Devil in the Details

0814091044by Kate Henley Averett

It’s T-minus 3 weeks until my wedding and my to-do list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter.  For every little thing I cross off, another item seems to crop up.  Most of them are minor – pick the dress up at the tailor, get our final head count to our reception site and cupcake baker (which means actually getting a final head count, which is like pulling teeth!), let our florist know what time we’ll be picking the flowers up, delegate the task of picking up the flowers to someone…but still, the little things can add up quickly to feel pretty overwhelming.

I like to think of myself as a pretty low-maintenance bride.  We booked our reception site 14 months ago and proceeded to not do any planning for the wedding for at least the next six months, at which point we ordered and sent our save-the-dates and then went back on planning hiatus for another few months.  We’ve crossed most major items off the list with relative ease, trying not to dwell too much on things.  But no matter how easy I try to make it, the fact remains that throwing a party requires a lot of planning and a lot of decision making about seemingly mundane things.  It’s enough to drive you crazy, or at least make you want to elope!

I try to take refuge, during moments of frustration or overwhelmed-ness, in thinking about being married rather than getting married.  Looking at Church teaching on marriage, as I’ve been doing this summer as “research” for this series of blog posts, that has seemed to be the focus of things – the vocation of married life, the spiritual and theological aspects of the sacrament of marriage.  Even the details about liturgy are all grounded in these “bigger picture” things, like how the witness of the community serves as a reminder of the role of the married couple in the life of the wider Church.

But then earlier this week I was looking for some inspiration for this blog post, clicking around on the Vatican website, and I decided to look at the Code of Canon Law. Reading it, I realized that there are actually a whole ton of details involved in the Church’s rules on getting married, too.  Did you know, for example, that a clergy person cannot, without special permission, assist at a marriage that isn’t recognized by civil law or in which one of the parties has children from a previous union? (Can.  1071 §1).  Or that Catholic men cannot get married before they are sixteen years old and Catholic women before they are fourteen? (Can.  1083 §1)  Or that you can’t marry somebody if they killed your prior spouse so that they could marry you (Can.  1090 §1), or that if a man kidnaps a woman so as to marry her, he can’t, unless, after the woman has been separated from her abductor, she then decides she still wants to marry him? (Can.  1089) []

It’s not that I find any of these examples to be particularly out of character for the Church (though I am a little put off of the lower “age of consent” for women, but that’s another post for another day), just that, having never studied canon law, and not having had to think about these things since I’m not having a Catholic wedding, I was surprised that there are quite so many of these very specific rules.  Turns out there are many details to sort through – logistical, legal, spiritual – to get married in the Church, even without the added details of planning a party to celebrate it all!

As far as my own wedding goes, I’ve decided to trust in the countless friends and family members who have assured me that all the checklists and details and self-inflicted stress will be well worth it in the end, and that as long as we let all the stress go on the day of the event, we’ll treasure the memories of our day – the day that wouldn’t be what it is without all the checklists and details and planning and paperwork.  And speaking of paperwork…I’m off to double check that “get marriage license” is on my to-do list!

This is the third in a series of four reflections that Kate Henley Long, soon to be Kate Henley Averett, is writing this summer leading up to her wedding in September.  Kate is very ready to be married but not yet ready to get married, not until she makes a reception playlist on her iPod and prints ceremony programs and, of course, gets a marriage license.


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