Living out the Christian faith to the best of my ability is rarely easy, and over the past few months I have learned that planning a Catholic wedding with Christ at the center is no exception.
When my fiancé proposed to me in October, I was convinced that I was going to hold onto my feeling of joy throughout the whole process of wedding planning, and that nothing could get in the way of my excitement about starting our life together. I knew other people got stressed about all the details, but that wasn’t going to be my experience, because I knew what was really important: the love we have for each other and the beautiful sacrament we were preparing to enter into.
But a month later, I was loosing sleep over not being able to have the perfect mountainside reception I had envisioned. And five months later, I found myself negotiating the coloring and wording of a piece of paper.
“Isn’t ‘Please RSVP’ redundant?” my dad asked me through the phone, as we both sat in front of our computers, reviewing the wording for the wedding invitations and RSVP card that I had designed online. “RSVP means, ‘Respond S'il Vous Plait,’” he pointed out, making the “Please” written beforehand unnecessary.
“And shouldn’t we have parallel structure?” he continued.
“Of course, Dad,” I responded, while promptly changing the wording of “Regretfully Declines” to “Declines with Regret,” in order to match the structure of the phrase “Accepts with Pleasure.”
About an hour after I had originally gotten on the phone with my parents, we finished going through each word on the invitations. Since wedding planning requires proficiency in the art of compromise, I got to use the invitation colors I wanted and my parents got to use the wording they wanted.
While we were able to laugh about that episode, my prideful assumption that I was somehow better than all other brides who get overly stressed and focus on unimportant material details has proven to be false. While I know how important the Sacrament of Marriage is, at times, that knowledge has not been enough to prevent the joy of engagement from fading into the background of worrying about having the perfect reception location, deciding which appetizers to have, or debating the redundancy of the phrase “Please RSVP.”
There have been times where the details have become so overwhelming that I have been filled with a physical sense of dread at seeing another wedding-related e-mail pop up in my inbox, and times where more significant setbacks have required my fiancé and me to reframe our vision of what our wedding day will look like. We’ve had to discern which things we care enough about to fight for and which things we are okay with letting go of in order to make the day better for our families and guests.
As much as we truly do desire to have a wedding day more focused on love than on material things, it can be challenging to navigate all of the pressure to have every detail right. Through it all, I think the process of constant self-reflection and re-centering around our priorities has been a good preparation for marriage, even if the focus on the wedding day has detracted from discussion about the marriage that will follow. But over the past few months, I have learned a few things that have helped me refocus on the sacrament itself.
I have found that being intentional about how I think and act makes a big difference. While many things will happen that are out of my control, the way I react to them is entirely up to me. If someone offers the fifth piece of unsolicited advice of the day, I can let it frustrate me and complain to my friends about it, or I can smile, say thank you, and pray for the grace I need to maintain peace of mind. While there have been plenty of times where I’ve let myself be frustrated, the more intentional I am about creating positivity, the more positive I feel.
Secondly, prayer has been my saving grace throughout this process. While I do not make as much time for it as I should, I do my best to pray for my fiancé and our upcoming marriage, pray for any graces I need to have a joyful and enriching engagement, and pray over any major decisions we are making. While God is probably okay with leaving it up to us to chose dusty blue or sky blue napkins, He does want to be a part of how we decide to plan our future family and how we treat our current family throughout the process. Consulting Him about these things has led to a much greater sense of peace.
During the month of February, I tried to only do things related to the actual Sacrament of Marriage, like choosing readings and music and going on a marriage-prep retreat. It was one of the most joyful months of our engagement so far, because I realized how exciting it is to have the opportunity to plan an entire Mass. When else do we get to choose the music, readings, and people involved in Mass? And when else do we have a reason to invite all of our friends and family to go to Mass with us? It’s an incredible opportunity not only to plan a meaningful Mass for ourselves, but also to invite everyone else to experience the faith that we love so much.
Amidst all of the planning, I hope other engaged couples will be able to find the same consolation that I have found in prayer, the beauty of the sacrament, and a healthy sense of humor every time we catch ourselves breaking out in a panic sweat over which color tablecloth to use. While we may not succeed in planning the perfect Christ-centered wedding, I am beginning to think that is okay as long as it leads to a Christ-centered marriage.
(Kelly Seegers, a reporter for the Catholic Standard, grew up at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac and attended its elementary school and later graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda and the University of Virginia.)