Wedding Undergraduate Lauren, Part II

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.)

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  • Mollie

    LOVE it! I am another good Catholic girl, birth control and all :-), and we actually ended up getting married by my husband’s Lutheran pastor, but going through Catholic pre-cana with the intention of getting our marriage blessed by the Catholic Church later on (we wanted an outdoor ceremony, which priests don’t do). We still haven’t gone back for that blessing (though I had every intention while we were planning…) because I don’t see why it is necessary, especially since I am now strongly leaning towards getting our kids baptized Lutheran… exactly because of the Catholic Church’s treatment of gay people (and women) but ANYWAY…

    Yes, dicey big real issues. I thought my way Catholic parents would die about this, but amazingly, they seem to respect that I’ve been thoughtful about the whole process. Also learning to stand up for my little baby family and form the family that works for us, not them…

    Anyway, while we were working with the Lutheran pastor on the marriage ceremony, I asked him to change the references of “we bring this man and woman here today…” to “we bring these two people here….” which was a small change that no one noticed during the ceremony, but it made me feel a lot better. So I feel you.

  • Liz

    i’m so on board with the idea of separation of legal marriage from religious marriage. so SO on board.

    • Rebecca Meyer

      me too!! I hate how you call a church and they act like you’re some pagan who is calling because you actually want to destroy their church and their church’s reputation. It’s ridiculous. It took us forever to find a church and my father is a PASTOR which we made sure to inform everyone we spoke with. Our church meets in a school building though so we were in need of a building. Gah ridiculous!

      • Liz

        same situation, rebecca. i regularly attend and serve actively in a church. however, our church meets in a school gym. i was outraged when calling churches, explaining our situation, and they said, “no, you can’t use our building, but would you like to know how you can start a relationship with jesus?” emm. no.

        • For anyone in a similar situation (Liz I know you’re married now), you could try the Episcopal church. It seems most broad or low churches will rent out their building to other denominations. But I wouldn’t try a super high church — they are a bit too Anglo-Catholic to let that fly.

        • THIS INFURIATES ME!! For reals… what is up with the catholic church getting all judgy when you want to get married? The church is pretty for a reason, and you get all uppity when we want to USE it?? blaarrghh.

          • Liz

            in my case, they weren’t catholic churches. i had heard that catholic churches were sort of… wary of outsiders.

            the one that infuriated me the most was christ church in philly. it’s one of the oldest established churches in america- where ben franklin, betsy ross, george washington attended. you’d think just for the sake of the history of the place they’d be more lenient.

          • mabel

            I know this is old, but I just wanted to throw this out there. I work in one of these churches you hate so much, A mainline Protestant church that is pretty, where we don’t allow anyone who isn’t a member to marry. Our reasons are: 1) we don’t have enough staff to accommodate you (it’s just me and the pastor, and a less than quarter time custodian, and I am only there 15 hours a week); 2) we have a responsibility to a long-standing Saturday night NA meeting that we can’t cancel; 3) the few times we have allowed other congregations in to hold weddings, the entire building has been trashed. These were as a courtesy because our pastor knew theirs. I am talking to the point of them leaving our giant ovens on and the doors wide open all night long and the custodian finding the building that way at 4 in the morning. So, it’s nothing personal, I promise. At least here in the northeast, most churches are struggling to keep existing and don’t have the money, time, or energy to give you what you need.

    • I’ve never really understood why the church and state are so intertwined in the whole marriage sector. While theoretically they have a separation, realistically anyone can tell that the are way too close when it comes to marriage.

      • Seriously. Even my husband, who has a seminary degree, is a strong advocate of greater separation between church and state.

    • Wsquared

      Um, I thought Catholics and the Catholic Church *did* and *do*.

      A civil marriage is not automatically spiritually equivalent to a marriage in the Catholic Church (to get it recognized, you need a dispensation), at least from the Church’s point of view. And that, by the way, *is* what “separation of Church and State” means: rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and rendering unto God that which is God’s, and not the subordination of the Catholic Church to the more secular realm. Understanding marriage as a sacrament, and not just as the joining of two people in union, is not contingent upon secular considerations.

      The Catholic Church is very clear about separating what is worldly from what is sacred. That’s one of the reasons for why, when a priest is iffy about marrying you outside, he’s not “a mean, nasty old man who won’t let me do what I. WANT!!!” who just wants to spite you. While I can understand that every now and again, you might get a priest who is gruffer than you’d like and therefore frustrating to work with, that sort of assumption is not only presumptuous, but uncharitable. It’s because he believes in the separation of Church and State more than you give him credit for.

  • fleda

    We’re totally liberal and totally secular, and got married in a UU church. But during the year before the wedding we borrowed our Catholic friends’ pre-Cana “questionnaire” in order to facilitate good hard talks about marriage on our own. (We just skipped the theological bits). It was really helpful, it gave me great admiration for the way that religion institutionalizes thoughtful, deliberate marriage.

    • I’m a UU! yay!
      We don’t have any Catholic friends who are about to be married, so we bought the book “1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married” and had a lot of conversations based on that. I really recommend the book, although it does attempt to be “everything for everyone” (so there are questions to determine if one of you is marrying for money or if you’re in an abusive relationship, and about whether or not you want to have kids… and we were past that, we had already had a few conversations about what we thought my parents or his parents had done right or wrong in our upbringings and how we would apply that in raising our 2-maybe-3 kids).

  • I’m really glad you’ve found a deacon who is prepared to have a sensible discussion about the church’s views and to accept that there is a genuine point to be made. It’s important that both you and your guests feel comfortable and not judged in anyway by your celebrant.
    I was also brought up as a catholic but really struggle to reconcile my personal beliefs on equality and compassion with those of the church particularly on marriage. It’s refreshing to hear these issues discussed but then that’s why APW is great.
    My own wedding has made me think alot about religeon and many of my friends just don’t understand why it is an issue. My wedding will not be in a catholic church because I have been married before and to marry again as a catholic I would have to have my first marriage annulled – essentially a random committee of people who don’t know me or my ex husband pulling apart our now ended relationship and coming to the conculsion that our seven years of marriage were never a marriage at all. Like making a bet then saying your fingers were crossed. I might have good grounds but surely it is better just to be a grown up about it and accept that you both made mistakes? While I understand that this is about the sancity of marriage I still find it very difficult to accept that the church classes me as some sort of harlot (sure that would be fun but I’m really quite dull!) . Sorry – I’m off on a tangent here but in essence I feel the same way about the church’s view on same sex relationships. Your preferences and your past don’t make you a bad person, nor should they make it impossible for you to participate in a faith that you believe in. Acceptance and compassion are what make genuinely good people good and I would like to see the church demnonstrate the same values. Hopefully there are more deacon’s like the one you met out there who might, however slowly, start to change things for the better.
    Good luck with the planning :)

    • Vmed

      I’m not in your situation but I have been reading up on catholic marriage and annulment and one source said it’s not like it never happened, they’re just determining whether the bond you made was at the level of a sacrament.

      It’s not that you weren’t married, the committee figures out whether you were really in a position to be bound “BY GOD” in a souls are intertwined forever kind of way. According to the RCC, the sacrament of marriage is like baptism in that it makes a mark on your soul that cannot be washed off.

      Which… it’s kind of nice that they give people a chance to say hey…. that marriage was not the sacrament. THIS one is.

      But I’m sure it’s a hassle, and one you don’t want to deal with.

  • I just wanted to say I’ve been checking out ‘Meg’s enormous archives’ and they are great. Her posts were spot on from the beginning.

    • Haha yeah, I’m on page 11 in ascending order. Love them!

    • I was just thinking last night that I miss vintage sassy Meg. Definitely need more of that in my life. Maybe I’ll take a gander back through the archives.

      • meg

        I’m still just as mouthy in person. I just haven’t felt any particualr inspiration to be mouthy online in the past few months.

        • Well then I guess I need to get me to SF and take you out for drinks.

  • Brilliant. I have been to so many wedding where the officiant just doesn’t ‘get’ the couple and it is heart-breaking. Hurrah for finding someone who recognises the spiritual and moral path you have chosen AND is prepared to respect that.

  • As someone who is in an interfaith relationship with someone who is very in touch with his Jewish religion, while I’m not so in touch with my Catholic upbringing, I’m glad I read this entire thing. Because, while we have different challenges, THIS

    “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. ”

    is EXACTLY it (well, minus the church setting, adding a Rabbi, and mix in some grandparents who don’t quite understand that a Jewish Ceremony is not the same thing as a Civil Ceremony…).

    I just want people to be comfortable with our choice, and our ceremony and to be moved by it and to “get it”. Not only understand why we chose what we chose, but how we chose it and why it matters…

  • Maddie

    Oh Lauren. The look on your face after day two of surfing is exactly how I look on day two of my yearly quest to be a good snowboarder.

    On a separate note, I’m really impressed by the way you are reconciling your faith with your politics. I was raised Catholic as well and while I’ve mostly opted for a secular lifestyle, I think it’s really important that there are people like you who represent equality in the church. It’s sort of the religious version of using your dollars to support awesome vendors, but with a different kind of currency.

    • This is a great point I’ve been trying to make in the real world, especially with all the talk that’s been going on about gay bullying. There are people within the Catholic church (as there are in any religion or any organized group) who don’t necessarily agree with ALL the teachings. I believe in the church’s biggest teachings on love, forgiveness, humility and faith. I support gay marriage, use of birth control, am kinda pro-choice, etc. I want the world to know the two sides don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

      • …except that there are some churches where they do… If it had been ok within the church community I was in to believe those things, I might have stayed. As it was, they made it very clear it was their way (agree with everything we think, no exceptions) or the highway. So I took the highway. It’s very difficult for someone on the outside looking in to tell that some people don’t agree with all the teachings, when what you see from the outside is a giant block of people who are all doing the same thing (singing the same songs, taking the same mass, listening to the same sermon, etc.) I know there are many perspectives on this – this is just my gut reaction to what you said, coming from my experience of being very excluded because I *had* opinions, period.

        • (To be clear, this was not a Catholic church. Another denomination entirely.)

      • Kate

        I actually read recently that most people who identify as Catholic in the US support gay marriage, and that way more than a tiny minoity support the use of birth control and ordination of women priests. Who knew that one of the most institutionalized churches had so many dissidents? I think it rocks.

        • Sarah

          Wow! I wish more of those gay-loving Catholics (and members of other very openly anti-gay churches) would start publicly denouncing their church’s stand on gays. It what you’re saying is true, then people who stand in opposition to the church’s teachings on the issue could have real power if they chose to take a stand for equality within their church communities.

          • meg

            You guys, I’m shutting this down. There are PLENTY of Catholics fighting a very good fight for gay rights within their own church and community. They are braver than those outside the community could ever know. So don’t EVER belittle those efforts. The Catholic church has some policies that I don’t agree with, and it also has a lot of people fighting for the right things because they think they deserve a place in their own church. And God Bless.

            APW does not ever get to be about trashing other people’s religions, so knock it off.

  • Oh my god, yes. I grew up doing the Catholic thang, going to Catholic school all the way through 12th grade. I then proceeded to say “eff the church” because of various things (like the official stances on female priests, gay marriage, abortion, birth control, and the hierarchy’s response to molestation charges. etc.). And that was all well and good until a year ago when I got engaged. And *holy shit*. I wanted that Catholic ceremony. My wedding wouldn’t be a wedding if it wasn’t in a Catholic church, conducted by a priest, and blessed. It was, shall we say, a rather shocking thing for me to realize. The issue for us was (besides me being non-practicing) my fiance – he didn’t grow up in any religion, he isn’t baptized, and while he’ll go to Mass with me, he doesn’t want to be rushed into joining a religion he doesn’t know that much about. And I respect that. But it took months for us to find a priest who got our issues. I had similar phone calls with nasty, small-minded church ladies (by the way, the idea that you had to go through that makes me want to cry, and hug you, and tell you that she needs to get a grip on what being Catholic really means – compassion). Finally my dad found a young priest near where we wanted to get married. His sisters had both married outside the church, their husbands were not Catholic, and he was okay with that. More than okay, he respected their right to make the decision in their own time. And he understood why I hadn’t been able to go to Mass – he has made comments about how so many priests are bitter or closed-minded or awful at composing sermons that actually reach people. So I’m glad that mine wasn’t the only experience that ended right – there are amazing people within the Catholic church. They will want to marry you, and they will respect you, and it will all be better than you ever expected.

    • I love this! :)

    • This made me smile. I too went to a Catholic school (but am not Catholic myself) and I remember so many of my classmates becoming confirmed at a time when they were just starting to question a lot of the Church’s stances. One of the major reasons they went through with it anyway was “so they could get married in a catholic church”. Sure enough, I’ve watched a bunch of my school mateys become seized by some forgotten Catholic fervour at about the time they start planning their weddings! It’s a part of their culture as much as their faith so I think it’s great when they manage to make it work.

    • kaitlyn142

      Oh, this is so me. I’d go so far as to consider myself agnostic at this point, but it won’t feel like a wedding to me without church, mass, etc. The totally awesome priest at the beautiful church I want to marry at is being transferred. He told me to talk to whatever priest takes over for him in December. I’m mildly terrified he won’t be interested in understanding I’m doing this for the tradition and my family, despite how I personally feel about religion.

      There is a priest at my childhood parish that I know will marry us, but I really don’t like him as a person. This is stressing me out way too much ATM.

  • I’m a Catholic too (one of the liberal, open-minded, birth control taking, supports gay marriage kind). I think this is such an important message for anyone considering getting married in the church. There are priests and deacons who are understanding and accessible, but sometimes they take a little longer to find. I was lucky enough to find a few to choose from.

    The Catholic church does have some crummy teachings on sexuality and birth control and such, but the church’s core stuff — the stuff about loving EVERYONE and forgiveness and humility — that stuff is too beautiful for me to pass up, which is why I wanted nothing else than to get married in a Catholic church. Because as you said — “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.”

    • meg

      You know, I have to throw this out there… I do really respect the Catholic church for it’s consistency, even when I disagree. Like, the church is pro Life, but it’s pro LIFE, it’s not screwing around. It’s against abortion, but it’s also against the death penalty. I don’t agree on all counts, but I love the consistency, and arguably the importance, of the message.

      • Wsquared

        Thank you for that, Meg. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        Because I do understand that APW has been very open and understanding about what people choose to be right for them.

        There are indeed awesome people in the Catholic Church. They aren’t all peevish and small-minded: remember that any time a religion claims universality, it really does take all sorts.

      • I love that you mentioned that. I’ve spent plenty of time exploring other religions, but one of the reasons I’ve stuck with Catholicism (aside from loving the messages I mentioned) is that it’s been the one and only constant, consistent, never changing thing in an ever-changing, crazy life.

        • Wsquared

          I hear ya. I also think constantly about my parents and their marriage. It was hard for them at first: I saw from observing them that culture clashes can happen within people of the “same” ethnicity. A lot of the times, they only had their Catholic faith and each other to hold onto contra mundum.

          My mom is a devout Catholic. At one time, she was very rigid about what being Catholic meant. But now, she’s not, in that she’s certainly more empathetic and compassionate. And it’s not because she became less devout. Her faith, I think, helped her to grow; to fill herself up with self.

      • The consistency is my favourite part of the Catholic Church, it’s why I’m a Catholic (after a very fun and lapsed college). I am a daily mass attending, no birth control Catholic and everyone assumes that I’m a lunatic who hates gay people and wants to convert every person I meet. Which I don’t. At all. That consistency extends to their position on homosexual marriage. Any sexual act that isn’t open to life is a sin, so in the Church’s view homosexuality is the same sin as the nice Catholic couple who attend church each week who use birth control. It sounds crazy, but it’s consistent. As you said, you might not agree but it’s respectable.

        • Liz A

          So then what gives with when Catholic Charities in Washington DC stopped providing services to the homeless and no longer offers spousal benefits to *anyone* after gay marriage was legalized in DC? And said that they’re not doing it *because* of gay marriage. They don’t take action like that because people take Orthotricyclin.

          I really don’t mean to be a jerk, honest. This bureaucratic b.s. just makes me mad.

          • But you can bet that none of the benefits they offered ever covered birth control pills – or abortion, in-vitro, etc. They can’t police what people are doing in their private lives, but they also can’t be expected to, in good conscience, subsidize or recognize as a positive social good something that the Church teaches is sinful.

            (For the record, I HATED the outcome of the DC Catholic Charities situation. I thought both sides stood on principle more than was necessary, and employees as well as the people who were supposed to receive services suffered as a result.)

        • Sarah

          Although perhaps church doctrine looks at both gays and straight couples who use birth control the same way — the church, as an institution and political actor does not. The church, as an institution, is not actively fighting to take away birth-control using straight couples’ rights to state-sanctioned marriage (which is not religious marriage) that grants couples the ability to care for each other and their families in times of crisis. I think it’s really important to recognize that churches (and not just the Catholic church) are going really far out of their way to take away LGBTQ folks’ rights to protect and care for their families. Church doctrine is one thing, church policies and political action is quite another.

  • Oh, and I also encountered crazy, holier-than-thou church lady. She’s the wedding coordinator at the church where we’re getting married. Cannot wait

    • hahahaha they are everywhere. Bless their hearts.

      • JEM

        thanks for the reminder to use the phrase “bless your heart…” in true Southern fashion more often. :)

        • Our church has the cranky, church lady too! My favorite recent experience was calling her to confirm she had received our baptism, confirmation & pre-cana certificates & she told me she was too busy to check. She sits at a desk with the files at her fingertips!! I had my fiance call her back at a “better time” so that I didn’t say anything to jeopardize our upcoming wedding. It’s one thing after another with her!

          • Liz

            haha- our cranky church lady was a visitor the first day i introduced myself. she complained that the music was too loud, the communion was dry, the pastor was wearing flip flops, and she refused to shake my hands because of “germs.”

    • Moz

      In my experience (and I have a lot of it) parish secretaries are almost ALWAYS worse than the priests. I don’t know what it is, but I swear they are a breed unto themselves. MOST of them.

      At least the ones in NSW, Australia.

  • Mallory

    “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.”

    Thanks Meg. I thought because I was opting out of many of the material traditions of weddings my planning process would be easier….

    Enter questioning gender roles, religious differences, family expectations and the implied goal to make your wedding be an ultimate representation of yourself and your relationship… yeah, not easy.

    • Kristen

      And having your carefully separated spheres and groups of people on what seems to be a collision course.

      That’s my thing.

      Due to circumstances that don’t need to be fully explained here, my mom doesn’t know that I choose to imbibe from time to time. People here of course know that I quite enjoy having a few drinks from time to time.

      Mormon extended family, meet my lesbian bridesmaid and her fiancee. Both of whom I love lots and lots. Most of them I don’t have to worry about but I do have a little bit of worry that people won’t be as kind to my friends as they deserve.

      Friends, meet my Mormon family… oh yeah, did I never mention I was raised kinda Mormon? That’s because a number of people I’ve told in the past burned me and either made it some kind of “You’re the worst Mormom I’ve ever seen” (which is why I don’t identify as Mormon…) or turned it into a great inquisition on “Why do they do that? Why this? Did you know that they…? What’s that all about?” So I don’t like talking about it. I always end up feeling like crap for getting walked on, for not defending people I love well enough, etc.

      I just hope that everyone can be kind to each other and if nothing else, just enjoy a party.

      • Sarah

        We had to do this at our wedding (and the week before it):

        Husband’s extremely conservative, nearly fanatical Christian family? My mom who qualifies as all of that? Meet our Christian (but not fanatical)/Jewish/Agnostic/Athiest/gay/bi/tattooed/pierced/liberal/various-combinations-of-all-that friends. And the rest of my family. At a dry wedding where we’ve informed said friends they can bring flasks if they don’t get trashed.

        Recipe for disaster, right?

        It was FINE. In fact, it went WELL. There were a couple looks, and one nasty comment (that was not overheard, thank goodness … SOME PEOPLE I swear) … but that was it. Everyone played nicely and even got along. And my mom, who’d previously done but bad-mouth her, fell in love with my tattooed/unwed/extremely liberal best friend … and her son. They’re invited to Christmas.

        Who knew? I was expecting nastiness, and we got gold. People really do step up when it’s important to you. And even when it’s not … they can surprise you in wonderful ways.

  • leahismyname

    “What are we doing excluding rights from one group based on religious pretexts?”

    EXACTLY!!! Can I “exactly” this about a million times?!

    This drives me absolutely f***ing nuts. NUTS!!!

    Ok, deep breaths. I need to pace myself, it’s only 8:30 in the morning. Save the fury…

    No, seriously, I totally agree with not wanting to make your wedding a soap-box event, but at the same time, it’s really important to me that this issue should be discussed up front. Good for you, bringing it up with your deacon.

  • Wow. This post makes a whoooole lot of thoughts swirl around in my head. Mostly this one:

    LaurenLaurenLaurenLaurenLauren omgweshouldtalk!

    I also went to Catholic school. Met my fiance there, actually. I’d love to have our wedding in our high school chapel but it’s teeny-tiny. I have such fond memories of those days. Our relationship really formed its foundation in the Catholic church. Some of our teachers who were most supportive of and influential on our baby relationship were very, very religious. (Like I’m-going-to-go-and-become-a-Carthusian-nun religious) And those people are very dear to me.

    I’ve been having a really interesting time planning my wedding in the church because of a number of reasons. First, my father used to work for the church and had a huge and rather public falling out with them (long story), so he had a looooong list of priests that he wouldn’t be comfortable seeing at the wedding. Second, if we want our friends to be there, we’re confined to the few weeks between the fall and spring semester. One of the Saturdays during that time is New Year’s Day, which I would love to get married on because, hello, who wouldn’t want 1/1/11 as your anniversary? But it’s a Holy Day of Obligation and none of the churches would marry us then. So after much hemming and hawing, we decided on the Tuesday after Christmas and by some miracle, found a down-to-earth priest who won’t be out of town for the holidays. Phew.

    Okay, this comment is really rambly; obviously I have A LOT to talk about when it comes to Catholicism. But in short, do I have certain issues with the church? Yes, absolutely. Do I go to Mass? I think the last time I went was Easter, maybe. Do I consider myself Catholic? Yes, absolutely. I spent a few years studying the Bible in its original languages, for crying out loud. I would never quite feel married if I didn’t get married in the Catholic church.

    • I seriously feel like being catholic CAN BE a sort of ethnicity in a way. If you’re raised catholic, go to catholic school, come from a catholic family, you just can’t escape it. Even if you leave the church entirely, there is just something about the whole ceremony of it that will never fully leave you. Of course this a case by case basis, lest I say something too SWEEPING and GENERAL. But seriously, I’ll my friends and I just laugh when stuff like charity dinners? where the wine is flowing? School auctions? are just soooo effing catholic!

      • i think it was dan savage who said it was like a virus, even when it’s in remission and you don’t believe, it’s a part of you and your build that never ever completely fades away. like a spiritual form of mono. it changes you.

      • I totally agree, Lauren. Even though I don’t attend Mass regularly, whenever I do go, it feels… homey. There’s a certain mysticism to it that I can’t deny.

      • Tupelohoney

        I agree. Just today I said to someone that I’m Catholic culturally, but not spiritually. My husband and I decided not to marry in a church (both Catholic), but there have been instances in my life where I’ve found so much peace with being Catholic and what it provides. For example, 2 recent funerals. Being in a church during mass for those funerals felt so right. I felt like I was at home and could not imagine being anywhere else in that moment. And it wasn’t because of the words or the priest, it was because I was in a church I had sat in as a child and was surrounded by family and friends who also felt that sense of home in that church. It was the community aspect of it that got (and gets) to me.

    • meg

      YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE MY PARENTS WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Just 35 years later! If you look in my “favorite posts” you can see their wedding. You’re also getting married on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Whee!

      • Ohmygawd REALLY? Yes! I KNEW December 28th was a kickass day to get married!

        • Rachel C.

          Okay, so this is totally random, Mary, but I’m stupidly excited to find this out, so HIGH FIVE FOR BEING MARRIED THE TUESDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. That’s our date too! Yay for scheduling a wedding around semester breaks and holidays that are hogging all the weekends!

          And Meg, I’m absurdly happy that we’re gonna share an anniversary with people who are (by necessity!) as awesome as your parents. It feels like good luck. *grins*

          • Ohmygosh, AWESOME. I thought I was the only one crazy enough to get married the Tuesday after Christmas!

          • meg

            It’s a nice anniversary, everything is still festive, your family is home. And besides, as my mom always said, “The church was already decorated. FOR FREE.”

  • Good for Deacon Steve and good for you for sticking up for your beliefs (Catholic and secular). I can’t believe that lady on the phone; but maybe it worked out for the best anyway.

  • Marchelle

    I gotta admit, as someone who is almost 16 months out from the last celebration in our triumvirate of weddings, and is busy dealing with the the day-to-day of married life, dual careers, being there for extended family, contemplating moving on to motherhood, etc, etc, I used to think I didn’t have a lot of time for the wedding planning posts anymore, and mostly skipped those over while concentrating on the reclaiming wife posts, and a few of the wedding graduate posts that caught my eye. (All the while emailing the swelling tide of newly engaged friends and cousins, saying I HOPE YOU’RE READING APW, SUCKERS!)

    But, Lauren has quite a voice, and some of the big issues addressed in wedding planning never go away. Being as how planning a wedding is just a proxy event for forming a new family, and all of the working out who the heck you and your partner are, and what exactly is important to the two of you in the midst of the crazy that is life, isn’t going to stop once the bride and groom have ridden off happily into the sunset. So, I’m going to rethink skipping over these posts in future, because while my perspective on all of it has changed, the lessons learnt remain exactly the same.

    So happy you found a like-minded Deacon, Lauren. As a lapsed Catholic girl who actually really wanted to get married in my school chapel, but was stumped (and driven even further away from the Church – well done, Trinidadian Archbishop!) by the inflexibility and narrow-mindedness of the local church authorities, I know *exactly* how much that means. Well done asking those hard questions.

    And hello from your latest fan. ;)

  • Oh my gosh I love this blog.
    Tonight I have RCIA (become-a-Catholic-class). Because my cradle-Catholic fiance and I want to raise our kids with the Lord, and I feel comfortable in the Catholic faith and appreciate their family focus. (Note, I was raised Presbyterian.)
    There are a few problems with this. Although I am waiting for marriage, I currently live with my fiance. (Test of will, let me tell you. But waking up to the one you adore is worth the cold showers, and I know our marriage will be stronger for it.) Second, before I lived with Josh, I lived with my aunts, whom I consider “my other two mommies” and their two beautiful children. I don’t look at them as two lesbians and their children. I see a family that I support 100%.
    I asked a pastor that hard question before, and got an equally honest and satisfying answer. He said that when two people love each other, they are also loving God. God is love, and when you show love to others, you are practicing love for God. He said that while he knows that the scriptures say that an LGBT lifestyle is a sin, that he must support any movement and effort toward a person’s search for God. And if he does not support them 100%, he does that individual a disservice.
    For example, if a homosexual man comes into the church, he must welcome him with open arms and do everything in his power to support that person’s relationship with Christ. If he, instead, says “you can’t come if you are gay” or “you can come but must change” he does the individual, and God, no good.
    I like that because it takes his personal political beliefs about abortion, LGBT issues and whatever else, out of the equation on a person’s relationship with the Lord. It doesn’t take away accountability for sin. It just keeps the focus where it belongs- on getting people to know God without the intrusion of political fences.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Chelsea

    This has nothing to do with weddings, but this is a real conversation I had with a priest from my (Catholic) college about a year after I’d graduated:

    Him: So Chelsea, what have you been doing?
    Me: I’m actually working in political fundraising.
    Him (gravely): For what party?
    Me (nervously): The Democrats
    Him: Thank goodness.

    And then, during our pre-cana meetings, our priest told us all about when he used to protest against banks in Baltimore with discriminatory lending policies, but never mentioned a word about birth control.

    In other words, YES, Catholic priests (like Catholics themselves) can be surprisingly liberal if you find the right ones.

    • Kate

      The most liberal woman I ever met (and one of the best people I’ve ever known) was a catholic nun. She protested the School of the Americas (where Americans and others were trained in the fine art of torture and rape as tools of war – fun!) all the time, she was at every liberal everything, and she was very, very catholic.

      And I just found out my super christian cousin goes to Rocky Horror shows and wants to volunteer with Sea Shepherd after college.

      This is all by way of saying – thanks for the extra reminder not to judge people based on their beliefs. Of course most of us know that we shouldn’t, but practicing that all the time every moment can be hard. Discussions like this are helpful.

  • Lauren, you’re awesome.

    And I’ve never been more glad that we’re having a friend do the actual knot-tying and staying very secular about it.

    SEPARATION of church and state. Might be more stops to make, but it’s much more constitutional/objective/healthy.

  • Love this! And Lauren, I love that you’re from Seattle!

  • Sharon

    This post made me feel a lot better because I am also planning a Catholic wedding out of state. My fiancee is Catholic, and I am not, which makes it difficult since we are getting married in my hometown. I called around to area churches to see who might be able to marry us, and I also got yelled at by a church lady for not being in the parish. I also cried afterward. She seemed to think I only wanted to get married in a pretty church and didn’t understand the SERIOUSNESS OF MARRIAGE. Well, I’m sorry but we’re not a member of any parish in the area because we don’t live there and my family isn’t Catholic…I don’t think that makes us any less aware of marriage as a sacrament.

    Finally, after getting the runaround at a few churches, one of the priests hinted that we might have better luck if we tried churches less than 3 miles from my house and if my fiancee called, because “he is the Catholic one.” That seems to have finally done it. It really hindered my enjoyment of the wedding planning process, and I’m glad to know other brides have gone through the same feelings as I have.

    • N

      Yes, why don’t churches understand that you cannot be a member of a parish if you do not live in that city? I ran into the same thing. It’s hardly uncommon to get married somewhere that you don’t live, so you would think the churches of the world would come up with some policy or solution for that.

  • Yay Deacon Steven!!! Boooooooo mean church lady!!!

  • It’s amazing the way certain groups want to embrace the community and its members, but at the same time have no qualms about hanging up on them. So glad you found Deacon Steve and can start creating a ceremony that’s right for you. It’s important to trust your gut and go with it.

  • I’m a “recovering Catholic” as they say. When we first got engaged I was attending Unitarian Universalist churches on not a so regular basis, hiding my faith from my parents, and still unsure what religion I wanted to be a part of.

    I figured that faith is a journey we take, and that we could get married and then I could deal with my faith. I was so wrong. Not only were my parents not even close to being ok with this plan, but I realized I wasn’t either. I wanted to marry in a religion that fit me best, so that meant a quick religion-exploration.

    I’m glad I found the Episcopal church, because they are pretty much my perfect religion — similar beliefs and services, but so much more liberal. It feel a bit hasty to join a new church so quickly, but throughout this planning process I’ve realized that getting married means so much more than planning a wedding. It means planning a life, and my life definitely involves religion.

  • Alyssa

    You know, I wonder if that lady even had the authority to give you a yay or a nay on having your wedding there. Someone is getting a STERN talking to when she get to the Kingdom of Heaven, I know it…

    And Lauren, I just want to hug you and give you cookies. And Deacon Steve. (HOW can you now be amazing when you’re known as Deacon Steve?)

    • I do love cookies. ;)

    • meg

      Since I have a friend who was married there in May, and loved the priest, I’m 99% sure the answer is no, she did not have the authority.

      • Alyssa

        I just imagine some fussy old lady sitting there, answering the phones and getting pleasure from crushing the hopes of young things who obviously don’t understand the sacrament of marriage. Right before she goes home to her cats and arthiritc lap-dog, because her children don’t visit her anymore cuz she’s a mean MEAN lady.

        And I did see that editor’s note. It hurts my self esteem cause it’s teeny and I had to lean in to read it. Cause I’m OLD.

  • Tait

    As someone who is wrestling myself with the important role of the church in our lives and upcoming marriage (the Episcopal variety, my husband-to-be is a Priest-to-be) I am INFURIATED that someone would treat you in that way! I look forward to hearing your journey as I embark on my own.

  • Kristen

    I am on staff at a church and plan to get married in a beautiful spot on the river this spring, but I had to comment because I wanted to stick up for pastors and churches! While I understand so many of you that are frustrated with the church, here’s another side to it that you may not have considered.

    Many pastors, in taking on a couple to counsel and perform their marriage ceremony, are acutely aware of their responsibility before God. Especially for pastors in churches that believe that marriage is not to be broken, except for adultery or abuse, or in churches that believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (yes, you can believe that and still not judge others for their choices). Just as you and your future spouse take seriously your vows, so do many pastors that perform the ceremony. Our church does not marry people that are not part of our church, not because we are being exclusive, but because we don’t know them, what they believe, who they are as a couple. Simply meeting to hammer out a marriage ceremony and fill out an application wouldn’t really help our pastors get to know them as a couple, counsel them in areas unique to their situation, etc. We require 12 hours of pre-marital counseling to be married in our church and encourage couples to get involved in the local church – simply because it’s a great way to inclue others in your marriage relationship, have accountability in your life, and “marriage mentors” that have been there, done that. :) It’s a great way to surround your marriage with Godly support, especially in the beginning. Our pastors take a personal interest in marriages in which they perform the ceremony. They counsel and support, encourage and challenge even after the ceremony – which is so important and why they take their responsibility so seriously, and why they don’t marry every person that calls the church. (which happens alot.)

    So… that’s just the perspective of someone on the other side that might help you understand why churches have the policies that they do. :) I’d encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt if you don’t have good reason not to.

    • Katelyn

      That’s a really great justification for having policies in place Kristen – and I’m sure if the mean church lady had explained it that way, she wouldn’t have been labeled as “mean church lady.” :-D

      • Alyssa

        Definitely. Maybe if had talked more to Lauren she would have realized that she was just doing prep work on finding out if she could even be married there, she would have gotten the information that L&K were already planning on doing all the counseling beforehand and would belong to a church once things got settled. But in order to do all that, you gotta at least call and see what procedures there are AND if the date’s available.

        I think it’s the knee-jerk reaction that’s offensive, not that they couldn’t be married there. There are plenty of reasons people haven’t found a church to belong to (if they want one) and with that kind of attitude, they won’t be able to.

        • Alyssa

          And can I also say that it’s really cool to see posts like Lauren’s and comments like Kristen’s? It’s easy to be jaded when whatever faith you have leaves you with a bad experience; but moving past that and sticking with what’s important, your FAITH, is wonderful.

    • Faith

      I greatly appreciate your comment, Kristen! I think your explanation of why pastors may not choose to marry a couple that they don’t know is spot on. There are many not so kind pastors out there, but there are truly those that take their role as a leader before God very seriously, as they should:)

    • meg

      I think I was pretty clear that we WERE giving the benefit of the doubt, while still letting Lauren talk about how painful the experance was for her. Obviously, our shul also had the same policy, most congregations do. That said, that’s NOT the policy at USF (as I mentioned, I had a friend married there in May), and it’s a little different when you’re Catholic. Things are not run by individual congregations, but by the diocese.

      And being mean or dismissive to someone approaching a religious institution in need is NEVER EVER ok.

      • Kristen

        i agree – a rude tone or unkind comments are AWFUL when you are calling a church. maybe the secretary had a bad day????? either way, what a bad taste in your mouth. :(

        thanks for letting me share my perspective from the other side. i appreciate the discussion and hearing what people think/feel that are not currently part of a church in regards to marriage/wedding stuff.

    • Liz

      i fully support the idea that a church has the right to determine which marriages align best with their beliefs. for me, it’s similar to the cultural problems we can get into when we try to “borrow” from cultures not our own. just putting the wedding in a church can be offensive to that church, if they expect a marriage in the church to reflect specific criteria.

      that said.

      there’s no need to be rude to folks seeking out a building. or dismissive- which is what i encountered most. also, i had my own officiant (an ordained minister) with whom we were attending premarital counseling for over 6 months. also, in light of the fact that i was speaking to churches within my own denomination, i find it appalling that they were so unflinching.

    • Kim

      That’s absolutely true. However, I would point out that even if people are faithful churchgoers, they might not be getting married where they live and are a part of a community. Nowadays, people move around all the time for work, for love, for whatever reason, and it’s hard to set down roots sometimes, not to mention people who are traipsing out of state (or even country!) to marry. I know it was a pain in the hoo-ha for us to find a place that would work with us in our particular situation. And we were lucky in the fact that we did find a welcoming place and a lovely Rev.

      A church absolutely has the right not to marry people, but I would think that they could at least meet once to discuss their particular situation rather than just saying they don’t marry people who aren’t a member of the parish/congregation. We understood that there were limitations in place in order to prevent people from breezing in, talking solely about the ceremony, marrying in a pretty building and breezing right back out, and we actually agreed with them. But I’d just hate for a faithful couple to not get married in a house of God because a church lady (or other individual) blew them off without a second thought because of assumptions they may have made about the couple. That’s all.

    • peanut

      OK so I am super non-religious and definitely not Catholic, but I have quite a few Catholic friends (from SF, incidentally) who recently got married … I sense that there are some “lapsed Catholics” that aren’t really into the Church as adults but then decide that they must have a gorgeous Catholic wedding when they get engaged. I am not at all saying that this is you, Lauren, but I think that people like the Church Lady from USF probably get a lot of inquiries from brides who just want to use the Church for their wedding and nothing else, and this is probably pretty offensive to Catholics who take the religion seriously. She obviously should not have been rude to you without fully understanding your sitch, but I imagine she gets calls from people who “kind of” go to Church fairly often and is just sick of it…

  • i just decided to not get married in the Catholic Church, and I am from a very big Irish Catholic family, where I went to Catholic school for most of my life, where my Mom was the principal of my little Catholic grade school. I was religious most of my life, gradually growing from big C Catholic to little c catholic and then – when the religious didn’t fit, didn’t feed, and didn’t answer my questions anymore, I quietly let it go. No announcements to my family, no big protests, or awkward conversation over the dining room table. It was a personal decision and one I was very comfortable with.

    Then came the engagement. Anyway, long story short, my Dad was devastated when he found out that there was not going to be a Priest at our wedding. DEVASTATED. It made me cry 6 days into wedding planning (6! I thought I’d get a week, at least!) It made – and still makes – me deliriously uncomfortable to have my religion, or lack thereof, or my faith, which doesn’t have a label, put out there, especially given how my family has reacted this far. Marriage is a highly public celebration of something very, very personal. Personal sh*t is hard to put out there. I’m focusing that this is the beginning of my family, the next step for my adult self to take, and it’s going to be okay. Because whatever it is, whatever our marriage looks like, it has to be authentic. And, to quote my lovely fiancee, “Sar, what begins as you getting married in the Church to make your Dad happy, ends with us fake baptizing our kids.”

  • Jovi

    Thanks, Lauren. This was really timely for me. I have a similar relationship to the Catholic church as you do, and had thought that because of that a Catholic wedding is not an option for us. (I know some churches which will not marry a couple that lives together, for example.) But the idea of a completely secular ceremony saddens me, and I’ve been hoping to include some prayers at least. Maybe, though, I could explore working with the church as you are.

    Also, absolutely agree with the point about facing your relationships as they are, not as you wish they were. Relationship with religion most definitely included.

    • Your point about relationship with religion being included in facing up to relationships as they really are very nicely expresses something I’ve been trying, and failing, to concisely articulate for a while now. For us, getting married by a justice of the peace instead of going with our initial assumption that we would be married under the auspices of a church was the right choice for us for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with faith or doctrine, but it took me (in particular) some real emotional work to face that my/our relationship with religion wasn’t what I wished/liked to think it was. We still expect to, at some point, go for convalidation or the blessing of a civil marriage (depending on which direction we end up bridging the seems-small-but-oh-hey-it’s-really-not gap), but we were – and are – not there yet.

      • Jovi

        Yeah, I know what you mean about reconciling religious vs. secular issues when you feel you’re in an in-between state. I know I want to be with my boyfriend for the rest of my life. I don’t have that certainty about a church or denomination. And, well, I don’t think we can rush to resolve that or put the wedding on hold until we do.

        So I have to consider that though I am ready to commit to marriage, maybe I am in a different place religiously, and should instead relate to that journey place where I am now instead of that secure place of my childhood and fantasy.

  • Other Katelyn

    The religious ceremony question is a biggie for me – my folks are both (!) ordained pastors and actively leading religious organizations, and now as an adult, I don’t go to church at all. It gives me panic attacks and makes me cry (note to all clergy couples: careful with your kids, yo). Plus, my sister recently came out, which makes the traditional marriage-is-for-man-plus-woman stance of our denomination even more personally offensive than it already been. My boyfriend was baptized Catholic, raised fairly secular, then converted to Protestant Christianity in high school – and though he doesn’t go to church either, he wants to start going. With me. It’s becoming apparent that I’m going to have to figure out a way to have a religious ceremony that won’t make me want to die on my wedding day… and that will probably require premarital counseling with a pastor, and I’m starting to feel panicked just thinking about the whole ordeal.

    Lauren, awesome post – I clearly have some processing to do around this stuff! Can I ask if you’re getting hitched at Holy Names? Because that school is GORGEOUS.

    • Yes!!! That’s my high school. :) And good luck with processing all that is wedding planning/figuring out who you are with religion, family, boyfriend, blahblahblah. It’s a constant process and I love what meg says in the intro of this post, “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.” That was an ah ha moment for me. It put a name on what I’m feeling a LOT of the time, in a good way, in a hard way.

    • Vmed

      Have you looked at the United Church of Christ? They’re very much about an inclusive, loving God, and Carbon Girl recently said that their officiant from UCC was very good about not making a cring-ey sermon.

      Each congregation is a little different but at least some of their churches marry same sex couples, and their motto is something like “Jesus didn’t turn anyone away, neither do we”. Not all churches are fire and brimstone-y or tear inducing with the hoops to jump through.

  • love love love. love.

    We found a pastor about a week before our wedding (a whoooole other story) and we were really uncomfortable because we didn’t know what he believed, and we did use our wedding in a quiet soapbox way, if that can happen. However, when he got to the ceremony, he was wearing his white robe and a rainbow stole. When asked, he said that was the church’s way (and individual pastor’s) who wanted to support LGBT marriage. I thought that was amazing.

    Now, I know this isn’t what this post is necessarily about, but I found that to be uh-mazing at our wedding. And yay for finding an *open* minded Priest to perform your wedding.

  • Class of 1980

    “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?”

    I don’t understand what Deacon Steve said above. Anyone can get married by the State in a secular marriage. What is stopping them?

    Unless the Catholic church won’t perform the sacrament of marriage if the couple already had a secular marriage, I don’t understand the point he was making.

    • Erin R

      The state is stopping them, and DOMA. I can’t get married by the state, because my partner is the same sex as me. I think that was Deacon Steve’s point — that people who can’t/don’t want to get married by the Catholic church should still be able to get married by the state.

      • Erin R

        Actually, let me be more specific. We can’t get LEGALLY married where we live, which is New York. But we can go to MA and get legally married, and it will be sort-of recognized in NY. And even if it’s not legally recognized, no one can actually stop us from getting married.

    • Alyssa

      I think when you marry outside the Catholic Church it’s a sin and in order to get your marriage recognized you have to go through covalidation.
      But if it’s viewed as just a legal ceremony from the get-go and your “real” marriage (in the eyes of the Church) happens separately, then it’s okay.

      I THINK. Someone smarter than me (i.e. damn near everybody) correct me.

      • That’s my rough understanding, too, that there is a difference between a baptized/confirmed Catholic (I’m not sure of the exact criteria) choosing to get married outside the Church and then seeking to have the marriage affirmed on the religious side, and non-Catholics getting married outside the Church but then coming to Catholicism at a later point.

        But the other side to this is that I have heard that same “I wish church and state were fully separated on the business of marriage” stance from people who are very much anti-gay marriage — because the current setup basically means any ordained clergy with a congregation in the state is automatically vested with the authority to legalize a marriage (rules vary about other clergy depending on jurisdiction, but that part seems pretty universal in the US), they have fears (I suspect unfounded) that should gay marriage be legal in their state, they could be required to perform same-sex marriages despite their own and the church’s beliefs, just as a secular authority is not permitted to discriminate on that basis. It doesn’t seem like that’s what Deacon Steve was getting at in this case, but I have heard that particular line from people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

        • Liz

          i’ve heard that, too, but i don’t think it’s likely to happen. some ministers refuse to marry a couple if they’ve had premarital sex. some refuse to marry couples that aren’t from within their own congregation, etc.

      • Actually, that’s not the case. During our Catholic marriage prep there were several couples who were having a convalidation and the instructors made it very clear that those couples were already and legitimately married. Marriage is the only sacrament that you and your spouse perform. (i.e., the priest doesn’t actually marry you, he’s just a witness to you marrying yourselves) So while it’s not considered ideal, it’s certainly not a sin to get married outside of the church. Convalidation is only a blessing, if I understand it correctly. It’s more of a let’s-involve-the-community-in-our-marriage thing. Which I think is beautiful.

        • Alyssa

          See, it was my understanding that the Church wouldn’t recognize your marriage. Which is why you don’t need an formal annulment if you were married outside of the Catholic Church and then divorced. Cause you weren’t “really” married in the eyes of the Church.

          I dunno, I’m not even officially a real Catholic because I was never confirmed, so I should probably shut it. But if that’s not true, that’s SO much nicer. And really beautiful, like you said.

          • Bee

            She’s right, a convalidation is a blessing, but all marriages are considered sacramental (all marriage is a sacrament as far as the church is concerned!), no matter who performed the ceremony or where it was done. The Church says that it is best for two people to be married within the Church, however, they recognize (and God recognizes) any marriage between two consenting adults as long as there is a witness and the two people are a man and a woman. Actually, marriage outside the Catholic church is viewed in a similar way to baptism outside the Church. Technically, anyone can baptize anyone else and it is legitimate. The Church says that it’s best when it’s done by a priest, but anyone can do it. That’s why when someone becomes Catholic, if they were baptized in another church they don’ t need to be baptized again.

          • Another Thea

            Annulment is for marriages that are under the jurisdiction of canon law (i.e. were performed in the Catholic Church). If you wanted to get married again and you hadn’t had a civil divorce, you’d have to complete the divorce in order to marry in the Catholic Church. If your denomination has rules about not marrying more than once (see the Episcopal church before the 1970s or so), and you wanted to get remarried to a Catholic, the Catholic Church would require that you square it with your denomination first. But you wouldn’t need an annulment for either of those cases. It’s all about in whose backyard you’re in.

            Another beautiful idea about the RCC: I was told once that canon law is supposed to be modeled on Roman law, which was (originally) meant to be flexible according to the different peoples under Roman rule. What worked for Iberia might not work for Gaul, and so on. So, while we commonly understand a rule or law as, “here is the law, obey it,” canon law is perhaps better understood as “here is the law, apply it.” It’s a pity that that way of understanding it isn’t more widely known!

            Also, the Church several years ago gave directions to the clergy that in all cases, laws and directives are to be applied so as to promote the sacramental nature of the issue. In other words, whatever will bring the most joy, preserve the faith of the believer, etc, is the interpretation to be applied, as long as the law isn’t contradicted.

            There are many, many changes in the RCC now, and they’ve made HUGE steps in ecumenism. Don’t give up if one parish is unfriendly.

        • zannie

          I wonder what would happen to a crazy person who would dare to suggest something like that to a catholic priest in Poland. Me and my now-husband were refused wedding prep in one of the churches because we lived together and had to find some other church that would understand that (funny fact – it wasn’t the sex that was a problem. The priest – and not some crazy person but otherwise clever and eloquent man – told us that it doesn’t matter if we have pre-marriage sex or not. The fact that we live together makes other people THINK that we have sex so one of us should move out. wtf.)
          But before we were thrown out of the class, we met a couple that also lived together because they were already married by state and I think even had a child. They shared our fate and were told that secular marriage is not a true marriage and therefore they sinned by living together, having sex and child while not being married. Of course I heard of priests that are more than happy to perform sacrament for such couples, because it’s always good to help someone go back to living according to God’s law. But this reasonable point of view seems to be rarity in Poland. That’s why the part about “European way” made me chuckle. But maybe Poland is not very European;)

      • Another Thea

        Nope. It’s totally valid. I talked to a deacon a few years ago about it, and he explained that in the Church’s eyes, there’s a difference between “valid” and “licit.” The marriage is real, and there is the recognition that it took place, but it’s outside canon law, in the sense that everyone who gets married outside the Catholic church is not subject to canon law.

        In the Catholic Church, the *couple* are the “ministers” of the marriage–they are the essential elements and there is no valid marriage unless both parties freely enter into it. The priest provides official recognition of the Church, instruction, and blessing. Among many things. In other words, you could decide, by yourselves, on a desert island, that you were married, and it would be valid, but if you wanted it to be licit, you would need to visit a priest after you got off the island!

        It’s my understanding that in other denominations, this is NOT the case–no priest = no marriage, valid, licit, or otherwise.

        I hope I’m explaining this right. Like I said, it’s been a while.

    • Liz

      he was speaking directly to lauren’s question about homosexuality. i think his point was that, religiosity aside, the state should be willing and able to marry anyone.

      the catholic church has a specific spoken stance on gay marriage. but that should not interfere with what the state does or doesn’t do- though it may inhibit gay couples from using a catholic church.

  • “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.”

    YES. Except this happened to me when I was 13 and my parents were divorcing… The church and priest handled the process so terribly that I walked away then and never looked back…

    Except that I DO look back because you become accustomed to the way the Catholic Church does things, and trying another faith usually ends up feeling like “Catholic Lite.” Or worse. My fiance and I haven’t affiliated yet (We’re getting married by a lovely Universalist pastor), but I know that we plan to when we start trying for a family. Bravo to you for finding Deacon Steve, a compassionate and honest priest who doesn’t act like the problems of “mere parishioners” are beneath him. You’re being genuine to yourself, and that will make your day that much more special. Thank you for sharing. :)

  • Elaine

    I have to be a bit of a dissenting voice here. Yes, the woman was rude on the phone and could have been more encouraging and welcoming rather than just hanging up on you. But I think it is reasonable to say that if someone isn’t part of that church and doesn’t attend mass there (or anywhere) then it isn’t the right place for them to do marriage prep. Why is it important to get married in the church if you don’t participate in the church community?

    After the conversation Lauren could have said, well yes it is important for me to get married in the church and religion is an important part of my life so we will start attending mass every Sunday, at USF or a different parish.

    • Alyssa

      But she told her to check other DENOMINATIONS, not churches. Cause apparently she’s not good enough to be Catholic because her life isn’t working in a way that she can attend mass at a specific church regularly right now. That’s just awful.

    • Liz A

      Dude! That lady was so mean. Telling her she isn’t a TRUE Catholic? Get out. That makes me so angry.

      And it’s not like the Catholic Church couldn’t deal with some good PR. You know, for all that bad stuff TRUE Catholics did.

      Oh, and btw, what they really mean when they tell you you can’t get married at a Catholic Church because you don’t regularly attend is that you can’t get married at a Catholic Church because you don’t give them money.

      • Alyssa

        There are bad people across the board, regardless of faith. And while your comment is true of some Catholic churches, it’s not true of all. We’re not allowed to be mean in broad strokes either….be mean about the lady, like me! :-)

        • And you know, even the mean lady might have been having an exceedingly bad day, and might even have already fielded multiple phone calls that day from some…shall we say, more demanding? whiny? capricious? brides.

          • Alyssa

            Why you gotta be all reasonable n’ nice n’ sh*t, Jennifer? :-)

          • Wsquared

            Yes. One thing I’ve noticed is that fees for getting married in a particular parish vary, depending on how long you’ve been with the parish and have been contributing. Someone who’s been contributing and attending regularly for years is obviously going to pay less than someone who’s coming in out of town.

            I’d only just joined my parish in Philadelphia, despite attending for many years (I never thought to join, because I thought I was only passing through Philly, and I never took getting married as a given. As I once barked in the middle of a conversation with my mom, “how the heck did I know I was going to get married?!”). I found out that the fee was steep, but that I could understand why. But, the priests at the parish are awesome, fee or no fee. A Catholic marriage can be performed either in the bride’s parish or the groom’s parish.

            Unfortunately, priests and churches really do deal with capricious couples who just want to get married in a pretty church, despite not attending or contributing. It’s a factor in downtown Philly, where there are a lot of the more decorous wedding venues within walking distance. So, not to dismiss Lauren at all, for the parish secretary did not have to be rude. And yet, there’s this sort of thing going on, too.

            I agree with others who have brought up how much priests see it as their responsibility to help the couple prepare for marriage, and that they take the undertaking seriously, because it is their vocation. They feel that they would be doing both the couple and their vocation an injustice otherwise. So while it’s okay for you to feel frustrated, they’re not necessarily being inflexible or rigid just to spite you or make you feel bad or because they just want to exclude you. It’s because they take their integrity seriously.

            Also, living together is something that the Church does not treat lightly, but for the reasons that Liz brought up in an earlier post about not having sex before marriage: they want to know that there is more than sex binding the two of you together, and that yes, sex can play with your emotions. They want to know that the “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live” part is gonna make it.

            Besides, they are aware that many couples cohabit, and while the Church is not cool with that, their pastors and deacons are nonetheless instructed to approach cohabiting couples with compassion. And I say this, by the way, as a person who has shared a bed with her fiance. Our priest was very, very kind to us. Most of these priests, after all, are not all clumsy, and they aren’t all naive.

        • Liz A

          I know, I know. I’m still smarting from my own rejection (from the church I attended for 17 years! Where the deacon in charge of marriage was an old family friend! Where my father was PRINCIPAL of the GRAMMAR SCHOOL! *rawr*) and have allowed it to color my comments.

          And no, not all Catholic churches are mean, but a lot are. I do love the Jesuits.

          I think also that a lot of this negativity and meanness with regards to lifelong Catholics who are being turned away for marriage and other sacraments is driving people who are interested in being a part of faith-based communities into other religions. To me, it seems like something that you’d want to identify and address as an organization.

          • Alyssa

            BOO. I’m sorry to hear that. But maybe you can focus that frustration in supporting something that is more tolerant and understanding.

            Or you can just kick something. But don’t hurt yourself. And then go get ice cream.

          • Liz A

            I am :) I’ve found a faith-based community that I feel comfortable with in the Episcopalians.

            Gays, lady priests and married priests are A. OK. And they baptize babies in the ocean. How cool is that?

            And our Parish secretary lady is a Reformed Catholic as well, so we’re down.

          • zannie

            The policy of excluding actually made me look for other denominations. Because I really don’t care if Mary was a virgin, the important part for me is to find a religious community and some way to celebrate my faith in God. But I grew up as a Catholic and I would very much like to see some tolerance and less excluding policy. I mean, shouldn’t true believers be happy that a person who usually isn’t that religious (skips Sunday celebrations, uses birth control, etc) when it comes to important, ground-shaking, life-changing decisions like marriage automatically turns to Catholic church?
            This really, really bothers me.

    • Liz

      i participate in a church community very actively. our pastor from that community was our officiant and marriage counselor. our church community was in attendance. but our “church” building is a school gym. it was important for me to be married in an actual church building to represent the spiritual aspect of what we were deciding to do- in front of and with our church community.

      for me, it was less about the specific building and more about what it represented as a house of worship.

    • I also want to throw in that at least for me, the marriage prep was diocesan-run and was not controlled by individual parishes. So it wouldn’t make a difference if she were technically a parishoner there or not, she still would have gotten the same marriage prep classes.

    • Moz

      As a Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday but doesn’t receive Communion, I take umbrage at the woman who was rude and insulting and HUNG UP ON LAUREN. The lady from the parish walked away from the conversation without being diplomatic or in any way tactful. It does those of us who are polite but also hold orthodox beliefs a disservice.

      Catholics have a reputation for walking away from conversations they don’t like. Case in point.

  • Kashia

    That’s the thing about planning a wedding that I wasn’t prepared for. The choices we make about where we get married and by who are public statements. Up until now I’ve been able to go to church and find quiet ways to reconcile my personal faith with the days readings or the overarching theological stance of the church. Now though we are having a wedding ceremony, and some of those things that I have deeply personal issues with theologically are in the wedding service. And reconciling to that is hard. It’s making me question a lot of things I had thought I had already dealt with, and makes me wonder if getting married in the church is the right decision for us. I come from a family and community where people are either loudly atheist/humanist, unobtrusively religious or indifferent, so I don’t have anyone that I’m close to to really have these conversations with either.

  • MAN I’ve had such a similar experience to yours, but I’ve never blogged about it because I hate contributing to negativity towards the Catholic church, and I know that’s how anything I write would be construed. I’m very socially liberal who totes lives in sin, but I go to church every single weekend and I’m looking forward to raising my children Catholic.

    I called MY church first. Emailed, actually, in December of last year. I explained that I was going to marry a Jewish man, and needed to be married on a Sunday (he has several family members who will.not. drive on Shabbat, and it’s important to us that they are able to attend). The parish secretary replied that they didn’t perform weddings on Sundays but that she’d forward my email along to the priests.

    Seven. Months. Later. After multiple emails and calls between myself and the secretary, and leaving messages, I got a call from the Monsignor, who SCOLDED me for approaching him after mass one weekend because that “was not the time.” Regardless, I made an appointment with him, for 2 months from the date of that phone call, because that was the earliest he was available. And, um, he’s my priest! The priest who celebrated the first mass my fiance and I ever attended together! The priest whose homilies we loved and who we’d been talking about marrying us since the very beginning! The priest who had heard my confession during really dark times in my life! This guy just HAD to marry me.

    Between the first email and the seven-month-belated call, I checked with other local priests, and got the, “You need to go through your own parish,” speech a few times. Another parish in our diocese owns a tract of land where they celebrate Easter mass outside each year, and we thought maybe we could have our wedding there, but their secretary just told me to talk to my parish. Again. My sister was the assistant for the CCD class at her parish (also in our diocese) and told me that the priest leading the class had said that Catholic marriages were always celebrated IN a Catholic church, except in the case that a Catholic was marrying a Jew, since their weddings are traditionally outdoors. I called them, and they were extremely understanding and helpful and couldn’t believe my priest had been so unresponsive, and so I made an appointment with them.

    I ended up going to the meeting with my priest, the Monsignor, and it went really well. He apologized for the delay and gave us his direct cell number, and confirmed that we could have our wedding outside because of the certain interfaith situation, and even agreed to do it on a Sunday. A Sunday when he’d already had plans to do something else. We cancelled the meeting with the other priest and are moving forward with the Monsignor, and just hoping all goes well for the next year.

    We just got our PreCana questionnaire packet and will be completing all of our sessions next month. So we’ll see how it goes. I can’t wait to read more about your experience with this!

    • Moz

      This is EXACTLY it. Those of us brought up orthodox have been made to feel that if we criticise or have a problem that we can only talk about it amongst ourselves. Catholics have never liked to admit that they have problems on the inside, from WAY back.

      The thing is, these are conversations we NEED to have. For our own faith, for our marriages and friendships and everything.

      The problem is, when you don’t identify strongly with either orthodox or lapsed Catholics, you’re generally left feeling very alone. I am so SO grateful for this post, because there are so many of us who fall into this category that no one is prepared to admit to.

  • Liz

    i think that whenever we discuss religion or spirituality, it’s important to remember that we are speaking about representatives of a certain faith- and not the entire faith in general. our perspectives of a certain denomination cannot be based on the crappy actions of one person.

    imagine if the rest of life was like that. i would hate to tell someone i’m a teacher, and then have them base their perspective of me on that mean old lady in second grade who never let them use the potty.

  • Unfortunately, Catholic Church and State are not so unboned in Europe, or at least in Spain. Here, the Catholic Church can legally marry you and is the only religion that is allowed do it. You can still get married out of Church but is a common believe (changing nowadays, fortunately) that you marriage is of second category. For example: we usually attend to wedding in a black tie or cocktail attire but, if you are getting married non-religiously, then, people dress less formaly because “it’s a civil marriage”.

    • zannie

      Same in Poland. Besides, many people who are not at all religious get married in a catholic church because it’s prettier. You know, that wonderful while dress with a train looks much better in a XVIIth century church than in a registry office.

  • KA

    I didn’t have time to chime in last time, so I wanted to say Lauren, I’m so glad that you’re here! I had finished reading the archives of Meg’s planning process, and was craving more. :)

    And I really admire the work and dedication you are putting into finding/creating the environment and ceremony you two want to be married in. Deacon Steve sounds AWESOME. Individuals like that are exactly the reason I would never completely eliminate a future return to the Church (after quite a confessional) for myself.

  • Vmed

    I just want to throw this out there for other Catholic brides who are struggling with mixed (catholic + baptized Protestant) or interfaith (catholic + nonbaptized person) issues: If you do all the marriage preparation for your diocese (that’s usually by region or state) you can get permission or a dispensation (from catholic marriage canon) from the bishop to have your wedding not IN a catholic church and not done by a priest or deacon.

    So say… my fellow was baptized lutheran and his family (strict lutherans) is going to be unhappy about a catholic church wedding. My next steps are to talk to my local parish priest about getting permission to have the wedding in another “appropriate” setting (a protestant house of worship, perhaps?) so no one has a heart attack when they see a bunch of statues of Mary all over. Avoiding family conflict is something worth bending the rules for. We then either use the protestant officiant with a priest nearby for the sake of solidarity, or we can get permission from the protestant church to bring in a different pastor of our choosing. The intention and vows are said once. It’s still a catholic marriage.

    That piece of information blew me away- it’s still a catholic wedding even when you are not married by a catholic priest if you set it up beforehand, and if one of you is catholic.

    Furthermore, the Catholic church would rather you have only ONE wedding ceremony to symbolize the unity of the couple and support from your community. They really just want your marriage to work.

    • Another Thea

      Yes, yes, yes. Also, y’all, check the Association of Interchurch Families. They have a good deal of wonderful, wise material on being in an interfaith/ interchurch marriage, and how to cope.

  • Nothing in the Catholic Church is easy. Just to be a Godparents, my fiance & I had to produce certificates proving we were active members of a Catholic Church. I was heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to be a Godmother because I hadn’t attended church regularly since I was 13 (my friend chose me for my spirituality not for being a good Catholic girl). Thankfully, my childhood church came through for me & produced said certificate & I was able to be a Godmother.

    My fiance wants to get married in the Catholic Church because it’s important to him so I signed up to be married there. Because we’d already jumped the Godparent hoops, it was slightly easier for us when we wanted to get married at the same church. Easier, not easy. We have to deal with the cranky church lady. We sat through a Pre-Cana that was like a huge college lecture class, nothing like the personal, helpful ones friends had attended. We are not allowed to ask any questions about our ceremony- like can my Godmother sing a song or can we incorporate Filipino customs- until we are contacted by the Priest. We’re two months out & we have yet to hear from him. For me, the ceremony is the most important thing & it’s very frustrating not to be able to plan it. But I keep the faith that plenty of couples have gone before us & it works out so our ceremony will too.

    • Kim

      Well, to be fair, the Catholic church doesn’t have a monopoly on that part . . . there’s not a whole lot about the whole marriage/wedding process that’s easy, is it??

      • Kim

        which often times makes it that much more rewarding . . .

  • Bridette

    I agree, agree, agree with the above emails – Im Catholic and like many, don’t go to church as often as I should…I also don’t agree with the church as often as I should….and don’t call me a cafeteria Catholic, I detest that.

    Im marrying a Baptist – the priest didn’t even bat an eye – said its a dispensation of something or other – As long as my fiance is a baptized Christian , he’s cool. We are going through pre-cana now and people, if you can find a FOCCUS (the questionnaire from pre-cana) its AMAZING…it has sex questions and everything…even a section on co-habitating couples (which we are) and interfaith couples. The priest didn’t have a problem with either.

    As for the sudden urge to be married Catholic when I have been questioning my faith since Pope Benedict showed up – I finally got help…from a Jewish friend. He doesn’t believe in God. I keep asking him how thats possible? (not the not believing, the identification as Jewish). He says he is culturally Jewish. He explained he feels its more than a religion, its a lifestyle, its his race. I have to agree thats a lot of how I feel…except I love Jesus :)

    Whether Im institutionally connected or not, I am a Catholic – born, raised and educated for more than 13 years in the faith. We have the guilt, the little church ladies, the nuns, the doubt, everything. For me, it is more than my faith, it is who I am….

    Besides, I disagree with my parents too, it doesn’t mean Im not their daughter.


      Yes! I totally get this. I have always explained to people that I am culturally Catholic, not religiously Catholic.

  • Meg

    Saw the words “Catholic high school chapel” and “Seattle” and just realized that Lauren and I went to high school together. Small world…

  • MeitsMo

    Lauren, Thank you for your thoughtful post and opening up this wonderful discussion. Its scary to post online and you do it with grace and class like Megalicious! Fabulous commenter’s thank you for your perspective, it is wonderful to learn about all these different ideas, and that you all enable ideas to respectfully disagree with each other! I too am engaged, I too was raised Catholic, but I am not getting married in Catholic ceremony in a church. My fiancé was baptized in the Catholic Church in Central America but not raised Catholic. I will be the first in a long, long, long line of men and women in my family not married in the church. It breaks my heart. I am bringing up my choosing not to be married in the church because I felt like I was coming from a similar place of a lot of the commentators but ended up on the other side of the coin, I hope I am not being redundant- but you guys can scroll past me if I am! Which you might anyways because this is a long post!

    I learned incredible human values of compassion, open-heartedness, the power of asking questions of our authorities, and standing up for our values and others even when its really hard from the Catholic church. My church community accepted with open arms people who didn’t fit the doctrine of what a Catholic should look like, and who a Catholic should love. My church community doesn’t even have its own church; we are churchless Catholics who have mass in whatever Catholic building will take us! My Nana was raised by the church; literally, my Dad was studying to become a priest until he was asked to leave his studies due to his Vietnam War protesting. My Mom is a feminist in the Church. My Aunts and Uncles all attend Church. Sorry for rambling, I feel like I need to qualify my Catholic street cred in order for my point to be heard…because I’ve got this incredibly supportive and open minded Catholic community, and I’m not getting married in the church. I am from Boston where the church has barely survived the troubles of its own making from sexual abuse, and sexual abuse allegations. I don’t want to jump on any band wagon of hating on the church because that’s wrong, and its easy to hate the status quo religion, and in Boston its certainly the Catholic Church. I guess what I’m trying to say, is I am not taking my not getting married in the Church lightly. At all.

    I’ve gone back and forth on the issue, and can not reconcile getting married in a place that tells some of my faithful family members, friends and community that they can’t get married there because of who they are creating their family unit with. Who they are choosing to support them on their life journey, to support them in their faith. I repeat, this does not mean that I don’t respect and understand people who get married in the Church and have my feelings, I am just saying I can’t… and I’m really struggling. I am sad to break something as intrinsic and intimate as family tradition that goes back longer then the books can record. I’d love to be the dissenting voice on the inside that says Catholics define oursleves by what we are: pro- loving, pro-activist, pro-family, pro-love, pro-peace, pro-humanity because that was my Catholic experience- those were the hands that held me. But that’s not what the over-all Catholic Church doctrine is, and that is something I can’t reconcile. This inability to reconcile for me touches gender issues, international human rights issues, racial issues and many more.

    So I am choosing not to get married in the Church…and it is hard. Not as hard as being rejected by the Church like some of my community has been, just a different kind of hard. Some of my family is hurt and supportive, some of my family gets it and is supportive- all in all I’m well supported and loved so how can I complain- right? I don’t want my wedding to be a soap box but it is going to be one because its not going to be in the Church, and thats ok. I’m a cut and dry kid, you either do or don’t support something. You either do or don’t have someone’s back. I do respect shades of gray, but in this situation, for me, and I continue to speak for only me, I can’t see them. I can’t imagine a wedding for me and my fiancé that didn’t embody how we feel about the issue I heard phrased so perfectly on an amazing APW post-our cups can not over flow with joy until all cups over flow with joy (or something to that effect). My honey and I are an interracial couple, thank goodness people before us made sure the marriage doors were left open to us. They weren’t always.

    Some people like Deacon Steve and the amazing Lauren need to stay in the Church and hold those doors open for everyone- what an incredible blessing you are for the Church helping guide it toward love! And I also believe, while deeply respecting the struggle that has been talked about in today’s post and comments, that some people like me who love the Church and fit into the Church’s vision of what a Catholic looks like/ what gender a Catholic marries, need to leave and say parameters that exclude some faithful, are not parameters that Catholics can abide by and so they exclude all faithful. I recognize that what I am saying is on one level a disagreement in terms. Being the religion major that I was in college, I am putting forward those two terms because I believe there can be parallel truths. Parallel ‘fighting the good fights’ if you will.

    I want to articulate again and again how much I respect the choice to stay and fight to keep those doors open, I just wanted to bring up the other side of that because I do believe both are necessary and worth talking about. Thank you again for everyone’s thoughts and posts earlier, you all help me articulate some of these feelings more precisely, and always help me grow!

    • I can totally relate to this. My decision on whether or not to marry in the church has been kind of forced but I still struggle with what that means in the longer term – am I making a decision not to marry in the church or am I saying that although I identify with the faith (leaving aside the controlvertial stuff) that I don’t want to be part of it until it changes even to the extent that I have to accept that I can’t bring up my own children in the faith? And that is a really hard decision when you think about how much your early life is shaped by religeous ceremonies etc. The alternative is as you say to stay in the chruch and actively participate to demonstrate true Christian values to others. I’ve been winding myself up alot about these things recently and Iits great to know that other people have similar issues.

  • Magdalena

    Honestly, I can see where the Mean Church Lady is coming from – although she should NOT have been mean :(

    This is how it goes in a lot of parishes: the bride calls up and says she wants to get married at the parish – or “rent the church.”

    The secretary bites her tongue about how the church is not available to “rent” and checks the rolls. She finds out that the couple is not registered at the parish. Upon inquiry it is freely admitted that the couple attend Mass “occasionally.” When asked how much of their “time, talent and treasure” they give, the bride says that they put a couple dollar bills, or some change, in the collection plate. The secretary swallows a tart remark about how it costs more than small change to turn the lights on in the morning for the 364 days a year that the church is open before the wedding day.

    Meanwhile the pastor has been hearing from the bride about how his church is such a nice “venue.” The pastor twitches whenever the V word is mentioned.

    And during marriage prep it turns out that the bride and groom agree with about 20% of what the Church actually teaches about sex and marriage and life itself, and really have more of an Episcopalian outlook on things. There’s nothing wrong with an Episcopalian outlook… except when the person who has it claims (to themselves? to others?) to be Catholic.

    All in all it makes the parish staff rather jaded about the women (or men) who call to see about getting married. Their constant contact with the Me Me Me What’s That About Jesus? How Nice Bride has gotten to them and eaten their heart out. The WIC has so many victims.

    The staff go right for the rolls to check if you attend Mass and donate more to the Church than the average cell phone bill, because people who get out of bed on Sundays and give more to God than they do to Verizon are less likely to be trying to use the church for a pretty venue for the Wedding Show and more likely to “get it” when it comes to the Church’s teaching about marriage. They don’t understand why a institution that you’ve ignored for most of your life, and disagree with vehemently, suddenly becomes very important for your wedding day – unless you’re just going for scenery. So that’s what they suspect.

    But what the Church People should be doing is getting off their high horse and taking the opportunity to evangelize and catechize people who perhaps have just absorbed what the culture teaches about sex and marriage. Catholicism is deeply radical and counter-cultural, and it’s not the default position. Duh. Bride and groom don’t go to Mass and mostly want to know if they can use flash photography during the ceremony? Teach them what a sacrament is and how going to Mass is important for building community and strengthening their new family. Bride is clueless about contraception? Teach teach teach! I never understood why birth control was wrong until a priest asked me, “I know you know WHAT sex is, but can you tell me WHY sex is?” These are not questions the culture poses! There are middle-aged mothers of three running around who have never given any thought to why we have sex.

    But instead of taking the teaching approach, a lot of the Church Folk, including the secretaries, just lash out at the bride at any convenient opportunity. Or charge an obscene amount to try to encourage Catholic In Name or Heritage Only couples to choose something else. Not the approach Jesus would take. But I guess what I’m trying to say is, they’re only human, and if you cut them a break maybe they’ll cut you a break, too.

    • Magdalena

      Can I just say I am shocked, shocked! That as of right now 5 people have exactlyed this! Could it be I am not the only strange more socially conservative-ish reader of APW out there?

    • Wsquared

      Magdalena, lovely to see you weighing in on this issue. Because you elaborate on Catholic-related issues so eloquently.

      Given that I’ve been grumbling about the WIC and its nauseating exhortations about how your wedding and your wedding Venue has to be “perfect and unique” (*barf*), I can see where priests who grumble about couples who see their church merely as a “venue” can get annoyed. Given that I found out that there’s a perfectly good reason for why Catholics don’t get married outside– namely that the sacrament is where the focus should be, and distinct from “worldly distractions” and yes, that means any worries about how “perfect and unique” your wedding or your wedding venue is. Having your ceremony in a special place away from all those sorts of worries helps you to be “present in the moment.”

      That said, I agree wholeheartedly about evangelization and having the compassion to make things a “teachable moment,” instead of being gruff and rude (if indeed they are, and not all are).

      I think you said it before (and it bears repeating), that there is something beautiful about how the same church will marry a well-off couple and a not-so-well-off couple, and that they still receive the same sacrament. Now how anti-WIC is that? Now there is some plain awesomeness. It is the sacrament that speaks for itself, and not the “venue” or all the sometimes overwhelmingly fussy “small details”

    • meg

      Guysssss…. as I mentioned below: For the record, because it wasn’t clear in the post – Lauren was actually calling to find out if they could do their Pre-Cana in town at USF, even though they were getting married in Seattle. And, USF does marry students that have recently graduated, so even if she was calling about getting married she would have been in the clear.

      I’m a member of a shul, remember? I pay **thousands** of dollars a year to support said shul. My shul only marries members, like most congregations. That’s not news. No one was suggesting that it was. I’m religious (remember???) I know how this works.

      This situation, however, was different, so rushing to conclusions ends up seeming a bit unkind. I also don’t EVER think it’s ok for someone approaching a religious organization in need to be treated like this, no matter what the rules are. But in this case Lauren was asking for something well within her rights. I made it clear that we were not bashing USF in the post, but we were letting Lauren talk about the fact that this experance was painful (obviously).

  • lifesabeach

    Such amazing comments from everyone.

    These kinds of discussions are always really hard for me as I’m a strong practicing Catholic. (and sometimes on other boards it turns into Catholic bashing, which always upsets me) Born and bred. Church every sunday, holy days of obligation mid week- you name it I’m there. Even being liberal on 99% of those ‘big’ issues, I’ve been lucky to be accepted and am able to seperate the amazingness that is mass from some of the crazy doctrine. It’s hard for me to hear people haven’t had that experience-I don’t think it’s christian to shut people out and all of my priests I’ve had growing up and now have been amazing leaders.

    So I knew going in that the rules were going to be tough. Yea, it sucks. I hate that I can’t get married outside (and I used to live in the really liberal diocese that was cool with it) , and I hated that I or my parents had to be members of the parish I got married in. But I guess because I knew that going in and had known it for years, that it didn’t suprise me to have to prepare for that. We’re getting married in the church I attended in college, and I had to get permission from the priest to get married there as none of us have attended there in over a decade, and it’s on their website you have to either be a current member or have graduated within the last 5 years. (lots of girls just want to get married there for the long aisle) Thank goodness, the priest I knew then is still there so we were good to go.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, while it sucks (and that woman was RUDE and WRONG) members only has been pretty much the rule at every religious wedding I’ve ever been to-catholic,protestant, jewish, buddist, or muslim. Yes I think that houses of worship should be open to new members or past members who want to celebrate the sacrament there, but I get that the spiritual connection has a stronger set of guidelines. BUT that houses of worship should also understand that their followers are human beings and use it as a wonderful spiritual teaching moment. THAT is what being a spiritual leader really is all about. And so we all know, it’s not just limited to the Catholic church. A good friend who is Lutheran and whose husband is Catholic were turned down from her church and her parents church because they live together. When she went to talk to the her in-laws church and her husband’ church ‘just to see’-she was so shocked at how supportive they all were at trying to help her that she ended up having a ceremony there instead. “They just all kept telling us, ‘it’s not ideal-but we WANT couples to get married. We want you to be married, we would never turn you away”

    And on a tangent- if a catholic priest or deacon tells you they won’t marry you if you are living together, they are WRONG. I knew that was a issue to, and wanted to have more information in my back pocket. The Catholic Bishops conference has made SEVERAL edicts and has it pretty much front and center on one of their wedding websites, that you can NOT be turned away from being married if you live together. They can ask you to delay (which is just as bad IMO but still) to discern about your spiritual life, but they can NOT refuse to marry you. I would still run far away from anyone that said that, but you better believe I’d print out that stuff and put it in their mailbox.

    • Wsquared

      While one can never censor anyone (and shouldn’t), the Catholic bashing on other boards makes me feel uncomfortable, too. I’m glad that Meg pointed out that she didn’t agree with all of what the Catholic Church taught, but that she respects it. Because while I understand other people’s frustrations with the Church, and I empathize, there often seems to be this feeling that I get online and off that it’s okay to be religious, but being Catholic is less than okay, or that the only Catholics who are “acceptable” are “recovering Catholics” or lapsed ones (and that those who are still practicing “don’t have any self-respect,” can’t be independent women, or are “nuts”). That somehow or other, being Catholic is something one needs to apologize for in order to appear “respectable” or “rational” to certain kinds of people.

    • meg

      For the record, because it wasn’t clear in the post – Lauren was actually calling to find out if they could do their Pre-Cana in town at USF, even though they were getting married in Seattle. And, USF does marry students that have recently graduated, so even if she was calling about getting married she would have been in the clear.

      So, yup, just thought I should clear that bit up way down here in the coments.

  • Moz

    I am really grateful for this post, Lauren. This dilemma doesn’t get talked about much, mostly because orthodox Catholic priests (and their parish ‘secretaries’) can be very exclusive and will not book you because ‘you live in sin’, and more liberal priests often don’t get into the hard stuff in counselling with you and frankly are a let down when it comes to liturgy. (I’m using the second person pronoun here, but I am speaking generally about those of us who don’t fit into either group. The second person plural. The world at large, you get the drift.) I am almost relieved to hear this isn’t just something that happens in Australia and I see a lot of couples have these problems with the Church in my weekend job as a wedding singer. It is not unusual for them to approach ME rather than their priest to try and reconcile what they want with what the Church demands of them. And that’s just on the wedding day!

    This is what happens when ‘you’ are somewhere between lapsed and orthodox. I count myself as one of those people.

    There has to be some middle ground here and we have to fight for it. I will be eagerly reading your blog to hear how you reconcile these issues.

  • Moz

    Wow Meg! Reading all these comments makes me think this is something we need to talk about more!

  • Moz

    OK, last post I promise. PROMISE.

    I wanted to add that a big part of the reason that the Church is now so strict about getting married in the Church is because of divorce. Because divorce is not permitted in the Church (with some exceptions, few and far between) they are a lot more rigorous in screening couples. It’s similar to how careful they are these days about screening men and women entering seminaries and convents. They are protecting their own back collectively as the Church.

    It’s also why shotgun weddings aren’t embraced and why (at least in Australia) you need to give six months notice before marrying. The intent has to be clear.

    This is not to say shotgun weddings are bad, I’m not saying that. I’m simply explaining the Church’s stance.

    (I would also like to apologise for my excessive use of caps lock in my comments on this post.)

    • meg

      Ohhhhhh… I’ve been to a Catholic shotgun wedding. They happen all the time in the states, and they are THE BEST. Seriously.

  • Amy

    First off, I went to a girls school in Minnesota, and I lived a few blocks from the girl’s school in Seattle for the past three years and always felt an affinity every time I walked past – small world?
    My mom has a friend, a priest she “went to high school with” (she at a girl’s school, he at a boy’s school!) who says the same thing as your Deacon, word-for-word. He thinks “the Catholic Church should get out of the wedding business” and should instead focus on blessing weddings. I hate the exclusivity of the Church and its stance on a lot of issues, so it makes me happy to know that there are Father Pats and Deacon Steves out there. That said, I’ve grown to look at being Catholic as a cultural identification because even though there are so many accepting people like Deacon Steve, and even though I have some warm fuzzy feelings about so many parts of the church, there are too many parts of it that don’t jive with my morals and beliefs. I’m the only one of my cousins to think about this and have it shape my wedding decisions. I just eloped and had a small civil ceremony and plan on having a blessing later, but I haven’t told my very religious grandparents yet – something I’m secretly dreading. My cousins, none of whom attend church regularly, and two who were actually confirmed Lutheran, have either been married in the Church or who are planning weddings in the Church. They all live(d) with their partners prior to marriage, and from what I understand, setting up these weddings included a little glossing over of truths (namely their living status and confirmation in a different church, their promise to raise the kids Catholic, etc.) Part of me is all “Yes! Stick it to the Man/Church! Get the wedding you want!” and part of me, the guilty Catholic part, feels a little strange about the hoops they had to jump through and the fibs (lies? sins?) they had to tell to get married in a beautiful church by the family priest, to make our family happy. Conflicted, so conflicted. Anyway, this comment has got away from me, so I’m going to stop now.

  • Spirit

    Just found this website and am enjoying reading these discussions.
    Some background: I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools til graduation, then went to college. My extended family was very Catholic and every wedding and funeral was in the church.

    Weddings tho are very different stories. They seem to be a minefield of not just melding a couple’s thoughts and beliefs into a ceremony to mark their new lives together BUT their respective families thoughts and beliefs as well. In my first marriage, I was still Catholic and my fiance was another Christian denomination. At that time, we couldn’t find a priest to marry us and couldn’t do just a civil ceremony or his family would have been upset and mine may have disowned me. So we found another church and married outside of the Catholic Church. That marriage didn’t last (thankfully).

    Spiritually, I found I had grown in other directions and didn’t return to the Catholic Church, even though my parents still try to “get me to come back”. I guess I’m one of the few here that didn’t even think about it when I got engaged. (Funny – when I read that line about you taking more classes than the pope – I could SO understand. LOL. I used to be able to recite the entire mass by myself. But I’ve forgotten it now.)

    I am now engaged to a man who goes to an Episcopal Church, whose parents are Baptist, and mine still Catholic and I’m practicing my own path. Trying to side step the mines to celebrate our love while not creating a mini civil war is my current mission. As with all things in life, compromise, integrity, and respect are the cornerstones of a good foundation. We’re planning a “historical” spiritual ceremony to meld secular and religion into a tapestry of our own making.

    I’m happy that you found the path that works for you and your fiance. I look forward to hearing more of your journey. Good Luck to all the Brides!!!

  • Alexandra

    My best friend from first grade grew up Catholic. I went with her family to mass many times growing up, and eventually learned about the crossing of the arms over the chest during Communion to be blessed, for people who haven’t had Communion. That was nice. ;)

    Her husband grew up either Protestant or non-religious, so they got a special dispensation to have a wedding outside, and one of her priests from childhood officiated. ;)

    Having attended Mass there so many times, it was a real surprise to attend a wedding at a Protestant church and see how light, bright, white, and non-statue’d the interior was! ;p

    I’m wedding planning now, and we’re getting married outside, weather allowing. My fiance had a lot of Catholicism in his upbringing, but my family almost never went to church…we’re both pretty nature-focused. So the ceremony will be some sort of hybrid cut and paste creature. ;p


  • Liz

    LOVE it! I think you are awesome for standing up for what you believe both religiously and morally. Maybe it’s just my atheism talking but its way more important to follow what you actually believe than just pretend so you can get acceptance from something (be it church, people, whatever). You rock!