Or maybe you're one of the ones wondering. Maybe you have questions yourself, and want to know more than just "the Church says so." So let's change the conversation today. I think it's time to talk about the truths of the Catholic faith in a way that's not just about rules, but about freedom.
My homes Pope St. John Paul II said, "freedom is for love." In light of your spouse-to-be, that means that putting him or her first, over and over, will in time become a habit and a choice you actually prefer to putting yourself first. In light of the Father, it means teachings that seem like rules are actually directives intended solely to make us most whole, most fulfilled, and most alive, giving us the ability to choose what's best for the other and for our relationship with God. What does that look like in the concrete aspects of wedding planning? Here, three frequently asked Q's about marriage in the Church, and three answers. Whether you're asking or answering, I hope these words are imbued not just with truth, but with love.
Why wait to live together or sleep together when you're already engaged? I get that this is hard. So hard. When two people have promised to marry each other, it's tough to see why they shouldn't just go ahead and act like they're married. But maybe we're asking the wrong question. Consider, instead, what the point is of serious dating and engagement. At that point, both people in the relationship are committed to each other, whether through their communication or through an actual engagement ring, and if, during that time, you're preparing for the long term, it's important to know what virtues and good qualities your partner possesses, and how his or her virtues will help you become more virtuous. Someone who opts to live together before marriage is essentially saying they are okay with living and sleeping with someone they aren't married to--a wedding ring won't automatically change that outlook.
Granted, the likelihood of unfaithfulness in that sense is a little extreme, and I know there are couples who live together and genuinely have each others' best good at heart. Ultimately, though, the fact that your partner wants the fun and romance of married life but not the true commitment of having spoken marriage vows conveys a lack of self-discipline and patience--would most people want to be married to someone who could control their desires and say no, or someone who couldn't? Choosing to wait until after the wedding to live together is a way to grow in that discipline and self-control. So, the point of a committed relationship isn't to see how much one can get from the other, but how much one can give, by loving selflessly.
Why can't you use secular music for the ceremony? My old roommate once came home from a night of going out of curiosity to a country line dance, and she was so alight with the novelty of it all that I asked her to teach me some of the dances. For the next half hour, we seriously galloped around our apartment while the Dixie Chicks accompanied us via iPod. Loudly. Moments like that, of complete abandon and exuberance, lift you to the heights. "Abandon" and "exuberance" can also describe the experience of getting married--of freely, entirely surrendering your will because you know the joy that's in store. But, it would be weird to have a country line dance song, let alone the galloping, playing at your wedding Mass, even if the end emotion were the same. Obviously, most couples would prefer to have something more romantic than that playing when, say, the bride walks up the aisle. But it's the same underlying principle: music needs to fit the context of the setting it's played in. So, if your wedding ceremony is set in the Church, the music needs to fit the purpose of worship.
Why can't you write your own vows? CCD throwback, anyone? Every sacrament of the church has a specific rite that must be followed in order for the sacrament to be valid--if a priest doesn't follow the prescribed language of consecration, for instance, the Eucharist for that Mass is invalid. Getting married is the same--in order for the sacrament to take place; that is, for the couple's bond to literally be transformed and suffused with grace, the bride and groom need to speak the language of the Rite of Marriage. It's more than just input these words, get out this result--it's allowing yourselves and your love to take on something entirely, sacramentally new and humbly inviting God into your life together, knowing it takes three, not two, to live out your promises.
And now, in a totally not transparent transition, I'll say that my book, INVITED, addresses more on each of these questions, along with other hard teachings like chastity, birth control, and divorce, in an in-depth way that I truly hope communicates the wellspring of joy and true freedom to be found in a sacramental marriage, and in a way that feels like having coffee with a friend. But it's not all theological talk. There's worksheets to help you get organized, set a budget, and make sure all of your spiritual and practical wedding preparations get taken care of. There's what I hope are endearingly embarrassing, rather than just outright embarrassing, stories of some of Andrew's and my arguments and missteps during our engagement and first months as newlyweds, and what we learned from them. There's honest talk about choosing a dress, shutting up your inner temptation to compare yourself, sex and what it's meant for, and (spoiler) even a Rick Roll. Come on. I had to save the best thing for last.
Want a copy? The book's official release is April 1, but I'm unbelievably excited to share 3 copies ahead of time (and it's okay if you're not engaged)! Enter below, and head to Instagram for extra entries. Giveaway ends this Sunday, the 20th, at 11:59 P.M.
And can I be completely honest with you? As happy as I am to see my book about to be released and as exhilarating as it is to think of the ways it might resonate, I'm also SO nervous for these words I've been putting together for the past three years finally making their way into print for anyone to read. Marketing and self-promotion are no joke, and my constant prayer over the past few weeks is just that I might decrease and let the book, and what I hope is its evident passion for helping couples understand authentic, life-giving love, speak for itself and take center stage instead of me. So please join me in asking the Holy Spirit to guide this project into the hearts of whatever brides--stressed out, returning to the Church, looking to elevate their romance to the divine--and marriage prep programs most need it. And please pray that the Spirit might lead my own heart to the right balance of promotion and humility, which I don't take to mean silence, but a full awareness that it's not about me. Much love, friends.
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