Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is there steak behind all that sizzle?

By now, most of the civilized world has seen the start of Jill and Kevin's wedding procession. If you haven't (perhaps you were in the bathroom or something), it's all over YouTube:

First, the disclaimer: No, this was NOT done a Catholic Church, though, like me, most Priests will now be dreading the phone calls from brides, asking if they would be able to do that at their wedding. The answer is "no".

Now I can hear the responses, "But why not, Father? Isn't a wedding about joy and happiness and dancing and fun and the chicken dance, the electric slide, the Thriller dance, the Summer Lovin' dance, and drunken friends lip synching 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light'?" [insert here some version of the pipedream that, if we allowed such stuff, young people would flock to churches like a shoppers hit the mall on the day after Thanksgiving]

Yes, a wedding is about joy and happiness. But not so much about "the moment" right now, but the whole picture: what has led up to it and what will follow afterwards. Too many weddings today are all about the glitz and flashes in the pan for a few hours, then everyone thinks it's "life back to normal" when the flowers die, the tuxes goes back to the rental place, and the dress gets professionally boxed (I won't tell you what happened to the food).

That's exactly what the Church says NOT to fall into the trap of thinking. That's why the Church asks couples to do some sort of wedding prep (also known as Engaged Encounter, Pre-Cana, God's Plan for You, Theology of the Body, etc.). "But, Father (the voice says again), couples don't have time for such things nowadays; everyone is so busy." OK, let me ask you this: How many hours do you think this wedding party rehearsed to get five minutes of dancing to go smoothly? How many couples soon to be married are, as you are reading this, calling and texting their ushers and bridesmaids, trying to do this same thing at their weddings, determined to give as many hours as it takes to put on a show? Now, the bigger question: If they'll spend hours rehearsing for five minutes, how many hours of marriage preparation do you think is proper if they want years of married life to go smoothly? People invest dozens of hours and thousands of dollars on the wedding day itself: hair and nails and dresses and tuxedos and flowers and limos and food and music and the cake and pictures and video, etc. But how much time and effort do they invest in the day after the wedding? and the day after that? and the day after that? I love to tell couples who come to me to prepare for marriage that the Church is the only entity that cares about how things go after the wedding day. 99% of everything else: caterer, limo driver, dressmaker, tux renter, hairdresser and barber, DJ, florist, etc., are all only concerned with the wedding day itself. They will (for a fee) make everything perfect for a few hours, and then they move on to their next customer; the Church is the only one who wants a couple's married life after the wedding to be just as perfect as the wedding day itself.

One of the comments on one of the YouTube versions of this video opines, "On their 50th anniversary, this will make a great big screen video and cause many hearts to smile." But see, that's the problem! Marriage is not about looking at one day in the past when everything was perfect; It's about living it day in and day out, whether it is the day of the wedding or ten, twenty five, or fifty years later. It's not about doing the dance once and doing it well; it's about doing the dance over and over again every day, whether you're happy or sad, whether you're tired or wired, whether you're bored or busy. It's about doin' the dance when one kid has to be at piano practice and the other kid just remembered to tell you there's a bake sale tomorrow and he signed you up to bring in cupcakes. It's about doin' the dance when the choice comes down to a vacation at Disney or replacing the furnace. And, yes, it's about doin' the dance when your kid gets an "A" on their math final or when the wedding anniversary comes around.

There, I feel better [exhale].


Unknown said...

Thank you Fr. Toborowsky! For saying all that we priests, who watched the video in dread, want to say.

deb said...

This group obviously loves to dance. But wouldn't this have been far more appropriate as the bridal party's entrance to the reception? I wonder what thoughts were going through the minister's mind as she was dancing along with the bridal party. I am presuming (and hoping) there was not a crucifix in anyone's line of vision....

Anonymous said...

Thanks, [exhale] glad someone said something.. :)

Victoria said...

I shudder to think of the many priests who will consent to this being done in their church.

A member of my family was irate at the amount charged by the priest for the wedding until I reminded her that thousands had been spent on the cake, to say nothing of the flowers.

NCSue said...

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

I watched the video grinning.

But then I "wised up", looking at the minister who, I thought, felt a little bit simple trying to bless a marriage that started off looking rather like a circus act.

My husband and I have been married 37 years, and during that time we've watched married couples drop like flies around us. Our wedding was no extravaganza - the whole thing from soup to nuts cost less than $500 - and we've had our tough times since then. (Who hasn't?)

But we figured out long ago that the hard work of marriage starts AFTER the wedding, when the flowers fade, the dress no longer fits, and the hormones have worn off.

I wish Jill and Kevin every happiness. I just hope they realize that it takes much more than an ability to party together to make a marriage succeed.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Bravo, and AMEN!!!

As Deb commented above, that dance would have been fine for the reception.

Congratulations to NC Sue. I think Sue should be teaching pre-Cana!

The Digital Hairshirt said...

I placed this video on my own blog and have read some of the other comments of Catholics and am sorry to say . . . I think we are a mean lot.

I agree that this entrance would be inappropriate for a Catholic wedding, as would, say, "casting a circle" as is done at a Pagan wedding (been to one, seen it) - but it was not a Catholic wedding. A comment such as "I am presuming (and hoping) there was not a crucifix in anyone's line of vision...." strikes me as pedantic.

I do not think there is any need to watch this video in dread. I am willing to bet that a priest with any years of experience has had inane requests made by young couples with stars in their eyes and to whom he has had to deliver a firm "no." And he will do it again long after this video is forgotten, as it is part of the job.

But let me point out something - how many of you have attended the prim and proper wedding of obscene cost? Look at Jill and kevin - no tuxedos, no elaborate dresses, no gigantic floral arrangements. It is evident this is a low budget affair, but I ask you to consider that they are rich in friends.

I wish them every happines, too. However, as with all married couples - whether married in the Church or by an Elvis impersonator - the benefit of the doubt and would never end my good wishes with "but I just hope they realize . . ." That negates the previous statement, just as "I think you're a good person, but . . ."

Unknown said...

It's funny but I almost prefer this "procession" to the "normal" one we rehearse before the wedding. I don't see much difference between the two (except that the latter is boring.) How contrived and pompous wedding processions can be (and how unaware of the mystery they are entering into)! In her rubrics, the Church calls instead for a procession led by the priest, and followed by the bride and the groom (of course, I've never seen this). Much more meaningful, I'd say.

deb said...

I had to look up the word "pedantic" to see what I was being accused of. I do not think I was being "ostentatious in my learning" or "overly concerned with minute details or formalisms" -- unless recognizing that first and foremost you are in a house of God and Jesus is the most important person present not the bride and groom -- is a "minute formalism." Furthermore, I did not wish the couple ill - but directed my comment to the minister, who might have chosed to do something other than dance along. As she did not look at all startled or surprised, one might assume she knew of this "entrance" beforehand. Finally, I take the words of a person married 37 years as pearls of wisdom (I have only been married 23) and not to be intended to negate any previously expressed good wishes. On one point I do agree, some Catholics go out of their way to be mean.

A Secular Franciscan said...

When I posted this video on my blog, soemone asked why this should not happen at a Catholic wedding. I gave the rules - but here you have provided some wonderful further insights. Thank you.

Fr. Dismas Sayre, O.P. said...

As a Dominican, allow me to say... Preach it, brother!

Steve said...

Father, often I disagree with what I find on your blog, but in this case, your final big paragraph does a beautiful job of capturing what the long-term dance (and sacrament) of marriage involves. Well put, even eloquent. (Struck a chord with me this week especially, as my wife and I celebrate our anniversary.)


Me said...

..."the Church is the only one who wants a couple's married life after the wedding to be just as perfect as the wedding day itself."

Point and match Father!

The dance DOES go on forever when a couple is grounded in faith in Christ Jesus and the spiritual life of the Church.

Smiley said...

When the 'ah ha' feelings go, then the marriage begins.
My wife asks me why do i love her, i dont have an answer but i know i do. Unlike what the movies say love is not a feeling it is a choice.
When i think of my marriage i often see it as the way God has chosen to make me a saint.
My brother who is a monk tells me they have culpas, a process where the entire community tells a monk his public failings. when he told me this i was like wow that would totally destroy my ego. a few days later i realized wiat a minute my wife does that too, notice the similarities.

ProudCatholic said...

As usual, Fr. Jay, you are the voice of sanity, in this age of UNreason.

Yes, everyone wants their day to be special, but "special" is not something you purchase. It is borne in the heart. We have been married almost 23 years--thank God. And looking back after all that time, what is remembered and cherished is the love we shared not just with each other and with the Lord on that beautiful day but with all those present. We were blessed with a Msgr. who lovingly taught us the true value of marriage, and I remember before in our planning stages, we had been to weddings where brides and grooms constructed little mailbox houses so people could drop off their "card/gifts" and bride and groom did not spend even a moment individually with all their guests. We determined NOT to do that. We danced some, ate and drank little, but did spend a great deal of time together and individually showing love and appreciation to each and every guest that came to share our day. The memories of just that are immeasurable. And in return our guests were so happy for us and for themselves as well. It is not something that after all these years has been forgotten by us or the people united together on that day, something they remember to this day was how we made THEM feel on our special day. In the end, it wasn't the band, the food, the clothes but the bonds we had that made the lasting memories, that endured. And the greatest of our guests who we cherish the most is God who has "stuck around" through the good and the bad and kept our love ever-growing.
I noted that we danced little at our reception but now looking back, our entire wedding from start to finish was one long dance of love, friendship, joy, celebration and one that has lasted and will last eternally.

For those who wish to make it a "show" you are really missing out on the true value of the day. Fr. Jay is right. Weddings are hectic and time is so limited, but isn't your lifelong love worth putting the time and preparation into where it really counts?

Sue Joan said...

thanks for your comments on this video... I thought it very annoying when someone sent it to me... glad I'm not the only one.. *hugs*