Monday, May 31, 2010

Another reason some young people may decide to avoid a church wedding.


Aside from a lack of faith.
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I was reading Fr. Z's post regarding wedding stipends or stole fees to the priest witnessing a marriage ceremony in a Catholic church.  Fr. Z suggested that $100 dollars is not an excessive 'stole fee' given to the priest in appreciation for his services.  Father indicated it could be more.  Ordinarily this offering would be on top of that given for the use of the church, the music director's fees, and if servers are used - tips for the altar boys.  It dawned on me that young people, who can be somewhat apathetic about religious services in general, not to mention conventional etiquette, may not want to bother with such formalities.  I'm not just talking about the unchurched kids of fallen away Catholics either.  College kids and young urban professionals, although they or their families could afford it, may not want to bother with the added expense of a church wedding.  What I'm trying to say is that a lot of unmarried couples use the money angle as an excuse either not to marry at all, or to opt for a simple civil ceremony.  (I have no idea what civil fees amount to.) 
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Anyway - when I first read the post, a fee of $100 or more seemed a bit steep to me.  (I've never been married and so the practice of paying the celebrant never even occurred to me.)  I checked around however and it does appear a stipend reflecting the level of grandiosity for the wedding extravaganza is expected, and $100 may indeed be on the cheap side. 
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Normally, diocesan priests are salaried and housing is offered/provided by the parish or institution to which they are assigned, hence the priest does not necessarily live off the stipends received - unless he lives in the third world.  So naturally I just assumed... 
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I believe it is the responsibility of the bishop of the diocese to regulate matters concerning monetary offerings involving Mass stipends and the like.  (Of course a Catholic is not expected to make an offering for the sacrament of penance, or the anointing of the sick, the blessing of sacramentals or other such things.)  As to be expected, parishes are supported from regular offerings by the faithful through collections, donations, endowments and fundraising events.  Each parish may be budgeted differently, but I'm quite certain a portion of the income received supports the priest and his residential requirements in addition to his salary.  I might be wrong about that however. 
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Regardless, the most important thing for non-practising Catholics and non-believers to understand is that the Mass and the sacraments are not for sale - Catholics do not pay for the sacraments - but we do provide support for our priests.  Discussions about fees, stipends, offerings, and 'price-fixing' is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Catholic Church for 'outsiders' and critics of the Church to pick up on.  Very often lapsed Catholics and non-believers hear this stuff and convince themselves the Church is just after their money - we've all heard it.  Unfortunately trying to defend the practice can sometimes make the priesthood sound like an ordinary career with a pay scale for different levels of service.
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Generally I think weddings are overdone anyway - they are usually much too extravagant and ostentatious. 
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"All you who are thirsty, come to the water; You who have no money come, receive grain and eat;  Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk." - Isaiah 55:1 
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Links:
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Pittsburgh - St. Paul's Cathedral Wedding Costs
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Edmond, OK - St. John the Baptist Wedding Costs.

27 comments:

  1. Nice post, Terry, and good point. As far as the other guy goes, I'll take my financial advice from a religious who doesn't beg money and gifts and every turn. (I wonder if anyone has yet caight on how much that galls and sickens me.)

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  2. *at every turn

    and

    *caught

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  3. +JMJ+

    I know lots of couples who have the civil ceremony first so that they can start living together without giving scandal (No comment; don't really care), then have the church wedding a year or two later.

    Sometimes it takes longer. Just last Christmas, I was at the church wedding of a couple who had been married for almost twenty years. Their teenage son was the best man and their teenage daughter was the maid of honour.

    For Filipinos, though, it's not so much the priest's stipend and the church fees that discourage the couple, but the social obligation of inviting a huge extended family to a fancy wedding reception. The couple I've just mentioned had their reception in a posh hotel and even paid for the rooms of some guests who had come in from out of town, so it was, financially speaking, worth the wait.

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  4. If that donation is anything to go by ($100), then my own recent experience of selling rosaries on my blog to help me get to Lourdes, shows that most priests just give it straight away! I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone who has bought rosaries from me, but even more so by the donations (many by priests) which exceed amounts I had ever hoped for! I think if we assume that the priests are looked after well enough, then money like this they could well be donating to young Catholics like myself struggling to get funds to travel to Lourdes.

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  5. :-/ @ online begging.


    E, what you describe is common in other cultures too. Mexicans here in the US are notorious for delaying marriage and baptism until they can afford the big blow out party. In India, the huge expenses, including dowry, lead to infanticide and abortion of girl babies, along with "accidental" bride burnings. Money is the root of all these stupid and terrible evils.

    Terry, at our wedding 23 years ago, my priest said he didn't want any stipend, but that we should give something to the altar boys and the organist. I think it was five bucks to both of the boys and I can't remember for the organist, 25 or 30 maybe? it was a long time ago. What a great priest he was, God rest his precious soul!

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  6. Robin6:43 AM

    That great Church authority, Brides magazine, used to say that it was customary to provide a stipend to the clergy at any wedding - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or other. (I have not read a Bride's magazine since the 1970's.) So I don't think Fr. Z is too far off base.

    My parish has 2 priests (congregation is about 2,000) and it is not unusual for them to have two weddings each Saturday from about April thru August. This is in addition to daily Mass on Sat. mornings, and a Sunday vigil Mass at 5:30 p.m., plus confessions in the late afternoon. I assume each wedding takes up about an hour and a half of the priest's time, not to mention any time spent preparing a personalized homily for the couple. Given all of this, and despite the fact that they get paid a salary anyway, I would not begrudge a priest a $100 stipend for doing a wedding.

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  7. I think E. and Georgette are right, sometimes it's the the whole big whoop-de-do aspect that discourages some from a church wedding. I liked what our pastor said in a homily one Sunday. He said that you don't have to spend a bunch of money to get married in the church; in fact he'd prefer that you didn't. You also don't have to get married on Saturday or be depressed because all the Saturdays are locked in for two years ahead. Said if you want a nice quiet ceremony with immediate family after daily Mass on a weekday, come talk to him. Of course you still have to do the prep classes and stuff, but it can be almost as simple as a courthouse wedding.
    However, having said that, I'm glad my kids opted for modest but nice weddings in which friends and relatives could be there and celebrate with them. But nobody should go into hock for years to get married.

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  8. +JMJ+

    My parish also does a "mass wedding" every year for all the couples who can't afford a huge reception. Everyone plights his troth in a big ceremony and takes part in the fiesta-like celebration afterwards. It's sometimes the only thing to do, even if it does sound tacky.

    (The scare quotes are there because "mass wedding" sounds like a weird pun to me.)

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  9. I think in the US, most who avoid Catholic Church weddings (and increasing #s do so) don't do so for financial reasons but because they just don't believe it's necessary. And ALSO (this is a biggie) to be married in the Catholic Church you have to be married *in* a church. So with the desire for destination weddings, both in the US (Disneyworld!) and overseas (to Mexico, etc)as well to be married in your local botanical gardens...that takes another chunk of the demographic out of the "Church wedding" picture. You may find priests or deacons who will break the rules to participate in those kinds of weddings but the fact is, it *is* against the rules.

    Considering most young people stop practicing their faith the minute they are confirmed and the vast majority of couples getting married are cohabitating anyway, it doesn't really surprise me that increasing #s of marrying Catholics eschew the sacrament. As far as I'm concerned, it's for the best. Why should people who obviously don't believe in the Church's teachings be married in a sacramental sense? Or pretend to be?

    The stipend thing is a different issue, and I really don't think it affects anyone's decisions on a church wedding. When the're spending 3k on flowers, a hundred bucks or more for the priest shouldn't phase them, and usually doesn't.

    But to your greater point, T: We're hard up against the reality of priesthood as it's lived. First off, I agree with Robin about the burden that weddings are, and for the most part, they are not joyful burdens because of the demands of families and the modern wedding industry. Odds are, the priest has counseled this couple who are already living together, already contracepting,are throwing this party in the church mostly because their moms want them too and because the bride wants "that day," and for most of them, it has nothing to do with faith. It's probably very depressing to them. Pay them well for their trouble, I say.

    But at the same time, diocesan priests will defend their stipends to the death, in my experience. They'll retort, "I didn't take a vow of poverty." I knew a priest who was on a university faculty and did supply work in local parishes. One particularly wealthy parish, headed by an Irish pastor, was his favorite place to say Mass. The pastor would pay him $250 for saying one Mass on Sunday. He didn't mind.

    (I do wish more parishes and priests were as forthright as the one Melody describes. I wish the Church would take a stand against the wedding industry and fight it. To spend 30,000 on a wedding is a sin and a waste).

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  10. First Communions have turned into another blow-out extravaganza for many families.

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  11. Faith - excellent points - thanks much.

    (Thom - I kinda picked up on that in the past. ROFLOL!)

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  12. I don't charge for weddings in my parish as I figure that those getting married are parishioners and are already paying for it through their donations. However, many churches, like the Salt Lake Cathedral, attract non-parishioners and it is not unreasonable that they help pay to maintain the church.

    I found that the people who whine the most about having to pay don't blink an eye about dropping $20k (min) on a reception. Also, cost isn't the reason many avoid a church wedding. It is the fact that a church wedding isn't about THEM it is about Jesus.

    Also, weddings mean a heck of a lot of extra-work for a priest (paper-work, counseling, rehearsal, and saying a lot of no's to bridezilla, or more often mother of bridezilla). Some form of thank you is appropriate.

    So what should be donated to the parish? I suggest 10% of the wedding's total cost (and usually get laughed at.) Stole fee? Whatever. I use mine to help pay for my taxes. Yes, we have to pay taxes and due to the tax laws it isn't pretty.

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  13. Also, before a person cavalierly dismisses Fr. Z's post, he should look at the three suggestions at the bottom which are dead on target. Though there should also be one about ensuring that people arrive at the rehearsal on time.

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  14. Thanks Father, your comments are very much appreciated. The only point you make that I would respectfully disagree with is that the wedding is indeed all about the couple - and in the case of the big showy weddings it is mostly about the bride and the family putting on an extravaganza often times to impress.

    Happy birthday on Wednesday BTW! How do I know this stuff? Spooky, huh?

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  15. People are so cheap. We spend $1000 on the dress, $10K on the reception and begrudge the priest a measley hundred for hiring an extra cleaning lady to clean up the mess after the wedding guests trash the bathroom.

    Having said that, I'll also admit that some of the financial requests on Fr. Z's blog leave me a bit unsettled.

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  16. In my Protestant church growing up we had a booklet that listed out the fees and what each went to. Of course the larger the event the more "expensive" things got...like say if you just had an organist that was one thing but if you wanted the full choir that was something else. These was always a cleaning fee and damage deposit, especially if the reception was held at the church. You would not believe how people can mess up bathrooms..most of the large fees were for receptions, primarily dealing with food...if the church was making the food, if it was catered, or if you were just having cake and punch. Alot of people cringed at the cleaning fees, but especially if the reception was being held at the church and it went on late into the Saturday evening--us members of the cleaning crew (mainly us High-schoolers) had to get everything spotless before Sunday 8 am service..and usually some of the menfolk of the wedding would slip us a $10 or $20 bill...

    Sara

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  17. +JMJ+

    Baptisms can be an excuse for big blow outs, too. I can think of a couple of people who put off baptisms for several months so they could afford the party. Nobody seems to think First Holy Communions and Confirmations merit as much fuss . . . yet!

    (Nice strategy by "Uncle Screwtape," I think.)

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  18. Being in Utah I have seen the opposite with Mormon weddings--I think there is a competiton among young ladies as to who can do it the CHEAPEST..and I mean cheap..marriage in the Mormon temple means that only folks with temple recommends can attend, you wear special clothes in the temple so no expensive dress, Uncle Larry can take photos, "open house" (reception)is usually at someone's house, and not a big deal--you MIGHT get a sliver of home-made cake and a dixie cup of koolaid punch--basically drop off your present and leave...one of these I went to the bride and groom was in sweats and from the look on their faces would much rather have been someplace else...

    One of my coworkers acually bragged that her entire weeding cost just over $25.00..now true you can gets lots of stuff "donated" as part of the wedding gifts, but still..as a guest if I'm going to take timeout of my busy schedule, shop for a gift, etc, it would be nice to have a decent reception. It's kind of embarassing to show up being dressed better than the wedding party.. What I do now when I'm invited to these "occasions" is send a card with a grocery store gift card. And I usually don't get a thank-you note as the couple wants to "save money on postage.."

    Sara

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  19. Sara - I avoid weddings - I've only been to 4 in my life - 1 brother, 1 friend, and 2 co-workers. The last one was a co-worker - and that will remain the last one.

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  20. Terry:
    A Wedding should be all about Jesus-not about the couple-it's a Sacrament. And as a Sacrament it brings grace to the couple who are receiving the Sacrament. So it is ALL about Jesus! The goal of any married person is to help their spouse get to Heaven. And in the Sacrament of marriage the couple is sanctified and made holy--they receive grace from this Sacrament.

    And giving the priest a stipend--duh--I can't believe how many people stiff the priest. And I say the bigger the wedding--the bigger the stipend.

    Making a big lovely wedding and giving all your friends and family, a lovely party, but taking the priest for granted would be like telling the bride, not to get the dress, because she is not important enough to have the wedding dress. Can you imagine a wedding without the priest?--I would say he's very important and should be treated accordingly!

    He's part of our family--he's not just there for show like a piece of furniture or flower display. He's our Father--he represents Christ in our lives, he should not get the left-overs or have to clean up our messes--even though he will--because he loves us. He should be treated with love and respect, and get a BIG stipend!

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  21. Tara - Thanks for your good comment. I assure you I have nothing against stipends, stole fees, or offerings for the minister/priest. None at all. I was just surprised at the amount - which I concede is nothing in comparison with that spent on the entire wedding. As I said, I have no direct experience except for what I read and friends tell me. From what I can tell weddings today appear to have become rather ostentatious spectacles - of course that is only my personal opinion.
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    Nevertheless, it is in that sense I think the wedding has become all about the bride, the gown, the ball and the romance. Unless the bride and groom are devout, I get the impression very few couples are that concerned about Christ in their wedding. Just noting a fact of life here.
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    More deeply however, my saying the sacrament is really about the couple is because according the the Catechism that is the nature of the matrimonial covenant.
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    "In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ's grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church." CCC 1632
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    "The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indespensible element that 'makes the marriage'" CCC 1626
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    "The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent... in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church." CCC 1630
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    So you see I wasn't trying to diminish the role of the priest at all. My apologies if I gave that impression.

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  22. As my niece is getting married in August and she is a registered nurse making tons of money for a 24 year old, I'm more than casually interested in this question.

    So I asked my pal Google and got this for an answer:

    On average, couples that live in or travel to Minneapolis, MN spend between $23,476 and $39,126 total for Average Cost

    If that is what people really are spending for a wedding, 100 bucks for the priest sounds pretty cheap to me. The waiters are probably getting more than that!

    You might be able to make a nice down payment on a starter home with that kind of money.

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  23. Terry--before you die you really MUST attend a knock down drag out real Italian wedding...I promise you you WON'T be disappointed :)

    Sara

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  24. +JMJ+

    Terry, does that mean that if I invite you to my wedding, you won't come??? =(

    *spreading the guilt as thickly as possible*

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  25. Saea - 1 of the weddings I attended was Italian - the reception was fun.

    Enbrethiliel - now that I haven't gone to so many friend's and relative's weddings it would be adding insult to injury if I suddenly started going to other's. I'll send a gift, is that okay? ;)

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  26. I agree with Ray MN...my sister's Catholic wedding was very spiritual, very Catholic, very no=nonsense.
    I see here in our parish, in which we live, all kinds of extravagense for what?
    Many of them are co-habitating.
    Many of them are not practicing their faith (even if not co=havitating).
    It's just the "Royal Wedding" over and over and over again...I'm not bragging here, but within my own family, who could have put mega-thousands of dollars out for a wedding, they were very simple and subtle; my opinion: put out meg-thousands of dollars when you celebrate your 25th or 50th anniversary...time makes a LOT of difference...and fidelity is worth all of the money in the world.
    Just a stupid comment from a confirmed celibate:<)!

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  27. Simony.

    Look it up.

    Send a copy to Father Z.

    *

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