No Easter Marriage Without Holy Week Prep

My fiancé wasn’t too keen on my suggestion that I walk down the aisle with a crucifix instead of a bouquet.

It’s not that he didn’t get the concept I was aiming for. He understands the Paschal mystery and Christ’s call to lay down our lives for those we love and all the rest. But he wanted to keep the focus on celebration and resurrection instead of the cross, at least for our wedding day. His reservation made sense and I wanted to honor his wishes, so I dropped the idea of carrying the cross come Easter Saturday on April 14. Welcome to Betrothed Love 101.

According to what the two of us have been learning during this joyful, stressful, challenging and exhilarating time called engagement, the transition from friendship to betrothed love involves self-surrender. In Love and Responsibility, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote: “The essence of betrothed love is self-giving, the surrender of one’s ‘I.’”

What we’re just beginning to learn is how to make this surrender. It’s not only a physical and emotional thing; it has to go into all daily decisions and interactions with one another. The wedding bouquet issue was one of the simplest we’ve dealt with in the last months. That particular surrender came with minimal personal struggle. But I can’t say that for every decision we’ve faced during the course of our engagement.

Engagement is hard. Maybe we should just stop trying to prepare for marital self-giving until we’ve got the full tool kit at our disposal.

I’ve pondered this, and wondered about the purpose of engagement. In my less virtuous moments, it strikes me like a brutal sentence. Why can’t we just get married once we’re committed to marriage?

I concluded that, besides the Church’s wisdom in requiring six months of preparation and additional discernment, there’s another reason for engagement. It’s like swinging two baseball bats for a while before you step up to the plate. This extra burden of trying to love like married people without being able to simply has to make it easier once the grace and intimacy are in place.

I’m not saying the two-bat theory means there’s no hardship after marriage. You’ve still got to deal with the curveballs and change-ups that come your way. But you’re more likely to send one out of the park if you had a proper warm-up.

Since becoming engaged, I’ve begun to wonder if Christian married couples even realize how good they’ve got it. Or, at least, that it could be a lot worse. They could be trying to merge their lives into a harmonious union without the benefit of marital grace or the blessing of conjugal intimacy. During engagement, I wish I had the actual graces available to them through the sacrament of matrimony. I wish I could call on those graces when I’m deciding how to spend my day or when my fiancé and I have to make a big decision. I wish I had a married couple’s ability to express love through the ultimate act of self-giving, to soothe hurts and strengthen commitment through that same act. By golly, I wish I were married already.

My fiancé is right. A wedding is a time for celebration. Not because of the stuff we’re going to get from our photographer and our caterer and our family and our friends, but because of the grace we’re going to get from God. If such a supernatural gift isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

Easter Saturday can’t get here soon enough — but first, we know, we’ve got to pick up our crosses and make our way through Holy Week.

Gina Giambrone writes from

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.