Wedding bells muse

Wedding bells muse

I must have skipped the chapter in my ‘how to parent’ instruction manual where it talked about weddings. Not my wedding, of course, but all the weddings of my kids, the friends of my kids and the kids of my friends.

For me, the year 2024 is turning into a banner year for nuptials, including the wedding of one of my sons. Yet we have been invited to at least five other weddings this year as well. We are swamped by the logistics of attending. We get save-the-date cards with a photo of the couple, then the actual wedding invitations. We negotiate wedding websites to R.S.V.P. and to send gifts. In case you didn’t know, department store gift registries are now as old fashioned as department stores. It is far busier for some of our children, who have even more weddings to attend, bridesmaid dresses to buy, bachelor parties to throw, and travel and hotel expenses to cover.

I can’t complain, however. My wife and I are cheered by this nuptial rush, for the statistics about young people getting married have been falling for years. Marriage has been in something approaching freefall since the 1960s. Catholic marriage rates have been dropping precipitously as well.


Some of this freefall is due to a rampant distrust of institutions that harkens back to Mae West (“Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution yet”). Some of it reflects a distrust of the Church itself. Some of it is cautiousness about commitment in an era of divorce. And some of it is the result of a crisis in dating.

We are hearing far too many stories of young men and young women (and some not-so-young men and women) who want marriage but are not finding suitable partners. Even worse are the stories of young men and women who don’t know how, or are afraid, to ask someone out on a date. Colleges are even offering dating instruction courses, for which there appears to be a real need. Young men tell me they are afraid that any expression of interest may be interpreted as harassment, and young women tell me of men who seem to be mired in perpetual adolescence.

And for parents who worry about their single children, it is usually made absolutely clear to them that they are not allowed to play matchmaker. Meanwhile, their (quite wonderful) children wait and wait for lightning to strike. But I digress.

What I want to tell all the couples that are getting married this year is that they should not focus on the wedding day. It is just one day, after all. It is not worth going into debt for or causing all your friends to go into debt for. The destination, the trappings, the dress – these are all irrelevant when compared to what this day signifies the start of: a shared life together.

Marriage is an ongoing seminar in selflessness. It’s not always easy”

After 41 years of marriage, I can testify that (a) marriage is great, (b) marriage does take work (on oneself), and (c) all the effort is worth it.

For Catholics, the challenge and the joy of ‘becoming one flesh’ is that the couple is committing to helping each other become more like Jesus, that is to grow in life-giving and generous love. That is why we get married, why we hope to have children, why we make a lifelong commitment. Marriage is an ongoing seminar in selflessness. It’s not always easy. We even fail at times. But after 41 years of marriage, I can testify that the rewards are greater than anything those young couples can imagine right now.

So raise a glass and toast the beginning of one of life’s most rewarding adventures.