"You mean you can't have a Coldplay song in your wedding?"
"What do you mean you can't get married on the beach?"
"Are you going to write your own vows?"
I attended only one Catholic wedding before my own, only a few weeks before getting engaged. I'm so glad that I did, because seeing the Nuptial Mass firsthand not only helped me to see the structure of the ceremony firsthand, but also the beauty of a wedding done within a Catholic Mass. At the same time I learned that my wedding wouldn't look like those I saw in a million movies or have the personal little touches that I saw in bridal magazines, I also realized that it would be much more God-centered. Although I was initially a bit sad to give up some of the little details of the wedding that I had dreamed of, I quickly understood that this was a better way. My wedding wouldn't be a day all about me and my beloved, and I was fine with that, because my wedding would be part of something greater than the two of us, something that would endure long after we were gone; it was part of Christ and His Church.
Personally understanding the significance of our Nuptial Mass is one thing; explaining to someone else is another. The hardest (and perhaps most common) question I had to answer was, "Do you really want a Mass? But it's so long, and most of your guests aren't even Catholic." I'm not quite sure why so many people cared about the details of my wedding. They were quite often appalled that I couldn't plan each detail of my wedding to make it "the wedding I wanted." Sigh. The wedding I wanted was a Catholic wedding, and as long as I was able to marry my beloved, I didn't care about the minute details. In fact, anyone who knows my husband and I know that we are devout Catholics, so I don't understand why friends and family didn't understand that we wanted our wedding to be part of a Mass; that we wanted to choose religious music that glorified God; that we wouldn't have had it any other way!
If you are in the process of planning a Catholic wedding, you will probably be asked some of these same questions. Here's a few tips for planning a wedding that is wholly faithful and crazily countercultural:
- Think of the priorities you want to set for your marriage and model your wedding off of them. If you want to have a holy marriage with Christ at the center, having a holy wedding with Christ at the center is a good start. A great photographer, gorgeous flowers, and a killer wedding dress are all enhancements to a wedding, not necessities, and should be treated as such.
- Be kind, but don't be afraid to state your wishes. I hope your friends and family members are totally on board for a traditional Nuptial Mass (assuming that is your wish, as well), but if they are not, be understanding. In a society where people often go tens of thousands of dollars into debt for a wedding and see it as a personal fashion statement, it's difficult to understand that a couple would want to have their wedding as part of a Mass in which the focus of the ceremony is on Christ, not the couple. Take the time to explain why you want a Catholic wedding and the reasons for the "rules" (Coldplay doesn't belong in a Mass, etc.). If the questioner persists, don't be afraid to tell him or her that you are planning your wedding the way you want and that is that!
- Personalize your reception. Just because you want your wedding within a Mass doesn't mean you don't want the day to be about you and your beloved--of course you do! Instead of personalizing the ceremony, focus on the reception as your opportunity to make your wedding reflect the unique love between the two of you. Decorate the reception however you want, pick that perfect first dance song...the opportunities for personalization are endless!
- Remember that your wedding is a part of something greater. I loved that my wedding wasn't all about my husband and me. Instead, our wedding, our marriage, became part of something greater than the two of us. It was about Christ and His Church, it was about serving each other and a greater good--our God, our families, our communities. And that is a good thing. That is more enduring than any marriage has ever been or ever will be. Having a wedding as part of a Mass added the weight of 2,000 years of tradition behind our marriage, and no Coldplay song could ever rival that!
Mandi is a Catholic wife and mother in her mid-twenties. She married David in a Nuptial Mass in July 2010, and they welcomed their first child, Lucia, in December 2011. You can read about her musings on marriage and motherhood at Catholic Newlywed.
"Crazily countercultural..." I love it! Have any of you encountered these apologetics-type issues when it comes to planning your wedding Mass and explaining certain traditions of the Church? We'd love to hear about your experiences and how you dealt!