It's not about the dress

Summer is upon us, and that means so is the busy wedding season. Every time my husband and I get an invitation to the nuptials of another friend or relative, I can’t help but think about all the mistakes we made and how many of them could have been avoided if only we had learned early on to say more than just “yes” to much more than merely the dress, the fancy reception and the glamorous and romantic honeymoon.

Putting practically all of the emphasis on the physical elements of the wedding and barely any time on understanding the actual sacrament into which we were entering would eventually lead to some serious struggles. By the grace of God and by lots of hard work and sheer perseverance, we were able to rebuild our relationship.

We know that God allows repeated U-turns and that he is a God of forgiveness and mercy. But marriages, just as everything in life, can be a lot more joyful and fruitful if we only would learn to put Jesus and our Catholic faith first.

Unfortunately, that’s not what we see in our world today. According to a think tank based in Great Britain, The Marriage Foundation, because of the pressure to put on an impressive soiree that would rival a royal wedding, many couples are delaying their weddings or in many cases not marrying at all. In a June 13 interview with, Marriage Foundation spokesman Harry Benson explained how hefty wedding price tags are definitely developing into a marriage barrier.

“I think the celebrities have set the bar very, very, high with all these hyped-up, high-profile, and highly photographed weddings, very extravagant events,” Benson said. “When couples want the big, dream wedding often it is very unrealistic.”

How hefty is that price tag? According to one survey, the average wedding in the United States can cost nearly $30,000. Benson also points to the culture’s efforts to normalize cohabitation, along with the disconnect between marriage and procreation, as also leading to the current trend in avoiding or delaying matrimony.

So, what is the concerned Catholic to do? First, those of us who are married need to be good examples. We need to live out the sacrament joyfully and share that joy with others. We need to help the world see how important marriage is to God and his plan for humanity. If people see what God intended for husbands and wives, then maybe more will want to enter into it willingly.

Second, we can encourage effective marriage prep at the parish and diocesan level. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a host of resources regarding marriage prep and maintaining strong marriages. At for example, you won’t find out where to get the bargain prices for your floral arrangements, but you will find out just how important investing in God is when it comes to a happy, healthy relationship. Couples will also get a good dose of Catholic teaching on marriage, learn how other married couples stick together in good times and in bad; they’ll read about the benefits of marriage, and also be provided with great material sharing the wonder and beauty of what it means to be married in the Catholic Church. There are plenty of resources for parishes at this website as well.

When I think about how God and Church teachings saved my marriage, it reminds me of a billboard I saw along Interstate 94 in suburban Detroit many years ago. It was part of a Christian billboard campaign promoting faith and family.

“Loved the wedding. Now invite me to the marriage. Signed God.” 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.