Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve been dating the same guy for a long time. We have an exclusive relationship and have been in love since even before we started going out. We’ve always talked about getting married and we’re beginning to plan in more detail.
Now I always envisioned getting married in this huge church with all my family and all of his family there under the eyes of God and a priest and about 29 bridesmaids and the whole lot. I don’t want to be married in some banquet hall somewhere or some ugly little non denominational chapel by a Justice of Peace (or whatever the hell the alternative is.) I’m Catholic, practicing (even though my parents don’t) since high school, I do community service and the whole nine yards. I believe strongly in God and I even believe that one of my prayers is what brought me and Bill together in the first place. Most of my prayers have been answered….and I’m a happy camper. I don’t go to church EVERY week, or even as often as I used to and don’t get me wrong–I’m no religious fanatic. I just think it’d be nice to be married in a Church. (considering that I never went that often I guess I appreciate it more.)
Which comes to Bill. I always knew he wasn’t practicing ANYTHING even when I met him in high school. That never bothered me one bit (since a lot of really devout religious people in my school were driving me insane at the time…..repent your sins or else you’ll be sent to hell! God doesn’t care if you’re young he doesn’t make exceptions! You have to go to Church twice a day every day or else you’ll be shining Satan’s shoes!) (That’s not really that much of an exaggeration!) Anyway, we fell in love and everything has been wonderful ever since…but I mentioned I wanted to get married in Church, he thinks it’s impossible, and I think he’s right. And it’s breaking my heart.
Turns out he doesn’t even believe in as much as I do. In fact, most of the time he doesn’t even believe in God. And if a priest were to talk to him (like you have to before you get married) he would definitely tell them the truth (he feels uncomfortable lying to priests) and I guess I don’t want him to lie anyway.
So we can’t get married in the Catholic Church and I don’t know what to do. I want that day, whenever it is, to be perfect. And now that he found out how I feel about God and that my beliefs don’t mirror his own, he’s been treating me differently too.
Oh I just don’t know what to do! Help me, if you can.
First of all, banquet halls and cheesy chapels are NOT the only “alternatives.” Listen to this: BG recently attended a wedding where the couple, after crossing a flower-festooned bridge over a brook, exchanged vows in a magical redwood glade … right as the sun came out. If that wasn’t a religious experience — presided over by the Holy Being of choice — then I’ll eat my little black dress. I totally understand that “a church wedding” is, like, a thing. But it’s a thing you’ve had in your head since before you met this guy. Fantasies are lovely, but they need to accommodate reality — and they will often do so with equally lovely results. It seems to me that if you find a place that moves you both, then your God will, in turn, find you.
Now. About how your boyfriend has been “treating you differently” since the God thing came up. Being only “most-knowing” myself, I’m not sure what you mean by this. And you can’t be sure what he means unless you ask him. Has the church question stirred up other dormant issues? Clearly there’s something there you need to talk about. Even if the religion thing is weirding him out, keep in mind that that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. Look, even people who share a belief in God still have their differences (hint: the Middle East). Find out what’s on his mind; take it from there.
And on a not-unrelated note, call me old-fashioned (or tell me I’ve misunderstood your letter), but you might want to actually get engaged before you do any more negotiating. Talk ring, then church. Propose to him if you like. I just want to make sure you’re not crossing that flower-festooned bridge before you get there.
This advice was originally published September 14, 1998.