Long-Distance Relationship: Marriage Prep Edition
Virtually Prepared – My mom’s voice buzzed over the phone: “You have not taken enough ownership of the wedding-planning process. You should have thought more of the details through before attempting to plan your wedding from a different state.”
I held my breath and tried not to snap back. Thought through what, exactly? Long-distance relationships are tough. So is planning the logistics of a large party with guests invited from across the country. Often throughout this year I have wondered how different my engagement might be if my fiancé, mom, and I lived in the same place.
As the first step of our engagement process, marriage prep received a good deal of this consideration. Dalton and I first met with our deacon on the one weekend last August that he was in town. From that day until our wedding in June, he and I would be living in Pennsylvania and Colorado, respectively—practically opposite sides of the country—and somehow, come May, we needed to be ready to marry in the eyes of the Church. And of course, we needed to feel prepared (virtually prepared at the least) ourselves. I had no idea what to expect.
Our deacon recommended that we try online marriage prep with Agape Catholic Ministries. He explained the process: being paired with a mentor couple, completing the required reading together, and collaborating to answer discussion questions. It sounded like college all over again and frankly, I was daunted. As we worked through the beginning of the course, we tried to “compensate” for being separated by talking through every assignment in meticulous detail. We even tried reading the Scripture passages in Latin. For our first session, we conducted a Zoom screen-share. The instructions on the first page prompted us to begin in prayer.
Okay, I thought. I lit a candle.
Three hours later and I was still seated at my desk, about to submit the final question of our first session. It was dark outside. The class had been informative, but we would not be able to sustain meetings of that length every time.
Thankfully we didn’t have to. We adjusted to the format and became more efficient in answering the questions. One of the best parts was reading the “answer keys” from our mentor couple—their responses to our initial answers to the discussion questions. Over time, we developed a sense of who they were. Two months later, by the end of the course, we not only possessed a firmer understanding of Theology of the Body but also had strengthened our commitment to one another and to our desire for the sacrament of marriage. Taking the time to deeply examine aspects of the wedding ceremony—the wording of our consent, for example—gave us a fuller idea of it’s significance.
We participate in a greater tradition. For as long as there has been a Church there have been weddings. Exchanging this sacrament, really understanding the weight of our consent, is more than just an affirmation of our own commitment to one another. We bind ourselves with a rite that has existed since Eden. In doing so we are reminded of our experience as people of this world but destined for the next.
I think that online marriage prep simplified our priorities and helped us to be virtually prepared by separating us from the distractions and social pressures of a classroom, or even of each other. Being separated physically demanded mental unity and strong spiritual focus. In a way this entire engagement period has been a Lent for us. Only after separation, reflection, and yes—fasting, are we truly ready for the Easter feast.