In an interview with a British journalist, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, famously lamented that the reason why her marriage to Prince Charles failed was because "there were three people" involved: Diana, Charles and Camilla.
In one sense, the late princess was correct, but, in another, she was sadly mistaken. Obviously, the other woman's presence was wrong. However, the real third person in the marriage seems to have been either ignored or never even invited. A good and holy marriage actually entails the involvement of three people. The husband, the wife and Christ. In the Church's Rite of Marriage, the priest (or deacon) tells the couple that "Christ abundantly blesses this love. He has already consecrated you in baptism." Christ sanctified the Sacrament of Marriage by his presence and participation in the Cana Wedding feast. He was not merely a guest; He was the integral element. Furthermore, Christ is the embodiment of marriage because in His person is the eternal union between God and man.
Sadly, it seems that this aspect of marriage appears lost. This evening, I was watching the local television news. The reporter covered a story about an upcoming bridal fair that the station was going to be sponsoring in two weeks. The angle the reporter took was that due to the economic situation, many brides and grooms are adopting cost-cutting measures when planning their weddings. One of these cost-cutting measures involves combining the venue for the wedding and the reception.
The reporter interviewed a bride who said that she thought it was a great idea. She could have her red-carpet moment down the aisle and then have the reception of her dreams all in one place. In fairness to the bride, I was not sure if she was Catholic; however, given the statiscial data for our little corner of the South Texas border, there was probably a good chance that she was. Somehow, I don't think that she meant going from the church into the parish hall.
I am not a crumudgeon when it comes to romance. However, I think that our culture fixates too much on the magic of the moment and the fairy tale. Our culture forgets that while a wedding may last a few hours, a marriage lasts a lifetime. Perhaps the bigger issue is where Christ fits into all of this. Sure, Charles and Diana had a grand church ceremony, but, was the marriage grounded in a solid Christian principle? Was the real "third person" somehow left behind in the magnificent grandeur of St. Paul's Cathedral?
And what of the bride in tonight's news piece? Perhaps she and her future groom, if he, too, is Catholic, are not properly catechized in the Faith to know that they run the risk of entering into an invalid marriage. Some will blame the Church for making couples wait six months before they get married. However, this waiting period is to ensure that the couple receive the proper formation and guidance from both their pastor and the diocese. The Church cares about the welfare of her children, especially when they are about to embark on a lifelong commitment. The Church wants to ensure that the man and the woman know what they are about to do. The Church also wants to make sure that when the couple does enter into marriage, Christ will be more than a guest at the wedding. He will be an intergral, permanent part of the marriage.
Sadly, though, this does not seem to be the message that engaged couples are getting in the media and at bridal fairs. In fairness to the secular media and the bridal industry, perhaps this is not their message to give.
I pray for the young bride and her intended. I also pray for Prince William, Charles' and Diana's son, and his own bride, Catherine Middleton. I pray that these young couples will come to the realization that a marriage does, in fact, need three people: the husband, the wife, and Christ. May Christ abundantly bless their love. May these couples, in turn, invite Him not only to the weddings, but to be an integral part of their marriages.