Wedding Guidelines

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester, NY

Congratulations on your recent engagement!

You are to be commended for taking the step of marrying “in the Church,” and not just civilly. This is a beautiful witness to everyone that, for disciples of Jesus Christ, Marriage is more than a mere civil contract.

As you embark on this important stage of preparation for married life, the Church gratefully accompanies you and fulfills its mission to “help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage.” (AL, no. 205).  While it will be your wedding day, marriages also “establish spouses in a public state of life in the Church,” CCC, no. 343), so the wedding ceremonies are carried out according to the Catholic Church’s liturgical norms and guidelines.  Certainly, these days for you are full of planning and preparations: the most important preparation of all is your spiritual, interior, preparation because your wedding celebration will last a day, but your marriage will last for a lifetime, and God earnestly desires to be part of your married life.

Understandably though, there are practical questions about the wedding ceremony and the Church’s expectations for its prayerful and reverent celebration.  These guidelines are composed to assist you better understand the steps of marriage preparation and the Church’s requirements for the ceremony.  Following these guidelines ensures the sacred nature of the wedding.



Marriage is an institution inscribed by God into the very fabric of creation. A man and a woman, by mutual consent, establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life which is ordered toward the procreation and education of offspring and the good of the spouses.

By Christ’s design, when both parties are baptized persons, this covenant has the dignity of a sacrament. Christian marriage is therefore a powerful means intended by Christ for the sanctification of the couple and a visible sign in the world of God’s love for his people.



Whenever a baptized Catholic plans to get married, the Church needs to be involved in some way for the marriage to be recognized by the Church as valid—normally by having the marriage celebrated in a Catholic church in the presence of a priest or deacon. This is always the case when the marriage involves two baptized Catholics. In cases in which a Catholic wishes to marry a non-Catholic, these too are normally celebrated by a priest or deacon, but certain dispensations can be granted for appropriate reasons which require prior arrangements with a priest, deacon, or parish minister.



It is the custom of the Catholic Church that marriages take place in the parish church of either the bride or the groom. Therefore, registered members of Sacred Heart Cathedral parish are encouraged to have their marriages celebrated here, as well as Catholics who grew up as members of the Cathedral parish.

As the Cathedral is the mother church of the entire Diocese of Rochester, Catholics from the Diocese who are not members of the Cathedral parish may also get married at the Cathedral, but they are normally asked to secure their own priest or deacon (usually from their home parish) and obtain a written commitment from him stating that he will do the necessary marriage preparation, paperwork and preside at the ceremony. In order to assure good communication, a Guest Celebrant Commitment (Form B) must be completed and returned before the marriage date can be scheduled on our calendar.

Accommodations for other situations not included here can be made on a case-by-case basis, with prior written approval from the Cathedral Rector.



Those who are currently living outside of the Rochester area but will be returning for the wedding itself must plan on completing their marriage preparation at the parish in which the Catholic(s) currently resides. In this case, the Marriage Preparation Commitment (Form A) must be completed and returned before the marriage date can be scheduled on our calendar.



A marriage between two practicing Catholics usually takes place within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because the total and complete self-giving of the couple in marriage finds its origin in the one, total and complete self-giving of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His gift of Himself to us in the Most Holy Eucharist. He is the bridegroom to His bride the Church.

Of course, we hope that the marriage preparation process will be an opportunity for Catholics to reinvigorate their faith lives and return to the full practice of the faith. However, if the couple’s journey of faith has not yet brought them to a regular practice of the faith each week at Mass, the Celebration of Matrimony without Mass is appropriate.  This also is appropriate if a large number of invited guests are not practicing Catholics as the Church does not permit Eucharistic sharing among non-Catholics and it avoids unnecessary confusion or hurt among those present.

In circumstances when a Catholic (with proper permission) is marrying a non-Catholic, the Order of Celebrating Matrimony without Mass is used.  Similarly, if a Deacon is requested to receive the consent (vows) of the couple, the Order of Celebrating Matrimony without Mass is used. (Cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 108).

Please keep in mind that the Celebration of Matrimony without Mass is still a fully Catholic Marriage ceremony and takes place in the church with beautiful solemnity, the reception of the bridal party, the Liturgy of the Word, a homily, exchange of vows, the blessing and giving of rings, the Universal Prayer (prayer of the faithful), the nuptial blessing and the recessional of the bridal party.



The Church does not charge for the administration of the sacraments.  However, it is proper that a fee be assessed to offset the costs of musicians, the use (heating, air conditioning and cleaning) of the church, planning meetings and materials, and the assistance of wedding coordinators at the rehearsal and the wedding.

The total fee is: $950

*if additional musicians are desired (pending proper approval), or if the selected music and musicians require additional rehearsal time, it will result in additional fees

A first payment of $450 is required to schedule a wedding at the Cathedral.  If you cancel or move your wedding, $200 of this payment is non-refundable.

The remaining balance of $500 must be paid two weeks prior to the wedding.  All checks should be made payable to “Sacred Heart Cathedral”

Please note – If your financial means are limited, please speak with the priest or deacon from the Cathedral who is handling your paperwork.



It is very important that guests and attendants arrive on time and leave in a timely fashion so as to respect the ministers, musicians, and guests involved in your wedding, as well as the next group scheduled to use the church. We allot two hours of time per wedding – roughly 30 minutes for set-up and arrival of guests; 60 minutes for the ceremony including the entrance processional and recessional; and 30 minutes for pictures and clean-up.

Our experience has shown that it is important to incentivize prompt starting time for weddings. In addition to the $950 wedding fee (which must be paid in full two weeks prior to the ceremony), we ask that all couples bring a $300 check to the wedding rehearsal, made payable to “The Cathedral Community.” This will be a “Start on Time” deposit.

A wedding ceremony that starts more than 10 minutes late will forfeit this $300 deposit. A wedding which starts on time will receive the entire $300 deposit back. 



The Cathedral will assign you a Wedding Coordinator who will be responsible for assisting with the liturgical planning, conducting your rehearsal, and assisting with the general flow and details within the church on the wedding day itself. While a professional wedding consultant may prove helpful to you in arranging the details of your wedding day which are not directly related to the liturgical celebration, his/her responsibilities cease at the Cathedral doors and begin again at your reception.



Weddings are scheduled at the following times:


3:00 PM


10:30 AM

1:00 PM

*Due to logistical challenges, only one Saturday wedding can be scheduled per weekend.

Rehearsals are scheduled with the assigned Wedding Coordinator, usually at 5:30pm on the Thursday or Friday prior to the wedding.  Please allow one hour for a rehearsal.  Musicians generally are not present at this rehearsal.



The “Wedding Planning” tab on the Cathedral website has links for viewing the various choices for Wedding Readings at use at the Cathedral. One (1) First Reading, one (1) Second Reading, and one (1) Gospel Reading can be selected.

Some designated family members or friends of the couple may choose to participate in the Liturgy by proclaiming the First and Second Readings, and/or the Prayers of the Faithful. The Gospel Reading is always proclaimed by the priest or deacon. It is not a requirement for the family to find such volunteers as a reader from our Cathedral parish can be appointed to this role.

If chosen, the selected readers should be:

  • practicing Catholics in good standing with the Church,

  • appropriately and modestly dressed,

  • and able to proclaim the readings clearly and calmly, as is appropriate for the liturgy


Music is an important part of the Sacrament of Matrimony and adds to the solemnity of this important day in your lives. The music, because it takes place within the liturgy, must be suitable for use in the Catholic Church. The music for your wedding liturgy should augment the prayerful nature of this sacrament and should not be viewed as entertainment. Therefore, no secular music is permitted.

Please carefully review the music planning page HERE. If there are selections that you wish to seek approval for which are not listed on the provided planning sheet, please e-mail the wedding coordinator with your request. Please include any relevant links or sheet music in the e-mail that you may have. We make no guarantees that alternative musical requests will be approved.



An organist and cantor are required for wedding liturgies in order to lead the assembly in those parts of the Liturgy that call for communal singing, and to serve as vocal soloist for selected solo vocal literature.

Sacred Heart Cathedral is blessed with a talented music program whose members are dedicated to the worthy and dignified celebration of the sacraments.  As part of the organist’s employment at the Cathedral, weddings are part of his employment and contribute to his livelihood in serving the Church.  Therefore, an organist from outside of the Cathedral is generally not permitted except under extraordinary circumstances and carry with it a “bench fee” for the Cathedral organist. If you wish to seek permission to use an outside organist, the request should be made three months in advance of the wedding by e-mailing the Wedding Coordinator. The Director of Music, in cooperation with the Rector of the Cathedral, will make the decision. If permission is granted, all music must be approved by the Director of Music and Rector in advance and selected from the Cathedral’s Music Planning Sheet.

The Cathedral also has talented and dedicated cantors in its music program and usually these members serve as cantors for the wedding.  Cantors from other parishes may be permitted with the approval of the Director of Music. In this case, cantors must be practicing Catholics, have proper vocal training as well as experience with the Catholic liturgy and be available for a rehearsal.



While the organ will be the primary instrument at your wedding, other complimentary instruments may be appropriate as well at the discretion of the Director of Music. These instruments may be incorporated into your wedding in an addition to, but not in lieu of the organ. Please do not hire any outside musicians before seeking permission from the Director of Music.  All instrumentalists are subject to final approval of the Director of Music.

Please note that the logistics surrounding multiple musicians and special requests lead to more time and work for the Cathedral musicians.  Often times, this leads to arranging music, mailings, phone calls, e-mails and extra rehearsal time which may incur extra stipends for all musicians involved. These stipends will be communicated to you upon approval of your request.



Weddings are celebrated in the context of ongoing parish life. Therefore the normal church decorations cannot be removed to accommodate wedding color schemes, etc. Wedding couples should be especially mindful of this when selecting a wedding date that falls within certain liturgical seasons (e.g. Advent, Christmas, Easter, etc). No tacks, nails, tape, or other means may be used to secure flowers, palms or other decorations to church walls, fixtures, chairs/pews or other furniture.  Any decorations attached to the chairs/pews must be attached with string, pipe cleaners or rubber bands. These must not inhibit the movement of your wedding guests as they can be a hazard in an emergency. No candles or open flames are permitted.

Sacred Heart Cathedral cannot be responsible for property left behind or unattended before or after a wedding celebration by florists, family members, etc.

We strongly suggest that couples who desire flower arrangements provide two symmetrical displays which can be placed in the sanctuary area at the base of the altar candles.  Excessive use of flowers in the sanctuary or aisles of the Church will not be permitted if they inhibit the movements required of the presider, the wedding couple, the attendants or guests, or block important sightlines (especially around the altar and pulpit).

It is possible and appreciated if flowers are left in the Cathedral for the Sunday Masses as a reminder to the faithful to pray for those recently married.

The florist is asked to place the altar flowers 30-60 minutes before the wedding. Couples are welcome to leave floral arrangements in the church after the celebration as a donation to the Cathedral.

Please note – floral decorations are prohibited for any weddings celebrated during Lent as they are not in keeping with the penitential character of the season.

Artificial flowers are not permitted.



During the celebration of Marriage, stationary video equipment may be set up at the rear of the church or in the loft, and/or off to the side of the sanctuary.

Under no circumstances is any photography or video technician permitted in the space between the pews and the altar or the top level of sanctuary (by the ambo, presider’s chair and organ), nor are roving cameras permitted during the celebration of Marriage.

Flash photography is permitted only during the processional and recessional. We kindly ask that cell phones and cell phone cameras remain turned off between the entrance and the recessional.

Ordinarily, 30 minutes are permitted following the wedding celebration for photography. After the 30 minutes are up everyone should begin leaving the church, as we have other events planned in the calendar and/or cleaning that needs to take place.



The throwing or releasing of anything, such as; rice, confetti, birdseed, flower petals, doves, et cetera, is not at all permitted. This not only creates difficulty for maintenance and clean-up, but is potentially dangerous. Couples are cautioned to inform those attending the wedding that this is not allowed anywhere on the Cathedral grounds, whether inside or outside.



The Order of Celebrating Matrimony: Second Typical Edition, includes the rubrics and texts for incorporating the two optional, approved cultural accommodations: the arras (coins) and/or the Blessing and Placing of the Lazo or the Veil.

The “unity candle” and “unity sand” has never been part of the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church because your unity is shown publicly in your marriage vows. If a couple wishes to incorporate these expressions into their wedding day, the wedding reception is the suitable place.



Please keep in mind that a wedding is a public act of worship and not a pageant, and wedding parties (bridal attendants) should not be so numerous as to unnecessarily lengthen the procession. We strongly discourage wedding parties of more than six couples, including the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Parties consisting of more than eight couples will not be allowed and no exceptions will be granted.



Please remember that the church is a sacred place. Modesty is a virtue that “protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships. . . . It inspires one’s choice of clothing.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2522).

If the gowns a bride chooses for herself and her bridal party do not meet this definition of modesty, a shawl should be used to cover the shoulders during the ceremony.

Any questions about attire should be addressed in advance with the Wedding Coordinator.



If a couple wishes to invite a Priest or Deacon from outside of the Diocese of Rochester to celebrate the wedding, they are welcome to do so, provided that the invited Priest or Deacon is currently in good standing in his Diocese or Religious Order. Please have the Priest or Deacon fill out the Guest Celebrant Commitment Form (Form C) and return it to the Cathedral office. Additionally, a document called a Testimonial of Ministerial Suitability must be provided in advance from his Bishop or Religious Superior. Our Cathedral office would be happy to facilitate this process with any visiting clergy.

Visiting Priests or Deacons are also asked to abide by these same Cathedral Wedding Guidelines and musical planning forms. Any questions he has should be directed in advance of the wedding to the Rector of the Cathedral.



Priests and deacons are designated as civil servants of the State of New York to witness marriages.

It is the responsibility of the engaged couple to obtain a New York State Marriage License from any town or city clerk in the state.  The application for the license must be signed by both applicants in the presence of the town or city clerk (NB: Please plan ahead, as there is a 24-hour waiting period between when the marriage license is obtained and when the marriage ceremony can take place).

The New York State Marriage License must be given to the Cathedral prior to the rehearsal.



Lord God, wellspring of all love, N. and N. have met each other through your providential plan.

Mercifully grant as they seek your grace in preparing for marriage, that, sustained by heavenly blessing,

they may grow in mutual respect and may love each other with true charity.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.