Lent. It's happening - and as someone not raised Catholic or in a Catholic community, Lent can be confusing. Especially if you are planning a wedding during with a guest list of people who observe this religious time. As a complete non-Catholic, I asked my friends Jessica of Budget Savvy Bride and Lauren of Every Last Detail to answer my (dumbass) questions and help me understand more about this special time + give suggestions on how to make planning a wedding during Lent a little easier.
Image Courtesy of: Studio Jk Photography via Mountainside Bride
What is the purpose of Lent and Ash Wednesday?
From Jessica: Lent is a time when you make sacrifices in honor of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us- dying for all of our sins. Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter, set because of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. It begins each year on Ash Wednesday which is usually marked by a ritual of burning the palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday celebration into ashes and applying it to the foreheads of believers as a reminder of our mortality.
Is it all fasting and abstinence?
From Jessica: It's not ALL fasting and abstinence. Every person decides their own Lenten sacrifices– it seems alot of modern believers use it as an excuse to diet by giving up candy or sweets or carbs, but in the literal sense I don't know that anyone really fasts for 40 days. In the past I've given up eating meat, reality TV, swearing, etc (all sacrifices that were super hard for me). The point is to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and give up something that is important to you to as a sacrifice in honor of Jesus. What a believer chooses to give up is up to the individual.
But there is more to it than that- a lot of people choose to take up a Lenten discipline instead of making a sacrifice. Maybe it's reading the Bible more, doing more Random Acts of Kindness, or volunteering in Jesus' honor. I feel like what someone chooses to do in observance of Lent is a very personal decision.
By abstinence, does this mean from specific foods/activities or is it like sexual abstinence?
From Jessica: As I said, it can basically mean whatever you want it to mean. Whatever you feel in your heart you are called to give up or take into practice in the name of God. I've never heard of anyone participating in sexual abstinence during Lent - doesn't sound like a good thing for a marriage, to me! I do think that Catholic church goers give up meat on Fridays during Lent, but that is the only thing that I've ever heard is 'required' by a church to abstain from.
What foods/beverages are most common for people to refrain from during Lent (specifically, what foods/beverages would traditionally be at a wedding that might be a problem for Catholics during Lent)?
From Jessica: I've heard of people giving up sodas or alcohol for Lent. Again it's not a one-size-fits-all type of sacrifice, since everyone should give up something that is personally hard for them.
From Lauren: The only thing that I know of is that during Lent, we try not to eat meat on Fridays. This includes red meat and chicken. Fish, pasta, and pizza is a common replacement for Friday meals during Lent in a Catholic family. So the only thing that a couple would have to be concerned about would depend on whether or not their wedding falls on a Friday.
Are there specific days that a couple should NOT plan to have their wedding (or specific wedding activities) during Lent?
From Jessica: If you are Catholic or have a largely Catholic guest list- I would definitely suggest having a meatless or seafood option for dinner on Friday (whether that be your rehearsal dinner or wedding) if your wedding falls during the Lenten season.
From Lauren: I would suggest refraining from having their wedding the weekends of Palm Sunday
and Easter. Usually, in addition to attending mass, there are also family gatherings associated with these religious holidays. And Friday weddings should probably be out of the question too.
I understand that lots of Catholics choose to get married on a Saturday with a full Mass so that their guests do not need to attend church the next day. Would this be an issue during Lent?
From Lauren: I myself did this exact scenario- married on Saturday with a full mass. Although my wedding wasn't during Lent- but having a Saturday wedding during Lent shouldn't be too much an issue- unless it's the weekend of Easter.
Is there a way for a couple to incorporate Lent into their wedding?
From Jessica: Incorporating appropriate readings from the Bible into your ceremony would help tie in the season. Instead of offering gifts to the couple, ask for donations to a charity- offered a sacrifice in the name of God.
From Lauren: Many churches change the decor at their alters during lent and other time periods. The "color" for lent is purple, so if a couple is wanting to incorporate Lent into their wedding, I would suggest going the route of incorporating the color purple. A couple could also incorporate Lent by having a Friday wedding and only having the options for meals that would be Lent-friendly (fish, pasta, pizza, etc).
Image Courtesy of: CVB Photography by Ursula
Are you planning a wedding during Lent?