If there is one thing that sets a Catholic church apart from other Christian denominations, it would be that literally every Mass follows the exact same ritual no matter where it is being said. So then, if you are in the United States or Canada, Mass would follow the same order from the Processional through the Liturgy of the Word, the Offertory through the Liturgy of the Eucharist to the Recessional at the Mass’ completion. In fact, it is the same in every country around the world with the only thing being different is the language being spoken. Since Vatican II, Masses are now said in the vernacular.
Some countries may occasionally have a Latin Mass, but it is not the norm. With that said, the one thing a non-Catholic will not need to worry about is understanding what is being said, sung, or prayed. It’s in the language of the country. Therefore, no tips are needed there. However, there are some things you may find confusing as a non-Catholic, so these tips should help you get through a Catholic wedding without a major faux pas.
1. Women Do Not Need to Cover Their Heads
You have probably watched many of those old Nick at Night movies where the women all wore black alter veils, as they were called. Again, since Vatican II, women no longer need to wear a head covering, however, they can wear a trendy hat if they so desire!
2. If Your Gift Is Sacred
Here is something else you might like to know. Catholics traditionally have their medals, rosaries, crucifixes, and other sacred items blessed by a priest. If your Catholic wedding gift falls into a ‘sacred’ category such as a family Bible or a lovely bas-relief image of the Holy Family to hang on their wall at home, you might want to draw the priest aside who performed the ceremony. You could explain that you are not Catholic, but the gift is for the couple, and you would like to have it blessed. How much more special with it be if their gift was not only blessed but blessed by the priest who married them!
3. Non-Catholics Do Not Receive Communion
In many, if not all, other Christian denominations, it is okay for everyone in attendance to receive the Body of Christ when the bread is broken and passed around. Not all denominations do this regularly each week at service, but they do on occasion break the bread in their service. If you have not been baptized Catholic and have not made your Sacrament of Penance (confession) or First Holy Communion, you are not supposed to line up to receive the Host (Communion wafer) or the Wine the Blood of Christ at Eucharist. This is not symbolic in the Catholic Church but rather believed to be the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Actually, when it comes to kneeling, sitting, standing, and singing, it’s fairly easy to follow along as the entire congregation will be your cue. Other than the Eucharist (Communion) there is little you shouldn’t do, so don’t worry that you’ll do something silly. Enjoy the ceremony and wish the couple well. That’s what you’re there for and any little ‘mistakes’ you make along the way won’t even be noticed. Most eyes will be on the happy couple anyway so fret not.