Right about now, engaged couples are beginning the countdown that leads up to their spring and summer weddings. The church was reserved well in advance and the wedding date was announced with “save-the-date” cards months ago. Bridal gowns have already been carefully selected, and second and third fittings have been scheduled to assure a perfect fit. Reception sites were booked long ago. And plane tickets for the honeymoon have been purchased – all the makings of a perfect wedding. I know. My son is getting married.
Every couple wants their wedding day to be among the most memorable in their lives. And it should be (until, of course, the children come along). But so many of today’s young people are solely focused on the day itself – on the wedding, instead of the marriage. That’s why I’m so grateful for the workshops and retreats conducted by the Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages. Under the leadership of Director Michael Donaldson, young couples planning to be married in the Catholic Church are required to complete a marriage preparation course. I think the course should be required of anyone who gets a marriage license, regardless of faith, to help better prepare them for what is ahead.
My son and his betrothed recently attended the weekend course at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. He shared how valuable the course content was for he and his fiancé. For one weekend, the focus was on the marriage and not the wedding. Each couple had an opportunity to delve into topics that better prepare them for life together. From communication skills to family finance to love – long married couples shared their experiences, both positive and negative, with those about to be wed. And interestingly, while faith and the couple’s relationship with the Lord was a topic of importance, most of the coursework dealt with the practical aspects of marriage itself. The information was accessible, realistic and could be easily applied to one’s individual circumstances. A debt of gratitude is owed to the volunteer couples that shared their lives openly, in hopes of helping couples thrive in their married lives.
I remember attending such a marriage preparation course with my husband before we were married in Holy Spirit Parish. The marriage prep topics were similar, and I still remember a bit of what was shared. Oh, I remember the other things, too: the excitement of waking up on the morning of my wedding, walking down the aisle on my father’s arm, entering the ballroom for our reception on my new husband’s arm to a roomful of guests. Sweet memories of that single day, but nothing in comparison to the life we have shared for nearly 37 years. All the while, feeling supported and nurtured by our faith community.