Two days before Christmas, my son popped the question to his then-girlfriend-now-fiancee. So of course I immediately started a mental list
of how I could support the young couple of the self-improvement I need to do before the big day. I began Invisalign almost a year ago (which I jokingly called my “mother-of-the-groom teeth” when I started, how prophetic) but I’m thinking I’m going to have to double down on the moisturizer and actually hit the gym occasionally. My next step was to create a mother-of-the-groom Pinterest board called “Shut Up and Wear Beige”. (Feel free to send me links to simple frocks and ways to distract myself from offering unsolicited opinions.)
The soon-to-be-marrieds are in their twenties and I’m proud they are bucking the current trend of postponing (or ignoring) marriage, but already a few folks have asked if I’m worried they “aren’t ready”. Honestly, from the vantage point of 30 years in, no one can ever be truly ready for marriage, it’s the getting married makes you ready as long as you have the proper mindset. (The other day I walked in on my almost-60-year-old husband laughing out loud at the Marmaduke movie on TV. I’m still not ready for that.) Bewildering taste in movies aside, my son and his bride-to-be are going to need to go into marriage with commitment, open hearts and some practical preparation.
As proud as I am that they are choosing to marry, I feel doubly blessed that they are marrying in the Church—and that means Catholic marriage preparation is in the couple’s future. I don’t remember much from my own Pre-Cana, probably because I didn’t give it the attention I should have. When your love is new and shiny you don’t think you need marriage prep, I suppose. But my marriage isn’t new anymore and it’s only (sometimes) shiny because we take the time and the effort to polish it, so I know the importance of marriage prep. I’ve been married enough years to know that love isn’t impervious–it takes a beating not only in the tough times of illness or wayward children or financial problems, but also in the little stresses of daily life. Young couples need practical advice and spiritual support to give them as many tools as possible to keep their commitment strong.
That’s why I pray that their marriage prep will show Jack and his bride Alexandra the beauty and permanance of the step they are undertaking. The solemn joy of the Catholic wedding ceremony and it’s timeless vows underscores this. The couple doesn’t write their own vows in a Catholic wedding, promising to be best friends forever or to never leave the toilet seat up or to always laugh at each other’s jokes. No, Catholic vows are an enduring promise to love and to honor, because there are days when your spouse will feel more like a frenemy than a bestie and you will need to hold onto something deeper than words you wrote when your love was new. The love that the Church extols is not just the butterflies-in-the-tummy kind of love, but a sacramental and sacrificial love, underscoring the vocation that is marriage. And that marriage is a vocation, a calling—to work at creating something larger than yourselves.
Yes, it’s an exciting time here. The venue shopping and date-saving has begun. I’m looking forward to dress shopping and menu tasting and watching the couple’s wedding vision take shape (keeping unsolicited advice at a minimum, I hope). But I’m also going to try to keep the Catholic vision of marriage in the forefront. Because when it comes to helping these two young people I love so very much start their Catholic married life together, keeping my mouth shut (even if I’m wearing beige) just isn’t an option.
*Golden Girls photo courtesy of Touchstone Television/courtesy Everett Collection