Wedding Guidelines


Please read these guidelines before contacting Parish for marriage preparation.  If you essentially understand these requirements and wish to schedule marriage preparations classes and your wedding, please Click Here To Register. (When registering, just put "1" in the quantity box on the lower right-hand side of the registration form.)


Saint Catherine of Siena Church


(Revised November 2016) (Office Hours revised 2019)


Date and time of the wedding       3

Who can be married at Saint Catherine Church?     3

Whose marriage?        3

What must be the intentions on entering marriage?        3

What about mixed marriages (where a future spouse is not Catholic)?       3

Cohabitation (“Living together before marriage”)    4

Who will be the celebrant?  4

Witnesses (“Best Man” and “Maid of Honor”)         4

Mass or Ceremony?     4

Working out the details        4

Preparation         4

What Church documents are needed?   5

What civil documents are needed?        5

Planning the Nuptial Mass or Marriage Ceremony Outside of Mass   5

Who can receive Holy Communion?      6

Wedding rehearsal (See also Appendix) 6

Dressing facilities         6

Flowers and church decorations   6

Music         6

Altar servers        7

Sacred demeanor and dress 7

Photography and video equipment        7

Housekeeping     7

Schedule of fees 8

Address and Phone Number 8

Acknowledgement of Intention to Adhere to Wedding Guidelines     10

Photographer Agreement     10

Appendix:   Wedding Rehearsal Guidelines     11


Date and time of the wedding

Weddings can be scheduled on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., and 1:00 p.m.  Only the priest can approve dates.  Large expenses should not be incurred until the date has been firmly established and approved by the priest.  IMPORTANT NOTE *** IF YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES TO YOUR WEDDING PLANS AFFECTING THE CHURCH (CANCELLATIONS, DATE CHANGES, REHEARSAL TIMES, MUSIC, ETC.), PLEASE CONTACT THE PRIEST.

Who can be married at Saint Catherine Church?

Couples where either the bride or the groom lives within the established Parish boundaries can be married at Saint Catherine Church.  In addition, children of members of the Parish can also consider a wedding in the Parish.

Whose marriage?

Yours -- and the Church's. You marry each other. You promise each other lasting love and fidelity.  But you do this before God, the priest of the Church, and the Church itself.  You, the bride and groom, are the ministers of marriage.

What must be the intentions entering a marriage?

Permanence:  Each partner to the marriage must intend to enter a permanent marriage:  no divorce and remarriage is envisioned during the lifetime of either party.  No prenuptial agreements are permitted.

Faithfulness:  Each partner must intend to be faithful to one another.

Children:  The mutual love of the couple must be open to the birth and education of children according to the law of Christ and His Church.  Contraception and sterilization are contrary to the law of God and His Church.  In addition, statistics show that marriages in which contraception is habitually used frequently end in divorce.  Natural family planning, properly understood, is permissible.

What about mixed marriages (where a future spouse is not Catholic)?

Permission or dispensation for a mixed marriage is arranged for by the priest.  The Catholic spouse has the responsibility to arrange for the baptism of the children in the Catholic faith and to educate and form the children in the practice of the Catholic faith.   You are urged to discuss candidly any concerns you may have with the priest.

Cohabitation (“Living together before marriage”)

Living together before marriage is unlawful and is not compatible with Catholic teaching.  It also calls into question the understanding of the true nature of Christian marriage.  It is seriously sinful and, as an irregular situation, it may also (incorrectly) suggest to family and friends that such an arrangement is acceptable as a Christian practice.

Who will be the celebrant?

Depending upon scheduling constraints, the Pastor or the parochial vicar will witness your vows either within a Mass, or a Ceremony Outside of Mass.  You may select a priest from outside the Parish with the permission of the Pastor.  An out-of-state priest must be qualified in the Commonwealth of Virginia and comply with paperwork requirements of the Diocese of Arlington (the parish priest must contact the priest preparing you for marriage).  It is your responsibility to ensure this civil process takes place.

Witnesses (“Best Man” and “Maid of Honor”)

A Catholic must be married in the presence of the priest/deacon and two other witnesses. The best man and/or maid of honor may be a non-Catholic.

Mass or Ceremony?

If both parties are practicing Catholics, a nuptial Mass is appropriate (although, strictly speaking, not necessary).  When one of the parties is not Catholic, a simple ceremony is appropriate.  During a nuptial Mass the Rite of Marriage takes place after the homily.  See the priest for details.

Working out the details

The working relationship between the bride and groom and the priest must be honest and, as appropriate, confidential.  Please advise parents and friends that you alone will be working out all of the details of the wedding ceremony with the priest.


Six-month notice:  In accordance with Diocesan guidelines, you should arrange to meet with a priest of your choice (as available) at least six months prior to the anticipated date of the wedding.

Residency:  If you reside outside the Northern Virginia area, you must make arrangements for a priest in your area to prepare you in accordance with the policies of the Church and the directives of the priest who will witness your marriage.

Meetings:  The couple will meet with the priest for four to six sessions during the period of preparation.

Pre-nuptial investigation: The pre-nuptial investigation is administered by the priest.  It is a short questionnaire that both parties fill out.  It gives the Church moral certitude that there are no obstacles (impediments) to your marriage.

Conferences:  You must choose between the Conferences for the Engaged and the Engaged Encounter Weekend.  See brochures for details.

Natural Family Planning (NFP):  You are also strongly urged to enroll in the Diocesan-sponsored Natural Family Planning Workshop.  The priest may require attendance.

Sacraments:  Catholics are urged most strongly to go to Confession before receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony.

What Church documents are needed?

A Baptismal document of recent issue:  For Catholics, the baptismal certificate must be dated no more than six months prior to the date of marriage.  Baptismal certificates should be obtained from the parish where you were baptized. Please ask that all “notations” are indicated; a certificate without “notations” is incomplete.  A copy of the certificate held by parents will not do.

First Holy Communion and Confirmation dates are required.

For inter-faith marriages permission from the Bishop is required prior to the celebration of the marriage.  The priest will discuss this with you.

A certificate of attendance at the Conferences for the Engaged or Engaged Encounter Weekend.  The priest will give you the forms to register.

Two witnesses for the bride and two witnesses for the groom (usually parents) are required to complete affidavits of freedom to marry. The priest who is preparing you for marriage will provide the forms to be used.

What civil documents are needed?

Marriage license:  Information concerning civil requirements can be obtained by calling the Fairfax County Courthouse at (703-246-2993).

Under no circumstances can the wedding take place without the civil marriage license.  The marriage license should be delivered to the priest at or before the rehearsal.

Planning the Nuptial Mass or Marriage Ceremony Outside of Mass

Consult the priest with respect to planning the Mass or Ceremony outside of Mass. Within the limits of the ritual of the Church, you can choose selected Scriptural passages and prayers.

Please do not print ceremony programs before clearing the music selections and other liturgical details with the Choir Director (see "Music," page 8).  The Parish Office secretary will assist you in drafting the ceremony program.

Unity Candle:  The practice of lighting a unity candle is not permitted because it has no basis in liturgical law.  During Nuptial Masses the Eucharist is the center of unity.  However, as you wish, consider lighting a unity candle during the reception for the opening prayer.

Vestments and Sacred Vessels:  The priest will select the appropriate vestments and the sacred vessels from those on hand in the Parish. 

Ring-bearers:  Ring-bearers and flower girls should not be very young children (less than seven years of age).  The priest may require that an adult escort the children down the aisle.

Who can receive Holy Communion?

Practicing Catholics will be invited to receive Holy Communion. Non-Catholics or Catholics unable to receive Communion will be invited to join us in prayer.  The priest will handle this delicately and with charity.  Non-Catholics are most welcome to attend the Mass but should not receive Holy Communion. 

Wedding rehearsal (See also Appendix)

All wedding rehearsals are scheduled on the evening (usually Friday) before the wedding Mass or Ceremony.  Allow thirty (30) to forty-five (45) minutes. The times for rehearsals are 4:00, 5:00, or 6:00 p.m. (due to rush hour traffic, the earlier the better).  Because of schedule constraints, please advise your guests to be prompt for the rehearsal and the marriage ceremony.

Dressing facilities

You may use Parish Hall for dressing before the wedding as long as you have someone to clean up afterward. Please be aware that SAINT CATHERINE CHURCH IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY LOST ITEMS.

Flowers and church decorations

Please contact the Parish secretary (call the Parish office) to discuss the details of flower arrangements and delivery.  Be careful not to disrupt the church during the 9 a.m. Saturday morning Mass.

Flowers will remain in place for the ensuing Sunday Masses, but decorations are to be removed after the Mass or Ceremony.

If there is more than one marriage on a given day, couples are encouraged to share the costs of flowers or decorations in a mutually agreeable fashion.  Contact the Parish office for more information.  Any seasonal artwork found in the Church must remain in place.  If you plan to use ribbons or bows on the pews, be sure they are fastened with soft clamps or ribbons so the pews are not scratched.  Inform your florist.  Candelabras or other additional candles are not permitted.


The sacred music accompanying the ceremony should reflect the sacred character of the Sacrament as an act of Divine worship.  All music should be sacred or of the classical variety (composed for liturgical use).  Secular music, popular music or operatic music are not allowed.  Recorded music is strictly prohibited.

ALL music arrangements for Saint Catherine Church MUST be made through the Choir Director (call the Parish secretary for details).  Even if you have your own musicians, you must go through the Parish Choir Director for approval.  Forms to assist you in planning the music under the guidance of Choir Director are available in the Parish Office. 

Altar servers 

If you would like altar boys to assist, please dis¬cuss this with the priest. A small mon¬etary gift for their services is appropri¬ate and should be given to them prior to the wedding ceremony. 

Sacred demeanor, dress, and respect for Catholic sensibilities

Since Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament, please demonstrate your respect for Catholic sensibilities through subdued talk and actions when inside the church building.  In keeping with appropriate standards of decorum, there is to be absolutely no drinking on the Church property or in the building itself.

Dress should be modest and in accordance with Christian sensibilities.

Sadly, the secular cultural around us often promotes values and practices diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith, tradition and practice—especially in the area of sexuality. While we welcome all people to our parish, we will not permit any outward display on our parish property that is offensive to Catholic tradition or sensibilities, especially by anyone having an active public role in the wedding. For example, participants should dress in the manner customarily associated with their biological sex, and only biological males should serve as groomsmen, and only biological females should serve as bridesmaids. This requirement will be strictly observed, and abuses may result in cancellation of the ceremony, even on the wedding day.

Photography and video equipment

A good professional photographer will understand our insistence on proper reverence during the wedding.  The use of "flash" or strobe/movie lights is strictly prohibited once the ceremony has begun.

During the ceremony, the professional photographer may take candid shots from outside of the sanctuary (that is, from the narthex) using available light. (Easy rule:  “Don’t stand on the marble around the altar.”)

Photographers and equipment will not be permitted in the sanctuary of the Church.  The altar marks the center of the sanctuary and includes the raised floor around the altar. “Don’t stand on the marble.”)

It is inappropriate and distracting for guests to be taking photographs during the ceremony.  Please advise your guests accordingly.

The church is not a studio.  Loud talking and boisterous laughter are inappropriate in church at all times.  Hence, you are permitted only 30 minutes in the baptistery (not the sanctuary) after the ceremony for pictures.  Please take advantage of the natural settings on the church grounds for picture taking.

Video equipment is not allowed.


Please make sure that packaging materials and other throw-aways are properly disposed of after the Ceremony.  We have no janitorial or refuse services so we need your help to keep the church clean.  Be sure to remove your signs, balloons, etc. from outside the church.

Tossing of rice, birdseed, confetti, flowers, etc. will not be allowed either inside or outside the church.  There will be a $150 clean up fee to any group who ignores these guidelines.

NO BALLOONS can be released after weddings.

Schedule of fees

Donations to the church for use of the facilities and/or offerings to the priest are strictly on a free will basis.

The Choir Director must be consulted and a consultation fee will be charged. The consultation fee will be waived if the Choir Director serves as cantor.

There should be a small donation made to the altar boys, if servers are requested.

The fee for the Conference for the Engaged, the Natural Family Planning Workshop or Engaged Encounter Weekend is given in the available brochures.  Fees are paid directly to the Diocese of Arlington or as indicated.

Address and Phone Number

Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church

1020 Springvale Road

Great Falls, VA  22066


Parish Office hours: Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Acknowledgement of Intention to Adhere to Wedding Guidelines

We have read the wedding guidelines for Saint Catherine Catholic Church and will comply with all policies and directives listed therein.

___________________________    ___________________________   _______ 

Bride                                                   Groom                                                   Date  

Photographer Agreement


I/We have read the guidelines for photography and video equipment as stated in the wedding guidelines of Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Great Falls, VA, and I/we will comply with the policies listed.

_____________________________________   ___________________

Lead Photographer                                            Date


Appendix:   Wedding Rehearsal Guidelines

General Guidelines

The sanctuary of a Catholic church is most holy.  Please advise your friends and relatives to honor Catholic sensibilities with minimal and subdued speech and controlled behavior in church.

Flashless pictures can be taken by friends and family from the fixed location of their pews during the entrance and exit, but not during the ceremony.  Flash pictures disturb the solemnity of the ceremony.

The professional photographer can take pictures during the ceremony in an unobtrusive way.  Some movement is expected, but there should be a conscious effort to keep movements to a minimum so as not to distract from the ceremony.  No flashes or strobes are permitted and no photographer within the sanctuary.

According to the rules of the Parish pictures may be taken after the ceremony in church for no more than 30 minutes.  Pictures against the beautiful backdrop outside the church are encouraged.

Video recordings are prohibited.

Tossing of rice, confetti, flowers, etc. is strictly prohibited.

No use of scotch tape (or other adhesives damaging to the finish of the pews).

The consumption of alcoholic beverages before the ceremony is strictly prohibited.

Please assign someone to clean-up after the ceremony; perhaps one of the groomsmen should be identified to take care of the cleanup.


Family of the Bride on the left; family of the Groom on the right (generally speaking)

Groomsmen will sit in the first pew on the right

Bridesmaids will sit in the first pew on the left

Maid of honor will sit on the aisle seat

Best man will sit on the aisle seat

Parents and immediate family will sit in the second pew and following

Procession (generally takes place as follows)

Ushers seat guests individually, unless time is short

(Often, the ushers are groomsmen)

Parents of groom are seated

Mother of bride is seated -- groomsmen join groom and priest in sacristy (room back of the altar) 

Note:  When the mother of the Bride is seated, typically this is the cue for the organist to transition to the bridal entrance music.

Priest rings bell (an important cue for the musicians) and leads groom, best man and groomsmen -- in that order -- to the front of the altar; they face the back of the church waiting for the bride, left hand on the front pew rail (for order and decorum purposes)

Bridesmaids enter individually; allow for half the length of the aisle before another bridesmaid enters

Maid of honor is last of the bridesmaids to enter

Bridesmaids line up in front of the pews; they parallel the groomsmen; for purposes of symmetry, they look in the same direction as the groomsmen

Flower children enter and side with the bridesmaids (or at least under the attentive eye of bridesmaids or others to make sure they get down the aisle in a timely manner)

Ring-bearer, if there is one, stands next to the best man

Bride is led down the aisle by her father; father on right, bride on left

Upon reaching the front of the church, the father gives her hand to the groom

Bride and groom take their position in front of the kneeler for the ceremony or Mass to begin.

Chairs for Bride and Groom are optional.  (Sometimes a chair obstructs the bridal gown so opting against the placement of chairs in the sanctuary is permitted.)


(Pictures now can only be taken by the photographer at a fixed location; excessive movement is now discouraged)

Priest greets people; recites opening prayer; directs the people to stand or sit as necessary.

Liturgy of the Word:  Priest will invite the readers up to the lectern; the readers are to use the approved texts provided by the priest (no loose pieces of paper in hand as they approach the lectern); the approved texts will be open at the lectern

Gospel by priest followed by brief homily

Wedding ceremony

Consent and reception of consent

Blessing and exchange of rings

(Prayers of the faithful -- optional)

[Continue with Mass, unless ceremony only]

Lord's Prayer

Nuptial blessing

[Distribution of Communion, unless ceremony only]

Final Blessing


Bride and groom turn to the congregation and pause (for pictures if they wish) and walk (at slower pace) down the aisle

Bridesmaids and groomsmen pair up as they leave the church, following Bride and Groom in regular intervals.

Parents and family follow wedding party

(Pictures can be taken if the bride and groom permit them to be taken at this time).

A receiving line outside the church is discouraged if photographs in the church are planned.

Sacramental Schedule

The Church typically opens by 7:30 a.m. and closes around 7 p.m.  But times may vary because of variations in the Pastor's schedule and the occasional inability to obtain help in locking the church at night.

The Confession Schedule continues

Sacrament of Penance:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 7:45 am – 8:15 am (No Confessions on Holy Days and civil holidays)
Saturday afternoon: 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Expanded schedule for Advent and Lent
All Day Eucharistic Adoration
Every Wednesday: 1 pm through Thursday morning, 8:30 am
Every First Friday: 9 am through Saturday morning, 8:30 am

Mass Schedule:
8 am 10 am 12 Noon*
*Novus Ordo Latin Mass

Saturday: 8:30 am & 5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Weekdays: 8:30 am, (Wednesdays: 12:15 pm)

Holydays (except Christmas):
8:30 am & 7 pm

Although the regular weekday Mass schedule is solidly in place, since this is a one-priest parish, there may be times when Mass cancellations are necessary.  Please register here if you attend weekday Masses and want to receive cancellation notifications and other updates as opportune.  We will not abuse your contact information.  Click here

 (Note: After clicking the weekday Mass registration link above, please scroll to the bottom right of the page and replace the "0" with a "1" to proceed.)

Contact Us

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Direct Line to Pastor 703.759.3520 or click here to email
No text messages please; contact the office for administrative questions.

Office Hours
Monday - Friday: 9:30 am to 1:30 pm 
Closed on Federal Holidays

Saint Catherine of Siena Church
1020 Springvale Road
Great Falls, VA 22066
Have a question? Have a comment? Please contact us!
Phone: 703.759.4350
Fax: 703.759.3753


 Parish Registration Application  Click here.  

(Note: After clicking the application link above, please scroll to the bottom right of the page and replace the "0" with a "1" to proceed.)

Interested in Catholic Inquiry Classes (for non-Catholics or Catholics interested in deepening their understanding of the Faith)?  Click here.



St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church

1020 Springvale Rd., Great Falls, VA 22066

Parish Office: 703.759.4350
Fax: 703.759.3753
Religious Education: 703.759.3530
Siena Academy: 703.759.4129