Monday, October 5, 2009

A rant on weddings...


Dear Rev. Know it all,
I visited your church once and am thinking about having my wedding there. How long is your main aisle?
Mary O’Burne

Dear Mary,
I am often asked that question, and never quite understand it. Are brides curious about the length of the aisle because they think a longer aisle may give them a few more minutes to back out of the whole thing? Or, as I suspect, does a long aisle prolong the glorious promenade of which a young girl dreams as she thumbs through bridal magazine as she contemplates her special day, when all eyes focus on her as she approaches her enchanted prince and all the world thinks she’s gorgeous and knows that she has bagged her man just as surely as a Wisconsin bricklayer bags a deer and ties it onto the roof of his pick up truck? I have certainly seen a few grooms who look like a frightened deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.
Why is it that weddings cause people to spend so much time, energy and money? And more money. The average American wedding costs almost $29,000, according to “The Wedding Report”, a market research publication. $29,000!” Oh, by the by, the usual donation to the church is about $200.00. That $200 goes to the church, not to the priest. The usual gift to the priest is a hearty handclasp. The usual cost of the photographer is $2,000.00. All this tells me that the photographs are ten times more important than the grace of the sacrament, in most peoples’ estimation. The usual fee for the DJ is $1,500.00. I am consoled by this. It means that painful, occasionally obscene music loud enough to cause brain damage is only 7.5 times more important than the grace of the sacrament.
You must be thinking why is this guy so down on weddings? I am down on some weddings because I am very “up” on the sacrament of matrimony and really in favor of marriage. That’s why the modern method of marrying and the wedding industry make me crazy. They militate against marriage. Here is the heart of my complaint. IT IS STUPID TO SPEND MORE TIME AND MONEY PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING THAN YOU DO PREPARING FOR THE MARRIAGE!!! I have known people who are still paying the credit card bills generated by the wedding years after the marriage is over.
The Modern Method of Marriage, a Reprise. The following is taken from my own experiences and things people have told me (outside of confession, you’ll be glad to know.) Here goes.
A young man and a young woman meet and have a few dates. They go for a weekend at a bed and breakfast where they bed one another, and then have breakfast. If he isn’t too much of a jerk and she isn’t too picky, they are then an item. She goes to the doctor gets a prescription and goes on to a more permanent form of birth control. At some time during this stage, the uncomfortable meeting with the parents happens. Everyone is polite and “supportive.” Secretly the father of the young woman who knows exactly what’s going on, contemplates buying a gun and the mother of the young man begins gossiping with whomever will listen about how her little boy could do better. After a while, if things hold up, they begin to have the conversation about taking their relationship to the “next level” by which they mean shacking up, as we used to call it. Now, I think it’s called moving in together.
Mom and Dad buy housewarming gifts in an attempt to, once again, be supportive. They don’t want their little dears to hate them and besides, it’s what everyone is doing these days, so it can’t be wrong. They have vague thoughts about getting married at that point and mom explains to grandma and to friends at church that they are just doing it to save money for the wedding. At this stage an engagement ring may appear. At some point, when they think about getting the house and the kids, because that’s what you do, they decide to have the wedding.
They rent the hall and then go see the priest. He tells them there are four other weddings that day and they respond, “but we’ve rented the hall already.” Someone suggests a garden wedding if the church is occupied. The priest says we can’t do garden weddings. (More on this later.) The young couple begins to complain about how narrow-minded the Church is with all these rules and regulations. They eventually pick a date. Then the bottom drops out. It seems the groom is not Catholic. He was baptized in the First Reformed Church of the Druids, though he never practiced. This means there must be a dispensation for the marriage, another irritating Catholic invention, and the wedding date cannot be confirmed until the dispensation is received.
The bride goes back to her doctor, this time for a prescription for valium. Her mother joins her on this visit. Finally the dispensation is granted, The groom’s druid will do one of the readings at the wedding, the loans are taken out, the banns are published. Then there is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The best man comes to the rehearsal drunk out of his mind, the groom only slightly tipsy. The bride is furious at everyone for some reason known to her alone. Probably because the groom is far more interested in drinking and watching the football game on his hand held computer thing than he is in gazing lovingly into her eyes in anticipation of the great day. In fact they haven’t been, well... friendly in weeks. It is, after all, football season.
The special day comes, the best man is still drunk, the groom is hung over, no one knew about that interesting tattoo that the maid of honor had way low on her back, now revealed by the plunging back of her dress that is held up only by wishful thinking. Grandma, upon reading the logo of the maid of honor’s tattoo, has fainted. Somewhere in all this the vows are exchanged, and quite a few of the wedding party receive their first Holy Communion that day, however one of the ushers puts the host in his suit pocket not having a clue what it is. (This actually has happened to me twice.)
The pictures have been taken. The noise level in the church reaches that of an English soccer match after the riot has broken out. The children are jumping off the altar and the priest is scowling at everyone. Now on to the pictures in the forest preserve, a “must” at every wedding. There the wedding party is attacked by mosquitoes, one of the children falls into the lagoon and the bride is having a hard time smiling for the photos. The best man passes out. On to the reception.
The bride loses it because the shade of fuchsia in the floral center pieces clashes with the shade of fuchsia in the wedding party’s outfit. The groom adjourns to the bar where the game is on the television. The wedding dinner is served as music is played at a mind numbing volume. Grandma is better now. She has turned off her hearing aid. The priest is seated with the pious relatives in plaid suit coats and leaves shortly after the grace before meals.
The best man makes the toast which drones on about how he loves the groom and one begins to wonder. The college roommate/maid of honor does the same for the bride, going on for fifteen minutes about how she knew the bride would find eternal marital bliss the moment she met her in the third grade and they have been like sisters ever since. Then at some point, there is a video presentation of embarrassing photos not unlike the ones that are now shown at wakes.
The bar opens up again. The music reaches levels that cause blood to drip from some peoples’ nose and ears. The joyous event ends with the bride and groom being the last to leave the hall. They are slow to go up to the room they have rented in the hotel because nothing new or beautiful awaits them there. The groom promptly falls asleep, being heavily sedated already, and, as he snores away, with his shoes still on, our blushing bride, having shed her dress of virginal white, thinks back on this day, her special day, the most important day in her life, the day she has dreamt of since she was a little girl.
They will stay an extra day at the hotel, but cannot afford the time or money to go on a honeymoon because on Monday they will both be back at work in order to pay off the colossal bill that their special day has incurred. For some reason, the bride is depressed. Perhaps she is realizing that the high point of her life is now past and the rest of it will be spent with the lump that is now snoring beside her with whom she has never really had a serious conversation, except about the proper shade of fuchsia for the floral centerpieces. So it is that we celebrate the marriage of Christ and His Church in these enlightened and tolerant times.

Remember, none of these things happened at your wedding, thank God and don’t think from reading this that I am down on marriage or even weddings. I love a wedding celebration when there is something to celebrate. Also, it is never too late to begin again by taking Christ and His gospel seriously.

Rev. Know-it-all

P.S. Garden weddings. They look good in all the bridal magazines but they are just opportunities to feed biting insects and suffer from sunburn. It is however amusing to watch the bridesmaids sinking in the mud as they try, after a few margaritas to maneuver the newly laid sod in spiked heals. The bride is generally exhausted from not having slept for three weeks as she worries about the weather reports which are promising a 50 percent chance of typhoons and earthquakes that day. And destination weddings. Don’t get me started on Destination Weddings! You want to be married with just your closest friends on a beach in Maui. That means that Grandma can’t go because she hasn’t flown since the Hindenburg Disaster, and is thinking of cutting you out of the will, and all the friends and relatives who aren’t with you on the beach in Maui realize they aren’t very close to you after all. And I haven’t a clue how long the aisle is here at St. Dymphna’s.


  1. We must gently disagree about the destination weddings, to each his own. However your content is very refreshing and honest! We look foward to more!

  2. I love this! I haven't yet decided whether or not it would be prudent to send this to my engaged daughter---who, btw, was baptized at St. Lambert's when we lived in Skokie in the '80s. Yet, I agree 100%. As a now retired DRE, I could probably write something similar about First Penance, First Communion, and Confirmation events, although not with the same flair that you have!

  3. Great post! You might want to check the math, though - I always thought $2000 was ten times $200...

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Fr.Rev. Maybe it helps to hear that I'm 21 and fiercely determined to have the opposite of that terrible description - with God's grace!

  5. catholicmediagirl- it's very possible...just find a good future husband, focus on the sacrament and then plan a fun party with actual money- NO credit cards!

    In a Byzantine Catholic wedding, the priest leads the couple up the aisle with their hands wrapped in his stole and the people follow, so no bride-only-worship-walk

  6. I got the impression when we visited my parish priest that he thought we might be the first sacramentally valid marriage he'd had in years. My mom did marriage prep for that parish, and she would be nodding vigorously through your entire piece.

    The last two weddings I attended were nothing more than a pageant to celebrate signing a legal contract. :-(

  7. Love it!

    (for the record, brides want to know how long the aisle is so that they can buy an "aisle-runner" of the appropriate length...which isn't even a good idea, because they MIGHT TRIP on it! and who wants to worry about that on their wedding day?!)

    and also for the record, I'm getting married in less than 6 months and plan on having a sacred Catholic wedding that is the complete opposite of what you describe! :-)

  8. A wonderful post as always, Father.

    You know what's even worse than all that?
    Getting married (to a non-Catholic, of course - otherwise you'd have to legally forfeit your crown) in a church stolen from the Catholics before all their monks were murdered.

    Hahaha! What a scream.

  9. One of the best posts ever! Great stuff Father!

  10. How true this is! Now if only I could find a good man who doesn't back out when he finds out I'm waiting until marriage... *sigh*

  11. Excellent, Father. I'm Orthodox, so am encouraging my daughters to elope to Cyprus - advance warning that I'm not up for shelling out anything towards this kind of travesty...

  12. Father, that is BRILLIANT. And so true based on my recollection of so many weddings past. Thank God my wife's - and my - special day was nothing like any of your story!

  13. Great post! I am getting married in July of this year and my fiance and I are determined and committed to keeping the focus on the sacrament of marriage and the rest is just that, the rest. Heck, I'd rather hand out pb&j sandwiches in the parking lot of the church as a way of eliminating the "need" for a reception!
    I love this!

  14. Father, you missed the part about the bride having a tantrum about something and screaming, "But it's MY day!"

    Other than that, humorous, and no doubt sadly true.

  15. Excellent! Very restrained (well, you didn't say a word about how distracting it is trying to give the Blessed Sacrament to young ladies as they kneel before you in very low cut dresses ... or their mothers who should know better!).

  16. My wedding:
    Secured the church first, then the hall, then the music for the church. Then the dress and all the other details; left most of the food/reception decisions to the mother of the bride (read: the wallet behind the big day - thank the Lord!). Asked for special considerations for the Mass, because we desired the Mass (in the OF) to be ad orientem - because, hey, this is the only Mass as a married lay woman that I'll ever get to ask about that, and I've always found it beautiful symbolism! Spent a long time working the program for Mass, on account of those little changes requested and the many fallen-away or non-Catholic attendees that we wanted to understand the liturgy - such an important liturgy for us! We asked to kneel through the whole thing (i.e., not have chairs to go to), on the DL as a special penance for the intention of a holy marriage. We gave flowers to Mary from the bridal bouquet. We had a swing teacher teach swing dancing at the start of the reception to encourage wholesome, inter-generational dancing and music intermixed with the fun dance faves. We left the party at 9:30 though everyone else partied until midnight - because we had something to look forward to.

    I look back with no regrets other than getting too bridezilla-esque as the big day got closer. After all, it's a huge event for a non-party-planner to handle with a normal job on the side. Almost four years and two kids later, I'm loving the marriage despite the stressors and thank God for such an amazing man. Not surprisingly, I don't think about the wedding very often. On the other hand, I think about the man I married every day.

  17. Ah, love is a many splendored thing...

  18. ha
    my wedding was the shambles 3 couples got married along with us at the same mass. so you can add 3 photorgapers to the melee. I lost it i really did it was a near occasion of sin (temper). You will not belive having to co-ordinate who does the 2 readings (thank God my brother was not yet ordained a priest )
    im glad its over.
    the one thing i remember was my hands shaking so much when i was reading the vows the priest softly asked me if i wanted to not proceed and back out. hahahaha no serious that did happen. if i make it to 25 years of marital bliss i shall redo it again.

  19. Well you're all gonna love this...2 years later, I check into this blog ENGAGED to the man of my dreams, a Catholic who believes in NO credit cards.

    We will have a simple, holy wedding on the feast of the Holy Family, and a small potluck reception the next day. We love our Lord, and we want our wedding to be a teaching moment for our family and friends - about the marriage of Christ and His Church!

    Praise the Lord for giving me the desire of my heart...He is so good. Say a prayer for us.

    - Angela

  20. Rev., I understand what the point of your post is, unfortunately it got lost in the very beginning where you seem to be saying that the church should be charging fees on par with the photographer and DJ...

  21. It makes me very sad that there are people who are living this illusion. However, it hurts even more to see what is truly a sad situation ridiculed so that others can feel justified in their own views and actions. This is not a place where a remedy is being mixed, it is a place where stones are being cast. I think this piece is offensive for quite a different reason than implied by the disclaimer. My own path to marriage was not ideal, but God works with what He has...

  22. Well said, Literacy-chic! I was going to comment that perhaps we should just kill all the 'sub-par' Catholics--but then, what would we have to discuss? The surprise for me is that people continue to get married--even in the Church! If the general consensus of the above post and comments are any indication: Jesus would have ignored the woman at the well; Zaccheaus would still be up a tree--and the twelve?...they would have died of old age in their chosen professions. Thank God it IS Easter!

    1. D. Smith misses the point. Jesus spoke to the sinners you mention but he did not lower Gods standards of holiness to make them feel comfortable or justified in their behavior. You mockingly say, "we should kill the sub-par Catholics". How about we expect those who are coming to the church for marriage, to actually believe in and respect the sacrament? And that they require their unbelieving friends and family who are part of the ceremony to behave honorably for a few hours.
      Smith says,"The surprise for me is that people continue to get married--even in the Church!". I ask, do you think allowing it to be debased and cheapened, as described, without it being called into question, is the loving thing to do?
      Sadly his article is an apt description of my son's marriage into a catholic family. A marriage that after one year has my son and two grandkids (born before the wedding) now living with my wife and I. My catholic daughter-in-law is shacked up with another guy while still married (in the eyes of the law and the church) to my son. Why? Because no one calls her behavior into question, seemingly not even the church. She and her family continue to do all the catholic juju and some how they think they are justified. Meanwhile many lives are impacted by their sin.

  23. Oh Father!!! that was really really funny . It's like all good humor pieces, you can recognize some if not all of the people in the story. BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! We'll have to call this the "Parable of the Blushing Bride(tm)".

    Wait. This really isn't funny is it. Sorry about that. :(

  24. Lissie,

    I believe you missed Father's point in a big way.

    He was in no way suggesting that church stipends should be thousands of dollars. What he WAS suggesting was that whining about a stipend to Holy Mother Church (a very REASONABLE stipend) while spending tons of money on things like jordan almonds wrapped in tulle and chocolate bars with the couple's name on the wrapper is petty and rude. I don't have a problem with tulle-wrapped almonds per se, but I have a giant problem with people who whine about a paltry stipend to the very institution which is providing them with the Sacrament in the first place.

    Wedding budget priorities:
    1) Church/priest stipend
    2) Everything else.

  25. Literacy chic,

    I don't think ANYONE here meant to hurt anyone. You nailed it - it's a truly sad situation.

    If you think for a minute that *my* path to marriage was ideal you're mistaken. I guarantee you my path was less ideal than yours. I guarantee it. I promise you.

    Father is calling out the Bridezillas and their families who DESERVE to be called out. I have seen them time and again. They treat Father like hired help, their photographers try to climb up on the altar to get a good shot, their bridal party is half dressed. Father is calling out poor manners and irreverence.

    In his own tongue in cheek way, I think Father is suggesting that couples remember that if the four-tiered wedding cake topples over and the bridal party limo runs out of gas, the bride and groom are STILL receiving an awesome sacrament and they should keep a bit of perspective.

    (And reverence.

  26. Omygosh Father - you just nailed my wedding ranting of the past 15 years. It is getting sillier and sillier and Hollywood "stars" aren't making things better.
    I was breathlessly informed by a neighbour today that Kim Kardashian is planning a BIGGER and BETTER wedding than Prince William and Kate.

    Give me strength. No doubt their marriage will last the stipulated three years that in Hollywood is a looooooong relationship!

    Thank you for your incredibly on target humour!

  27. Short white dress, family priest friend,no groomsman or bridesmaids. Church fee $25, band (friends $200), food for 150, $500, hall rental in church basement $50. 30 years and 2 kids .....priceless. thanks father


  28. You are one funny pilgrim padre!
    Shared a link to this on fb.
    I also wanted to share a very cool book.

    It is in the form of an app.

    The app is called Civil War Truce, It is like a book with music and maps and interactive illustrations. It is the story of Sister Lucy, SCN and the profound effect she had on the soldiers she nursed during the Civil War. To call this an app does not do this beautiful work justice. You can just go to amazon or the playstore and type in Civil War Truce. Well worth $2.99.

    My friends Margaret and Marie did this and I am sharing this because I am so impressed with it's quality and mostly the story, It really is an intersection between faith, history and art!

    You can reach them at or they also have a website called

    I encourage you to check it out and if you feel comfortable about leaving a review that would help get this to others, Thank you for your time in reading this God bless your ministry! Yes that's what your blog is!

    Christopher Egbert

  29. Haha I can't! This was funny. Although I have to say, my husband and I both passed out in the hotel room on our wedding night. We never gave that part of marriage much thought. As a matter of fact we didn't even think about NFP until days before our wedding when we realized that we hadn't thought about family planning and we had a rushed lesaon on Billings Method in his father's basement by a friend's sister and her husband. When our wedding night came we figured we had been waiting 2 years for that special night and we had a life time ahead of us, so we didn't bother... We were both so exhausted, then on our honeymoon we were trying to adjust to the time difference. So it didn't happen until we had been married for approximately 5 days. The one thing we did get out of our wedding night was that that was the night we both agreed that neither one of us liked to cuddle in bed and that we both needed our own space lol. Best thing ever! We both get amazing sleep and no one feels jipped

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  31. This is hilarious and my husband and I did EVERYTHING wrong! We had our marriage blessed in the Church after 19 years because we did not bother rto have his first marriage anulled first. I pray that our children have learned that it is the wrong way. We have been forgiven but I will always regret not doing it the right way 19 years ago.

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