“Spouses,” wrote Pope St. John Paul II, “are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.” Permanent. Witnesses. In the moments after you and your beloved have spoken your vows, and on through all the rest of this life, you’re given the graces of great joy and a sweetness that lightens crosses to come. You’re also shouldered with a new responsibility: to bear the self-emptying love of Christ to the world--sometimes overtly, and other times without a word.
Responsibility can feel heavy, during the season of wedding planning and beyond: experiencing division in your family relationships because of your faith beliefs, willing the good of your beloved even when your heart’s just not in it, caring for young children. It can also come with a temptation to pride. It might be manifest in a sense of personally desiring to change minds on matters like marriage, contraception, and divorce, whether through direct or indirect rhetorical or religious argument.
These are completely normal, understandable tendencies. Moreover, they’re rooted in a desire that’s good. When you feel so convicted of the joy on tap in a distinctively Catholic wedding and marriage, it’s natural that you want to share its fullness with those you love and help open the door to a new perspective. It’s helpful, in this sense, to view the weight of responsibility to your wedding guests as a way to be witnesses, compassionate yet strong. You can choose to extend an opportunity for understanding the Catholic faith, ever the same, in a new and inviting light.
With a spirit of charity and intentionality in mind, there are ways you can lift up your family and friends in the hope that their hearts be more fully disposed to experience truth, goodness, and beauty on your wedding day.
Pray for your wedding guests.
Ultimately, of course, the point of your wedding is to enter into a sacrament with the one God has called you to love and sanctify. At the same time, the Church is a body, a community. The two of you aren’t in this alone, yet amid the busyness of preparing for your big day, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of who it’s for. Make a conscious effort to step back and view your guests as the individuals dear to you and to your families that they are, rather than an endless list of names for whom to track down RSVPs and seating assignments. Prayer, too, can shift your focus for the better. Clarity. Pray for your wedding guests by name as you address their invitations, offer a decade of the rosary for a different individual or family each day, and if you feel comfortable, invite guests to privately share their prayer intentions via email or your wedding website.
Consider limiting alcohol.
Dominic Prummer, O.P., a Dominican priest, wrote, “Drink to the point of hilarity.” This recommendation generally conveys a spirit of giddiness and freedom, but not mere license. If, depending on the dynamics of your guests, you anticipate the possibility of drunkenness putting a damper on your reception, consider choosing alcohol options that encourage choice and intention, rather than zero limits. You might opt for an open bar for the first few hours of the evening, for instance, then switch to cash later in the reception, or consider offering a smaller selection of spirits.
In all things, cultivate charity and peace.
So often, what sets a person of faith apart is in her actions, not just her words or theological arguments. The trials of wedding planning and preparation for marriage--last-minute emergencies, sexual self-control, delicate conversations over matters of faith or etiquette--all present an opportunity to conduct yourself with virtue, and to bear an example of Christ-like love to those in your life. Practically speaking, that might look like choosing peace over overreaction as inconveniences arise, sharing a few minutes of quality face time with each of your guests during your reception, reminding them of their value and your gratitude, and handling conversations about morals or manners with empathy in mind first, and conversion second.
The particular sense of responsibility each couple feels for their wedding guests varies by matters of faith, past wounds, and strengths and weaknesses among family members. We’ve known the pain of division and disagreement ourselves, and the desire to share what is good with loved ones. Know of our prayers for each of you, and know that in the Father all things are made whole--even if the fruits aren’t visible in this life. If there’s a particular way you’ve developed a heart of responsibility for your own friends and family, we’re eager to hear them in the comments and on our social media.