My situation is similar to “One Wedding, Two Celebrations,” but different. In my case, my husband and I got civilly married 3-1/2 years ago. We just went to the courthouse in jeans with no elaborate ceremony and no reception (unless you count the brunch tab we picked up for the 7 or 8 friends that went down to the courthouse with us). No gifts were involved, which was perfectly fine. Between the rings, marriage license, and the brunch tab, total spent for our wedding was $400ish.
Fast forward to now, and my husband I are preparing to go through the convalidation process, which essentially means that because I’m Catholic, we are going to be sacramentally married as well as civilly married. From what I can tell, the ceremony will involve Scripture reading(s), vows, and a blessing, so it will basically be another wedding ceremony. My husband, his family, and all our friends (including those who were able to go with us 3-1/2 years ago), seem to think that we ought to use this as an excuse to have a wedding celebration, involving a dress, taking pictures, and a reception of some sort.
My husband argues that this wedding is fundamentally different and more meaningful than the civil wedding we had 3-1/2 years ago, and from a theological perspective I completely agree. (Ironic that he, the agnostic one in the marriage, is making this argument to me.) But the reality is that we have been living as a married couple (obviously), so for our day-to-day lives, there is nothing transformative about this event.
On the one hand, I feel apprehensive about treating this event like a wedding, but I suspect that if I go along with it I will enjoy it, and I may even be glad I did. I also think that if everyone we would invite thinks we should have a full-blown celebration, the risk of appearing tacky to anyone that matters is minimal, at best.
I would appreciate any thoughts on this – thanks. 1228-12
I know there are countries where it is quite common to have a civil ceremony followed by a religious ceremony. However, the gap between the two ceremonies is mere days, at most, as opposed to years.
What your friends and husband are encouraging you to have is a vow renewal in which the couple recreates their wedding day. My thoughts on vow renewals are that they are often either self indulgent events meant to assuage any regrets the couple has had about their initial wedding or an opportunity for the wife to relive her one glorious day of being the center of attention. There is something ridiculous about a couple who has been allegedly happily married for years having a big wedding vow renewal production complete with bridal showers, the big dress, attendants, and the big shebang ceremony as if the “bride” was a blushing young thing.
I understand the theology of Catholic convalidation of marriage. To the readers who may not be aware of what the OP is referring to, Catholic doctrine views marriages conducted by a minister of another faith or civil weddings as invalid. One Catholic forum I read referred to civil weddings as “pretend” weddings which convey “outright disrespect for the real deal”. Some parishes even view such marriages as “living in sin” and thus require the couple to cease all sexual contact during the convalidation review process which can be anywhere from a few weeks to years before approval. It is very important for observant Catholics to have their invalid marriage convalidated by the Church so they can be considered in good standing with the Church.
So, dear Letter writer, I know that convalidation ceremonies run the gamut from simple 10 minute rites conducted in the church office to short rites immediately after Mass at the altar to full blown weddings. Unless all your intended guests are Catholic and understand the meaning of the convalidation, having a big wedding ceremony will elicit confusion from guests wondering, “Aren’t they already married?”
If you and your husband truly believe that the convalidation ceremony carries far more spiritual and theological significance than your civil wedding, then the fluffy trappings of a big wedding day should be irrelevant. Profound spirituality does not manifest itself in a big wedding dress, bridesmaids, wedding cake, big reception, etc. Does that make sense? The internal spiritual and theological importance of the rite is what should take center stage, not the external accoutrements commonly associated with a wedding.
I found a lovely example of a convalidation ceremony on a Catholic blog that would be so tasteful and fit the decorum of the situation:
The actual exchange of vows before a priest took place at the main altar after a Saturday night Mass, with only members of their immediate family attending. Maria and Tony dressed in the same outfits they had worn for their Florida civil ceremony years earlier. With considerable abbreviation and adaptation, the priest used the basic “Rite for Celebrating Marriage Outside Mass.” The service took about 10 minutes. Afterward, the family celebrated at a local restaurant.