Thursday, January 06, 2022

Wedded Blitz

Every summer, couples line up to tie the knot.

There was a time in my life when it seemed like every summer weekend was occupied with somebody’s nuptials. Now, however, like most middle-aged men, I’m quite content to leave that to the younger set, and if I’m roped into one or two such ceremonies during a summer that’s about my limit.

Something Old

I’m happy for the younger set, though. It’s very nice that some of them, at least, continue take the institution seriously, and consequently I hope that all of them find love, happiness and connubial delights. Marriage is a great time for optimism, if ever there was one.

That being said, I have noted that these days a good many couples are more inclined to rush into relationships, curtailing the traditional rituals in favor of more abbreviated and simple home or vacation weddings, or perhaps not bothering to do the ceremonial stuff at all. And I wonder if anyone really remembers why we did all that elaborate stuff in the first place?

Something New

This brings me to a question I sometimes pose to the kids in my classes. Teens are the stereotypical romantics of course. Even those who have already checkered their relational past are still quite star-struck with the idea of finding someone to whom they can pledge their eternal troth and enter into a life of unconditional bliss. But they aren’t always very savvy about the challenges attending a lifelong commitment: so I ask them this question:

“Why do you think it is that when you want to marry someone they make you go through a whole lot of stuff?”

  • Why does your tradition require you buy your intended a diamond ring?
  • Why do they make you get a marriage certificate from the government?
  • Why do you have to do the down-on-the-knee and the formal proposal?
  • Why do you have to rent a big, communal hall, decorated to the limit?
  • Why must you arrange for a big, lavish banquet to follow the ceremony?
  • Then why does everyone expect you to bathe, shave, get a haircut, and also to buy elaborate clothing, such as a new suit or a tuxedo?
  • And why does the bride get her hair and nails done, and put on the most elaborate ceremonial dress she will ever wear?
  • Why do you assemble at the very most sacred religious location you know?
  • Why is there a march down the aisle, with attendants and witnesses on every side?
  • Why do you submit to a solemn ceremony conducted by the most authoritative official available in your religious tradition, culminating in a sacred oath taken in the presence of Almighty God that you will be true to this particular person until death do you part?

Why do we do all that?

Answer: “Because it’s HARD!”

Something Blue

Maybe that’s not a very romantic thought, but it’s the truth. In fact, to choose one person and be faithful to him or her forever is a task at the very far edge of what a human being can do.

That is why whenever we undertake it there is a long-standing tradition of elaborate, obligatory ritual, and the calling to our help of all our friends and family members, as well as all our religious earnestness. Nothing less than all the resources, support and moral force we can summon will be sufficient to support the couple through the long and demanding process of making two into one.

No wonder, then, that our marriage vows warn it is “not to be undertaken lightly”. It’s because to rush into it carelessly is not only hugely stupid and self-destructive, both to us and to relationships and communities upon which our welfare depends. And ultimately, it’s disrespectful to God as well, since he sanctifies marriage and ordains it a model of his love for his bride, the Church.

Something Borrowed

If you’re not married yet (or even if you already are), the next time you sit in a wedding ceremony, try to see all that is being required, summoned and invoked to make possible the union of two people. Look past the decorations, the dress, the cake and the performances. See instead the weight of tradition, faith and morality that is being brought to bear in order to give these two people a fighting chance of success.

And consider whether or not there might be something more than showing up for the wedding itself that you could do to help them.

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