Inviting Jesus To Your Wedding

Imagine that you are the wonderful person who was responsible for bringing two totally amazing people together, and now they are getting married. You have prayed for them, hoped for them and lovingly watched their relationship blossom. Your joy is beyond belief! They have announced their wedding, and you wait patiently for an invitation. Days go by; nothing comes in the mail. Their wedding day comes, and you realize you were not invited. You do not attend, as it is not in your nature to force yourself on anyone.

This is what Jesus feels like when He is not invited to the wedding!

We are living in the era of the “destination wedding.” These popular wedding spots are popping up all over on farms, in wineries, in historic buildings and in all kinds of outdoor venues. It seems that many people want to focus their wedding day on a theme that they select and create. Sadly, many have abandoned the traditional church wedding, for a themed wedding that may have only faint hints of God’s presence.

I was invited to attend three weddings in 2017, and none of them was celebrated in a church. One of the weddings was held in a renovated barn in Wisconsin. Another was in an old Catholic Church that is now a destination wedding venue. It included a special appearance by the family dog, and the bride and groom danced down the aisle at the end of the service to a song from the 1960’s by the Turtles called, “So Happy Together.”

The Catholic Church is abundantly clear about where a wedding should take place. It is not in a barn, on a beach or any other destination location. A Catholic wedding is only sacramentally valid, if it takes place in a church. Why?

As Catholics, we understand that marriage is a sacrament. A man and woman, who come to the Church asking to be married, prepare to enter into a lifelong covenant. This covenant joins them, as long as they both shall live, to each other and to God, who brought them together. There is a prescribed process of preparation to assist the couple for married life. It is crucial that the wedding take place in a church where the sacrament can be validly celebrated by a priest or deacon.

Marriage is both a civil act, and in our Catholic tradition, a sacramental one. The State of Minnesota does not require that a marriage ceremony be performed in a church. A couple who marries in a location other than a church is still validly married in the eyes of the state. The Church, however, does not recognize a marriage as valid, if it does not occur in a church.

Some of us know friends, relatives or even members of our own families, who have chosen to hold their wedding ceremony in a place other than a church. While we may be disappointed in their choice, we are nonetheless called to love and support the couple in their new life together. As Catholics, it is also important that we hold to the truths of our faith.

I recently counseled a couple who were invited to a family wedding that was planned outside the church. The question came up about whether or not they should attend the wedding ceremony. There is no easy, black and white answer. If at all possible, it would be best to talk with the couple before the wedding, explain what your faith teaches and invite them to reconsider their decision to marry outside the Church. This is called speaking the truth in love. Many Catholics do not understand what the Church teaches about marriage. It is a beautiful act of Christian charity to guide those who may be confused about the teachings of our faith.

Our loving Father always wants the best for His children. Marriage is intended to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman, open to children and a living sign of God’s love to the world.

The Church requires a suitable period of preparation, prayer and instruction for the engaged couple. During this time, the couple is invited to explore, not only their relationship with each other, but also their relationship with God.

God is the giver of all good gifts. In giving us the gift of marriage, our Loving God intended for us to celebrate it with proper devotion. Every Christian marriage is an image of God’s loving plan for His Church. Let us continue to pray for those entering into the sacrament of marriage, that they will do so with hearts joined to each other and to God and His Church.

In Christ,
Deacon Tim Hennessey

 

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