There you are: scrolling through Catholic wedding resources, reading, taking notes on the best ways to incorporate your faith into your big day. But there, in the back of your mind, a voice is saying, what if this doesn’t go over well with my family?
Planning a wedding can be a stressful experience in any family situation, but when your family or your fiancé's don’t share your faith, it can be even trickier.
Everyone brings their own set of expectations to a wedding. As a bride, the hardest thing you will have to do is to balance all of these expectations with the reality that it is your wedding. And when you add in family who may not share or entirely understand your enthusiasm for having a Catholic wedding, you might feel like you're kissing your sanity goodbye.
Here, a few ways to make your family feel included in your big day, even if they aren’t Catholic or don't share your faith:
Surprises are fun at birthdays. But when it comes to your big, fat, Catholic wedding, surprises should be avoided. Let your family know what to expect on your wedding day. Depending on your family's openness, this may or may not be a great time to delve into the mysteries of the Church. Regardless, letting family know what is expected of them at the nuptial Mass is never a bad idea. Consider including a detailed Mass rubric in your program so that guests know exactly what to do throughout the Mass. Eliminating guesswork makes everyone feel more at ease.
It is also a good idea, and powerful (and sometimes unspoken) witness, to share with your non-Catholic family your reasons for choosing to have a Catholic wedding at all. Sure, you could have had your wedding on the beach or while skydiving, but you chose to get married in the Church because it's important to you. Don’t be afraid to share which parts of your wedding liturgy are most meaningful to you or the reasons behind the readings you've chosen.
Find common ground.
Although a Catholic wedding may be different from what your family is used to, there are probably areas where you can find common ground. Most religious groups, for example, include readings from their foundational texts at weddings, and nearly all cultures throughout the world have wedding receptions of some kind, so you should be able to find at least a few commonalities when it comes to including family in your plans.
Consider making a list of these common areas and designating those as the tasks where you can seek assistance from non-Catholic family and friends.
Incorporate family traditions.
You aren't going to be able to live up to every guest’s expectations for your wedding. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t include some elements of your family’s history and traditions into the celebration, especially if getting married in the Church means breaking with family tradition.
To honor your families, consider adding heirloom jewelry to your wedding ensemble or meaningful touches to the décor to commemorate members of your family. There is no need for grand gestures, but small tokens assure your family know that you love them and that their traditions are important to you, particularly on your wedding day.
Be at peace.
Finally, be at peace. You are getting married, and preparing to partake in a beautiful sacrament. You and your fiancé are starting a new and amazing chapter in your life. Is everyone going to be perfectly happy with your wedding? Probably not, but that’s okay.
Take time to enjoy the process of planning your weddings, and to enjoy the aspects of it that reflect your faith. Pray that your non-Catholic guests will not only feel welcomed, but inspired by the beauty of your wedding Mass.
About the Author: Ada Thomas studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She will be marrying her college best friend in November. When she is not wedding planning or teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.