As a child growing up, our family celebrated an abundance of June weddings. It was the done thing. More recently, we celebrate weddings throughout the year. Still, the newspaper last week and magazines last month featured what society deems important things for brides to consider as the month of June broke into the calendar. Do you have a traditional gown with train for a destination beach wedding? Whom do you invite to the wedding? Do you have a registry? In what kind of store?
Two realities are missed when the engaged couple focuses primarily on elements of the wedding currently deemed important. One is the place of the community in the wedding and the second is the spiritual dimension of weddings as understood in our Church.
The place of the community: The wedding is prelude to what is hoped to be a lifetime of marriage, and in the best of all possible worlds, marriages begin and are lived out in communities of mutual support: aunts and uncles and cousins three times removed, neighbors from twenty or thirty years ago, children taking it all in. That’s why money set aside for the wedding might be better invested in in a simple, big, hall, with a simple, tasty meal with everyone possible able to come and dance, meet new people and retell old stories. The wedding is not just for the bride and groom. They are taking their place in the community and by their invitation, they acknowledge and seek the support of all who can possibly help them as life together unfolds. I call this “grace on the margins”, the support that comes when we least expect it and from unexpected sources.
The spiritual power of the marriage vows: This power comes to mind as I recall a conversation I had with my Aunt Angie moments after she had finished fastening my Uncle Al’s belt one Easter Sunday. We were about to go out to dinner, and my uncle, debilitated by Parkinson’s Disease, always was dressed to the nine’s. Angie saw to that. I gave her an encouraging, appreciative word for her constant, loving care, ending with “I don’t know how you do it!” She shot back “It’s the grace of the sacrament. That’s what the sacrament of marriage is all about.” I was stunned. My aunt was not one to “talk religion” in this way. I didn’t even know she knew those words. But it was out of her mouth in an instant and it is true. The years of marriage contain “the good times and bad, the sickness and health”, that were spoken in the marriage service. These are real, long beyond the length of the train or the destination or the registry.
In the wedding which begins the marriage, God’s promise to be with us is interwoven with the words of the couple in the fabric of the community.
~Sister Joan Sobala