A Wedding Planning Reality Check

Most couples we know love thumbing through any of the popular bridal magazines, reading the numerous helpful articles, and taking note of the various ads, photos, and other information offered, be it about helpful wedding tips, reception planning or even ideas for honeymoons. The purpose of these magazines appears to be a resource guide for couples who want to have the perfect wedding. This isn’t a negative notion in itself, other than the fact that “perfect” is not reachable, nor even necessarily, desirable. There is an old adage Catholic Engaged Encounter people like to say: “A Wedding is a Day; A Marriage is a Lifetime.” So the key is to not spend an inordinate amount of emphasis upon the wedding plans while lacking emphasis upon the subsequent marriage. These magazines are not designed to do any more than they do, such as: sell gowns, rings, dinnerware, furniture, luggage, travel packages, honeymoon trips, sex appeal, and “take-your-breath-away-beauty.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a well-planned wedding day; nor for that matter, with a reception and wedding celebration of large proportions – that is, if they fit into the proper context. This means that the wedding celebration needs to point to the reality of what is truly happening with this coming together as husband wife. It is actually a party to celebrate that “God loves His people.” The husband and wife express this divine love concretely – through words and deeds – as they live out their conjugal love over a lifetime. Their bond of love becomes the image and symbol of the covenant that unites God to His people. This is wonderful! It is wonder-filled. It demands to be celebrated. And the need and desire to have a great wedding celebration is therefore appropriate and fitting.

The marriage covenant illustrates and illuminates Gods love for us. The couple enters this covenant with their own promise, or vow, to do three things: to be faithful to each other forever, to be exclusively for one another, and to be open to new life. The couple says “yes” – to be their word – while not knowing how they are going to fulfill such a promise. They say “yes” to live out their commitment regardless of whatever circumstances come about in their life. They do so, not solely based upon their own good intentions and abilities, but do so in the confidence of God’s grace. It is God’s faithfulness that we can always count on, and it is this faithfulness that the couple is committed to mirror to each other and to the world.

The promise the couple makes – publicly to God and to community – is a radical departure from any contract, whereby in a contract both parties know up front what will or won’t take place before hand. This promise – or covenant – is counter-cultural, and it is profoundly freeing and powerful. Being one’s word allows the couple to create an extraordinary marriage. It allows them to generate a marriage founded on each spouse taking his and her full responsibility for the success of their marital union.

Marriage is also a social matter. It has always been an occasion for rejoicing bringing together families and friends. For Catholics it is also a sacrament in which they are drawn into an on-going process of sacrifice, compromise, raising children, of prayer, and of dealing with the enjoyable and the annoying things of a life shared together. For the wise couple, it is a challenge that, when embraced, opens the door to tremendous opportunities for personal growth and development. The married couple takes this way of living on as their specific spiritual journey  – one where maturity and growth occurs for each person, as God gets revealed over and over through their love for one another.

Yes the adage, “a Wedding is a Day, but a Marriage is a Lifetime” sets into place the proper motivation for any wedding plans and helps the couple to ask some basic questions:

  1. Why are we doing whatever we are doing regarding our wedding plans?
  2. What is the purpose of our large, small, costly, intimate, informal, formal, etc. reception?
  3. How are we acting as a visible sign of God’s love for all of us as we execute the celebration and related events?
  4. Whom are we inviting? And why are we asking these people?
  5. Is there anything we can do to help others? Perhaps even assist family reconciliations? How might our being a sign of God’s love in the world be envisioned to the poor, the afflicted, the needy?
  6. What does the term “counter-cultural” mean to us in the context of our wedding celebration?
  7. For the interfaith couple: How can aspects of both our faith traditions be acknowledged and affirmed in our wedding celebration?

In addition to making thoughtful and wise choices concerning the wedding plans, we encourage all couples to place their major efforts on their marriage plans. The wedding can often be exhausting and lots of work. And the only reason why it is worthwhile work is if the couple has also prepared for the marriage. Then the work of the marriage, the work that continues long after the bills for the reception and gown are paid, and long after the honeymoon photos are placed into an album or on your favorite website, can become the exclusive focus.

While Bridal magazines are exciting and fun to look at, they won’t say all this. And they only tell a part of the story. The rest is about the excitement and fun in store for those blessed and courageous enough to invest in this lifelong journey of work and effort – this thing called sacramental marriage. So plan – for a great wedding – as well as a great and fulfilling marriage.