June 25 – Wedding History

Until the era of Vatican II, many weddings between a Catholic and a person of another religious tradition took place in the rectory parlor. Here are the stories of two such celebrations at St. James.
     The first wedding, on December 27, 1927, took place during Father Van’s tenure, and is described in a fairly irreverent letter written around New Year’s Day 1928. The writer, who lived in St. James all his adult life and was deeply involved in the life of the parish, offered this version of the wedding of a cousin in the parlor at St. James.
     After the event was about an hour behind schedule we drove to the Rectory where we were greeted by the affable pastor. I do not know where the bridal party waited while the guests were being placed around the wall in the pastor’s study. The groom’s Mother was given a “special place reserved for her” and escorted to it by the pastor. Then when all was in readiness the bride and groom marched in. When all was still except the bride’s fluttering heart and the groom’s rattling knees, Father Van started kidding them. He said that he hoped they had given ample consideration to the serious step they were about to take and both of them turning back the speedometer of time already. (The bride was 38 at the time of the marriage.) And then with the marriage license in one hand and a prayer book in the other he repeated the service necessary and then the best man pulled a box out of his pocket and extracted the ring and the bridesmaid undressed the bride’s gloved hand and then with the ring placed and the marriage completed we all kissed one another and shook hands and asked about all the relations and friends and when that was done we went back home and wondered what it was all about. Now that’s the end of my story because they lived happily ever after.
     In 1943, another bride and groom were welcomed to the rectory parlor by Father Mullarkey. The woman
who was married that day, another lifelong parishioner, told this story at the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of St. James. The Sisters hold a very special place in my memories. They remember you even after you’ve left (the school). For instance, Harry and I were married in the Rectory in mid-April. When we approached Father Mullarkey, there in front of him were two prie-dieux,* nicely covered with white linen doilies—and pinned to mine was the season’s first daisy. These touching wishes from the Sisters carried us through the rest of the ceremony beautifully. First stop afterwards
was to the Convent so they could meet my new husband—and see my dress. Today, Catholic brides and grooms know that their intendeds of other faith traditions are welcome in St. James church. A team of wedding coordinators helps to make sure that happens. In the late 1980s, sacristan
Carmel Eitt began this service with Joan Hyndman, and now 12 wedding coordinators volunteer under the leadership of Linda Doyle. Coordinators meet with the bride two or three months before the ceremony, attend (and sometimes direct) the rehearsal and are on hand for the wedding. They decorate the church, prepare the altar, welcome the bridal party, cue the organist. “We get them up the aisle,” Linda says. “This is a
most joyful ministry.” 

*prie-dieu: a piece of furniture for use during prayer, consisting of a kneeling surface
and a narrow upright front with a rest for the elbows or for books; kneeler