There will be no film crew or drama (at least I hope no drama) but today my daughter will begin her quest in earnest to find a wedding dress. Her bridesmaids and her future mother-in-law will join us as we head to a couple of boutiques today and two more tomorrow. I think we are both a little excited and a little nervous. I have never done this. When I got married I wore my mother's wedding dress. We pulled it out of the cedar chest a few months ago and after more than half a century, it just doesn't sing like it used to. With a little rehab it could probably be used again, but it just isn't my daughter's style so I am happy to let her try to find a dress of her own.
I am grateful that our parish has put down some firm guidelines. No strapless dresses. No spaghetti straps. No plunging necklines. All reasonable and my daughter has no problems complying with these parameters. However, if you have viewed the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress" or browsed the wedding dress web sites, you know that there are more dresses that fail those standards than meet them. Our pastor is serious about the importance of marriage. He has also declared that there can be no elaborate wedding for cohabitating couples. The bride and groom must live apart for at least three months prior to the wedding. If this is impossible, the bride and groom may be married in a simple ceremony. This simple ceremony means no white wedding dress and veil, no music, no Mass, no big wedding party (only a maid of honor and best man), and no procession.
If more parishes took such a serious approach to weddings, I think more Catholics would realize that this is not just a cultural event but a solemn sacrament. Catholic writer (and fellow Virginian) Elizabeth Foss's son was just married. On her blog she offered a quote from the early 20th century Belgian priest Jacques Leclercq :
The sacrament of marriage is the imprint of God on the souls of the married couple, not merely in order to deify their life in general, but in order to deify their union . . . The sacrament of marriage is thus not merely a religious act sanctifying a human one, it is a seed sown in the soul and bearing fruit through the whole of married life, giving life to all its acts and sentiments . . . it is a predisposition to holiness placed in their souls by God on the day of their wedding.
Marriage is an imprint of God on their souls. That is so profound. I wish that every couple planning marriage could be given this quote. They need to see that marriage is more than an extravagant party followed by endless romance. Romance doesn't go away. It does change. Being handed a freshly made cup of coffee on a cold winter morning may make your heart sing as much as a dozen roses. Lifting each other up during the hurdles of parenting is worth more than any diamond. Kneeling together in prayer is sometimes more unifying than a night of dinner and dancing.
So today we will be joyous and giddy as we celebrate the upcoming nuptials. But along with the preparations of a dress, flowers, music, and food, I pray that my daughter and her future husband are also preparing to join their souls in an offering to God.