How to Survive Your Wedding

So, surviving a wedding is hard enough as a guest, but Seraphic has that covered.

Surviving your own wedding? Let’s just say we now understand why second weddings are generally small, tasteful, and low-fuss. The usual hullabaloo is barely worth putting up with once.

Nevertheless, Laura and Brigid made it through, as have countless other women in our social circle and in generations before us. Here are the tips that helped us.

15. Remember that good taste, etiquette, and must-haves are all culturally determined.

The ceremony hasn’t changed in a few centuries, but expectations for attire and the reception vary greatly from one generation to the next. In your grandma’s day, a normal wedding for the middle and lower classes involved cake & punch in the church hall wearing your best dress (which you’d wear again). Etiquette is often presented as “What Has Always Been And Must Always Be”, but that’s not accurate.

The most important thing is to get married and to thank your guests for sharing the day with you. If you can provide a full meal or dancing, that’s lovely. Light refreshments and a time for sharing are more than appropriate as well. And there’s nothing wrong with following the customs of your family today. Just don’t put pressure on yourself about it—especially if you and your fiancé don’t share the same traditions.

14. Do the best you can, and then let it go.

Once you’ve bought your dress, stop shopping. Once you’ve booked a venue, stop browsing. Once you’ve had your wedding, delete the Pinterest boards. The goal isn’t perfection. The goal is good-enough. Once you’ve made a decision, stop trying to optimize it, and move forward.

13. Find someone to talk to about changes relating to marriage. 

By which we mean: shared finances, loss of independence, and also sex. A kind, mild-mannered missionary took one bride aside and said, “I wish someone had said this to me before my wedding. Sex doesn’t have to be amazing at first. And if it’s not, call me.” A little awkward to say out loud, but so comforting to hear before a big change.

Also, no matter how regular your cycle used to be, stress has sucky side effects, so you may want to pick up a pretty pair of these.

12. Share the work.

Wedding planning is a great opportunity to practice sharing a life, because a lot of those things will show up in everyday married life. Too long to-do lists? Check. Competing priorities? Check. Limited budget? Check. Opinionated families? Check. It’s good to learn how to be a team. Also, it’s a lot of work, and it shouldn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Set your priorities and principles together, then divide the work based on skill and availability.

11. Network.

Chances are, you are not the only person to get married in your social circle. Especially since your social circle can now include strangers on the internet. (Hi.) Laura asked women who had 2 or 3 married daughters what their tricks were.

Things people may tell you:
Mary’s daughter just got married and she has 23 cute vases she’s happy to loan out. ABC church has a $X hall rental fee but they get a discount with these caterers. Costco has cheap, tasty sheet cakes. You can totally rent wedding dresses. This florist will help you DIY stuff at a great price. Mention ___ and you’ll get a referral discount. Etc.

10. Use modern resources.

Hotel blocks? Jetaport, done. Floral/centerpiece/backdrop tutorials? A Practical Wedding is your friend. Seating chart? There’s an app for that.

9. Decide what the priorities are.

For Laura & Gabe: photographer, food (as in, how to have amazing food on a budget), and hospitality for our families who both traveled a long way. For Brigid & Anthony: photography, having everything at the church, and that all the guests felt loved.

This means you also know what the priorities are not. Brigid got a cheap dress and felt pretty anyway. The photographer was stellar, but they only booked her for 4 hours. Laura’s table arrangements were decided the Thursday before and she loved them. Both moms made great desserts and cookies and there was no fancy cake. There was not a display of childhood photos or family memories, and the cake topper was ordered last minute from the florist.

Not everything has to be perfect. Not everything can be.

8. When you get stressed out, focus on one thing you’re excited about.

For Laura, it was the flower girls and the music. Seeing the smiles on four girls ecstatic to be in your wedding is super uplifting. And when your groom does stellar arrangements for an invite-only male choir — yeah, we were brought to tears during the rehearsals. Some days all Brigid liked was her shoes & the groom. Eventually she decided she couldn’t elope because she wanted to hear the choir. Wanting to elope is normal, though you do have to get married in an Orthodox church, and Vegas doesn’t have any Orthodox drive-thrus. (How would you do the Dance of Isaiah in a drive-thru?)

7. It isn’t all about you.

It’s not your day. That is a flat lie spread by people trying to sell you things. It’s a day for your families and communities to send you off into matrimony, so you’re pretty important in this process, but it is not Your Day. One priest said, “The wedding is really for the moms, so they can celebrate instead of cry.”

Your families will probably have some sort of stressful response to your nuptials, whether it’s demands, criticism, freak-outs, or excruciating helpfulness. You love them and they love you, weddings are stressful, and people often respond badly to stress. Which will create more stress. All of that stress will land on you and the groom.

Be gentle with yourselves and generous with your loved ones.

6This is not the Single Most Important Day. It doesn’t have to be the Most Perfect Day Ever.

It’s not a production or a show. It’s a wedding.

Your wedding matters. Your sanity, your health, your spiritual life, and your relationships matter more. You don’t have to make this one day perfect. Most of us can’t make a random Tuesday perfect, add 200 people and a big price tag on top and—forget it, too much pressure. Perfection is not a goal worth striving for.

There will be other fancy events to host, complete with paper invitations & floral centerpieces if you’d like. There will be other beautiful dresses to wear. The wedding matters, but it’s not your only chance to enjoy these things.

5Ask for help.

Your community loves you. Your wedding is not a burden or an imposition. It’s okay to ask for help. People may say no, and that’s okay too, but in general it’s safe to ask. Especially feel free to reach out to your bridesmaids & groomsmen, your families, and your spiritual support network. They love you.

A very dated (and eternally charming) wedding photo. 1957, via Wikipedia

4. If it’s appearance-related, it doesn’t matter enough to lose sleep over.

This we can guarantee: if it’s about how the tables look, or how the flowers turn out, or even about how you look walking down the aisle, it is not worth agonizing over. How things look is special, but it’s not important. And it will absolutely look dated in three years, much less thirty. Timelessness is a myth, so let your wedding reflect what’s happening now. You are who you are. You are alive and getting married today. That’s worth capturing.

3. Decide in advance what’s worth feeling disappointed over.

As pre-wedding Brigid put it, “I just want the guests to be comfortable. I want people to be happy. (I almost said “I want people to be happy and to leave me alone,” but that’s stress talking.) I would be very upset if we ran out of food. I would be very upset if people complained all night. The centerpieces…just don’t explode or catch on fire and it’ll be fine. I will be upset if I don’t feel pretty, or if anybody makes insulting comments about my appearance, or if people make suggestive comments about the wedding night. I will not be upset if the flowers aren’t quite the varieties chosen, or quite the right feel. I will be upset if someone doesn’t listen to what we said we wanted, but not if there’s a mistake made. If the cake falls, or a kid steals a chunk too early, or the shepherd’s pie is dry, or someone makes an awkward-but-loving toast…it’s okay. As long as everyone feels loved, it’ll all be okay.”

2. Remember that this is reality.

An unexpected guest.

Things will go wrong. This isn’t a movie, a fairy tale, or a stylized inspiration blog post. But good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, you will be married at the end of it. Remember, as things go awry (the timeline gets delayed, someone faints in the heat, the wrong color dance floor gets left by the previous night’s party, a homeless guy wants to be in the posed photos), that this is real life. And in real life, you are marrying the one you love, the one you trust and cherish enough to work out your salvation together. That’s pretty great.

1. You only have to do it once.

And then you get to keep him forever. Hold on to that thought. Hold on to it tight, and make sure this is the guy that you want to stress out with for the rest of your life. It’ll keep you connected to what’s important, and it will prevent any (okay, most) 2am breakdowns over invitation fonts or how-will-I-pay-for___.

Congratulations & best wishes!

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What the Church teaches is not purity (in the way Evangelicals use the word), but chastity. Chastity isn’t something that you start out with and then can lose forever with one mistake. It is a virtue that takes prayer and effort to grow into. All sins can be forgiven through the sacraments. People like St. Augustine, who so famously said “Lord give me chastity, but not yet” can become a saint. The vocation of marriage, like the call to holiness, involves prayer, frequent sacraments, and hard work. Before marriage, we are still called to holiness, meaning we embrace virtue and avoid sin. We embrace the virtue of chastity, which includes abstinence for the unmarried, and avoid sin, here being lust. Within marriage, guess what? We are still called to the virtue of chastity. We aren’t called to permanent abstinence anymore, but we still need to be virtuous. In marriage, both partners need to lead each other to the Lord.

— SMP501, via Reddit

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It’s an Ortho-baby!

Announcing the arrival of Ortho-baby: Lydia Elizabeth on October 22, 2015.


On the evening of her 8th day, Lydia was officially given her name, being named after the Holy New-martyr Lydia (1928), commemorated Jul. 20/Aug. 2. While Lydia’s patron’s commemoration won’t displace the Holy Prophet Elijah, whose day she falls on, her Name’s Day will always be the Sunday of the New Martyrs of Russia (Sunday nearest Jan. 25/Feb. 7).


Glory to God for a safe delivery and the blessing of new life.


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Mostly on marriage, a couple links on what it means to be a man or a woman. Also, the NY Times is on a roll.

* * *

The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give [NY Times]
“My husband of 11 years and I sit at these weddings listening to our in-thrall friends describe all the ways in which they will excel at being married. “I will always be your best friend,” they say, reading from wrinkled pieces of paper held in shaking hands. “I will never let you down.” I clap along with everyone else; I love weddings. Still, there is so much I want to say.”

A Master’s Degree in … Masculinity? [NY Times]
““Now you’re in the wheelhouse,” he said, excitedly. He pointed to the Good Man list on the left side of the board, then to the Real Man list he’d added to the right. “Look at the disparity. I think American men are confused about what it means to be a man.”” 

I’m Too Old for This [NY Times]
“Let others feel bad about their chicken wings — and their bottoms, their necks and their multitude of creases and wrinkles. I’m too old for this. I spent years, starting before I was a teenager, feeling insecure about my looks.”

Obey [Seraphic]
“He was the most manipulative young man I ever met in my whole life, and that is saying something. …Reader, I married him.”

On Incompatible Marriage Partners [Elder Paisios]
“Don’t you understand that God’s harmony lies in the different characters? Different characters harmonize each other. God save you from being the same characters! Imagine that both of you have the same character, what would happen if both of you grew angry: you would destroy your house.”


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Friday Linkage

The Sacredness of Sexuality [Morning Offering]

Texting & Dating: A Primer [Art of Manliness]

Sewing as an escape from fashion’s dictates [Guardian]

Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage [Catholic Gentlemen]

What Jane Austen Taught Me About Being Single with Purpose [Verily]

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PSA: Family Relationships

Children do not have to “earn” love and acceptance from their parents. That is not how parents families work. …When we are born, literally all we are able to do is eat, scream, [poop], and sleep. We have no talents or skills, no language, no idea of how to please other people, no gratitude; but that doesn’t stop most parents from picking up a newborn baby and saying, “Yes. This tiny blob of a person who is about to make my life hell is someone I love from the bottom of my heart and would die to protect.” We are born infinitely worthy of love we never merited and devotion we can never repay. This is how healthy families work, how healthy parenting works: whether the parent gave birth, watched the birth happen, or didn’t come along until years after. We are loved whether or not we grow into adults who can give anything back to the people who care for us.

And no matter how old we get, we never lose that worthiness for parental love.

— Book of Jubilation, commenter on CaptainAwkward.com


Editor’s note: And what does that say about how God the Father and Source of all love views us?

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Linkage: On Being Kind to Ourselves

Singles and Sorrow [Auntie Seraphic]
Of course there’s sorrow sometimes. Be gentle with yourself.

Let’s Exercise Because We Love Our Bodies, Not Because We Hate Them [Verily]
Endorphins are one more good way to treat yourself well.

Four Ways to Stop Your Period from Getting You Down [Verily]
Pragmatic tips.

I Gave Up Dating for a Year, So I Could Learn to Date [A Practical Wedding]
Sometimes, time to yourself is a very good thing.

Body positivity gave us plus-size models. It also means we objectify more women. [Washington Post]
Beyond appreciating every type of beauty, can we also acknowledge that we don’t have to be beautiful to be valuable & loved?

Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk? [NY Mag]
All humans have vocal static. Let’s listen to the message underneath.


And as a bonus, a photo of a wedding being celebrated in the war-damaged St George Church in Homs, Syria. Churches see baptisms and weddings and funerals, joy and sorrow, gratitude and heartbreak. God grant many years to Fadi and Rama!

More here.

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Building a Story

There are two ways of thinking of satisfaction. One is the passionate/companionate love hedonic view, that the best life would be the one with the most passion in it. The other is a narrative view, that the best life is about building a story.

If you think that the best life would be the one with the most passion in it, then yes, that strategy [of many short relationships] would be much better than getting married. Falling in love is the most intense and wonderful experience—the second-most intense, after a few drugs, which are more intense for a few hours. Short of that, falling in love is the most wonderful thing.

But I didn’t get much work done when I was falling in love with my wife. And then we had kids, we finally had children, and that was totally involving—and it would be weird to be such a romantically-involved couple when you’re raising kids. And now that that insanity has passed, I can return to writing books, which I really love doing. And I have a life partner who I think about all day long. And that’s not tragic. That’s not even disappointing. I have a life partner. We work together really well. We’ve built a fantastic life together. We’re both really, really happy.

If you take the narrative view, there are different things to accomplish at different stages of life. Dating and having these passionate flings are perfect when you’re younger, but some of the greatest joys of life come from nurturing and from what’s called “generativity”. People have strong strivings to build something, to do something, to leave something behind. And of course having children is one way of doing that. My own experience having children was that I discovered there were rooms in my heart that I didn’t even know were there. And if I had committed to a life of repeated sexual flings, I never would have opened those doors.

If you think the whole point of life is to gaze into your lover’s eyes all day until you die—well, then, I wouldn’t want your life.

— Jonathan Haidt, in Aziz Ansari’s Modern Love

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A complicated institution

Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise.

—Esther Perel

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(Nice Guys™) Anatomy of a Scar [Book of Jubilation]
Why do some guys think if they’re nice enough then women should owe them something? A deeper explanation: “Nice Guys™ believe no one would ever love them just as they are. That’s why they try to ‘earn’ it.”

Reflections from Tea with Bonnie [Praying in the Rain]
A reflection on prayer, marriage, and dispassion.

If Disney Princesses Had Moms [HuffPo]
Also interesting: if Disney villains had served as mother figures.

How to Use the Five Apology Languages [Get-It-Done Guy]
Because we all have different things we look for in an apology.

What Jane Austen Taught Me About Being a Strong Woman [Verily]
My favorites are Anne and Elinor. What about yours?

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