By Ellen Romer
I confess, I watch Say Yes to the Dress. I like judging dress choices and the other wedding choices I see on Four Weddings. As someone who was previously engaged and is currently engaged, I have done a fair amount of wedding planning. There are a lot of opinions and expectations that end up involved in the process and it is easy to lose sight of what is important. I appreciated Sara’s call to think more about how cultural expectations seem to trump what is a sacred thing for the Church. I share in the overarching sense of avoiding a materialistic approach and focusing on the sacrament. Being in the middle of planning a wedding for the second time, I am also acutely aware of how not only my fiance and I, but many people have a stake in this wedding. Simple isn’t always so simple.
Our wedding is ours. We minister the sacrament before witnesses. We make vows to one another and to God. So we can certainly say ‘No we don’t need all this fancy stuff’ and I certainly try to. Friends have shared that they are making us a cornhole set for use at the reception (yay!). We made it clear that we prefer paying for musicians at the Mass over having them at the reception. I told my three attendants that I would like to be consulted on what they wear, but it’s up to them and their preferences. I want them to feel like themselves. We decided that a bouquet and garter toss aren’t really our style, so we’re going to pass on that. I don’t need a big cake ( I really don’t understand them) so we will stick with a small super tasty one and I will try not to get chocolate frosting on my dress (Don’t worry Mom! It’ll be ok!).
The thing is – the wedding isn’t really about us. We are who we are and where we are thanks to our friends, our families and the grace of God. Our marriage is not merely a private affair. We will profess our vows publicly to one another so that all can see and hear and hold us accountable to our vows and encourage us in them. Our marriage belongs not to us and our (hopefully) future children, but to the entire Body of Christ. Our marriage is not meant for us to simply serve one another but so that through our partnership and love we can better serve the people of God. So it can’ t just be about us. It has to include our families, our friends and the world we intend to serve.
A wonderful trend in gift registries is to include an option for charitable donations or to make a donation in lieu of wedding favors. We haven’t decided on how we might go about that, but it’s a wonderful way for a couple to acknowledge the needs of the world around them and encourage others to do the same.
Constantly prioritizing my preferences over my mother’s minimizes her role in the wedding and in my life. Do I want a band at the reception? Eh, not a priority. But my parents have been taking ballroom dance classes (so cute!) and they know a band they think is great. It’s become their little thing and so I am happy to have a band. My mother loves lots of flowers and gets so excited putting them together. So although I don’t really need the flowers, we’ll have them. Would I prefer that both my parents walk me the down the aisle. Absolutely. But the only thing my father asked for is that short walk with me. I deeply trust that my father has never seen me as something to give away. He can have those moments, just him and me.
Weddings get treated like a big deal because they are a big deal. They are wonderful celebrations. Focus on a wedding over a marriage and the sacraments creates issues, but again, that’s for another post. A lifelong commitment through the vocations of two people is absolutely worth celebrating. It is worth rejoicing in! Celebrations can find a balance of being a bigger deal than usual without excess and waste. The ‘something old’ tradition opens up amazing opportunities. I know several women who have used a mother or grandmother’s wedding dress. I am thrilled I get to wear my aunt’s veil that my mother made over 20 years ago.
Between having a huge family and many beloved friends, this wedding is going to be big. No way around it. Having a big wedding sounds sort of extravagant, overdone, and unnecessary. I have thought ‘Is it excessive to have this many people?’ It makes a huge cost difference, so is it really worth it? I then realized how blessed we are as a couple that we have so many people we love and who we know want to support us in our married life together. Sometimes spending the money is worth it and luckily the cost of so many people is one that can be afforded.
We heard last week about how important it is to celebrate and support the vocations of our loved ones. The gratitude I feel for the unwavering support our loved ones have shown in the short time we have been engaged merely strengthens the view that people are the most important. If I am to be in excess of anything, how wonderful to have an excess of people.