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Wedding Jitters

July 15th, 2013by Sue Sack

Bride and GroomAnd these were jitters at an international level.

The last weekend in May we celebrated on our farm the marriage of our oldest son Dan to his Japanese wife, Erika.  The two of them, her parents and brother (none of whom speak more than a few words of English), flew in from Tokyo for a few days, and some 70 others then came  to wish the new couple the very best.

In the end it was a beautiful celebration, and is our trademark…. different.

Not only was it a “homegrown” gala – family and friends borrowed tents, tables, and chairs, put together the decorations and flowers, catered the buffet meal, built a dance floor, emceed the ceremony and the music, baked an incredible cake, and transported guests from the neighboring farm on a hay wagon – but since Erika and her family are Shinto-Buddhist, it was also a true amalgamation of cultures and rites.

The official “marriage” took place in Tokyo and consisted of submitting the correct paperwork at the correct government office. Dan and Erika very much though also wanted a public exchange of vows, which made us quite happy, but for quite valid reasons they did not wish to do so within the Church.   As a “good” Catholic mother, not to mention a pastoral minister, I certainly had hoped to follow Church dictates.  But what SHOULD the role of the Church be in interfaith marriages? How DO we define a “sacred space?” I still haven’t figured out the first (surprise!), but upon reflection I realized that for Dan, who has lived eight different places in the past decade, the most sacred spot in the world is our farm.

Despite my initial qualms, plans moved ahead, and what an amazing event it eventually turned out to be.  The universal language of laughter, joy, love and good food successfully did its work.  The incorporation of a few new customs to the evening’s celebration – a hand-holding ceremony featuring the parents, and the planting of a Japanese plum tree  – added an inspired touch.

As I should have expected, signs of God were present everywhere that day – in the beauty of the evening, the glorious green setting and abundant growth of the surrounding gardens, the marvelous food,  the children racing through the woods and barns, the crowds of dancers, the smiles and high spirits.  I could not imagine a more perfect celebration.  What grace with which to commemorate this marriage.  What a sacramental evening. What a blessing to share it with those of another faith.

Dan and Erika, あなたの上に神のみ恵みがあらんことを   (may God bless you!)

P.S. Here is a great article from Busted Halo by Susan Vogt of Cincinnati with many answers about Catholic weddings: Must Catholics Have Their Wedding in a Church?

Photo Credit: Dan and Erika on their wedding day. S. Sack photo. Used with permission.

Sue Sack

Sue Sack is Director of Adult Faith Formation for Precious Blood, St. Rita and St. Paul, Englewood