Being engaged is a promise to marry.
It’s all so exciting for the engaged lady because now the reason to browse through wedding blogs, create a viewable Pinterest board of wedding inspiration and follow wedding-filled Instagram accounts are justified! The dream wedding can finally materialize!
I am a proud engaged lady who does just that above! Although I have to admit, I was never for anticipating how my wedding would look like because I never really knew if I was going to get engaged or married. So… I never had a “must-have” theme or color or a dream dress or a dream venue. I just know which church I wanted to have it in. Even for the little things, I was never a big fan of anticipating really, just because it causes me a lot of disappointments in the mind and in the soul that are NOT in line with reality at all. This cycle of disappointment in the mind is something I find to be a sickness among us women. But apart from too much anticipating, I know that there is no harm in dreaming. So, at the same time, I somewhat regret not having a full-fledged wedding plan because now that it’s actually going to happen… I don’t know where to begin! Allow me to reserve the discussion of the two camps for a separate post.
Any person in a relationship or anyone coming in from a relationship can attest to the bounty of hardships that they go through. Granted that both parties have kept the relationship clean, they experience a world of different topics to discuss, things to consider and the nearness of the new beginning when they are engaged.
With that said, I found it appropriate to have our engagement… blessed.
A couple in my alma mater had a very simple betrothal ceremony in our university chapel before they got married. I didn’t attend the ceremony but I never forgot it either – all I thought was: “When I get engaged… I’m SOOOO going to have a betrothal ceremony! It’s so cool!” – the excitement was that of buying a new pair of shoes.
Once I did get engaged, it didn’t take me long to bring up the idea of having the betrothal ceremony to both my fiance and my confessor.
Like many people, I thought, what the heck is a betrothal ceremony anyway?
For me, it’s always best to go through the etymology:
Let’s go to the word BETROTHMENT (from where the words betrothal and betrothed come from): Please refer to this source for the complete article. Here are some definitions and significances of betrothment to summarize things:
From Roman law sources: “the mention and promise of future marriage.”
Pope Nicholas I defined them as “pacts of promise of future marriage.”
St. Thomas referred to the engagement as a “quasi-sacramental.”
Just like the Code of the Canon Law, engagement is normally understood that the two parties either (1) mutually agree with being engaged or (2) mutually agree with being engaged once the party being proposed to by the proposing .
I hope that made some sense.
There is no correct template for the betrothal ceremony. We had a blessing of engagement gifts – engagement ring for the woman and another wearable object for the man (ring, watch etc.) and there were no exchange of words. There is another article that I’ve read about an engaged couple who said their promises out loud. Another married lady mentioned to me that when she had her betrothal ceremony with her husband they even had to sign a contract!
Simply put, the betrothal ceremony is a short blessing of an engaged couple with the priest who presides over the couple.
After all the research, we realized that betrothment is a huge deal! Although it’s a tiny speck next to the caliber of the Sacrament of Matrimony, I can’t help but delight in the idea that even the engagement period can be a gift to heaven instead of just a mere fury of preparations.
Our Betrothal Ceremony
We had our betrothal ceremony on a sunny Saturday morning the day before Our Lady’s birthday. We held it in the chapel of my high school alma mater. We celebrated alongside another engaged couple and just a couple of friends behind us.
The chapel was empty until we came in. The ceremony was setup in the right most side of the chapel.
The massive prayer book was on a wooden rest was open. There was a bottle of holy water to its right.
Our priest serenely brought out the Blessed Sacrament to be the Ultimate Witness of our ceremony.
The candles by the tabernacle were lit.
Once the ceremony began, the readings sweetly rang in my ear:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Father gave a short and meaningful commentary. He said that on his way to our ceremony, he contemplated on the betrothal of St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother. In Jewish tradition, bethrothment was equivalent to marriage. The only difference was that they didn’t live together yet. It was in marriage when they could formally live as husband and wife together in a home.
He gave that couple as the prime example of how they met hardships one after the other but was facilitated by the loving advise and guidance of God. The first hardship was when St. Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant. When St. Joseph thought of quietly leaving Mary, God made known to him His plan in a dream. When that was all figured out… then there was the problem of the flight to Egypt. And then in a couple of years… they lost Jesus in the temple. It was ONLY when they went back to the temple to pray did they find Jesus. Father said: during this engagement period, you will be going through a lot of hardships but to no avail even during married life you will be going through even more hardships but — not without God.
This was an awesome reminder that hey, no one can truly love without God who is Love Himself.
I quote Fulton J. Sheen from his fantastic book Three to Get Married:
The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love: you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves and God; yo, and me, and God.
Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful. One cannot tie two sticks together without something outside the sticks; one cannot bind two nations of the world together except by the recognition of a Law or a Person outside the nations themselves. Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of self-giving. Love is triune or it dies.
The meaning of the above mentioned quote was captured by this beautiful ceremony.
I do hope that more and more couples become open to having a Betrothal Ceremony when they get engaged.
Although the preparations are what is normally highlighted, married life is ultimately what a couple gets themselves into. In the bustle and pressures of life and the life to come, we could use all the help we could get.
All photos courtesy of our dear friend, Jake Morales.