I was 20 when we were married. Generally speaking, I didn’t know much of anything. I knew I wanted to marry Daniel in a church. I didn’t even care so much which church (it was a few years before we became Catholic). I didn’t care what our wedding colors were. It didn’t make much of a difference to me what song played when I walked down the aisle. It was before Pinterest. I just wanted a white dress, a ring, and to be married.
Looking back, it was a sweet wedding. A few flowers. Some candles. Bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, and friends. We ate some cake, had some punch, sang some hymns, called it a day, and began a marriage. But there’s one thing I look back on and deeply regret (other than missing out on a Catholic wedding): children were NOT invited.
I was adamant about it. We only included the names of grown-ups on the invite and then set up childcare at the church so that if someone was so crazy as to bring children to a wedding, we could nip that in the bud right away. I think we told the ushers, if you see anyone with children, tell them there’s childcare in such and such room! Don’t let them in! They might…….What did we think they were going to do? Talk? Cry? Run around? I’ll tell you. I thought they would RUIN THE WEDDING. What if a baby started crying during our vows? Wedding ruined! What if a distracting kid ran around through the aisles? Wedding ruined!
You see, I didn’t get it. I thought a marriage was all about me and Daniel. I didn’t understand that separating children from a marriage revealed that I didn’t understand a central truth: marriage is about so much more than two people in love. It’s a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church. And God’s love? It’s bigger than just the two of us. It’s a love that’s always giving, always sacrificing, always delighting in the gift of life. And children are the beautiful fruit of married love.
I also didn’t know the first thing about what it was like to be a parent. That barring children from the wedding might mean that it wasn’t possible for some families to come. That they would be excluded because I wanted a perfectly silent wedding.
I didn’t understand any of that. I didn’t understand that being pro-life means including little ones in Christian life because they are part of the Body of Christ and Jesus wants them there. And I didn’t connect marriage to the idea of children at all. That was a decision for down the road after we’d had plenty of years for just us. It wasn’t until we were unexpectedly blessed with our first child that I started to get it. Children strengthen and perfect married love, they’re not interruptions or inconveniences. They’re kind of what it’s all about. Children aren’t accessories to marriage. Instead, one of the primary purposes of marriage is children and creating an environment where they can thrive and be loved–setting a foundation for understanding that they are beloved by God.
We recently had the privilege of attending a wedding of a dear friend. Now with three young children, attending an out of town wedding where children aren’t invited really isn’t an option. So, I asked the bride in advance whether it was ok to bring the kids or if we should look into childcare options. I breathed a sigh of relief when her answer was, “bring them!” And when we arrived at the wedding at the Saturday evening vigil Mass, it was clear that this couple got it. They understood that their marriage wasn’t all about them. It was all about Jesus. It was about God pouring out his grace on them while their community of all ages rejoiced with them. The Mass wasn’t even exclusively for the wedding! The wedding guests mostly arrived early and sat in front in their finery while the other Mass attendees found their seats and murmured, “must be a wedding today!” We worshiped together, received the Blessed Sacrament and our friends were married.
In two years we’ll celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Now that I know that children can’t ruin a wedding just like they can’t ruin a Mass, I wish we could go back in time and invite children to our wedding. But since time travel isn’t an option, we’ll be throwing a big party. And you can bring the kids. In fact, I’ll be disappointed if you don’t.
UPDATE: We did have that party. And there were kids everywhere. And it was perfect.