What’s Tradition Anymore?

My morning radio station has been asking listeners to call in and let them know what kind of wedding they had and why. Was it a big wedding? A small wedding? In a church? On a beach? Why did you do what you did, and if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? All kinds of crazy listeners called in. I think they probably aired the most outrageous.

“Yep, I had my baby at 17 and as soon as we could, we got married by Justice of the Peace. My daughter’s wedding will be big, since I didn’t get that,” one woman called in. Another caller was a guy who said that he got married in 15 minutes by the Justice of the Peace and then had lunch at McDonalds. Wow, I have no words for that one. Another girl called in and said planning was so stressful, she and her fiancé eloped. Another girl got married on the beach with 64 of her closest family and friends. She said it was three weeks of the most fantastic vacationing. Three days of these callers, all different, yet all the same. There was a major key missing with them all.

Megan and Aunt Pam

My niece Megan was so excited on my wedding day.

Not a single listener mentioned tradition. If you look at the history of weddings, they were rooted deep in faith and religion. Being married in a church, under God and witnessed by all those who love you is an important part of the marriage ceremony. If you’re from Pittsburgh, the city has all kinds of ethnical backgrounds, including Italians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Irish and Polish, among others in the wonderful melting pot of the 19th and 20th centuries — you’re familiar with tradition. The city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the second largest parade in the country. Pittsburgh is also home to Polish Hill, Little Italy, Troy Hill, Deutschtown and celebrations are held throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, Little Italy Days, numerous religious parish festivals and so many more. And all these wonderful ethnicities celebrate the sacrament of marriage in all its grandeur through their religion.

My Mom and Dad’s wedding was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Beaver Falls, PA. Sadly, it’s no longer there. It was a magnificent church and a beautiful setting for the ceremony. I will sit and watch the 7 mm film, now translated to DVD, sometimes with my Mom. We try to identify as many relatives and friends as we can. I’m so sentimental and I cherish this video, knowing I’m lucky to have it. It’s such a period piece as well — from the 60’s — with the wonderful chic summer dresses the women wore to the shined up black sedans of the time. That was 51 years ago and it speaks of the same traditions I had at my own wedding just 13 years ago.

It’s sad to me that this tradition is no longer important to many people. Well, why would it be? Attending mass on Sundays is rarely practiced. We miss mass from time to time, but we always go the next week. My Catholic faith was always an important part of my life growing up. It reinforced our values and made us think about what we can improve in ourselves. It shows me the way every day and leads me in this life. Many people are leaving their religions to go to churches that are more secular. We are losing the traditions, so now weddings are quick and cheap, or crazy outrageous. Spending $10,000 on a wedding gown is almost as much as our whole wedding cost! It’s just ridiculous, materialistic and consumerism at its best. One show I watched on television had the mother of the bride replace all the carpeting in the reception hall, because “it didn’t match their colors and the style was sub-par to them.” Who are these people?

I do have an open mind, and try not to judge. I know people’s dreams are not the same as mine — one of my close friends was married on the beach in Aruba, and it was beautiful and a wonderful week of celebration. Other friends were married in Las Vegas with close friends and family. All true believers and faithful Christians. But, I am elated when I receive a wedding invitation to a Catholic ceremony in a Catholic church with a full Catholic mass. I am impressed when I hear about someone else’s wedding in the church — of any religion. I’m even more impressed when an employee tells me a story about going to mass twice at St. Paul’s Cathedral, because she and her husband had the time wrong, so they had to go back later. That’s dedication. And yes, it’s extra credit with me if all these are important to you too — that’s just who I am.

I believe in tradition and sacred vows! So for me, if I were to call in the radio station, I would tell them that my wedding had just under 200 guests. And the church was the center of our day, follow up with a giant celebration at the Holiday Inn. It wasn’t overly elaborate by any means. We made sure we spent money where it was most important — like making the church beautiful with lovely floral arrangements. Our reception had all the traditional elements — from the Pittsburgh cookie table to the money dance. I imagined that day my whole life and listened to all the wedding stories from my relatives. They say every little girl dreams about her wedding, and my dreams were rooted in the faith passed down to me — with little nuggets and sentimental gifts that I carried with me. But I am guessing the radio station would find my story mundane. What’s tradition anymore?

So as Tom and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this week, I’m going to pray that people find their way in this life through faith. And the key to that faith can be found in all those fantastic stories that our great grandparents, grandparents, parents and relatives tell us about the traditions in their lives. When you realize those traditions, you may just find a little faith along the way.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Let me know your thoughts!