Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She Says:

Aileen says: Life has been good for our family. We have been married for 30 years and were blessed with four children. Our 25-year-old daughter recently got engaged to a man she met while at college. They appear to be very good for one another, and we feel very blessed that he has a similar Catholic experience as our daughter. They are church going! Amazing in this day and age!

So, why am I irritated when I watch their wedding plans? I realize the wedding is a very special day and they want to have a “perfect” day … but a marriage is a lifetime. It appears to me that all the fuss and prep for their wedding is overshadowing the prep for spending the rest of their lives together.

It also appears that in the process of seeking that “perfect” day a tremendous amount of stress is being placed on their relationship via their having to deal with selection of venue, guest list (better known as attendee overload), DJ, flowers, bridesmaids and groomsmen (as well as gifts for them), limousine (versus having the wedding trolley), and so the list goes on.

Add to this the push and pull of trying to accommodate two families from two different states, and all the advice that is streaming to this couple who do not want to offend anyone in this process. I am watching them get tense and upset over one day.

I have not seen them sign up for the marriage preparation from our archdiocese or what an Engaged Encounter weekend might provide for them to take a really good look at their relationship and even get some pointers on how to deal with the stress of preparing for the wedding day itself.

Help! Is there anyone else out there experiencing this problem? What can I do? My husband, Rick, does not see that this preparation is a problem. Rick really likes our daughter’s fiancé and that is all that matters to him. Rick figures they have found one another and have done really well so far. Why would they have to plan for their future relationship? He wants us to “stay out of it” but I am finding that hard to do.

He Says:

Rick says: Aileen is all out of sorts about this coming wedding which at this point is over a year away. Our kids are not perfect, nor are we. So, they are stretching to prepare for a party that they figure will happen only once, and they are planning a big shindig. So what? Let them! We have set aside money for each of our daughters to use as they wish when they reach maturity. If our daughter wants to splurge on a large party, let her. As long as her fiancé is willing to go along … and so far, I don’t hear him complaining.

We had many fewer advantages than these two kids, and we did OK. I say just let them do their thing. If there is some stress involved, so be it. They can sign up for the required couple preparation at some point in the future. That is all that is required. We should be happy that they want to be married in our church and not on some goofy beach someplace.

We have provided the roots they needed. Now they need to spread their wings and fly the way they want to fly. I say, “let them be and be there if they ask for our help.” They are better educated than we were and they know what they are doing.  They are just abiding the social norms for today. So long as they are content with their money going to this reception instead of putting a down payment on a house, let them. If they want to rent a limo, let them. If they want a $100-a-plate reception for guests, let them. If they want 10 bridesmaids, let them. If they want to fight over some of this prep, let them. It is their life and their wedding.

It is their marriage. We need to stay completely out of this. I think if we talk about relationship preparation, they will turn us off and not listen to us needling them. I love Aileen very much. She has been a great mom. She has given great advice and shown the way since our kids were babies. Now our daughter is preparing for her new life and Aileen needs to just let go and watch, even if there is stress. That is where I stand.

“Be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble” (1 Peter 4:8).

What should they do?

Both Aileen and Rick have good points to make on this discussion. Aileen is right when she points out that a wedding is a day, but a marriage is a lifetime. It is important for any couple to put effort into discovering their unique and special relationship, and Engaged Encounter or following up with archdiocesan marriage preparation (usually involving a six-month preparation period) is important.

True, that many of us who have been married for years may not have had this opportunity for relationship prep, but we also grew up in a society that was less materialistic and there were fewer expectations for the “big day.”

It is also true that Aileen and Rick’s daughter and her fiancé are well educated, still participate in going to church and appear to be well suited for each other.

This is their wedding and they do need to prepare together for this celebration.  They both may believe they can handle the financial pressures of finding housing, paying back student loans and still have the big bash they appear to be planning.  Once they register with the church where the wedding is to be held the priest or deacon should provide marriage preparation to include a FOCCUS inventory so they will get to dig deeper into their relationship to observe their compatibility even more than they have done to date.

Keep in mind that this couple has watched their parents cope with marriage for years. That, in and of itself, has been a huge learning experience.

Their experience of stress in the wedding preparation can prove valuable to learn more about how they will learn to compromise and how they will deal with stress together.

This “problem” is an age old one. Maybe Aileen and Rick can take time to watch some old movies that present how such a “problem” was managed on the screen.  “The Catered Affair” and “Father of the Bride” are only two examples of endearing tales of couples who had to deal with how their daughter would be wed.

Just watching such examples of the pull and take of the wedding reception may be worth Rick and Aileen taking the time. We guarantee at the very least these gems will make them smile and will reduce some of Aileen’s concerns.

“Home and possessions are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14).