A wedding observation

May 19, 2009 | By | 12 Replies More

I attended a wedding over the weekend. My family is Italian and I’m sure it’s no surprise that we are overwhelmingly Catholic. However, because the ceremony wasn’t being held in a church but rather in the reception hall I had thought that I would be spared having to sit through another Catholic mass. I was wrong. *sigh*

Creative Commons photo by blacksapphire

Creative Commons photo by blacksapphire

As it turns out, it was a thankfully shortened version of the ceremony. I noticed that, even in abbreviated form, the priest managed to mention FIVE TIMES (we counted) that,”…God made us MALE and FEMALE so that we may join together in His love”. It would have been just another day in a big Italian Catholic family except this time, seated right up front were two good friends of the bride and groom who also happened to be a lesbian couple.

I’ve seen “the lesbian couple”, as they are called in the family, a few times at family gatherings that were large enough to encompass all of us. They have been together for many years, at least as long as many of the other couples in the room. Longer than some. I couldn’t help but cringe each time the phrase rolled around.

“Marriage was created by God for MALE and FEMALE…”, “We join in holy matrimony this MAN and WOMAN…”, etc.

With each repetition of the phrase it seemed that the priest was emphasizing it more and more and from our vantage point several rows back it almost seemed like he was glaring at the lesbian couple when he said it. (Probably my imagination.)

To be fair, I don’t blame the priest or the bride and groom. I don’t expect the Catholic church to change the traditional marriage vows. What happened that day was unavoidable and after so many years together probably no longer bothers the two women.

Still, I began to wonder what it felt like to be singled out in this way. How horrible it must be to have found someone who “gets” you, someone who loves you and you love back and to be sure that this is the person you want to share your life with, only to be subtly reminded in front of your friends and family how wrong and “unnatural” you are and moreover, to know that there are people who are actively working to keep you from enjoying what your friends are enjoying at that moment, using as their basis for this refusal a book of questionable authorship.

That’s all. There’s not much else to this post. It’s just a passing observation. I didn’t want this to turn into a lecture. The priest was doing his job, the bride and groom obliviously happy. No one meant any harm and yet, a little harm was done.

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Category: American Culture, Religion

About the Author ()

Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.

Comments (12)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike:

    Your last paragraph reminds me so very much of Hannah Arendt's idea of the "banality of evil." See here

    One further note, though. The banality of evil–I consider it to be the attentional issue of failing to attend to the consequences of one's actions–doesn't always cause only a little harm. The banality of evil is often responsible for massive damages, as you can see if you follow the link in this comment.

    Too bad for the lesbian couple, but how good of you to be so tuned in. so empathetic. Did you talk to the lesbian couple afterward to learn what they thought of the man-woman language? I wonder if they shrugged it off. And they might need to–I would think that most gays would want to pick their battles carefully.

  2. Hank says:

    Most of my gay mates wouldn't have batted an eyelid (though there probably would've been a few drunken paedo-priest jokes at the reception). It's a wedding anyway – such days are sacred and not the place for raising a ruckus, especially since you're an invited guest. Maybe the newlyweds are 'phobes, or maybe they just wanted a traditional ceremony like their parents had. Who knows though? Either way, such a thing would have caught my attention just the same.

    Sort of reminds me of when my evangelist cousin got married. No mention of gays, but the HIP YOUTH PASTOR DUDE couldn't mention the union of Karen & Steve without mentioning Jesus as well. It sounded like Karen & Steve were marrying Jesus, not each other. I didn't begrudge them their choice of ceremony of course, but the focus seemed a tad skewed.

    At my own wedding, held in a botanical garden, I later heard from my brother that he'd heard a familiar voice say after the ceremony "pity it wasn't in a church." We both have a solid idea which aunt it was. A pity, she said! A pity my love and I were committing publicly in a lovely place surrounded by our favourite people! It wasn't troubling though and we laughed it off. After all it was a day meant for myself and the Mrs. Too bad if the summer weather and gorgeous setting weren't satisfactory to everyone! Hell, I feel sorry for you if a garden wedding on a perfect day aren't good enough for you.

  3. Mindy Carney says:

    Geez, Hank, are you sure you and the Mrs. are really married? Pity if it turns out you've been living in sin all this time . . .

    Erich, I have to agree with you about gays picking their battles – I imagine if they spoke up at every slight, intentional or otherwise, they spend more of their waking hours arguing and defending themselves than they would actually living their lives. Kind of like how as adoptive parents, we have to take the well-meaning but really ignorant comments of some people in stride, and remember that not every single time someone tells you how wonderful you are for "rescuing" you children, or wondering how much your cute baby cost, is a teaching moment. Ew.

    I was at a bridal shower not long ago for a bride whose family belongs to a very large evangelical bible church. The shower was lovely, but about halfway through, we were given a sermon. A real one, by the wife of their preacher, all about how important it would be for the bride not to love her husband more than she loves Jesus. And, as tempting as it would be to hold her new husband up as a god and believe he could do anything, not to do that, because it just wouldn't be right. Of course you will believe he can do anything, but you must remember that Jesus can do even more.

    OK, then. Those of us who don't hold to that particular belief system found it a pretty weird concept to toss at us all in the midst of the shower, but like the gay couple at the wedding, certainly did not say a word. I'm hoping, however, that the bride knows full well that her future husband, while wonderful, is human after all, and that she loves him all the more for being her perfect counterbalance rather than a god she must look up to and serve.

    No mention was made about what to do should HE decide to idolize HER. Funny, that.

  4. Hank says:

    Well Mindy, we signed a document, had it witnessed and Mrs H will inherit all my graphic novels, LPs as well as my entire scifi collection when I die. She doesn't want any of it. Sounds like married to me 🙂

    Erich, I just wish that aunt of mine had said it to my face! Then I could have politely advised her that she was free to leave at any time if our sin was making her uncomfortable. She stuck around for the food; clearly it wasn't too big a problem.

  5. Erika Price says:

    No, no, it could have been avoided. If the couple being wed counts that lesbian couple as part of their family, or even just acquaintances from whom they are willing to receive a pricey marriage gift, they have a responsibility to show some respect. Perhaps they thought it rude, but they should have gone over the content of their marriage ceremony with the priest in question. I wonder whether they even saw the text of his speech in advance! If they didn't, that's ludicrous, as the wedding is "their day" and they should have complete control of the message. If they did know the ceremony's content, they had every responsibility to ask that the fighting words be taken out. Again, the wedding exists to honor and reflect the values of the couple being wed. It's not about some priest or church's dogma- or at least, it shouldn't be. It seems ridiculous to sacrifice one's special day to a church that does not reflect one's own values and life.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Erika: I agree. The entire wedding is under the control of the bride and groom. They chose to get married in the Catholic Church. If they count a lesbian couple among their friends, they should give more thought to choosing the Catholic Church. There are other ways to get married, after all. In many states (not all), you can ask one of your friends to get ordained over the Internet and write your own ceremony however you want. Or if you insist on a Catholic ceremony, talk to the officiant ahead of time–many priests will show some flexibility.

  6. Mindy Carney says:

    Trust me, once you've made the choice to marry in the Catholic Church, you give up a whole lot of other choices. I was "allowed" to marry in the Catholic Church as a non-Catholic because my spouse was and I agreed to the pre-marriage classes. I remember very little – and obviously, since I am no longer married, cannot be held up as a good example. We were married in the church specifically so that a long-time family friend of my ex's, a priest, could marry us.

    Were I to ever marry again, it would be a very, very different affair. Because I so agree with you, Erika – why would anyone sacrifice THEIR day to values they did not entirely embrace, simply to appease the elder family bitties who might find it a pity that they didn't bow to meaningless tradition?

  7. My sister defected from the Catholic church when she went to our local priest with her fiance for their initial conversation a few years ago. The priest started by giving her a hard time about how much makeup she was wearing! (She's ITALIAN! From Philly!! What did he expect??) When he started to harangue the couple about the fact that they were already living together, the situation turned ugly, she stormed out and went right to the Presbyterian church down the street where they were able to create a beautiful ceremony all their own.

    My sister and her husband have been members there ever since. The young minister there is very cool. During the baptism ceremony for their first child he brought all the small children up to the front of the church to sit around him while he gave the sermon. It was very heartwarming and Jesus-like!

  8. Those pre-marital classes can be a pretty good thing. I went through those (ages ago) and found much of it useful. The one on one with a couple of married couples was particularly useful.

    The snag came with the meeting with the priest, who began issuing orders. You will do this, you will do that. I bristled. When it came to how the children would be raised, I got irate. "What if there are no children?" I asked.

    "Then why are you planning to marry?" he asked.

    "Good question. Maybe we should just continue living in sin."

    He looked at my fiancee and said, "I think you should reconsider this."

    When she more or less agreed, that was the end of our relationship. So it was very helpful.

  9. Mindy Carney says:

    LOL!!! Good lord, Mark – THAT would have been quite the disaster! Funny how one gets to the point of taking the classes only to then find out who one is really marrying . . . Our classes didn't do much to open our eyes to anything new. And truly, enough changed in the 15 years between the engagement and the divorce that I seriously doubt they'd have mattered all that much.

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