Today we get another installment of APW Intern Lauren’s wedding planning. I’m so pleased that we have a planning voice on the site again, because what most wedding media doesn’t talk about, is that wedding planning is not always easy. (Note: last time Lauren wrote about wedding planning, some new readers were like, thank God why don’t we talk about this ever, which was rattling to me. APW’s started with me writing honestly about our planning, so if you’re needing more of that, check my enormous archives). The bottom line is, wedding planing isn’t hard because you’re trying to match your napkins to your bridesmaids’ dresses. It’s hard because you’re reconciling huge issues of faith and belief in a really public sphere, and you’re having to own up to your relationships as they are, not as you wish that they were. So today Lauren is writing about reconciling the importance of marriage equality with the fact that she is, fundamentally, a good Catholic girl (for a wedding grad who also spoke eloquently on similar things, see this wedding). Lauren writes at I’m Better In Real Life, and you can see her long awaited engagement pictures over there, along with a truly inspiring tale of her crossing surfing off of her life list, and realizing it wasn’t what she hoped it would be. And with that, I give you Lauren:
I went up to Seattle a few weekends ago to meet with the Deacon who would be, hopefully, officiating our wedding. We’re getting married in my Catholic high school chapel, which doesn’t have a parish attached to it, so you have to find your own catholic-approved leader of the pack – er – official marriage announcer. Also, with Catholic weddings, there is a bit of “marriage prep” required before the big day, and that needs to be done by a Priest or Deacon. Kamel and I are down with this, we think it will be good for our relationship AND personal growth. In other words – free therapy.
But trying to figure this out from 2 states away has been a mite bit complicated. For Example: I have gone to Catholic school my whole life. I’ve taken more religion classes than the Pope (No, that’s a lie…). I have been jumping from state to state and back again for the last 7 years, so going to church regularly has not been my top priority. In fact – I feel like establishing a parish needs to happen once Kamel and I figure out where and when we are going to put down roots. But lets just get married first.
Anyway – I already knew about the marriage prep, etc because I’m a good Catholic girl (who lives with her fiance… and uses birth control… and is pro choice… shh! whatever!). So I called around to churches in the San Francisco area to see how to go about having the prep handled here, but the marrying handled over there, and here is what I got:
Church Lady: What Parish do you belong to?
Me: Holy Rosary in Seattle.
Church Lady: What church do you go to here?
Me: Well, I went to USF for grad school, so I’ve been to the church there. (where I just happened to be calling… *cough* browniepoints browniepoints!)
Church Lady: But do you attend regularly? (dundun duuun)
Me: I’ve been.
Church Lady: Well let me explain this to you, getting married in the catholic church is a sacrament, and you are not just marrying your spouse, you are making a PROMISE to GOD, now I don’t want to make you feel like I’m lecturing you, but this is a sacrament for true Catholics.
Me: I know what getting married means, I want to catholic school my whole life.
Church Lady: Well, there are a lot of denominations outside of the Catholic Church with beautiful churches, I suggest you try one of those. *click*
And then I cried. At work. It was lovely.
I also called my Mom while I was crying at work. Because who else do you call in these situations? Especially when your mom is Presbyterian and there is some Catholic bashing to be done!
Twenty seconds after I was hung up on I decided I wasn’t going to get married in the Catholic Church anymore. Screw them, they are exclusive and when I needed them most I got shit on. That pronouncement did not get the response I thought it would from my Mom, nor did it from my Dad later on in the evening. Their reaction was more along the lines of “THAT IS THE WORST CHOICE YOU HAVE EVER MADE LAUREN! TAKE IT BACK RIGHT NOW…. and just for this little stunt of yours, you’re going to join the nearest Catholic church and begin tithing $20 a week IMMEDIATELY.” Wow. I did not see that one coming, let me tell you. But, to be honest, getting married by a random reverend really wasn’t what I wanted either. At this point, though, I felt backed into a corner.But then my friends and bridesmaids rallied around me (all of these said friends and bridesmaid I know from my all-girls Catholic school days) and told me I needed to talk to Deacon Steve. Because Deacon Steve was awesome, Deacon Steve would work with us, and besides, with Deacon Steve I had a lot of character references.
So I emailed and emailed and emailed with him, and then we set up a meeting for October. A meeting where he would decide if we were worth his Catholic time and blessing. Because this is a pretty big deal, he’s the one who’s going to bind Kamel and I together in the eyes of the Lord, and Deacon Steven doesn’t want to mess around with just anybody. Meanwhile, my parents were so worried I wouldn’t get the desired A-ok from the church, all wedding planning from their end had ceased.
Now, finally, we arrive at the point of the story. The meeting with The Deacon was awesome. He’s funny, irreverent at times, incredibly spiritual, flexible, and has a wealth of knowledgeable guidance to share about weddings. After nearly 2 hours of deep questions whizzing by our heads, he finally asked Kamel and I if we had any for him. And I did.
There has been something weighing on me through this entire engagement/wedding planning process that I can’t shake, I don’t want to shake it. How is it that Kamel and I get to experience the wonderful, obnoxious journey of engagement and then married life, but that right, that legal right, is not extended to the rest of couples? I am a firm believer in separation between church and state, so what are we doing excluding rights from one group based on religious pretexts? And I sure as hell did not want my wedding to be any kind of avenue for soap boxing on the topic. I already knew what the Catholic Church believed, and it’s their right to believe it as a private organization, but what did this man, who would be an integral part of our wedding, believe?
So I asked, “How do you feel about gay marriage outside of the church?”
Kamel shot me a glance that said, “What are you doing? It’s in the bag! We’re in the rectory for chrissake!” but I just turned back to the Deacon and waited for his response – which was awesome, just like I promised a few paragraphs up.
I know he can’t come straight out and say, “I support gay marriage” because he is working for The Man, his holiness, but in Catholic speak, very educated Catholic speak, I understood him perfectly. And even better, he understood us in our stumbling, wordy, rambling way – he got us. He spoke about how he thinks the church should get out of the wedding business entirely, and said he wished the United States had more of a European style where people get married by the State, and then down the road go through and receive the sacrament of marriage once they are ready. It’s as easy as hopping online to be an ordained minister and *poof* you can perform legally binding unions, but gay couples can’t go to the justice of the peace. In other words – why is religion and legality in bed together in the United States, a country founded on religious freedom?
But back to the important thing – my wedding. There will be no soap boxing. Our main goal for our wedding (besides the I Do’s, and the cake…) is to move people emotionally, and to make those guests who might have been previously uncomfortable in a church setting feel welcome and comfortable. That’s enough for us. But I’m glad I asked the hard questions. Now I know for sure I won’t be gritting my teeth during any homily that begins, “Marriage is a bond between a man and a woman”.
Eff that noise.
(Editors note: Lest USF be tarred with the brush of insensitivity on APW, I had a friend (ok, the first ever reader of APW, lets just call her what she is) who got married at USF this spring, and she had a truly wonderful experience with the priest there. And yes, she’ll be doing a grad post, and no, she does not regularly attend mass. So in this case, the woman who picked up the phone was a bit of an *ss-hat, but let’s not write the whole of USF off, wedding-wise.)