Nine am to five pm….the church’s way of both preparing Bryan and I for our lifelong commitment of love to each other and granting us permission indeed to be married in their eyes. Part one of a two part completion program.
When Bryan showed up to pick me up this morning in dress pants and a polo, I asked if this was a formal affair. He said he was just trying to take our pending marriage events seriously & asked who in the world would show up in a t-shirt to a church’s premarital counseling session. We pull into the parking lot in time to see a few couples unloading out of their cars. The male in front of us was clad in a t-shirt and jean shorts, complete with a flat bill red hat that still had the sticker on it. She was trailing about ten feet behind him. I said that I called it, Bryan looked around in disbelief.
We file into the room and grab name tags that had both of our names on each tag (in case we lost each other?) We were definitely a minority, with mostly Hispanic-Americans in the class of about 60 people. There was even a couple with a child…which became very awkward later during the purity talk. I shuffled in and grabbed the first two seats I saw available, right next to Hugo. He was a small Hispanic man who explained to us that his fiancee was in Mexico, where she had been this whole time, and he was going to marry her in a few weeks and return with her to the United States (after she said her goodbyes to the family). They were having a ‘small’ wedding of 250. He came alone. He came alone to a marriage preparation class, which we found pointless for all it’s intended purposes. I asked if he wouldn’t mind scooting over a chair seeing as he wasn’t expecting his counterpart to show up. He overheard Bryan & I discussing the weekend retreat we have to sign up for next and asked what that was….we decided he was in for a long ride.
Everyone in the room looked dead. Maybe it was the fact that it was a Sunday, maybe it was the rain, or maybe they weren’t too jazzed about getting married. I felt like everyone was staring at us because we were [genuinely] in love. We all stood up to give introductions/wedding information midway through the session. This was also painful to hear a few couples say ‘destination wedding,’ right after the instructor had lectured that services not performed in the church were invalid, or null.
We broke off several times as couples to review the information we had just heard. This is when it became painful for Hugo. He would stand somewhere, awkwardly pretend to be reading over the question over and over, and sit silently while the rest of us engaged in conversation (no pun intended). They served us Mexican catering at lunchtime and Bryan advised me to ‘eat it as fast as I could’ because there would be a line in the restroom shortly. He was right. This started my first bout of hysterical laughter, which I am notorious for when laughter is not appropriate expression.
It started off with our marriage being analogous to a Toyota Tundra. We were lectured about the views of the church on the sacrament of marriage, the roles of man and woman, the importance of procreating, and sexual intimacy. We were informed that any act that is of a sexual nature that doesn’t end in the full consummation of intercourse is not permissible in the eyes of the church. Nothing done with and for the self, as an act of pleasure for the other, or any form of forced behavior is acceptable. We were briefed about the ‘annulment process’ and how it was justified, but then told that it was never okay to get a divorce. This, of course, we knew. Why would we be walking down the aisle if we intended to end this decision painfully somewhere down the road?
And then came the discussion on Natural Family Planning. The church is wildly against contraceptives, IVF, and AI pregnancies. The leader insisted that the healthiest and most beautiful time in their marriage occurred when they exercised this philosophy. For those of you who are unaware (and you may take a class on this through the church for just under $200), NFP is basically watching your own fertility clock and knowing when you can and cannot engage in intercourse. Bryan raised his hand and volunteered that we know someone who claimed to use NFP and ended up with 9 kids. We asked what they thought about that. This started a commotion of sorts and ended with some medical professionals in the room insisting the time window for fertility was about four days longer than what the instructor had told us…making it equally as fallible as other options.
When the time was up for our day-long seminar, we were told to turn and face our partners, put our hands on each others hands, and repeat a poem. They emphasized the seriousness of togetherness and doing things with your spouse…something yet again irrelevant to Hugo. I’m sure he wondered what in the heck he was doing there. When Bryan and I stood up, we both coincidentally noticed how super weird this was for him. It started the hysterics all over again and while we were praying, we were shuttering up and down, mascara running down my face, and causing a small scene. Poor Hugo.
We wished Hugo all the best on our way out. One thing is for sure–Pre Cana is packed with conversation-starters and discussion topics that would put Cranium to shame.