Okay, so maybe not rebellious, really. You love the Church and the liturgy and orthodoxy, because traditions are wonderful and tie us to the Body of Christ; past, present, and future. But you’re frustrated with all the wedding customs you’re expected to follow that, while lovely in their own way, aren’t actually necessary for a Catholic wedding or relevant to the essence of the sacrament. If that sounds like you, consider mixing it up a little! Below are some ideas to change up those details in meaningful ways that stay true to--and even showcase--the beauty of Catholic matrimony.
And if that doesn’t sound like you, that’s totally fine too! I’ll be the first to say my wedding was pretty conventional; I didn’t incorporate any of the ideas here. Your wedding will be no less special, beautiful, or appreciated by your friends and family regardless of where you fall on the mainstream-alternative spectrum. Also, of course, anything you choose for your wedding shouldn’t be a source of conflict or scandal, and if you’re concerned or undecided about anything, ask your priest or trusted friends and family for guidance.
The Dress: Did you know the white wedding dress is really a relatively new trend that started in the Western world with Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840? Prior to that, women would simply wear their nicest dress of any hue, or a different culturally significant color. I’ve heard that in Ireland, the longtime most popular wedding dress color was blue as a way of honoring the Blessed Mother!
A lot of people might assume white dresses are mandatory to symbolize a bride’s purity, but that’s not the case--there aren’t really universal expectations about attire aside from modesty and due reverence for the occasion, though it's prudent check with your parish for local or diocesan guidelines. Maybe you feel most confident and beautiful in jewel tones, or you want to honor your cultural heritage with clothing from that tradition--I once attended a Catholic wedding where the bride, who was from Vietnam, wore a beautiful traditional red garment--whatever your reason, your options aren’t necessarily limited to ivory, white, or cream!
The Wedding Processional: It’s pretty much taken for granted now that the “grand finale” of the wedding processional is the bride walking down the aisle with her father (or, more recently, with both parents). Some might daydream about that moment, anticipating the drama of seeing their groom waiting at the end of the aisle, which is definitely a special moment that makes for some breathtaking photos. Yet it certainly doesn’t speak to everyone the same way--and if you count yourself among that mindset, the Catholic Rite of Marriage actually recommends a different option.
It’s really a cultural convention that most weddings follow the “Here Comes the Bride” procession model, but the Roman Rite actually prescribes that the bride and groom process last, down the aisle together, with their parents and/or witnesses. I think this is an awesome way to symbolize the couple’s mutual consent to enter into the marriage, as well as emphasize one of the most amazing things about the nuptial Mass--that the bride and groom themselves are the actual ministers of the sacrament.
The Witnesses: The official witnesses to your marriage are there to verify that you and your spouse have entered into a valid marriage, so of course you’ll want to choose someone close to your heart for this. Usually, the witnesses are the bride’s Maid or Matron of Honor and the groom’s Best Man. However, if you or your fiancé happen to be closest with a sibling or friend of the opposite sex, there’s no reason why they can’t participate in this special role. Of course, this isn’t really something chosen for aesthetic reasons or to make a statement, but don’t feel pressured to miss out on asking your brother or best friend if that’s who you feel knows you best.
Above all, the decisions you make about your wedding should reflect what we as Catholics proclaim about marriage. In the words of Pope Francis, "It is good that your wedding be simple and make what is truly important stand out. Some are more concerned with the exterior details, with the banquet, the photographs, the clothes, the flowers…These are important for a celebration, but only if they point to the real reason for your joy: the Lord's blessing on your love."
Angela Vazzana married her husband on a hot July day in 2013 at her alma mater, Mount St. Mary's University, where she studied philosophy and communications. She is a security analyst for NASA by day and nourishes her creative side by night by playing the piano and guitar, planning themed parties, or feeding her mild Instagram addiction. While she and her husband can usually be found any given fall day cheering for the Redskins or Wizards, they are most excited this fall for the arrival of their first child.