Most girls dream about every detail of their wedding — the dress, the music, their photos, all their loved ones around them, the way the sun will shimmer on their veil. They love these ideas and they can’t imagine their big day without them.
Good thing I wasn’t one of them.
When my fiancé and I planned to have a Jan. 1 wedding in rural Minnesota, we knew we could be dueling with winter weather, and as forecasts predicted a sweeping storm, I called cloistered Poor Clares whose prayers were known to be especially efficacious for weather.
As I counted the time to my vows in hours, a winter storm blew in, coating the southwestern Minnesota roads with ice before stirring the snow to white-out conditions. The day before the wedding, my cousin — our priest — called to cancel the rehearsal because he feared we wouldn’t make it to the country church without skidding off the road.
Our cantor, a college friend, called to cancel. I went to confession right before the rehearsal dinner at a neighboring parish, and the priest offered his church to us if the roads were too bad to get to ours. My photographer called to ask if we had family who could take photos if he didn’t make it.
By noon on my wedding day, I had already talked to several guests — including aunts, uncles and cousins — who weren’t risking the roads. The guest list dwindled, but I tried to keep hopes up. It was our wedding day. Nothing was going as planned, but we were going to get married.
From the moment we got engaged, my fiancé and I promised to keep things in perspective: We were preparing for a sacrament, not a coronation. No drawn-out dress hunts, no stressing over the reception menu, no hang-ups over the color palate. We decided on a six-month engagement. We wanted to focus on the marriage, not the party.
Yet we were doing this engagement long distance. My fiancé was in D.C. I was in St. Paul, finishing graduate school and working for The Catholic Spirit. Without the in-person face time, conversations could quickly become wedding check-off lists: Are the bow ties ordered? Do you have shoes? Is it OK that I spent $100 on mine? (A splurge, but worth it.)
Still, we prayed together every night via Skype and kept our upcoming vows in the back of our minds as we went about our days. It was the marriage that was important, we often reminded ourselves.
Walking the walk
And good thing.
By the time of the wedding, its program looked like more a wish list than a who’s who. My personal attendant stepped in as an impromptu soloist, and cousins took the spots of greeters who didn’t make it. The photographer did make it, after all, in the 6-degree weather, but we had four amateurs waiting in the wings just in case.
When I did walk up the aisle to meet my groom, many of our guests were there and our priest was at the altar. We celebrated our wedding with the Mass of the Epiphany, and Father Matt preached about the visible poverty of Mary and Joseph, pointing to the crèche and their invisible wealth, symbolized by the Magi who were meeting them.
His words spoke directly to my heart — we could have focused on what we didn’t have — all of our guests, decent weather, even a place to live once we were back in D.C. — or we could focus on what we did have: this sacrament, our faith, our family.
We got married, and married life is beautiful, even if ours doesn’t look ideal. We’re starting wedded life off with every 5-year-old’s dream — living in a fort my husband constructed of sheets, wire and duct tape in his friends’ living room as we search for our own apartment.
Again, not exactly as we planned.
Still, though we may look hard-up to the rest of the world, I’d argue that we’re pretty rich.
And as for the prayers of those Poor Clares? I’d say they worked.
We’re married, aren’t we?