allowed:

  • Any music which is purely secular in nature and, as such, neglects the SACRED UNION of the couple, not only to one another but to Christ. This includes secular love songs and ballads.
  • Popular, operatic (this includes the “Bridal Chorus” or “Here Comes the Bride” by Richard Wagner and the “Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn) or Broadway musical favorites which merely recall sentimental and personal associations; such music should be reserved for the wedding reception.


To deem a song inappropriate for the ceremony or Eucharistic Celebration, but to say it is appropriate beforehand is not a legitimate compromise. The prelude music should prepare the assembly for the sacramental worship. It must create a framework to enhance and compliment the liturgy, and cannot be seen as something apart from the ceremony. An important part of our prayer during liturgy is the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. This prayer is the center of our life as Christians. The Lord’s Prayer is not to be sung or performed as a solo because it is a prayer to be prayed together as a community. This is the one prayer that unites us with our Protestant brothers and sisters. The recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is one of the few times during the liturgy that non-Catholics can fully participate and feel comfortable.

The Organist/Music Director of the Parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux will guide you in choosing appropriate music for your wedding and will act as organist for your ceremony. Wedding stipends are considered part of the Organist/Music Director’s salary, therefore, the use of outside organists is not permitted unless the Organist/ Music Director approves. You should contact the Organist/Music Director, as soon as a date has been set with the Church for your ceremony, to make arrangements to plan the music for your wedding.

Parish cantors can be contacted to serve as song leader for the assembly and as soloist before and/or during the ceremoney.

Instrumentalists can be contacted to highlight procession and recession, and to provide music before and/or during the ceremony.

Outside soloists and instrumentalists are permitted under the following conditions:

  • The selection of the music rests solely with the couple and the Organist/Music Director in accord with the guidelines of the Parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
  • All musicians should be prepared when they come to rehearse with the Organist/ Music Director. It is not the responsibility of the Organist/ Music Director to prepare outside musicians. An additional fee of $25 will be charged for any additional rehearsals with outside soloists and/or instrumentalists. This rehearsal is not to exceed one hour.
  • It is the responsibility of the couple to purchase music for the soloist(s) and/or instrumentalist(s) if it is not available from the Organist/Music Director. PHOTO-COPIED MUSIC IS AGAINST THE LAW AND, THEREFORE, STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

The fee schedule for music at weddings is as follows:

  • Organist/Music Director - $175 for a wedding with a Mass
  • Rehearsal Fee with Outside Musicians - $50
  • Cantor Fee: $175

You may pay the Organist/Music Director for all of her services at the time of the rehearsal. Please make arrangements for payment of other musicians’ fees with them personally.
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