Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lofty Ambitions

Stand. Sit. Stand. Sit. Stand again. Kneel. Sit. Stand. For anyone unfamiliar with the Catholic faith, attending or participating in a church wedding can be confusing -- for some, boring.

And, as we learned upon reserving our date and time, it can also be overwhelming. A few weeks after securing our spot with parish wedding coordinator, we received a large envelope in the mail, reminiscent of college acceptance packets. Inside, a reference booklet explained every aspect of our upcoming marriage -- from information about the Pre-Cana program to the required documents we'd need to complete prior to the wedding.

At first, this guide seemed like a great way to stay organized, with all the key dates, deadlines and phone numbers in one location. A few pages in, however, we found the six "environmental guidelines," which place certain limitations on the decorations permitted within and immediately outside the church. I was particularly concerned about numbers three and six:
3) St. Thomas of Villanova parish will provide the flowers in the church for your wedding. The flowers will be coordinated with the church environment. We provide this as a service to our wedding couples and to ensure a quality liturgical environment for all the many services that take place in the Church. No additional flowers or decorations are to be brought into the church.

6) Out of respect for the church building: rice, birdseed, confetti, rose petals, balloon launches are not permitted anywhere on the grounds.
Of course, I realize these details are merely that -- small decorative elements to enhance the beauty of the wedding day -- and the real focus can and will be on our committing to one another for the rest of our lives. But I can't help and worry that, with up to two other weddings scheduled in the church on our date, the flowers that are selected for us (and not at all by us) won't match all the carefully coordinated attire, accessories and, yes, bouquets. And I'm seriously stumped as to how we could have a celebratory exit from the church if tossing anything at the newlyweds is prohibited. (Would bubbles have the same effect?)

Flip a couple more pages, and ten panic-inducing rules restricting wedding photographers and videographers will be staring back up at you. Again, I'd like to preface this diatribe with a disclaimer: I understand some of the restrictions, and would never want our vendors to disrupt the dignity and sacredness of our nuptial mass. That being said, I really think there is a middle ground between being disruptive and disrespectful, and the constraints with which we'll be forced to comply:
3) Once the ceremony begins, photographers are asked to stand at the back of the church in the center aisle and take all photographs from that site.

4) For the video cameras, there is only one site permitted. The videographer must remain at that location throughout the ceremony. Please check with the Sacristan regarding this location.

7) Due to time limitations, group photos of the couple and/or wedding party are not permitted in the Church.

9) No photography is allowed from the choir loft.
The "Sacristan" referenced in item four will be an (uninvited) guest at our wedding, ensuring our pros follow each of the rules before, during and after the mass. I've shared all this information with our photographer and videographer -- these policies are one of the reasons we wanted two photographers (so neither will have to move [much] to get great shots), and why we hired our videographer (who has experience working in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church, and is familiar with the locations and angles that produce great footage of the ceremony) -- but still worry we might miss capturing important moments.

Reading through this booklet didn't make me want to have our wedding at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church any less; it did, however, lead me to wonder why the coordinator set such firm restrictions, and what must have happened (one or more seriously disrupted weddings?) to necessitate such a document. And it's made me wistful for the days when I used to coordinate student masses in this church, with possession of a skeleton key that allowed me to climb to the bell tower in the church spires, and enjoy the view from the choir loft. Part of me wishes I'd made a copy of that key, and that I were brave enough to blatantly disregard the rules keeping our pros from capturing footage in the choir loft -- then, of course, part of me feels badly for even thinking of this!

Does your ceremony location come with a laundry list of specifications?

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