“You know what the problem is Father? From the time a little girl has any concept of what a wedding is, she has been daydreaming about it. She imagines it and catalogues everything that she likes from movies and such. And then you come along and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do that.’ But they do it on T.V. and at the Brand New Jesus Church so you look like a jerk.”
That may be true. It may also be true that we do not preach and teach enough about marriage and weddings to firmly ground people in what they are and what they do. So two different philosophical boats collide on Lake Erie and it is rare in these situations that both sides go, “Oooops, my bad,” and then motor along. Dreams and law collide and someone is invariably upset that there is a scratch on their boat.
One of the biggest philosophical barriers to overcome is figuring out to whom the wedding and the marriage belong. Much of the world would say that the wedding day belongs primarily to the couple. It is a consumer mentality. I want to get married, I am hiring you to do it, and this is how I want it done. It is my dream day, my life, and my commitment, and therefore it should go the way that I want it to go.
That sounds reasonable. Aunt Judy and Ranger Rick who will be in attendance are not exchanging vows, are not going on the honeymoon, will not be living with the new couple and didn’t pay for a lick of anything. The Church (typically) receives some fees for services rendered. So if someone wants to get married on the beach at noon on Sunday at a destination wedding in bathing suits with “Pretty Woman” playing as the bride walks down the sandy aisle, why should we not cater to the consumer? It is just good business practice.
But what if the wedding does not belong only to the couple? What if it belongs to the whole community? What if marriage is a public thing in which everyone has a stake? What if the reason the Church is involved is to bring support for the day, the marriage, and the family through example, prayer, and assistance in good times and bad, sickness and health? What if the reason the bells are rung before the wedding Mass is not just because it is pretty but that a wedding belongs to the greater family of Church and they are invited and the bells are the general invitation? If it is not all of these things, why not just get married in private and then have a blowout party?
Like the Mass does not belong to the priest meaning he can’t play around with it because it belongs to the whole Church and they have a right to the Church’s Mass, so too does a wedding ceremony belong to the whole Church, the Church in Akron, the United States, the Americas, the world, and therefore we do what belongs to our common union. Those in attendance, those expected to facilitate, and those marrying all have a right to that. It is not a purchasing of a service, it is a joining in the life of Jesus’ Church and the life of generations of Catholics who pray for marriage every day.