Like, I expect, pretty much every other Catholic our age, Andrew and I have spent a good amount of time on the wedding circuit. There are few things I love more than witnessing our friends entering into their vocation. Although, obviously, every couple and every wedding is different (unique and unrepeatable, yo), it can feel…not repetitive or tedious, but exceedingly similar from wedding to wedding if I'm not careful. Seeing the same friends, going through the same process each time of packing up an outfit and choosing a gift, even dancing to a lot of the same reception songs; it's too easy to feel on wedding autopilot sometimes.
But I don't want auto. Bearing witness to a sacrament between two people I cherish, Love incarnate and grace come down to earth, should be anything but. And truly, I have cried at every faithfully Catholic wedding I've been to, amazed at the love and anticipation between the couple and renewed in my determination to live out my own wedding vows with intention and joy like I promised I would. It's the pre-wedding time, with its flurry of to-dos as a guest (particularly when I've been an out-of-town guest), that distracts from the sacrament.
That's why Andrew and I decided to start praying novenas for our friends in the nine days leading up to their union, ending on the wedding day. We like to ask the couple about some of the saints they have a devotion to and try to choose a novena to one of those particular saints, but if we can't find one or forget to ask, we pray this one to St. Joseph for his example as a wholly loving spouse, his chastity, and his guardianship of the Holy Family.
To my surprise, praying these novenas together has borne fruit not just in the relationships of the couples we prayed for--at least, that was our intention--but in our own marriage. We have our own personal litany to saints we've come to love individually and as a couple, whose intercession we ask at the end of the Rosary, but to tell you the truth, I had mostly ever prayed novenas in times of desperation before (e.g. St. Raphael-where-is-my-future-husband, St. Gianna-please-let-Aaron-learn-to-breastfeed, St. Peter Damian-when-will-my-baby-sleep-through-the-night). Since we started saying the wedding novenas a few years ago, though, I've come to love adding the prayer time into our spirituality as a couple, as well as the length of time a novena affords to ponder different aspects of a saint's life each day and to be mindful about our intentions for the entire duration. Full disclosure: even though I've changed tack on the desperation thing, we do have a steady St. Joseph of Cupertino-please-let-Andrew-pass-his-comps thing going on right now.
If you'd like to join my husband and me in giving this pre-wedding gift, or, even better, if you'd like to begin praying for your own engagement and coming marriage, I hunted these down as a starting point for you:
Novena for a happy and faithful marriage: Amazingly, I'd never found this prayer before writing this post. Inspired by St. Josemaria Escriva's homilies and spirituality, it's by Opus Dei and is truly beautiful. There's one set of reflections for engagement, and another for marriage. Andrew and I are planning to start this after we let Joseph of Cupertino off the hook!
A Theology of the Body-inspired novena that invokes the intercession of the Holy Family, the archangels, and JPII for the bride and groom. In other words, boss. This will be our personal go-to wedding novena from here on out.
Novena to St. Anne, mother of Our Lady: Held up in the Church as a model of a holy wife and mother (I mean, how difficult a child could Mary have been to raise, but still. Not just anyone could've been the grandmother of God!), asking St. Anne's prayers for imitating her example is an act of humility, generosity to your future husband, and an affirmation of your feminine worth.
Prayer to St. Jude for the healing of a relationship: Self-explanatory. In the past, I saw healing as something only necessary for major wounds or transgressions, but the longer we have been married, the more I have seen the value in total honesty and a will to forgive and repair even the smallest sources of division.
A sweet, simple marriage blessing that would be a wonderful addition to your nightly prayers.I should contemplate this more often, I think, but in a way, wedding guests have a responsibility for spiritual preparation just as the bride and groom do. Prayers for the couple's marriage and, God willing, future family, is powerful and invites us as guests to experience the wedding in a way that draws us out of passivity; not because it's about us, but because together with the couple, our eyes are fixed on something greater.
I'll end this with two devotions I've recently added to my daily prayer. First, here's a prayer for your husband that, to me, speaks the language of the self-emptying, other-focused love I strive to give Andrew. It's beautiful for both engagement and after marriage. Second, I found this nightly examen for married couples a few months ago and have been motivated but, frankly, embarrassingly humbled by its promptings to hold my tongue, to spend my time intentionally, and to cultivate a servant's heart for myself and more for my husband and my family. So good. I'd love to know what prayers you say for your relationship! Spill.