By Blake Sittler
Consider the downside of ‘destination’ weddings
If you had it to do all over again, and you could get married anywhere
in the world, where would you choose?
Part of my family is from the Alsatian region in Europe,
a territory greatly contested historically between France and Germany.
It is a popular wine region and apparently quite beautiful. My wife’s
family is also mainly German so this would have been a popular choice
I can imagine an especially warm day, maybe 20 degrees or so, a light
breeze with some cloud cover. We are on a rise from which we can see
the vineyard village of Riquewihr. For those of my family who would have
been able to attend, this would have been the first time they would have
set foot in the land of our ancestors.
Afterward, we would celebrate with wine grown in that area, French pastry,
German sausage and an accordionist would alternate between the Beer Barrel
Polka and La Vie en rose.
Instead, we were married at St. Mary’s Parish in
Handel, Sask. Boring!
Destination weddings are becoming more popular. Over the last 15 years
there has been a dramatic increase in the number of couples who are opting
to celebrate their weddings not only outside of their parish, but outside
Depending on where you get your statistics, anywhere from 10 - 24 per
cent of couples have celebrated their marriages at a location outside
the area where they reside. Destination weddings account for at least
some of the weddings no longer being celebrated in parishes in Saskatoon.
In only the last 10 years, there has been a drop from 362 marriages in
2001 to 259 marriages in 2010. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, the number
of marriages celebrated in parishes has been cut in half over the last
We have all seen photos of these beach weddings: beautiful
they all beautiful?) and handsome grooms in linen pants, cotton shirts,
hair blowing in the wind, sand scrunching through their toes. It is not
a surprise that these types of celebrations are becoming more popular.
If you get married somewhere tropical or wonderful, your
honeymoon is built into the price of the wedding. Bargain! You can’t
go wrong with the photos. There are fewer guests generally because most
cannot afford the cost of travelling to the destination unless they schedule
their family vacation around it.
Finally, most of the restrictions around church marriages are lifted:
no need for preparation courses, you can play any music you want, you
can wear whatever you want and in many cases you can shape the liturgy
to resemble the unique love you feel for your betrothed.
It could almost be asked, “What is the downside?”
The wedding ritual publicly marks the beginning of your
life together. It is the first time you state in an official way before
God and men and women, and drunk uncles and nephews who have their shirts
untucked, that you give yourself fully to another. It is the sacramental
genesis of a life into which you invite and accept God’s presence
It is also the moment when you call upon the community — all the
dozens and hundreds of people who have gathered — for their support
Weddings are not the bride’s day. They are not the couple’s day. The wedding day, like the marriage, belongs to everyone in the community who gather around you. It is not a private ritual but a public sacrament.
(Design Pics photo)
Marriages need community. Those who gather at a wedding
are making a sort of pact with the couple that they will support them
and remind them of the vows they have made on that day. They need to
be a foundation, the rock upon which we can build our marriages. Rev.
Joe Ackerman once quipped, “When you celebrate your wedding on
a beach, be careful not to build your marriage on sand.”
The primary caution for those planning a destination wedding is to consider
what role the couple sees the community playing in their marriage. Many
marry outside of the church because they do not believe what it professes
and do not want to be hypocrites. This is obviously an ethical and mature
For those who believe what we, the church, profess about
marriage — especially
when it relates to the community’s role in guiding, supporting
and mentoring the couple — it is important to make a careful decision.
I have no regrets about getting married in Handel. In the end, I would choose my destination marriage to a destination wedding.
Sittler and his wife Brooke have three children. He is the acting Director of Pastoral Services for the Diocese of Saskatoon and sits on the Marriage Task Force and the Retrouvaille board of directors. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org