Royal Nuptials

For those that are interested in what liturgical details are available for tomorrow’s Royal Wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales to Miss Catherine Middleton, some (alas not all!) various bits of information about the service can be viewed here and the music selections for the ceremonies have been posted here here. (Fans of C. H. H. Parry will be well-pleased.)

Perhaps the most interesting and edifying piece in all of this is the message from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Caterbury and celebrant for the Royal wedding — which presents something of a theology of marriage couched in royal terms:


UPDATE: The order of service can be viewed here and is downloadable as a pdf file here.


    1. Thanks for the order of service. It has allowed me to put a name on an interesting phenomenon –“vergers”. I had noticed them when viewing Internet services at the National Cathedral but had no idea what to call them.

      Anglican processions seem to call for a lot of them!

      In this one, the Dean’s Verger proceeds him.
      Another Verger comes before the bishops.
      Then another Verger before the chaplains and the minor canons
      Then The Canon Verger before the Canon’s of Westminster!

      The Dean’s Verger seems to get to parade about quite a bit during the wedding.

      Wikipedia says that not much is know about their historical origin, though they seem somewhat but not exactly related to sacristans and masters of ceremonies, and may have come from the minor orders.

      I was very impressed by the Master of Ceremonies at my confirmation, how he bowed and pointed and everyone, including the bishop, did what he wanted them to do.

      Although Vergers carry big sticks they are not as impressive as the Master of Ceremonies at my confirmation. I felt that one definitely had to know a lot more to be a Master of Ceremonies than appears to be needed to be a Verger, some of whom look like bar bouncers. (Wikipedia says they might have been for crowd control, of unruly choir members in particular.

      There is a Beadle before the choir. Is he another form of Verger? Wikipedia suggested Vergers might be related to Beadles, too. Maybe the Beadle is the verger that gets to beat up on the choir? From my brief encounters with Jesuits, I though Beadles were student assistants who kept the class orderly.

      Anyone out there who can enlighten us more about Vergers?

      1. Vergers — blessing or bane, depending on all sorts of factors. More information on vergers in general may be had on vergers from the Verger’s Guild of the Episcopal Church.

        Beadles are like vergers, and yes, are historically about maintaining order. Traditionally beadles are vested like the choir, and carry a much longer and less ornamental wand than do vergers.

      2. Vergers have an annual conference! From the various gowns in this one last year, I could see why some might view it as a layperson’s version of a magna cappa society!

        Interesting that there is also an annual national meeting of acolytes This from last year’s meeting:
        “Join us for an exciting day of worship, celebration, and enrichment in the nave of Washington National Cathedral! Meet acolytes and worship leaders from across the nation Bring your processional crosses, banners, torches, thuribles, flags, and streamers for a festive procession of acolytes, clergy, and vergers Liturgical dance groups welcome”

        You guys must really like processions! I am not aware of any national organizations like these among Catholics. I do like the streamers at the National Cathedral!

      3. A bit off topic, but as to processions: Solemn Anglican processions often begin with a simple entrance of ministers from the side sacristy to the altar. The deacon then dismisses the procession: V/ Let us go forth in peace. R/ In the name of Christ. Amen. Procession then leaves the chancel and proceeds down the center aisle to the door, taking a left turn at the rear, working up the side aisle, across the front, down the other side and up the middle again. Great for extended hymns, litanies, etc., etc. Of course, this is a procession from “here” to “here” to which many liturgists are (theoretically) opposed. But it can be a great way to signal that this is a festive occasion.

        Often a procession of this sort will stop at a shrine, chantry, side altar, or the rood/chancel step for a station consisting of a versicle, response and collect. During Advent, for instance, the station might be at the wreath and include the lighting of the candle; on Christmas it might take place at the crib. This gives the musicians the chance to sneak in a second hymn as well.

        A variation is to enter from outdoors or the rear and reverse the pattern described above, making an additional half circuit so that one ends in the chancel.

        This is, by the way, the sort of adaptation that is both dignified and festive that I think could contribute much to Roman liturgy. As it takes place within the procession, before the opening invocation of the liturgy, it would seem that there might be some leeway as to its conduct, the selection of stational collect, etc. And it’s a good way, methinks, to deal with devotional add-ons (like the Advent Wreath) that aren’t quite part of the “official” liturgy but are part of the liturgical vernacular custom.

        I’ve seen this sort of thing in an American Catholic context following the pattern of hymn — station — proper introit. Solves a lot of problems, actually.

      4. I like the idea of processions that use “stations” even if internal to the church building or from “here to here.” They remind me of the use of stations in the early church.

        To relate this to the royal wedding liturgy, the elaborate processions of the royal family to and from the church very much complement the elaborate processions within the wedding ceremony. These are as much about social ordering as about theological worlds.

        Just as many more people participated today in the royal wedding through the external processions than were in the church, so too many more people in the early church probably participated through the processions of the stations that took place around the city than were ever in the church buildings themselves. Those processions were probably as much about evangelical propaganda as today’s processions are about royal propaganda “re-establishing the British monarchy” in the public imagination as some TV commentators have put it.

        While “status” distinctions, i.e. ranking people as greater or lesser are against the Gospel, ordering people, showing their distinctive contributions to the community is not against the Gospel. We are equal but not the same.

        So the use of processions before the Liturgy might be the perfect place to do all the special things, recognize certain persons, or certain groups, and to parade them about without taking up part of that precious hour or interrupting the flow of the Liturgy. I don’t think these processions need to be led by priests. Deacons or pastor ministers (e.g. religious educators) might be perfect leaders. There can always be a minute or two pause for silent reflection to allow people arriving for Mass to come in, followed by the entrance of the ministers of the Liturgy.

        In large Catholic parishes, many people involved in church ministries are simply invisible at Weekend worship, celebrating them is an important part of celebrating who we are.

  1. One can’t be Christian and not royalist on at least some level. I am pleased the British still have a monarchy and hope tomorrow will be a happy day for it.

  2. Because Jesus is King. This has ineluctable implications for us, both in the life to which we’re called, and here and now.

    1. “One can’t be Christian and not royalist on at least some level.”

      “Because Jesus is King.” R.B.R.

      Non sequitur.

      Jesus’ kingship is a matter of theology, royalism of politics.

  3. I wish many years to the soon-to-be wed royal couple, and many years to all who will soon wed.

    Fr. Cody: is this ritual typical for marriage outside of the Eucharist in the Church of England?

    1. In short, yes. Most of the 1662 BCP Pastoral Offices were written for use apart from the Eucharist.

      The marriage rite of the 1549 Book, modeled quite closely on the Sarum Use, had a rubric that directed that the couple must receive Holy Communion the same day — the result being a nuptial mass immediately after the separate rite. That was eschewed in the 1552 reform, which followed the marriage proper with a brief liturgy of the word, sermon, prayers and blessing.

      Newer ritual materials (Common Worship, 2000) have provisions for such rites within the Eucharist, but as the 1662 BCP remains the “as by law established” liturgy for the CofE, I’m not surprised by the absence of anything more modern.

  4. The Archbishop is a truly eloquent and insightful man. It’s nice to hear the spiritual message behind all of the superfluous details that have littered most media outlets lately. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Fr. Cody, can you say anything about the difference between “giving” and “plighting” one’s troth? The service booklet has both bride and groom giving. My C of E book of common prayer (1662, with updates from 1968?) instructs the man to plight and the woman to give.

    1. I’m not sure there is one. To plight troth is definitionally to give troth — pledged loyalty or fidelity. In the era in which the BCP’s language was framed, I suspect there was some sort of gender distinction at work, with the woman being in a more surrendering position than the man. But I highly doubt that such dynamics are at work today. I confess, my commentaries on the BCP are all for American editions. English Anglican liturgy isn’t a specialty of mine. If Richard Giles is following this thread, perhaps he can shed some light?

  6. The Abbey in contrast to any CAtholic Church proudly displays a figure of the martyr, Oscar Romero.

    I salute the Anglican Communion for showing the CAtholic Church the way.

    Monsignor Romero still awaits any recognition from his own Church.

    I am very keen to know the tenor of the relationship between Mons Romero & the soon to be blessed John Paul II.

    My understanding was that the Blessed left Romero “hanging out to dry” with no support vis-a-vis the Salvadorean military and he was soon thereafter assassinated.

  7. I noticed in the wedding this morning that the nuptials are exchanged before the Liturgy of the Word. Thus the royal couple were already married as they sat together to hear the Word of God and be instructed in the homily.
    The modern Ordinary Form Catholic Nuptial Liturgy has the couple languishing in “singlehood” for the Liturgy of the Word and homily only to be joined afterward and then for the Liturgy of the Eucharist they are husband and wife.
    Not so in the Extraordinary Form of the Nuptial Liturgy, the couple exchanges vows as in this morning’s royal wedding and are husband and wife for the Nuptial Mass that follows including the Liturgy of the Word.

    1. The marriage rite itself as used here follows the pre-Reformation Sarum Manual quite closely; the reading, psalm and sermon that followed are the vestigial remnant of the nuptial mass.

    2. As I watched (via replay) the Wedding, it also seemed to me that having the Marriage at the beginning is the better place.

      First, it is the very logical conclusion to that great social ritual, the bridal procession.

      Second, it emphasizes that marriage existed as a divine institution before the Church rather than being a civil contract blessed by a church official.

      Third, it emphasizes the key role of the free consent of the man and woman in this particular sacrament.

      All this was wonderfully expressed by Introit Psalm 122 which depicts all the tribes (i.e. families) assembling in Jerusalem. This is a great celebration of holiness of creation (marriage) becoming drawn into the holiness of the New Jerusalem as its ultimate meaning. The end of the entrance procession seems the logical place to create this new unit of the human family so that husband and wife may celebrate as a new family both the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist.

      Although the vernacular liturgy and the expanded scriptures have been a great help to religious education, there is a certain tendency to make the Liturgy of the Word too didactic and ignore its ritual character.

      We read scripture at Weddings, Christmas and Easter and other great ritual occasions because we know well what these occasions and the readings are about not to learn their meaning for the first time. We read them again to celebrate and open ourselves to deeper contemplation of the great mysteries of Marriage, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection.

      1. Yes she put the bar pretty high.

        I do not give any points for hats just because they look they are going to fall off. A lot of the women at the wedding seemed to be using that strategy to attract attention to their headgear.

        I give points for how much stuff, complexity and height you can get up there while still having at least the suggestion of symmetry and balance. Beatrice was definitely the winner by those criteria.

        However many of the men from the oriental religions in the second web page came out far ahead of many women at the wedding if one does not give points for making the hat look like is going to fall off.

        Male religious leaders definitely should take note of Beatrice. With more and more women coming into religious leadership around the world, men are definitely in for a challenge when it comes to headgear! When a lay person attending a religious ceremony can upstage religious leaders in the headgear department, there is trouble ahead.

  8. The differences from the 1662 regarding plight/give and the omission of “obey” are all in the Common Worship Pastoral Services document to which I linked above. This is the source of today’s nuptial liturgy; it wasn’t directly from the 1662.

    1. At Will’s future coronation the lords spiritual and temporal will swear to be faithful to him, to defend him, etc. I don’t believe the ceremony contains any corresponding oath for a Queen Consort, perhaps because it is (traditionally) assumed she has already committed herself in her marriage vows.

  9. Curious video:
    +Rowan speaking wonderfully about the commitment and journey of marriage, about spending a lifetime discovering another human person, all against a backdrop of his huge but utterly deserted palace, with no other human in sight, just the old bishop reading in the empty library and wandering in solitude in the walled garden. You wouldn’t know he is a married man himself.

  10. Jack Rakosky :
    Interesting that there is also an annual national meeting of acolytes This from last year’s meeting:
    “Join us for an exciting day of worship, celebration, and enrichment in the nave of Washington National Cathedral! Meet acolytes and worship leaders from across the nation Bring your processional crosses, banners, torches, thuribles, flags, and streamers for a festive procession of acolytes, clergy, and vergers Liturgical dance groups welcome”

    Coming next season, “Glee, The Acolytes”

  11. “Often a procession of this sort will stop at a shrine, chantry, side altar, or the rood/chancel step for a station consisting of a versicle, response and collect. … This gives the musicians the chance to sneak in a second hymn as well. … This is, by the way, the sort of adaptation that is both dignified and festive that I think could contribute much to Roman liturgy. … And it’s a good way, methinks, to deal with devotional add-ons (like the Advent Wreath) that aren’t quite part of the “official” liturgy but are part of the liturgical vernacular custom. ” CCU #5


    The habit of musicians manipulating services to “sneak in” more music is a pet peeve of mine. I think that it often makes an audience of the praying assembly and makes for a less active sort of participation by most present.

    Don’t we have enough accretions in the liturgy already? Do we need to “revise and extend” our liturgies as Senators do their remark? Should we be attaching devotional [rather than specifically liturgical] things to the liturgy or should we be encouraging the separation of these devotions and encouraging parishioners to attend separate devotional events instead of continuing to insert so many things into the one hour of required Sunday attendance?

    1. Fair points, Tom: definitely worth consideration.

      Historically, the stational procession in English use — i.e., the Sarum Use — was understood to be a separate office from the Mass, not simply an elaborate entrance of ministers. The versicle/response and collect (sometimes with a lesson before, as well), is not “devotional” material, but liturgical in form, structure and content.

      Where possible — and it is quite possible in most places, with a little work — it’s ideal to have the congregation walk in the procession as well. Consider, for example, the procession on Candlemas having a station at a shrine of Our Lady, or the Palm Sunday procession having a station at the Rood, marking the transition between “entry” and “passion” themes.

      As for the music, when you have a roaring congregation singing the hymns, I can hardly call that “less active participation”. Even when the Entrance Antiphon and Psalm are chanted in another language, or are “performed” as a choral anthem, I’m hard pressed to disregard that as non-conducive to active, conscious participation.

      I am admittedly a liturgical stretcher, who tries to eschew the idea of “one hour of required Sunday attendance” whenever possible. Perhaps it’s my inclination toward the Eastern liturgies; perhaps it’s just my frustration at the idea that we don’t owe God more. I envy the Copts who spend the better part of the Lord’s Day in church, alternating between worship, education and community activities. God sustains, renews and advances creation 24/7 — not to mention that whole redemption thing. To think that we can only afford to give God an hour is, to put it gently, problematic.

      And that may just be li’l ol’ lit’nik me.

      1. I will take roaring congregations singing hymns as a wonderful example of FCAP any time!

        My problem is with musicians who want to “sneak in” another solo, choral, or instrumental performance, often because they want to do something of “higher artistic merit” than is appropriate for congregational participation. Not that many congregations could not do a lot higher quality of music if the music ministers were to put more effort into working with the congregation than most do.

        A concept I have only heard of being implemented once is a congregation’s building having an auditorium sort of space for liturgy of the Word and processing to a circular space with no seating for all to stand around the altar. There are delicious lit’nik possibilities there.

        I also regret the shrinkage of The Lord’s Day to the Lord’s fifty-five minute hour, as in schools.

        I want to start expanding the concept of how we spend time together as a prayer community by beginning with the Easteer Vigil and spreading the readings over a longer time when people could come and go and have restroom breaks or a bit of tea and cookie between readings.

        Why can adult scripture study not follow the Liturgy of the Word and then all process back for the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

        Tell me more, please, about how the Copts spend their Sundays.

      2. My knowledge of the Copts is only second hand, from professors of Eastern Liturgy and students who have visited Coptic congregations (my Eastern interests are Byzantine and Armenian.) But. . . from Morning to Evening prayer they are in church, with divine liturgy, bible study, lectures and lunch along the way. They are perhaps the best organized and most missionally driven church in the East.

        Of interest is the fact that most Copts, lay and ordained, pray the Agpeya — what we’d call the Canonical Hours of the Daily Office — every day. The form is fixed, which makes it less daunting, but it’s a hearty portion of psalmody and hymns. There is a website, and many Coptic bookstores sell the office book in various editions for $5-10 — Google “Coptic Bookstore” to bring up a selection.

  12. All sorts of weird stuff is being attached to The Wedding. Below is something written by Fr. Chris Martin specifically in his role as a Catholic priest.
    I often tease couples on their wedding days that while I’m sure that they’re loved very much, as evidenced by their sometimes hundreds of guests, people also show up sometimes because they enjoy weddings. And the reason is simple. Marriage is a sacrament. …
    The answer is that marriage enters into the covenant of Jesus and His bride the Church. After all Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom several times in His ministry. And it is at a wedding where He performs His first public miracle. This divine marriage between Jesus and the Church is a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift. …
    You see the Mass is the “wedding feast of the lamb”. We believe that Jesus consummates His marriage at the altar. He gives us His Body and Blood for us to consume, and we literally become “one flesh”. So every Mass we attend is our own wedding celebration.

    Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 5:09 pm |

    [1] People love weddings because they are sacraments? Maybe it is more about the emotional content, because, not all the people who love weddings believe in sacraments.
    [2] Does marriage enter into the covenant of Christ and the Church or is marriage cited as metaphor of the relationship of Christians to Jesus?
    [3] Where does the RCC teach that Jesus consummates marriage in the Sacrament of the Eucharist?
    [4] Another person who does not know the difference between literally and figuratively.

  13. I found the wedding of William and Catherine to be an extraordinary witness to Holy Matrimony. Our Anglican brothers and sisters really know how to celebrate a solemn and reverent liturgy. I have a fond hope that many who watched from near or far will, as a result, seek to be united by God until death do them part.

    1. Billions watched the world’s elite singing Christian hymns with every appearance of conviction — who says Anglicanism is a-totter?

      The third papal beatification in 12 years tomorrow will hardly have the universal reach of what we saw in Westminster Abbey.

  14. I hope TV scriptwriters who might write a wedding scene in a TV drama took note yesterday that it’s “Till death us do part,” not “Till death do us part.” And there’s no line for the priest to say, “You may now kiss the bride.”

    1. I wonder where “till death do us part” comes from, since it’s also the version I’m most familiar with (from the movies, of course). “Modern English” versions of the vows seem to use that too, as does the “Elizabethan” English version of the vows in my (1962 Mass) Baronius Missal (which otherwise seems to use the traditional Anglican vows – including the troth plighting part).

  15. It is my hope that couples preparing their wedding liturgy can follow the example of Will and Kate with their choice of music, for example – good taste and all liturgical.
    In addition, anyone attending liturgy (especially, first sacraments or weddings) can take a lesson from the the assembly. Everyone was engaged, using the program, and singing the hymns, even the small children. And no one was obsessed with picture taking!
    There was evident care for ritual. Everything was executed without haste and with reverence.

  16. Someone objected that it’s in bad taste to spend so much money on camp in the midst of a recession. But in fact recessions are not unalterable destinies and sometimes lavish spending can restart the economy — on the purely financial level this wedding is a very sound investment. The spiritual harvest it will reap is also vast. It will be watched and rewatched down the years as Diana’s was.

    Note how Abp Williams effaced himself at the wedding, in contrast to the narcissist Blair who offended the royals by wanting a more prominent role for himself at the Queen Mother’s funeral. “I’m the man that saved the monarchy” would be his self-assessment no doubt.

    1. We could use a lot more self-effacing liturgical ministers.

      I have always treasured the advice for lectors to make themselves transparent in proclaiming the Scriptures.

      It is actually a lot harder to proclaim Scripture so well that a listener will remark, “I have never understood that passage until today,” than it is to do a reading that gets described as, “very impressive.”

      That is the use of talent and effort which I think is required by all liturgical ministries. It takes a great deal of work to get from merely “reading the service” or “saying the Mass” to effectively ministering to the assembly what God is offering through Scripture and Communion without anyone feeling like they either need to practice patience or have attended a show.

  17. Not just a play on words, but “well said” Cody. I would love to get a copy of that clip to play for all of my lectors.

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