Parish closings causing some wedding day jitters

The wedding gown has been purchased, the reception site selected, the photographer booked, the flowers that perfectly match the pink in the bridesmaids’ dresses ordered, but what about the church? For many future brides and grooms, parish reconfiguration has added another aspect of anxiety to the already stressful process of planning the wedding of their dreams.

“What happens if the parish where we have planned to get married closes before my wedding date?” is the question on the minds of many engaged couples. Kathleen Heck, who oversees the reconfiguration process, estimates that she has received over 100 telephone calls from anxious couples and their families, worrying that their parishes will close before their weddings.

Many of the calls, she said, are triggered by a visit to the invitation printer, where couples are faced with the predicament of what parish to have printed on the invitation. This dilemma can be avoided with a little planning and thought, Heck said.

Invitations are mailed to guests approximately six weeks before the ceremony, therefore couples printing and mailing their invitations now should be safe, she said, because of the timing of parish closings.

The announcement of parish closings is expected sometime in May. The parishes selected will not all close at the same time. They will shut their doors for the last time two months, four months or six months after the announcement has been made.

Weddings scheduled to take place in June and July should not be affected by the parish closings because parishes most likely will not have closed by then, Heck explained. Furthermore, depending upon a parish’s effective date for closure, some couples may be able to marry in a parish designated for closing up until November.

Heck had this advice for future brides unsure about printing their invitations: “If you’re in the gray area where you’re not sure if your parish will be closed,” prepare everything except the invitation until after the parish closing announcement.

“Place the order, pick the print style and the text except the name of the church, pick up the envelopes, get them addressed, get them stamped, have the insert ready and all your waiting for is the invitation itself,” she said. For those couples planning weddings from August on, “you’re going to know the name of the church in plenty of time to print the invitation,” Heck said.

Weddings cannot take place in a parish once it has been officially shuttered, Heck said.

Couples should contact the parish where their ceremony was to take place if their wedding is scheduled after the effective closing date of the parish. Couples’ “first resource” when faced with changing the location of their ceremony is the pastor and staff at the original parish, she said.

Each time Heck receives a telephone call or e-mail from a worried couple she tries to assure them of three things: that they will be married “on the day that they had planned, at the approximate time they had planned and in a location that works with their reception plans.”

“We are a sacramental Church ... so we understand that there is a tremendous pastoral element to the Sacrament of Matrimony,” she explained. “During this extraordinary time of change in the Church of Boston we cannot forget the importance of the pastoral aspect of matrimony.”

The archdiocese has asked that pastors submit a list of weddings scheduled at each parish to aid in the process of finding another church for the wedding if necessary. Parishes have also been instructed to be flexible with the times a wedding can be held, Heck said. The priest, who has prepared the couple for marriage, will preferably preside over the ceremony, even if the location has changed, she added.

The most desirable place for couples to marry if their parish has been closed is in the designated “welcoming parish,” Heck said. If that is not possible, the archdiocese will work with the couples to find them a church that is in the same general area or one that is near the site of the reception.

Heck advised couples not to book their wedding date in multiple churches as a precaution, as some couples have done.

“In the excitement around their wedding they will not remember to cancel in a parish and they’ll leave that time booked and it won’t be available for someone who really needs it,” she explained. “While right now we are working in a period of uncertainty in a very few weeks we are going to have absolute certainty.”

It is easy for couples to get “caught up in the planning” and lose sight of the sacrament involved, Heck stated.

“If we can lay to rest their concerns about the location of the wedding we can free them up to focus on the importance of the sacrament they are about to undertake,” she said.

Heck urged all those with questions or concerns to call her office at 617-746-5758 or e-mail rmc@rcab.org.

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