The couple are non-traditional in that they want to have a church ceremony, but for reasons of apartment leases, where there is a semester/spring break, when family can come, etc, want to do a "civic" wedding and then the "church" wedding in about 6 months. While my friends in Germany do this all the time, it's a little on the unconventional side.
This week's question comes from "Noobie"...we've all been a noobie at least once in our lives. And we've all faced those pastoral firsts...
I'm about to embark on another of those pastoral "firsts" -- solo counseling/officiating a wedding! In the past I have participated in creating the ceremony, doing a homily, yadda yadda... this is a whole new game.
The couple are in the 30s, it's a first marriage for both, are newly returning to spiritual growth and renewal, have steady jobs, are not pregnant, have dated for about a year -- in other words, there's LOTS to see as positive signs for them. On the other hand... I am sure there are questions I should be asking them...
I'm not a big one for laying down the law - i.e. "I won't marry you if you don't co-habit until after the wedding" but I do want to make sure that I counsel them well. How many of us have been in that predicament where the lust is gone and the cold grey morning of "geez you got old and fat" has come.... or face the financial worries of children, illness, car payments, student loans and... well, you know.
So any wisdom, encouragement, warnings, exhortations... I'm all ears.
Thanks from The Noobie
Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness was the only matriarch who responded this week...
Dear Noobie: Thank you for asking this question because weddings have been a pet peeve of mine throughout my ministry. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt--and hopefully some of the sisters can put in their 2 cents worth too.
First of all, a couple who comes to be married in the Church today has made a decision to either side with tradition or has come to some place in their lives in which faith in God means something to them. I ask questions about how they want to ritualize their faith and their lives together. Most couples I married were already living together and some even had already had children. Marriage was the way that they wanted to symbolize to themselves and to the community around them that they were taking their place in society as adult contributors to that society. It was also the way that they were going to symbolize their relationship with God--as a couple. This was not a matter of personal faith--it was a matter of their 'coupled' faith. It was how they were going to face the world as a family and be supported together.
I also talked to them about being their own person in their coupled relationship--that there was no "better half." I talked to them about the importance of having friends outside of their marriage: Guys need to have their hunting buddies, sports buddies, their car talking buddies, and women need their girl friends to make a healthy couple. They also needed to have coupled friends who would support their lives together. And when children came, they would need parent friends as well as family to help them raise their children.
But most of all they needed to find some kind of spiritual life to practice throughout their lives together. I often asked them to discuss with each other (not necessarily with me) what would feel like betrayal if the other did it. It helps them deepen their understanding of what they fear the most and draws those fears out into the open. I always asked how they ritualized such things as Christmas, Easter, birthdays, special occasions in their families and got them to discuss what kinds of rituals would they want to cling to and what would they jettison in their lives together. What would they need to cling to for their families' sakes and how they could support one another in the face of family difficulties. These are often issues that new couples have not yet had to face.
I have only once refused to marry someone and it was a young member of my parish who was jumping into a relationship after her father had died suddenly. She married a few years later to a different person and was very happy that I had refused to do that initial marriage. While it is up to me to agree or refuse to marry someone, I think that we do more damage to couples who come to the Church --even ones who have little experience of the Church, by denying because they have not fulfilled certain criteria. I do require, if possible, that the couple be in attendance in the months before the wedding. It gives them a chance to at least to know what the Church is about.
Okay, sisters and brothers...use the Post a Comment function to add your 2 cents...And now's a great time to submit a question for the matriarchs' consideration - there are only 2 questions in the queue.
May you live in God's amazing grace+