The other day, a very close friend and I were discussing funeral flowers, "It isn't about the person who died anyways," she said. Something in me wanted to disagree. I've heard this phrase often when referring to wedding planning, "It isn't about the couple getting married anyways." "Why?" I thought, "A funeral IS about the person who has died because for a funeral Mass, it is about the soul for whom we should pray." So then my friend shared how many people who are not Christian, or not remotely interested in entering a church, were all planning on attending the funeral, and how blessed she felt for the opportunity for evangelization for those who may have not set foot in a church in their whole lives.
So my heart changed a bit, and I agreed. In the case of a funeral, it IS about the gift that God gave us in the life of the person who died. It IS about a beautiful expression of God's Creation through flowers, about how the program is structured to invite those who have zero familiarity with the Mass to participate even slightly and to feel welcome in our home parish. My friend is right about a funeral not being all about the person who died... it is about how this soul has touched our lives, how we are to carry on the virtues they contributed to the world... It is an opportunity for the new evangelization!
And just as a funeral is an opportunity for the new evangelization, so is a ceremony for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It is an opportunity to carry out the virtues needed in marriage. Aren't there flowers and programs for weddings? Aren't there wedding guests who are not Christian, who are not interested in setting foot in a Catholic church? They won't know the songs, they won't know the responses... so engaged couples can make a decision to purchase licenses and have the songs printed right in the programs, they can choose to have the wedding guests pray over the couple after Mass, and they can order their decisions around their personal call to unity and this mission field for the new evanglization.
In the end, it is of course paramount, the consent and commitment of the marrying couple, but it isn't all about them. It is also about the amazing unity accomplished by their sacramental ceremony. Family who may feel divided are united in a church for the wedding, attending a feast in the same room, dancing on the same floor. A marrying couple has the chance to approach etiquette and division with opportunities for love. So when Samantha needs a gluten-free diet, and the groom's mom wants daisies in her corsage, and the friend we invite has never been in a Catholic church, these details that seem frivolous, become opportunities for the new evangelization that meets the needs of those who are excited about a couple uniting in love, who are open to receiving their love.