I am, and, when I get married, I do.

A purely legal marriage does not feel, to me, like marriage at all. Yes, there is clearly some legal status involved in marriage: joint tax returns, ho! Shared insurance! You are legally acknowledged as a family unit, which is no small thing monetarily: you receive all the legal benefits of a family. You can get joint checking accounts without the banker looking at you funny; you can routinely put each other down as life insurance beneficiaries; you can state your income as combined on any number of applications for apartments and houses and loans. Most of these are not that hard to get around if you are unmarried, especially at this point in time. But it is nice to have the legal status to back up your own view of yourself and your marriage. It is nice to have backing from the government. You are not just married in your own minds, you are married in the eyes of the entire country.

That said, the legal aspect is the least important part of marriage. Legal bodies should have as little impact as possible on the actual marriage. Here's the license, here are the blood tests, here are the documents, here are our signatures, now we're going to go get ACTUALLY married, bye!

And so you go into the church and get actually married, because when all is said and done, marriage is a sacrament.

This is interesting, yes, considering lapsedness. Why on earth would a lapsed Catholic still consider marriage a sacrament, let alone a Catholic one? Most of the lapsed Catholics I know have an academic interest in the church, if that. But marriage is not (or fucking Shouldn't be) academic.

For me, it comes down to the difference between a legal and a personal transformation. A sacrament, by definition, transforms the person who receives it. This is not a thing to take lightly; this is why the Catholic church is so horrified at divorce. The sacrament of marriage transforms two people, permanently. This is an intensely personal transformation, and the legal system can just keep as far out of it as possible, as far as I am concerned.

So. If the legal system has as little place as possible in marriage, why does the church get a place? It is also a large, grave institution; it places as many restrictions on its members as the government does on its citizens. You can clearly marry outside the church, in your own ceremony; that is perfectly valid. Create your own sacrament, if that is meaningful to you. Transform yourself.

But the church sacraments have been around for hundreds of years. They are ritualistic, and although many people think Catholic ritual is spooky, or that it has lost all meaning by this day and age, I think that this particular ritual is still very applicable to regular people. It is relevant in a way that few other sacraments are. In this sacrament, you get a chance to transform and be transformed: to, by your own words and actions, transform yourself. You initiate this transformation. You complete it. It is yours. And it is acknowledged as yours within the church; it is acknowledged as yours within the community.

The legal contract may change your status, but the sacrament, and your action within it, changes you.

Speaking of community, there is also something to be said for using a ritual that many people consider valid. Your marriage will be meaningful to you whether you have it in or out of the church, as long as you transform yourself in it. But how meaningful is it to your community?

This problem might be getting a little archaic by this point, but I think there is still something to be said for having a marriage backed by hundreds of years of tradition plus thousands of believers in marriage as sacrament. People have had faith in this ritual for a long time; it has been meaningful for a very long time. It is not just meaningful to you; it is meaningful to all kinds of people. It is meaningful to nearly every member of the Catholic church, and you, as lapsed Catholic, are still a member of the secular, if not necessarily the sacred, community. They believe in your transformation as much as you do. That is one hell of a lot of community backing you have there. And That is important because belief and faith in ritual is what makes ritual meaningful. Yes, your individual belief makes your individual marriage meaningful to you, and that is clearly the most important thing in said marriage. But I, for one, want my ritual to be meaningful to my family. I want it to be meaningful to my friends. I want as many other people to believe in it as possible.

And I want it huge and public. Marriages used to be celebrated on the church steps, did you know that? They were done outside, in full view of the town, so everyone knew that the ritual was taking place, so everyone knew that these two people were being transformed. They were not only being transformed in relation to each other, they were being transformed in relation to the community. A new family was being formed; these people were going to operate differently within the community as a result of being a family. The community was being changed along with the individuals involved.

Now, I don't want to be married on the church steps, but I do want as many people as humanly (and, in more practical terms, financially) possible to see my marriage. I want the full Catholic wedding, full mass (if possible, which, well, we shall see), full reception and full bar. I want our full community to be there, to witness. I want our friends and family to fly in from across the country, if necessary. I want everyone to know. We are transformed; the community is transformed with us, by the fact of our transformation within it. So I want the community to be a part of this transformation.

And then the sacrament of marriage is a celebration, and I want everyone to celebrate it as much as possible. There is a reason that a priest is also called a celebrant. This is a community event; come, be a community. Come talk and dance and drink.

This means, eventually, that you're invited.

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