Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bride Wars

It would seem that marriage preparation, according to the population at large, has more to do with picking colors and scouting reception sites than with actually preparing for the profound ontological shift one undertakes in pledging their remaining mortal years to another human being.

I've been flipping oh-so-casually through a couple of bridal magazines over the past few weeks, and I've decided... I'm done. I'm done with anything and everything the "wedding industry" would offer me in the way of advice (solicited or not) on pre-marital prep.

A smattering of subheadings from "Modern Bride: April 2009"
Engagement Sex: Why it's Hotter!

Rocking the Frock: Your Unique Bridal Style Makes the Big Day
...and then literally seventeen hundred pages of crappily designed, overpriced gowns with plunging necklines and ass-hugging curves. Intended for everyday off-the-runway-wear, I'm sure...

So I'm done. I indulged in the requisite 2 weeks of excited post-engagement chatter with my sisters and best girlfriends. Hell, I even let my mom put a tiara on my head during my dress fitting (at the overpriced boutique she insisted that we frequent before even considering the -ahem- lower brow "Costco" of bridal...) In other words, I was a good bride by industry standards, soliciting the opinions of perfect strangers and dreaming in glossy print of my perfect princess day...

And then I snapped out of it. Maybe it was the four-page spread on how sex is supposed to get hotter now that he's "committed" to me, maybe it was the exorbitant price tag on the gown I tried on, fell deeply in love with and (gulp) purchased during my very first foray into the wedding fashion world...

Or maybe it was the simple fact that I realized, thanks to some wise spiritual advice, a fiance who insisted upon a one-week moratorium on planning immediately upon proposing, and a Church who puts the marriage before the wedding, so to speak ... that the bigger deal (bigger even than the rock) is the foundation we're laying for our future.

And if I may be so bold as to drop another f-bomb... the foundation we're laying for our family. From the way our culture extols the wedding day and disdains the domestic consequence of joining your life in a fruitful, faithful, irrevocable manner to one's spouse... you'd think the very notion of marriage equaling babies to be, well, unthinkable.

That's the message I'm picking up on, at least. And it's a zeitgeist which has infected my soul as deeply as the next Westerner's ... and by that I mean the concept of marriage as some kind of vehicle for self-fulfillment, and babies as a financial and emotional burden best left to a couple's late thirties (or early forties, thank you IVF).

I mean, I would never consider contracepting... but perhaps I've been examining NFP from a slightly mercenary perspective. And I now understand that, yes, you can use it as "Catholic birth control" just as well as you can use the Pill or a condom... (the great difference being that all contraceptives are intrinsically and irrevocably evil, while the NFP-induced periodic abstinence is neither evil nor harmful to either spouse)

I guess I figured that, as a good Catholic girl who loves her Papa and follows the Church's teachings, I'd have no problem breezing through this whole marriage business.

And that's exactly it. It's not a business. It's not imperative whether your "Save the Dates" go out 4 months or 6 months before the day. It doesn't matter if a bridesmaid makes an unseemly footwear selection or rocks a dress that's two-sizes-too-small...

And, contrary to the magazine stand's beliefs, it doesn't matter whether or not my wedding day is the greatest, grandest party my friends and relatives have ever seen. It doesn't even matter if my entire registry gets purchased. What does matter (and perhaps the only item of real consequence) is that Dave and I enter into this time of preparation with all the seriousness and solemnity of a seminarian approaching his final semester preceding ordination.

If I am going to become a living Sacrament to him, (and we do profess to believe this as Catholics) then I should be directing most of my energies preparing spiritually, emptying my life of past sins and shortcomings, giving Christ as much room as possible to operate in my soul... that His graces may be more readily available to David come next November.

And that is not something I'm going to read about in Modern Bride. At least not in April's issue.


  1. Holy cow, Jenny, I'm saving this entry for my daughter(s) when they get engaged! It's about the wedding/marriage sacrament, not the reception/party. Of course, I must be somewhat biased being the person who is expected to pay for the reception...

    I'm praying that my daughters if they marry, choose to elope to a nice Carmelite or Benedictine monastery surrounded by holy chant, incense and bells. I'll be happy to have a nice family barbecue-reception for them when they return from, of course, receiving the Pope's blessing in their "nuptial wear" at the Vatican.

  2. You go girl. One of the most important jobs I have been entrusted with is helping my husband get to heaven. It's been 20 years of marriage now, and the grace we were given on our wedding day is so much more important to us than what we wore or who the guests were. Enjoy your day, celebrate your new life together. :-)

  3. thank you. My friend and I were just discussing something similar when I found your blog. It's hard to find good catholic perspectives that are also easy to read :)


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