Marriage and Lisa Marie: Notes From the Altar

Lisa Marie reflects on her Catholic upbringing and reconnects with a long-lost friend.

After 13 years of Catholic school (yup, even my kindergarten class was Catholic), I didn’t ever consider not having a Catholic wedding ceremony. Thankfully—though not purposely—I fell in love with a fellow Catholic, so deciding to follow the Catholic rites of matrimony was an easy decision for both of us. The problem is that neither of us is a particularly active Catholic, so where exactly do we start?

I grew up in the DC suburbs and spent the first nine years of my education at St. Ann School and Church in Arlington. During those formative years, I went to church twice a week, studied religion every day, and like most children with their religion, never really thought about the process as anything other than the status quo. But as I grew into a preteen and those rebellious urges began percolating in my brain, I met Father Chuck. For those who’ve seen the movie Keeping the Faith, Father Chuck is comparable to Ed Norton’s character, only better. He takes the intangible elements of religion and makes them understandable through his personal anecdotes and real-life examples. Basically, he made religion “cool.”

I absolutely adored Father Chuck, and for the few years he was assigned to our parish, I got as deeply involved as I could with our church. As I continued to grow, he would even take Stefanie (my childhood best friend and now maid of honor) and me to McDonald’s for ice cream so we could talk with him in depth about the things in the world that we didn’t understand. He was reassigned to another parish right when I entered high school, but even without regular contact, he remained an incredible influence in my life. The years passed, and as college came, my religion faded into the background. Church became something my mother remained heavily involved with, but to me it was just something that had been a part of my maturity process. But even with my changed mindset, I’d still tell stories to Andrew and my friends about this great priest from my past.

So mere days after Andrew and I were engaged, I knew that I absolutely wanted Father Chuck to perform our ceremony. It was so important to my mother that we be married at St. Ann, so I figured I could create a situation with the best of both worlds. He was currently pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, so I thought maybe I could convince him to perform the ceremony at our old stomping grounds of St. Ann—Arlington isn’t that far away!

So after six years of silence, I contacted Father Chuck, hoping desperately that the man who had made such an impact on me even remembered who I was. Taking the coward’s way out, I e-mailed him, so if I never heard back I could write it off as a technology glitch or some other unforeseen circumstance. But never to disappoint, he e-mailed me back, recalling ice-cream food fights and camp stories that we had experienced together! I was relieved that he remembered me but also disappointed when he told me that he could perform ceremonies only at his home parish.

This means I had to choose which was more important to me: to walk down the aisle in the church where I grew up and where my mother was still deeply involved or to be married by a priest who played such an integral role in who I’ve become. Andrew had no emotional investment in either option, so he left the choice up to me. I guess it’s time to do some soul-searching.


Lisa Marie, a local bride-to-be, writes every Friday about planning her wedding, which will be in Washington in July. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.

If you like reading about Lisa Marie, make sure to check out our other blogging bride-to-be, Eleni, who writes every Wednesday. Follow her adventures here

To read the latest Bridal Party blog posts, click here.