Perna Party of 3

The Croatian Wedding tradition, a crucifix, and six months of marriage

On September 8, 2018, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Megan and I were married at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert, AZ. Supported by many family and friends, the day went off without a hitch, and still to this day we have so many fond memories and continue to view photos from the day, beautifully taken by Man in the Moon Studios. I am astounded that we are already half way through our first year of marriage. I love my wife more today than I did six months ago. She is a true blessing and gift from God. She is the answer of many years of prayer asking God where is my spouse. Everyday, I learn to be a better person and husband.

When I first thought about writing this article, my initial thoughts were to write about the things I have learned in the first six months of marriage, but after reflecting on it a bit as well as praying about it, I have decided to just share with you some of the photos of the day and write about something that we did during our marriage vows. It’s my hope that at our first-year mark, I will write a reflection on the things that marriage has taught me personally, at least in the first year.

The one thing I do want to share with you that we did during our marriage vows is the Croatian wedding tradition of holding a crucifix. Although neither of us is Croatian, we found the tradition of holding the crucifix an exceptional symbol of the vocation of marriage. So moved by seeing this at our wedding, two other couples (both friends of ours) who were recently married followed our example and did the same thing at their wedding Mass.

In the town of Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there has not been one single divorce or broken family in living memory among the 26,000 people who call the town home.  A people who have suffered for their Catholic faith throughout the centuries at the hands of different conquerors, they know the importance that Christ plays in the life of a Christian and that salvation comes through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

During the interchange of the marital vows, the groom holds the crucifix in his right hand and the bride places her right hand on the top of the crucifix uniting their hands together. Both bride and groom are bound and united to the Cross of Christ. Although we did not add this part, the priest covers their hands with his stole as they profess their vows.

Even though our exchange was slightly different, the memory of this action will remain with me for our marriage. The crucifix we used can be see in my hands in the picture below with the Clergy and a close up below that picture. The crucifix will always have a permanent place over our marital bed.

If you never listened to the homily from our wedding day, I would encourage you to listen to it. It has been professed by many of our married family and friends as the perfect homily for a wedding mass and the homily that best describes marriage as whole.

Below is a picture from the Consecration at the moment Bishop Steven J. Lopes is raising the Holy Eucharist. Our Wedding Mass was in English, with Latin Mass Parts (GloriaSanctus, Mysterium Fidei [Memorial Acclamation], Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei. As usual, the Kyrie, was chanted in Greek). The Mass was Ad Orientem and Sacred Music was chanted by the Schola Rosa. My sister-in-law, Monica Gerardi, chanted the Psalm and sang the Ave Maria.

Please pray for my wife and I that we may continue to grow together in union with Jesus Christ, His Catholic Church, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the Saints, married and celibate, be our guides here on earth and interceding for us on a daily basis.

Family Photo with both sides of our immediate families.

At the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert.

Our Bridal Party

I love you, Megan!  

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13 replies »

  1. What a beautiful tradition with the crucifix! I may need to keep that in mind when it’s finally the Lord’s time for me to marry. It will be very interesting to read your thoughts at the one-year mark of marriage.

  2. My wife and I were married in 1997 in the Church of Our Lady of The Assumption on Siroki Brijeg we currently live in Melbourne Australia and 9 children later it is The Cross that has sustained us through life’s battles. It hangs in our living room at home and is a constant reminder to all of us of who we are and our Christian vocation.

      • When me and my wife were married in 2004 in Croatia the priest also put the cross under our hands. He also told us not to forget to invite Jesus to our wedding party and of course into our everyday life:) What he did was especially touching to us since he was a survivor from a concentration camp in Bosnia 1992. He knew what he was doing and what he was talking about. This priest was a good friend of mine. Unfortunately he passed away 10 years ago…

        Invite Jesus and his Mother into your life. They will never never abandon you!

  3. I am the pastor of a parish founded by Croatians. I started using a crucifix and that story of “no divorces” even before I arrived at this parish. It is a marvelous tradition. I take it one step further and place the rings at the feet of Jesus as they are being blessed before they are exchanged. Almost to a couple, everyone has been thankful for the connection.

  4. Interesting to read you are not Croatian as Perna can be a Croatian surname and Tom (Tomislav) is a very common Croatian name.

  5. Dear Tom Perna,
    Would you please explain what exactly was done at the ceremony. And was only the marriage vows recited or did the priest say specific prayers. My Daughter is to be married and I would like her to include the wedding crucifix in her nuptial vows.


  6. Beautiful custom. i am currently putting together the mass booklet for my wedding and wanted to insert the marriage crucifix in the rite. Could you share with us any resources that has the liturgical text that we can use? Thanks!

    • Hi Martin – Most of what I found about the rite is found in the article that you commented on. I don’t have a specific liturgical text. I imagine you can find such writings online if you keep looking. Blessings on your wedding.

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