SAVE THE DATE ...our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, is marrying Hunter, her college sweetheart, on August 12, 2017. We're overjoyed for her and are thrilled to share with you a peek into one bride's real-life wedding planning. Over the next year, we'll feature monthly pieces from Elise on marriage prep, choosing wedding details, and her spirituality as a bride-to-be. Join us in praying for Elise and Hunter during this sacred time of anticipation!
Hunter and I now are in the thick of wedding planning! In the last month, we looked at 10 different reception venues (!) and three different church locations. In the spirit of honesty... this process was much more difficult than I expected.
After viewing all of the venues, we chose a church for the Mass, one five minutes from my parents' home, and a beautiful reception venue located about 15 minutes from the church. We booked both for August 5, 2017. Well, one week after we did so, the reception venue called and informed us that August 5th was no longer available! Long story short, we ended up pushing our wedding back one week and booking another church.
Needless to say, this whole experience was a bit stressful. Coordination between the church and reception venue was not the easiest. So why, as Catholics, do we value the location of our wedding ceremonies? Why do we need to marry in a church? Why couldn't I just get married at my reception location?
According to Canon Law, a couple who wishes to be married in the Catholic Church must do so according to canonical form. This means a marriage between two Catholics, or between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic, is to be celebrated in a formal church setting. Those who wish to wed someplace else, say outdoors, must obtain permission from their Diocesan Bishop. This is a true possibility, but receiving this permission isn't very easy. In order for a dispensation to be granted, there must be a grave reason why the couple cannot marry within a church.
So, does the Church just want to cramp our style? Does it just like limiting our choices for wedding locations to make things difficult? Of course the answer is no! But why?
The answer goes back to the fact that marriage, at its core, is a sacrament. At the moment of our vows, Hunter and I will be entering into a sacred bond, something that exists beyond just the two of us. This 'yes' to each other involves not only our decision to marry, but it also involves our Creator, our Redeemer and our Lover, Jesus Christ. The act of having a wedding within the Church is a reminder of our origin as human beings. We were created in Love and it is within the presence of God, Love itself, that we promise a forever love to each other as husband and wife.
As Catholics, we recognize the sacredness of a physical church. Not only is it a place of prayer and peace, it is the home of the Eucharist. One could argue that yes, we do find God's presence everywhere-- in nature, in every day moments--but it is within a church, in the presence of Jesus' body and blood, that we find him fully: body, blood, soul and divinity. The Catholic Church recognizes the beauty and sacredness of marriage and therefore asks couples to share in that sacredness on their wedding day; to enter into the sacrament of marriage in the presence of God himself ,asking him to be present with them as they begin their life together.
Paulist Father Larry Rice wrote, "A church isn't just a set or backdrop for a wedding; rather, a wedding is an expression of a faith community's joys and hopes." One of the most humbling parts of planning a wedding is realizing that it's really not all about you and your fiancé. Suddenly everyone, not just the two of you, has an opinion about the photographer, the food, and the bridesmaid dresses! No matter how stressful, this is a good thing. Planning your life with your future spouse should involve your friends and family. It truly is a communal effort. Sacraments, including the sacrament of marriage, belong not only to the person or people receiving the sacrament, but to those they love and who love them.
A sister once told me that a vocation, either to religious life, marriage or priesthood, is truly for the whole Church, the whole world. She is so right. Holding your wedding in a Catholic church is a beautiful act of surrendering your marriage, not only to God in asking for His guidance, but to the Church as a whole. By getting married in a church, you are making a statement to your community that says, 'Our marriage belongs to God, our Church, our families and our friends." Like the Eucharist, a married couple is meant to be broken and given. Their talents, love and future family are truly a gift to everyone they encounter. Through good times and bad, the couple will strive to make a gift of themselves to those around them.
If you're having a difficult time accepting the Church's teaching on your wedding location, take heart. You are not alone! Pray to Our Lady and ask for her to show you the sacred beauty of the Church. Spend time in your local parish praying; open your heart to the beauty of the Tabernacle in front of you.
Any brides out there that have struggled with finding a reception venue or Church location? Share your experience below in the comments! As always, please pray for Hunter and I as we continue on this journey toward the sacrament of marriage!