Thursday, June 10, 2010

My MIL invited a priest to the wedding

Dear East Side Bride,

I'm not religious (my family is Hindu, I went to Episcopalian school, but I don't believe in organized religion) but my fiancé is Catholic. He's very open-minded and doesn't believe in the dogma/hypocrisy/etc. that bothers me about organized religion. His mother, on the other hand, was very upset when we announced our plan to have a secular, non-church wedding (it's going to be officiated by a friend and we're writing the ceremony ourselves). To appease her, I've agreed to go with their family to their hometown church after the honeymoon and have our wedding "blessed" by their family priest. This is something I would never do, except that he wants to make his mom happy, but it turns out that it's not enough. His parents invited the priest on their side of the guest list, and it turns out he'll be traveling here to attend our wedding. This happened months ago, and I figured it wasn't my right to complain because they have a close relationship with this priest. But yesterday she asked my fiancé whether it would be okay if the priest offered a blessing before the meal. My immediate instinct was "no way!" I also know that my parents (who are hosting the wedding) would not be happy about this. I've suggested that my fiancé tell his Mom to invite the priest to the rehearsal dinner the night before (which his parents are hosting) and the priest could offer a blessing there, but as far as I'm concerned there's no place for something like that at my wedding. I also explained that since my parents are hosting I think it's fair that their feelings be respected. He thinks neither of these will come across as a good/gracious/convincing reason to his mother, so I'm asking for your help for ways to think of a nice way to explain that we do not want the priest to bless the meal. Just because she invited him as a guest does not mean that all of a sudden he gets to participate. 

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

-Secular Bride


Dear SB,

You have been more than gracious. Offering to let the priest to bless the rehearsal dinner is a perfect (and generous) solution.

Tell your fiancé to stop being a such pussy and stand up to his mother already.


(Image from D Mode February 2010 via TOBACCO&LEATHER)


  1. Your opinions and view and not wanting the blessing is reason enough. No explanation beyond that is needed (and probably wouldn't be accepted).

  2. I think this is one of those times when wedding planning forces you to create and demand new boundaries that respect the family you and your fiance are creating together. And yeah, it will hurt his mother. But yeah, this isn't her wedding or life and she'll need to learn how to start dealing with it here and throughout your marriage. You've bent over backwards to respect her desires already. The rehearsal dinner is MORE than generous. Your fiance needs to get on the same page with you and draw your joint lines in the sand for his mother's meddling.

  3. yup. the post-wedding blessing is way above and beyond the call of duty, and the rehearsal dinner blessing is an appropriate fix. time to stand up for the bride's folks' feelings, and, y'know, the bride's.

    and serious props to you, SB, for being way more gracious than i'd want to be in your position.

  4. YES! If the rehearsal dinner blessing isn't a perfect compromise, she won't be happy until you are getting married in a Cathedral by the fucking Bishop. Stick to your guns!

    My family is Catholic and incredibly close to a particular priest. I personally cannot stand the institution and there is no effing way I would allow a blessing, even by this man that I've known my entire life.

  5. That sounds like a great solution. And sensitive to both sets of parents.

  6. PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN!! I'm speaking from experience here, my MIL's religious tendencies crept into our ceremony in a big way, and almost ruined the wedding, plus there is still bitterness there almost a year later.
    Explain to her that while you respect her religious beliefs the wedding is about you 2 and not any other higher power.

  7. Agree wholeheartedly with what ESB said. You have done more than enough, especially agreeing to get the union blessed afterward, that is going above and beyond. If your MIL needs to say grace before the meal she can do so quietly at her seat. Fact: if he can't get himself to stand up to his mom now, he never will and that is going to put a strain on your marriage. It's you and him against the world, you can't spend your life making other people happy!

  8. Wow, SB, I am pissed for you. I am from a Catholic family, but don't consider myself Catholic and would never, never have a wedding in any church. Totally agree with esb. You can't control your MIL's feelings, so don't even waste your thoughts worrying about them. It's your wedding, your life, and most importantly your beliefs.

  9. Yeah, its time for the fiance to man up and say no to mom. You shouldn't have to be the bad guy. (Unless - is it possible that he's using his mom as an excuse to get a blessing that he actually wants?)

  10. ESB is right. My mother has a close relationship with her hairdresser but she's not coming.

    As much as it is hard to say, if your parents are hosting the main event they have carte blanche on what happens.

    The rehearsal dinner is fair game if the parents in law are paying. Yes to priest being involved if it appeases her but it's not all about religion, grace is fine, no more. No, no, no at the wedding.

    He has to tell his mother.

    P.S. Please may I have those legs.

  11. I'm not trying to start anything, I reread your question to ESB one more time to make sure I didn't miss anything...I noticed you said "my wedding" and I'm guessing you said that because it is your wedding as opposed to your MIL's. But it is you and your future husband's wedding, so you might want to double check and see what he wants the priest to do, he might want to the priest to bless the meal before the wedding. If he doesn't really care one way or the other and is just doing this to please his mom, then stick to your guns and say no, but if he even slightly wishes the priest to bless the reception meal, maybe think twice...

  12. Lor, I believe that the MIL wants the priest to perform a blessing of the union before the meal. She is obviously not respecting her daughter-in-law's convictions, even though SB is making concessions every step of the way!! Being a secular person in a Catholic family, I often endure and sit silently during prayers and blessings etc. It is all well and good until someone is making you endure a ritual that you wholeheartedly disagree with on one of the most important days of your adult life. The Catholic church, of all mainstream organized religions, is the most oppressive, misogynistic, and corrupt. All of this, when SB says "you know I'm not comfortable with this, so how about we do this instead."

    SB, you are behaving with such grace in this instance, and I can't imagine any modern etiquette expert could give you anything but applause. If your MIL is so friggen traditional, she should know that the rehearsal dinner is HER domain, wedding dinner, YOUR FAMILY'S domain. Done. She should learn to honor the wishes of her son's partner, and respect the fact that you are willing to compromise. You MUST compromise if you are going to have a harmonious life in the future. Don't change a thing.

  13. I'm religious and I am getting married in a church. So you're getting this advice from the other side. Here goes...
    Your fiance needs to realize this is less about religion at the end of the day and more about establishing yourselves as a family unit. Yeah, today its religion, tomorrow it may your child's education... just an example as I have no idea if you're planning on having children, yada, yada.
    Your MIL needs to understand that this is not about her. This is about you & your fiance. I think its wonderful that you chose to go with a blessing in a church afterwards. That was really kind of you. Now its her turn to back off. Your parent's need to be respected too.

    Most of all you and your fiance need to be respected.

  14. Oh my gosh - I'm RC but your situation makes me feel nauseous with sympathy and annoyance at unreasonable MIL.
    ESB is right - you and h2b need to be on the same page with this. Precedents are being set and with people who are going to be in your lives forever. My only advice would be when handling this, stick to the subject and to the script and try and stay calm. The worst thing would be to say terrible things to loved ones or loved one's loved ones, that cannot be unsaid.

  15. Good advice from all. Good luck to you, SB. I feel for you! I was raised Catholic. My fiance and I were very close to getting married in the Catholic Church. But we got real with ourselves and each other: We don't attend Mass regularly, we live together, we have premarital sex, we don't know if we want to raise our kids Catholic, so... we scrapped the church wedding, cancelled with the priest and have asked a friend to marry us. I feel 100% relieved about it and A LOT more excited about our "new" ceremony. It feels like we've reclaimed our wedding. I hope you can create the wedding you and your fiance want for yourselves. You shouldn't have to compromise.

  16. Wow, thank you for your input, everyone! I believe that my future mother-in-law wants her priest to bless the meal (not the union!) but even just that makes me really uncomfortable. We are planning to eventually have children, so I also fear that if I give in on this, it opens the gates to giving in on everything and losing who I am as a person in the process. My lack of religion is not a lack in my eyes (that's why I don't like the term "atheist" -- why do I have to define myself as being against something I don't care about?) -- it's a very thought-through, considered position, and I believe in it passionately -- so the thing I feel she doesn't realize is that having a secular wedding (in which neither my fiancé's nor my opinions about the origins/meaning of life, etc. come into it) IS the compromise. You're right that I need to clarify with my fiancé whether he wants the meal blessed -- my guess is that he would have never asked for that on his own, especially because he's always very respectful of my feelings -- but I am going to show him this blog tonight and see what he thinks.

  17. Agreed. And for what it's worth, NOW is the time to stand your ground on matters like this, because if your MIL knows she can get away with something like this before you're even married, you can kiss those boundaries goodbye once you walk down the aisle. Promise.

  18. ummmm ... SB ? i'm with lil bee, but i'm going to take it a step further. i hate to say this, but it seems kinda like a 'can't see the forest for the trees' situation.

    i'd say you have a MUCH bigger issue on your hands than just a blessing before dinner. time to set some boundaries, else the Christmases, Easters, AND CHRISTENINGS (EEEK) could turn this squabble between you and your husband (to-be) into a FULL BLOWN FIGHT.

    my parents are Catholics ... the 'blessing' at the wedding is just the tip of the iceburg. between that and the totally DICEY relationship that i have with my partner's parents -- oof. holidays are a real JOY (not) for us.

  19. Miss these advice posts lately...

    I agree with ESB. I think as a couple you need to stand up for your decision. You've already chosen to compromise by having the priest bless the rehearsal dinner. As one part of an interfaith couple, I realize the importance and lack of importance of religion... but the BIG thing is respect. Especially since you and your fiance see how completely absurd it is to have a priest offer a blessing at your wedding.
    - Hide quoted text -

    My mom begged me once to have our kids baptized by a priest (we don't even have kids yet) and I told her flat out, "No way. Their father is Jewish and I am not baptizing them Catholic." Then she asked me, "well how will they be recognized by God?" WHAT!!!! I told her they will be recognized by God and whoever else b/c their parents are going to raise them as kick ass do-goodin' folks who bring joy and love to the world. Shoot.

    Fiance needs to stand up to mom. (Trust me, we deal with similar issues) Both of you need to stand up together for the sake of your future. Can't have MIL meddling in everything, right?

  20. Weddings used to be about two families joining together for economic benefit and preserving social values, including religious values. Thankfully, now we don't have to send our children out to work down the mines or on the farm for us, that whole reasoning is redundant. We do it for love, and just to express love between two people is enough.
    So, it's not about anything else... at all...
    (or is it?)
    Good luck

  21. I agree with most - stand up for yourself.

    Who cares if it doesn't come across as 'good/gracious/convincing', at least it's honest.

    If she's this into her faith, and into convincing you of it, she should have been bringing a Priest around to convince you of the faith for a long time now, not just pulling one out at the wedding.

  22. Agreed! No is no!!! She shouldn't need convincing or have any explanation. She should be respecting your wishes. You've stood up for yourself and now he needs to stand up for you too. Good luck with the MIL, hope everything turns out well!

  23. 100% agreed. This is such a tough situation and both you and your mister have my full sympathy, but he needs to accept that there's just no way to do this without hurt feelings and suck it up. I am a huuuuuuuuge believer in each partner in a relationship being responsible for handling/putting limits with their OWN parents. This should not fall on you.

  24. totally agree with esb. it is YOUR wedding, therefore, it should represent YOU.
    i think it's incredibly kind that you're allowing the blessing at the rehearsal -- but the blessings should stop there. especially since you & your family are not catholic!!
    happy wedding!

  25. It strikes me as a tad this was planned all along. In my opinion, she's pushing it because she knows you don't wanna be the villain and you want to be reasonable. However she is taking advantage of your reasonable nature. She knows you (and I assume your fiance) want a secular wedding. A secular wedding does not involve a priest. End of story.

  26. hearing this email brings me back to planning my wedding, and dealing with MIL's. ughhhhh, so sorry

  27. ESB, love you (and especially this advice column) but have to take issue with your derogatory use of the word "pussy". Pussies are badass and deserve respect! Let's not go and equate them with wimpy bridegrooms.

  28. My priest is awesome. I call him Father Hollywood. He is Barabara Streisand in a collar--only Catholic. I highly recommend.

  29. G E T. O U T. N O W.

    The only thing worse than the Catholic Church is what it can do to a man when it gets teamed up with a pushy Catholic Mother. Your man is never, ever going to be able to stand up to anyone, let alone his family. It's sad, but he's toast. Run....