In Your Midst
A Wedding At St. James Cathedral
October 98

A Wedding At The Cathedral Where is the place to celebrate a wedding in Seattle? According to the Seattle Weekly's "Best of" lists, St. James Cathedral is it! And the 80 or so weddings that take place here each year certainly bear witness to the Weekly's results.

The weddings at St. James are breathtaking celebrations of the church's liturgy complete with the finest music both instrumental and vocal. Since St. James is the Cathedral parish for all of Western Washington, couples from Blaine to Vancouver may ask to be married here.

From such a wide flock come couples representing many cultures and ethnic origins. A recent weekend began with a morning wedding with the bride in a gold-and-white silk sari from India and the bridesmaids resplendent in saris of deep purple or red. The afternoon nuptials featured Filipino wedding rituals, and at the evening wedding, a bagpiper piped the processions.

But weddings at St. James don't just happen. In the wedding booklet, Father Ryan's letter sets the atmosphere for the ceremonies:

"In choosing to come to the Catholic Church for the celebration of your wedding, you have made a choice to begin and to live your marriage in a Christian manner: to see your wedding as more than just a wonderful social event but as something which gets its deepest meaning from our Christian faith. Because of this, it should not be surprising to you that the Church has some very definite expectations about how your wedding liturgy will be celebrated. These expectations are not arbitrary impositions intended to add to the already considerable challenges of planning for a wedding. They are rather the Church's (and in this case, St. James cathedral's) way of doing things; our way of helping you set the tone for the celebration of an event that is one of greatest importance in your lives.

The members of the cathedral staff stand ready to help you celebrate your wedding. We are eager to do everything possible to see to it that your wedding will be a beautiful and faith-filled celebration, a powerful and persuasive sign of Jesus' love for His people."

Susy Wingate and Linda Carr are the Cathedral wedding coordinators and assist the couples to make sure their celebration of Matrimony is in keeping with the church's liturgical tradition, full of grace and beauty. Either Linda or Susy works with each couple from the time of scheduling -right through to the final procession down the aisle.

The Cathedral organist, Joseph Adam, interviews each couple married here. The size of the Cathedral creates expectations as to music and the music must serve the liturgy.

One noticeable change in weddings in recent years is the introduction of the liturgical procession. Every wedding begins with a full liturgical procession led by the cross and candles, lectors and ministers, followed by the entire wedding party. The bride and groom enter with both of their parents, or family representatives, as part of this procession - a departure from the old practice of having the bride "given away" by her father, which dates back to feudal times when the bride was regarded as property in a financial contract. The new practice recognizes the role of both parents and the importance of both families coming together to celebrate.

The celebration of the wedding follows a period of careful and prayerful preparation by the couple. Of course, their ongoing weekly worship at St. James in the months leading up to the wedding is an ideal time for them to pray together and to discuss the place of God in their marriage.

Since the Cathedral's renovation, there is a new tradition for couples on their wedding day: the pealing of the Cathedral bells in the south tower heralding the wedding. When you bear the bells ring on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 or 8:30 p.m. you have the perfect reminder to stop for a moment and pray for another couple who have just walked down the aisle of St. James Cathedral to begin their new life together.

Joan McDonell, a Seattle Times' editor, is a parishioner of St. James, a volunteer and member of the Cathedral Development Committee.

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