Okay, for the record, I love weddings. In fact, I know I wept during the half a dozen I went to last summer. Like watching a baby get baptized or witnessing a child receive communion for the first time, my heart melts at the sign of a sacrament. And perhaps it's because the sacrament of marriage is the first sacrament that I have felt wholeheartedly called to, whereas in baptism, reconciliation, communion, and confirmation I was simply guided through the process (this is of course not to say that confession and the Eucharist are not two of the things that most greatly capture my heart today).
But there is something about seeing the heart of a man, ready to die to himself to live for his wife that makes me ugly cry in front of both I-Don't-Care-Who and their date. Despite the purity and beauty in the sacrament of marriage, it seems that over the years, weddings have warped into something much more superficial. The size of a diamond is how we measure the strength of love; we say "show me the ring," not "show me your heart." There have become these societal standards for what a wedding needs to be: how extravagant, creative, unique, impressive. Engagements have grown longer to provide more time for planning and more time for saving ("weddings are expensive", right?).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to have an extravagant wedding; I mean, if that's your thing, then more power to ya (I hope I'm invited). But I think it's time that we all stop feeling the pressure to conform to this new standard of a "wedding."
$51,000,000,000 (that's 51 billion dollars... 9 zeros): the money Americans poured into the wedding industry last year.
Though most couples spend less than $10,000, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,200. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE THE HONEYMOON. Please tell me that doesn't make your jaw drop. If there are actually couples in their mid-twenties that have this kind of disposable money then I am doing something terribly wrong with my life.
I think we all know that financial burden, especially early in a relationship, is the top predictor of divorce. And unsurprisingly, according to a September study in the Department of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta, the more you spend on an engagement ring and wedding ceremony/reception, the shorter the marriage. That makes me sad, because I think we can all uniformly agree that open bars are neat.
But let's not ignore the timing between the rising divorce rate and the increasing cost of the average wedding. There are plenty of more-than-happily married couples that spent $25,000 on their wedding. But knowing that the old man who I saw sneak a kiss with his elderly wife outside their car in the church parking lot last Sunday spent virtually nothing on his is what inspires me.
I love big, beautiful weddings-- especially when they really capture the beauty in the sacrament of marriage. But nothing makes me more sad than to see a couple pouring months (or years) of time and money into trivial details of their wedding day. As soon as this day ends, now begins the rest of their life. We have to stop viewing a wedding as a finish line for a dating relationship and begin seeing it as the first day of the rest of our lives with our new spouse.
Or maybe I'm just cheap.
"Wow, good for you. I could never do that." -- The same words I speak to those who walk through a state fair without indulging in the hedonistic gut bomb that is the funnel cake seem to be the very words received nearly every time anyone hears me say, "Actually, I'm waiting for marriage." Chastity seems to be a dying trend, but it's a lot more common than many realize. Much like us middle schoolers who wet the bed, we elected to remain silent about what happened under the sheets. Though we were silent, we were there. We were there.....
Because we don't hear much about chastity, we assume it to be a fallen virtue. We don't gossip about it ["Oh my God, did you hear about Karen and Josh? Well everyone saw them at the party last night, and they were TOTALLY practicing chastity."] Whether it's music, movies, or magazines, we are totally consumed by sex; it's the one universal thing that every person everywhere shares in common and can agree upon as being very, very good.
Backed by Science //
Waiting for marriage aligns nicely with our own Christian ideals, but the reason why you should wait in your relationship transcends far beyond the realm and "rules" of Christianity. This stuff is backed by science, people.
Produced by the hypothalamus, there's this really cool hormone called oxytocin that's secreted by both men and women during sex. This hormone is crazy awesome and just does a lot of really neat things, especially in women. If you like to science, check that out sometime. This hormone is literally referred to as the "bonding" and "love hormone" for what it does in us. Women secrete oxytocin in crazy-concentrated and really high amounts during childbirth, as well as breast feeding. But this totally makes sense, right? During childbirth, women experience an obvious amount of pain and agony, details unnecessary. But because of this hormone, they are so bonded to their baby, that they not only get through the childbirth, but they crave the experience again so they can feel more of this love and attachment. Men of course don't breast feed nearly as often as women do, so they only experience the joys of oxytocin during sex.
This "bonding hormone" binds us. It makes us feel happier, more secure, more trusting. But as much as it binds us, it blinds us. This can be really beautiful and necessary in a marriage. It binds us and it blinds us to the petty things that intrude upon marriages and make them hairy.
But what happens when we blind ourselves in a dating relationship? We run through red lights. We ignore the very warnings and road signs that God puts before us. Rather than viewing our relationship as a trial for marriage, we become married; married to this blinding bond that we've created, the very bond a mother experiences with her newborn child. We remain in a relationship with a partner that's not perfect for us, something that we often don't realize until years later when we've already joined in marriage.
Waiting for marriage is the opposite of easy. The desires are there; they are strong, they are beautiful, and they are so natural. Our hunger for sex is as innate as our hunger for food. As humans, we crave it. But this love that we crave and this bond that we create is not designed to be broken. Each time we build and break this bond with a new person, we weaken its power and its ability on our marriage with our spouse.
The secret to the best sex isn't a secret. We all know it, though we try to ignore it. To build a clear-minded and un-blinded relationship, learn to work through the issues, have constructive arguments, and see all of the truths (both good and bad) is to build a strong foundation for the happiest marriage and not simply the best, but the most fulfilling sex of your life.
I grew up in a religious family. I spent every Wednesday of K-12 at my obligatory weekly catechism. I've never slept past 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday. At a young age, I received Holy Communion, I enjoyed the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and was a confirmed Catholic at the age of 12. I loved being Catholic and told myself at a younger age that dating someone who wasn't simply wouldn't work.
I came to college, continued practicing my faith, never missed a mass. I continued going through the routine of the Catholic church and was what I considered to be a "Good Catholic." I have strong values, but to say that I perfectly lived them out would be a stretch of the truth. I had my share of drunken escapades and random make-outs in my freshman year of college. I justified my less than holy lifestyle through relativism and regular attendance at church. I was still a devout and passionate Catholic saving myself for something bigger and someone better but it wasn't until the beginning of my junior year of college that I found a reason for why the Catholic church was my home.
Though I spent my life in search of the "nice Catholic man" that mom promised was waiting for me, in the summer going into my junior year, I found myself head over heels in love with a Baptist (INSERT DRAMATIC GASPS). Though he wasn't Catholic, he attended church with me. I soon found that everything was questioned; he asked questions that I realized I couldn't answer. I spent my entire life in this church. Why did I not know what "PAX" meant, why we pray with saints, the significance of the rosary, why the priest is wearing purple, or the reason why we call him "Father"? ..."Why can't I receive communion?"
I spent my life believing in the Catholic church. But why? It took no time to realize that I was terribly uneducated. My instinctive answer to every question was a sad, "Well... Because."
Dating a non-Catholic was the best thing that ever happened to me. From the beginning, we vowed to grow closer to each other only through Him; we promised to live a Christian relationship, we set boundaries and made the decision to wait with each other. To answer his questions, I educated myself. CatholicAnswers soon became my most frequently visited website. I read books and attended Catholic conferences and retreats, listened to audiobooks, podcasts, and talked to priests. I finally had the opportunity to fully fall in love with the church that held my heart. I never expected him to convert to the church, but if I valued his presence in mass next to me, I realized I needed to find my own value for being there.
Had I dated the "nice Catholic man" I sought, I never would have had the opportunity to rediscover Catholicism. Two years later, this virtuous man that has taught me the meaning of self-sacrificial love is joining my hand and my heart in the Catholic church. Leading him through conversion has been the best experience of my life and through it, I have found reasons for why the church is my home that are finally able to transcend beyond "because my parents raised me here."
This is not to say that rediscovering Catholicism will only occur through dating a non-Catholic, but had I not opened my heart and mind, I would still be an uneducated Catholic stuck in a routine. There are a multitude of ways for you to find your heart in the church again, I was just blessed enough to find mine by losing myself in the love of another.
Proof that a relationship can be founded upon the ripped off
corner of a scrap piece of paper.