From a reader…
Have you ever heard of “betrothal ceremonies” in the Roman Rite prior to entering into marriage? Asking for a friend…
Once upon a time the notion of “betrothal” was far more rooted in both secular and religious consciousness (often not separable). In the West, betrothal certainly goes back to the Jewish two-fold betrothal – which itself establish a legal joining – and marriage.
Betrothal was so serious that breaking betrothal was a breach of promise which could result in a financial penalty beyond the return of the dowries.
In the Catholic Church, betrothals were considered binding. In the time leading up to the actual marriage ceremony, the fact of the betrothal would be publicly announced in the reading of “banns” from the pulpits of parish churches and posted in a document near the doors of the church.
There is no prescribed rite for betrothal. However, there is one available through Angelus Press, which is going to be pretty “traditional”, if that is what you are looking for.
The process of courtship and betrothal and marriage was a serious and carefully observed custom. From the movies, think about the scenes from The Quiet Man with the great John Wayne (bless him, probably St. John Wayne given the way he died) and Maureen O’Hara. (US HERE – UK HERE) In The Godfather, Michael is interested in a girl in the village. He very formally asked the father permission to see the daughter, there is a huge lunch with all the family, and they go for a walk… with all the women following right behind (… followed by guards ironically carrying una lupara).
We should keep in mind that these rituals formed marriage and society long before the mania of “romantic love”. Families would agree to form bonds and marriage were part of the glue. There were practical reasons to marry, as well as the “romantic”. It worked. These practices remind us of a few salutary things.
First, love is a choice, an act of will. You choose love. That forms a basis far more secure than ooey gooey eye gazing of luhv.
Second, marriage is a foundational building block of society. We have to know who people are and how we are related. It is not merely a private matter, it is public.
Third, God made marriage. We don’t have a right to twist it out of recognition. We hurt ourselves and society by doing so.
I would like to see more betrothal ceremonies. Even more, we need a lot more preaching about the purpose of dating, of courtship and then of love, which is charity.