The Childless Wedding

People often said to me when I was a pastor that doing funerals must be so difficult compared to (for eg.) doing a wedding which would be a happy occasion. Truth to tell, I always preferred funerals to weddings. Partly because a funeral generally tends to be more grounded in reality than a wedding… As proof of this, have you ever heard anyone ever speak of a “fairytale funeral”?

I was reflecting on this as I attended a wedding on the weekend. It was a lovely wedding, held at a local wineral on a sunny day, with a clear fresh night lit by a full moon, string trio and jazz ensemble, great food and wine, good friends etc. etc. Everything that makes for a great celebration.

The ceremony was done by a Christian minister – with the addition of a reading of “the Art of Marriage”, a Buddhist Blessing and Christian prayers led by the celebrant’s wife. The sermon/address/chat by the minister was what many wedding sermons tend to be these days: belated pre-marriage counselling in the form of three pieces of good advice for a good marriage. One could have no theological problems with it because there was no theology in it. Oh well, no expects the Summa at a wedding, I guess.

But while everything was really lovely, after a while I became aware that there was something missing in the ceremony. Something GLARINGLY missing.

Take for instance the text they read at the beginning, “The Art of Marriage”. If you haven’t seen this piece of mediocre feel-good wisdom, here it is. There are different versions of it on the web. This is the version read at the wedding I went to as far as I can remember. See if you can pick up what is missing from “The Art of Marriage” before I tell you.

The Art of Marriage

A good marriage must be created.
In marriage, the little things are the big things…

It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ often.
It is the beauty of a loving, committed bond: emotional, social, spiritual, physical oneness.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is not only marrying the right person …
It is being the right partner.

Did you spot it? I’m sure you did if you yourself are married (or have been) and have children.

Yep, AND HAVE CHILDREN. All of us who are married with children know that Marriage truly graduates from being a hobby to being a true “Art” in the raising of a family.

Almost uniformly, all marriage services I have attended in recent years omit any reference to the other reason God instituted marriage: the generation and education of children (Catechism 1660). Not even the marriage blessing – which was once solely for the purpose of blessing the bride so that she would be fruitful in bearing children – any longer mentions children. The prayers don’t mention children. The readings don’t mention children. The songs (if there are any – and often these days there are not – Bertie Wooster would be dismayed to find that a the modern wedding he would not get the chance to beat out a few bars of “The Voice that Breathed O’er Eden”) don’t mention children. NO ONE MENTIONS CHILDREN!

Yet in the speeches the parents of the bride and groom declared their pride in their children, and their children reciprocated in thanking their parents for their love and upbringing. How come the penny doesn’t drop, everyone realise that, God-willing, this new couple will one day be celebrating (and paying for) their offspring’s weddings in turn?

There was a big blank book that everyone could sign and leave nice messages and well-wishes for the new husband and wife. Using my new mobile phone, I found the traditional nuptial blessing on the internet and copied it into the book. This is how it goes:

May the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob be with you
and may He fulfill His blessings in you,
that you may see your children’s children even to the third and fourth generation,
and thereafter may have life everlasting,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever. Amen.

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0 Responses to The Childless Wedding

  1. Louise says:

    Using my new mobile phone, I found the traditional nuptial blessing on the internet and copied it into the book.

    Ah, the wonders of modern technology!

    Mate, you are so right about weddings and children.

    I was looking at the photos of my husband’s family (including me and the kids) and I was really struck by the nauseatingly “lovey-dovey” photo of one young couple, who are not married, contrasted by the photos of the rest of us, holding babies etc. It was quite marked, I can tell you.

    Were there at least some children at the wedding, or were they banned?

    Plus, I like a good funeral myself. (I am attending one tomorrow for the mother of my school friends, please pray for Leonie Mary).

  2. Schütz says:

    There were one or two children – but I can’t recall seeing any babies. It appeared very much as if this couple were the first in their “set” to tie the knot. So the guests were mainly older family/parental friends and then their own circle of friends who were generally bright young things. Certainly no children running around and under the tables getting in the way.

  3. Past Elder says:

    In the same spirit, try to find the prayer after the pater noster, Deus qui potestate virtutis, in which the nature of marriage from creation through the marriage of Christ and his Church, the examples of Rachel, Rebecca and Sarah, are recalled and cited, which mirrors the one you found, Deus Abraham, after the postcommunion.

    Oh wait, don’t. Vatican II chopped it out.

  4. Joshua says:


    The last few weddings I’ve attend had just that prayer – because they were in the Traditional Rite.

  5. Past Elder says:

    Good on ya mate. Once upon a time, there wasn’t anything “Traditional” or “Extraordinary” about it. It was The Rite, how you do stuff, in this case, get married, end of story.

    When I looked into getting married in that ceremony, the chancery official told me it puts me outside the Catholic Church.

    Ah, the unchanging faith and its church!

  6. Joshua says:

    Well, the chancery official was lying or at the least misinformed, as His Holiness has made clear (the older rites never having been abolished, despite appearances to the contrary, he stated, in agreement with much learned opinion).

    Why didn’t you stay and fight against heresy and support the continuance of the old Mass, as did many good people the world over (some few of whom I’ve been privileged to meet)?

    As a friend of mine told me some years back, “It’s all true; it’s all been suppressed*; and it’s all got to come back again”.

    Magna est veritas et prævalebit.

    * Not, as it turns out, by legitimate authority – tho’ very many interested persons tried to claim so.

  7. matthias says:

    Having children is seen by some deep ecology people as being an addition to climate change ie an increase in carbon prints. No longer “be fruitful and multiple’but rather
    ” conserve the fruit and die out”.
    when i got married- presbyterian service by a student of William barclay- one of the Elders at my church sent us a card on which he had written:
    “May you both have the faith of Abraham ,Moses and Isaac
    The strength of Samson
    The courage of David
    The Wisdom of Solomon
    the children of Israel”

  8. Past Elder says:

    Well Joshua, you just don’t think like a Roman!

    Yes, the older rites were not abolished. But, the hoops you had to jump through to get an OK to do them were formidable. Prohibitevely, in most cases, as many found out. Therefore, the only ones using the old rite were those with no OK, such as the Thuc-line parish here, the only place you could find them here.

    So it’s the Roman thing of yes they’re OK, but only if we allow it, and we ain’t allowing it except if we’re real sure you don’t deny what we’re doing now.

    The motu, years in the future at the time, its author busy playing The Empire Strikes Back and kicking the ass (arse, if you will) of anyone who stood up for the old rites and leaving the liberals free reign, did not change this, just relaxed it. But still, a condition of the old rites under the motu is recognition of the validity of the new rites.

    Well, the new rites are not Catholic and not valid, which is the only reason to continue with the old; if they were, one would go on with the new as happens often in church history.

    So the motu is Roman legalism to the max, an Imperial office still at the top of its form even minus the empire,caring for nothing but its power and authority.

    The church does not suppress its truth — unless it’s not the church. All that has happened is, nothing! It’s gone from theoretically being there to practically being prohibited unless extreme measures are taken to present what the church presented once everywhere from St Peter’s to the most remote missionary, to having to swear fealty to the new in order to retain the old, thereby vacating the very reason for retaining the old.

    Roman mind games, Roman word games, yet more evidence as if more were needed that the Roman church stands apart from the church of Christ, both now and historically, and even from the Roman church itself now.

  9. Joshua says:

    I will forbear to comment on your paranoia.

    But everyone knows all that is required for validity of the Sacraments is the correct matter and form, and since the words of consecration at Mass obviously express the words of the Lord as recorded in the Synoptics and I Corinthians then they effect what they signify; Luther himself would have to agree to this, seeing as he was the one who took this theory to its logical conclusion by separating out the Verba from the rest of the Canon (which to him stank) and setting them apart as the consecration of the Sacrament by the words of Christ.

    So whatever one may think of the modern Rite of Mass, it is obviously valid: as a friend put it, “If Jesus has to come to Mass [at Kingston parish], why not you?”

  10. Joshua says:

    Having read Frank Senn’s great big tome about the Eucharist, I know full well that Lutherans during the ‘Enlightenment’ have done very strange things with the celebration of the Holy Communion too; and yet no Lutherans seem to have run about foaming at the mouth about this little discontinuity…

  11. Past Elder says:

    No, it takes matter, form, and intent. The rest of the comment falls apart from there.

    Of course by a Lutheran understanding of Eucharist, Jesus is present in the RC novus ordo Eucharist. I never aaid he wasn’t. Strange that a Catholic argues the validity of the novus ordo on Lutheran grounds. Not unusual, but strange.

    The novus ordo is invalid on Catholic grounds, not Lutheran ones. It fails on both form and intent. That’s the point; it is a Eucharist as Lutherans understand Eucharist, it is not a Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, aka Eucharist, as I was taught it by the Roman Catholic Church. That is why it is a sin for a Catholic who understands to participate in it.

  12. Joshua says:

    Utter bilge!

    How dare you claim that the intent is different – look at the prayers you rudely disparage in your wilful blindness, Pharisee!

    Let’s see, Eucharistic Prayer IV says “we offer you his body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world. Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your Church…” – how on earth is this some sort of evil denial of the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which the very Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes in extenso?!

    You are lying to say such things – lying through your teeth, driven mad by your own foibles.

    You should repent.

  13. Joshua says:

    As for intent: to intend to do what the Church does is sufficient intent, as the Church has ever taught – as in the case of Pacific Islanders who were baptized by Protestant missionaries who explicitly denied that baptism worked anything of itself, and who only baptized because of Our Lord’s command to do so: the Vatican ruled that their baptism was valid because of the intention to do what the Church does (by commandment of Christ), despite such a radically flawed misunderstanding of what this entails.

    The many Catholic priests I know who most thoroughly believe themselves to be sacrificing priests, and who form that intention explicitly, they most certainly have the rightful intention…

    You are the one who have turned the Church Catholic into a monster in your own mind, to justify your desertion of the one sheepfold of the Redeemer.

    Everyone knows that the Church’s individual members and dioceses have gone through a horrible period of dissent since the Council, but the doctrines officially taught by the Magisterium have not changed – when you’re challenged to produce evidence thereof, all you do is rant incomprehensibly with weird expressions, rather than tender evidence.

    I’m hopping mad because you delight in misrepresenting evidence.

  14. Schütz says:

    You know, don’t you Josh, the expression about urinating in a windward direction?

  15. Joshua says:

    I’m not good at bearing criticism.

    Also, I need to be a little more polite, so I retract all disparaging remarks above.

    Mea culpa.

  16. matthias says:

    i was brought up in a strict Fundamentalist protestant household,where the Pope may have been just below the AntiChrist ,but it was interesting to watch my dad change.Yes he still had issues over the inquisition,the reason for the Reformation and papal infallibility ,but he said that “Son,Catholics do not deny the deity of Christ or Salvation or Atonement and they’re what really matters”
    My mother,well she had TB as a young woman in the early 30s’ and when she came out of the Sanatorium ,who offered her a home-her former catholic employer,not her strict Methodist friends,who had the same paranoia about TB as we saw with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s’Who went along to Mass my Mum staunch Anglican that she was-crossed the catholic/protestant divide 30 ears before Vatican II,and vice versa with her friends.

  17. Past Elder says:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is neither a catechism nor Catholic, and if you want evidence, read the bleeder. As a document for the study of comparative religion, it’s fine. As a statement of the Catholic faith, it isn’t worthy to line a bird cage, on the basis of the very faith it lying says it teaches. If I had made it trying to tell myself the the post-conciliar RCC is still the RCC, that miserable piece of crap would have put me out for sure.

    As to the rest, let’s continue uder the “different standards” post, with the understanding that I am in no way saying Catholics can’t be swell people, Christians, or in the catholic church.

  18. eulogos says:

    This was supposed to be about weddings and children.

    I suggest attending an Orthdox or Byzantine rite Catholic wedding. Some of my other children’s current significant others were shocked by the number of references to children at my son’s Orthodox wedding…I lost count at 12.
    (unfortunately they have not been so blessed, even though they swear they are doing nothing to prevent it. prayers in this direction would be appreciated.)
    Susan Peterson.

  19. Christine says:


    Don’t let that ‘ole salty dog, PE, get to you.

    He’e entitled to his views.

    Even if we totally reject them (-:

  20. Joshua says:

    I just wish he wouldn’t say such dreadful things that aren’t even true – for goodness sake I read, have a theology degree, strive to be very orthodox, measure all things by pre-Conciliar teaching, etc. and he just invents these things to stir me up I swear.

  21. matthias says:

    Joshua it is Catholics like you -and a smattering of Lutherans- who are consistent in talking about the things that matter in Christian faith and practice that impress me the most. The use of the Creeds ,the Seasons ,the dignity around Communion,all of these things I really enjoy. So Joshua and all of us ,let us keep on keeping on ,looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith

  22. Schütz says:

    Susan, thanks for staying on target with this combox. The traditional marriage services – even the 1969 Catholic rite. The question (immediately after the crucial – and occasionally left out of home made ceremonies – statement of intent) is:

    “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and the Church?”

    The rubrics say that this question “may be omitted”, but specifies that this is only in cases such as “if the couple is advanced in years”. It would be interesting to know if this question is regularly included today – or if it is considered to “delicate” to ask this question even of sexually active couples who come to the Church for marriage.

    The prayer after the Lords Prayer in the 1969 rite has “Bless them with children adn help them to be good parients. May they live to see their children’s children and after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven”.

    You can see that that follows the pattern of the traditional blessing – but the interesting thing is that the section “Bless them with children…children’s children” is bracketed. The same applies for the prayers and final blessings, in which prayers for children are also bracketed.

    One can only assume that this, like the question at the statement of intent, is to be omitted only when child bearing is thought to be beyond the couple’s ability, but I wonder how often it is left out for other reasons.

    Those experienced in Catholic marriages could enlighten me. I have never been to one.

  23. Past Elder says:

    Yes, it was about the marriage service. To which my only point was, in line with itz nature, the novus ordo has obliterated the Catholic service by deleting altogether the Deus qui potestate virtutis prayer that was such a prominent part of it, and allows it only if you allow the omission in the supposedly “ordinary rite” as valid. For the rest, not here, the “different standards” combox.

  24. Louise says:

    “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and the Church?”

    This and all the other bits you quoted have been included in every nuptial Mass that I have been to (I think) with one exception. This exception was the wedding of an older couple, past reproductive years.

  25. Joshua says:

    I was talking a year or two ago with a local priest, a decent fellow probably not considered by all in every respect conservative, who notwithstanding very solemnly stated that if a couple do not intend to have children, then their marriage could not be valid – and that he asks prospective couples this very question, and refuses to attempt to marry them if they say that they do not.

    And PE, everyone knows that it is the exchange of vows, etc. that the couple makes that is essential for the validity of the Sacrament, not any prayer however wonderful and ancient. After all, a couple in a remote place bereft of priests &c. can perfectly validly marry before lay witnesses.

  26. Louise says:

    very solemnly stated that if a couple do not intend to have children, then their marriage could not be valid – and that he asks prospective couples this very question, and refuses to attempt to marry them if they say that they do not.

    Good man. Very good man.

  27. Past Elder says:

    Well Joshua, I didn’t say a bloody thing about the sacrament being invalid. Can we stick to the black?

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