Reflections on a Catholic Wedding
by Julie Frank
Erin is the second child in a family of 16 children. Yes, you read that correctly. 16 Children. Erin is the oldest daughter and last weekend, she married Michael. It was a beautiful day and I am pretty sure that the only way to have wiped the smile off Erin’s face would have been to remove her lips. Her radiance made her a glowing, beautiful bride and her groom was shyly in awe of her beauty. From the moment I caught a glimpse of her waiting in the vestibule of the church, I knew it was going to be a beautiful ceremony. From my seat in the congregation, I could see her say to her dad, “I’m ready”, and the organ played.
The entire ceremony was a family affair. Two of her sisters and two family friends, sang with sweet, youthful voices, Shubert’s Ave Maria as the Bride’s and Groom’s mothers were escorted down the aisle. The wedding party consisted of the sisters, brothers, and friends of the bride and groom. The best man was the groom’s best friend. The maid of honor was the bride’s best friend, her sister, Emily. The 17 year-old brother of the bride beautifully proclaimed the First and Second Readings. The three-year-old twin siblings of the bride helped bring up the gifts; little Meghan obviously does not like so many people looking at her, but she clutched that cruet close to her chest and held on for dear life as her father and seven-year -old brother accompanied them down the aisle.
As Father began his homily, it became obvious to the bride that a plot had been hatched by her brothers and father. “We are here today to ‘cewebwate’ the ‘mawwiage’ of Ewin and Michael because they are ‘vewy deepwy’ in ‘wuv’.” As the laughter died down, Father explained the fixation the family shares with the movie The Princess Bride, in which the Impressive Clergyman speaks in that same manner. Turning serious, Father gave a beautiful homily proclaiming a thorough treatise of Catholic teaching on marriage and its purpose as the core foundation of our society. It was a homily that I was so glad that my daughters were able to hear at the ages of 14 and 11.
Then, it was time for the bride and groom to exchange vows. It was later reported that the 10 year-old brother of the bride, one of three of her eight brothers who served as altar boys during the ceremony, had tears in his eyes as he witnessed the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony uniting his sister to his new brother-in-law from such a close proximity.
Mass continued and the Eucharist was celebrated joyfully by the community who had gathered to witness and support the couple in this Holy Endeavor. And when it was time for the final blessing, each of the four concelebrants gave an individual blessing to the newlyweds. The wedding party recessed out of the church and it was time to party.
The reception took place at a lovely venue on a lake and guests enjoyed a family style four course meal as the little kids “danced” and ran around the dance floor. It was indeed a family-oriented celebration, and friends and family members were treated to the jubilations of the younger crowd from the comfort of their tables. The couple danced their first dance, toasts were made, the cake was cut, and the candy table was rolled out, giving the kids renewed energy to continue their “dancing.” The father of the bride danced with his daughter, the mother of the groom danced with her son. The sister of the bride danced with the bride to a song they had vowed as young girls to dance to at their weddings. Groomsmen spun their younger sisters on the dance floor and guests were treated to the joyful goofiness of a family who knows how to have a good time.
Now, the burning questions are the same ones that parents of large families get from the moment they have that one child that pushes them over the line into “big family-dom” (from my experience, number 5), especially if they have several daughters. “How did her parents pay of all of this?” “Are they independently wealthy?” “Does the dad have a high paying job?” Part of the answer to these questions is in my title. Over the years, this family has become extremely resourceful at meeting its members’ needs. But, part of the answer comes from the people gathered to witness and celebrate with the happy young couple: the Catholic Community of St. Brendan’s Parish. You see, this parish has a unique spirit of cooperation that somewhat duplicates the early Christians as read about in The Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37. In this passage, we learn that those in the early Christian Community who owned property would sell it and give the proceeds to the Apostles and they would be distributed according to need. The families of this parish have a modern variation on this theme. For her wedding, Erin decided on navy blue dresses, but the girls did not go out and buy brand new identical dresses. Some found ones that they liked on sale, while others borrowed them from friends within the parish. Then, they found shear yellow material and made matching wraps. The mother of the bride found her dress on sale on line and since they decided to wear silver shoes or sandals, she borrowed mine from a wedding I was in years ago. (They are great sandals and are still fashionable and comfortable!) The mother of the bride then spent several months searching sales or borrowing matching blue dresses for all the girls in the family and suits for all the boys. She then found or made yellow headbands for the little girls to wear in their long flaxen wavy hair. The end result was perfect. Everyone looked great! Miraculously, the shades of blue were all perfectly matched and none of it broke the bank. They then found a local photographer who works for much more reasonable rates and a fellow “mom of many” offered to make the wedding cake; which was lovely and delicious! So, all the details fell into place and the results were terrific.
The true beauty of this wedding, however, came in the details that money could never buy. It was clear that much emphasis was placed on planning and focusing on the preparation for marriage and the Nuptial Mass itself. The devotion of the family was evident in the details at the Mass. They were blessed with a wonderful pastor, who, as the main celebrant, personalized the proceedings in a way that only someone familiar with the couple could have. And, at the reception, the fact was obvious that this family of eighteen is a team! And a winning one at that! They know how to have fun and they had it. Teenage brothers spun their younger sisters around the dance floor when they were introduced as members of the bridal party. They laughed and joked at the bridal party tables and the joy they felt for their sister and new brother-in-law was palpable. Just before the youngest family members’ energy began to peter out, their mom was out on the floor dancing with two or three very short people at the same time. It was priceless display of joyful, loving, Catholic family living!
I have been to much more extravagant weddings, certainly, but the understanding of this one as a celebration of the start of a new little family, of the value and importance of the institution of marriage to our society and the joy, love and willing support shared by the whole of the community present made this wedding one that overflowed with God’s grace, blessing and goodness that must be remembered and treasured always.