Manuscript Leaf with Marriage Scene, from Decretals of Gregory IX,ca. 1300
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Both the Rite of Marriage and the Wedding Mass have complex histories, which are well worth exploring. I am including a collection of comparisons on the Roman Rites of Marriage, and a brief timeline on the subject.
None of this information is comprehensive, and I welcome suggestions or corrections.
The earliest definitive text for the Rite of Marriage is the Rituale promulgated after the Council of Trent in 1615. The 1615 Rite of Marriage is identical to the 1962 Rite. Using the 1962 Rite as a starting point, let us compare it with the 1964, 1969, 1991, and 2016.
For simplicity’s sake, I keep the same sections for every comparison; that is, even though 1969 and later editions add addresses, prayers, etc., I group all ritual content either under Exchange of Consent and Blessing and Exchange of Rings.
In several instances, I have made minor formatting changes (such as adjusting line breaks) in order to make reading and comparing the texts easier. None of the formatting changes affects the content of the rites.
When relevant, I include separate comparisons for English and Latin, and with and without the differences highlighted. A green highlight is a notable addition to the text, and a red highlight is a notable alteration or deletion of the text.
The Latin for the 1962 and the 1964 are the same, so a Latin comparison is unnecessary. There are two notable differences: 1964 adds a double ring exchange (1962 has only the husband giving the wife a ring), and a series of English-only prayers at the end of the Rite. These prayers were not kept in any subsequent translation, revision, or addition.
- English: Compare the 1962 vs. 1964 Rites of Marriage (PDF)
- English: Compare the 1962 vs. 1964 Rites of Marriage with differences highlighted (PDF)
1969 saw the publication of the first typical edition of the Rite of Marriage, and the English translation came the following year. The ritual changes from 1962 to 1969 are significant, and constitute a near-total revision of both the Latin and the English. There are three notable similarities: the exchange of vows (one phrase from the 1962 formula is preserved as part of one of four options), the priest’s blessing of the rings (partially preserved, with a new translation, as one of several options, with the emphasis on both parties rather than only the bride), and the exchange of rings (partially preserved, with a new translation).
1991 saw the publication of the second typical edition - that is, a second Latin edition. An English translation was delayed until the 2010s.
(PDFs coming soon!)
In 2016, the ICEL’s English translation of the second typical edition (of 1991) was finally approved and mandated.
(PDFs coming soon!)
4th century: In his Vulgate, St. Jerome translates the Greek mysterion into the Latin sacramentum, thus affirming Marriage as one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church 1 2. Paulinus, bishop of Nola, provides us with the earliest documented instance of a Catholic wedding Mass in the West. Notably, there is no exchange of rings or vows (which scholars suggest likely took place earlier, in the home), and no celebration of the Eucharist. 3
High Middle Ages: The Middle Ages produces the greatest flowering of artistic and musical beauty within the Mass, leading to (among other things) enormous local and regional differences in celebrations of the Mass, and Masses overflowing, perhaps overburdened, with artistic zeal. Throughout this time, marriages are mostly private affairs, generally not requiring witnesses - consent of the two parties was valued above all else. Weddings usually did not take place in a Mass, or even in a church. This could reflect the Church’s love of the local, despite her desire for universality.
16th century: The Protestant Revolution challenges Jerome’s translation (preferring mysterium to sacramentum), and the notion that marriage is a sacrament. Instead, marriage is redefined as a contract, and therefore important to the common good. Protestant weddings now must take place within a church, and are primarily didactic experiences. Later in this century, the Catholic Church calls the Council of Trent to clarify dogma, doctrine, and practices. The Church prunes the excesses of past centuries. Thanks to widespread problems with secret marriages, and to growing confusion with Protestant teaching, Catholic marriages now are required to be witnessed by a priest.
1570: Trent promulgates several key documents - the Catechism, the Breviary, the Missal, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. These documents dramatically simplify practices and Masses, winnowing down elaborate ceremonies to their essentials, with the intention that local customs would be overlaid them. A wedding mass is included in the Missal, with readings taken from a wedding mass in a 12th century Roman Pontifical (a liturgical book for bishops). 4
1614-1615: Trent creates the Rituale, the book of rituals and sacraments (separate from the Missale, which is about the Mass). This Rituale features a Rite of Marriage - quite sparse, again, intending for the skeletal ritual to be adorned with local customs. Perhaps because of a desire to obey Rome, or fear about Protestant individualism, or unclear teaching from the Vatican, what happens instead is that the Rite of Marriage is adopted whole and entire, in place of local customs. 5
1963: During the Second Vatican Countil, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy calls for a revision of the Rite of Marriage.
1964: There is a second English edition of the 1962 Rite of Marriage, with no modification to the Latin, and several additions to the English.
1969-1970: A new Missal, with a new form of the Catholic Mass, is promulgated universally by the Second Vatican Council. A new rite of marriage is also promulgated (called the first typical edition), with an English translation following.
1991: A second edition of the revised Rite of Marriage is promulgated (called the second typical edition). It is Latin-only; an English translation is delayed because of an ongoing, new translation of the Roman Missal.
2012-2013: The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the group responsible for the authorized English translations of Catholic liturgy and rituals, creates several drafts of a new English translation of the second typical edition of the Rite of Marriage.
2016: The ICEL publishes a new English translation of the second typical edition of the Rite of Marriage.
Catholic Church. “The Church in God’s Plan.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1993, #774, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p1.htm. ↩︎
Just, Felix. “The Seven Sacraments.” Electronic New Testament Educational Resources, https://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/Sacraments.htm. Accessed 3 June 2019. ↩︎