Frustrations vs. Foundations
Amid all the hoopla of the wedding day, many of us have completely forgotten the sacramental union that is taking place.
Priests are often accused of holding up the process—why doesn’t Father Joe know the precise dimensions of the church so I can place the order for the aisle runner?—because they are focused on the sacrament, rather than the aesthetics.
Many clergy are getting frustrated, and you should be, too.
“The ‘church part’ or ‘religious meaning’ of the wedding is not the biggest part of the day—it is only a few minutes compared to the reception or the photography sessions. But it is the foundation of everything else,” says Fr. Richstatter. “And like the foundation of a building, though it may not be the most ‘glitzy’ part, everything else depends on it.”
Planning the perfect wedding has become part of the quest for happiness, argues Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, and it’s out of control: The modern bride and groom are convinced that the perfect wedding is beginning of a perfect life, a perfect marriage and perfect future happiness. So if the candy-coating on the almonds isn’t the same cream color as the programs, they worry this detail will derail hopes for joy years down the line.
But as Catholics, we should know better. A happy marriage is about commitment to your spouse, to God and to your community. Instead of worrying about candy coatings, try talking to your future spouse about where faith and church attendance will fit into your future family life, what values you both share and the areas in which you disagree.
While there are plenty of people ready to sell you contentment in the form of a party favor, the Church—through marriage preparation ministries nationwide—is offering more substantial training for life satisfaction.
“Preparing for a life together can be a complicated and dizzying prospect for many couples,” says Jacque Green, marriage preparation minister at the Newman Center at the University of Iowa. “I’m able to bring some peace of mind and some soul-searching for engaged couples, often making them consider things, both positive and negative, they might not otherwise think about before the ceremony.”
“As soon-to-be lifelong partners, the engaged couple need to be sure that honesty in the relationship rules the day. In areas of religiosity, finances, parenting, life goals and family differences, the two need to be aware of the lifelong impact of every future action,” she added.
Ask yourself and your partner: What do I want others to see in me, and in us as a couple? What are my fears about the future? Looking at the relationships of our friends and families, what qualities do we hope to emulate, and which ones would we like to improve upon in our own marriage?
Catholic Engaged Encounter, a marriage preparation retreat, served nearly 16,000 Catholic couples nationwide in 2006. According to Laura Weidner of the Engaged Encounter chapter in New York, the goal of CEE is to allow a couple to learn about living a Catholic marriage, learn useful tools to enrich marriage, and to communicate deeply with each other as they prepare for living the rest of their lives together united in Christ.
And for the bride and groom overly obsessed with reception details instead of engaging in thoughtful preparation for a life-long sacrament, Fr. Andrews warns:
“The more the couple is fixated on the details of the wedding ‘production,’ the more I worry about the longevity of the marriage. So, my advice is place your focus on your relationship with God and your future spouse before all else.”