Monday, May 21, 2012

engagement encounter

Being Catholic, one of the first steps of getting married in the Catholic Church is meeting with the priest and discussing our plans of our sacrament of marriage and going through a bit of what I would call 'pre-marrital counseling'. We then had to sign up for an 'engagement encounter' course or retreat - we decided to go with the retreat.

After having to reschedule the date several times, we were 'finally' able to make it - this past weekend! Tanner and I went into this EE weekend with low expectations - we always 'think' we've got everything down pat - but we hadn't any idea of how in depth and personal this retreat actually was going to be. I would highly recommend it - even if you aren't Catholic (I promise it isn't a recruitment retreat)!

We started the weekend out after work, grabbed a quick bite to eat at Subway and went to the Marywood Pastoral & Retreat Center in Orange, CA. The campus is set on a hill, overlooking the city lights and streets. Our Engagement Encounter started out with introductions from our guide Father Joe, a couple Lori and Keenan, and another couple Roxanne and Dennis. You can tell that these couples are so in love (both married over 20-25 years). We were given workbooks (that only our fiancé's were allowed to see) - our whole weekend was mainly based around these books (notes, questionnaires, worksheets, blank sheets, etc.). 

We discussed everything from love, marriage, family, finances, faith and stewardship. Although you don't have to be Catholic to go through the EE retreat (there were many fiancé's that weren't Catholic) - we still went to Mass both mornings. Each early morning Tanner and I would wake up earlier to go for walks and runs around the campus, we couldn't really leave because the gated were locked from 11 p.m - 7 a.m. Mass on Saturday started at 7:3o a.m. and class began at 8 a.m. so I did see quite a bit of people leave early to grab Starbucks or Coffee Bean in the a.m. (although the gates would not let you back in until 7 a.m. you can leave whenever you wanted).

The majority of the weekend consisted of each couple writing down feelings and views on certain aspects of marriage and life after marriage. We then came together with our fiancés and read each other's answers and discussed what we had written. Although I totally understand how this can be really effective for some couples, most of the topics Tanner and I have already discussed. It was however - very refreshing to spend a whole weekend discussing these details of our lives and how we plan to unite and become one. It's definitely a different approach then just learning about each other through dating for almost 5 years. 

When we came into this weekend, I was expecting to make new friends, share stories and feelings with these other couples, but honestly - it was more about spending the whole weekend with each other, loving each other, appreciating each other. I wouldn't trade this weekend for anything. Aside from writing vows for each other, my favorite moment was near the end of Saturday night (over candle lights) - we did a hand ceremony and it made almost everybody in the room 'teary eyed', how could it not. It was like the first glimpse to our Sacrament of marriage. If you've never seen or done the hand ceremony: (I hope you can appreciate this as much as we did)

Hands of the Bride and Groom
[Bride's name], please face [Groom's name], and hold his hands,
palms up, so you may see the gift that they are to you.

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as he promises to love you all the days of his life.
These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future, as you laugh and cry, as you share your innermost secrets and dreams.
These are the hands you will place with expectant joy against your stomach, until he too, feels his child stir within you.
These are the hands that look so large and strong, yet will be so gentle as he holds your baby for the first time.
These are the hands that will work long hours for you and your new family
These are that hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy
These are the hands that will comfort you in illness, and hold you when fear or grief wrack your mind.
These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his eyes: eyes that are filled completely with his overwhelming love and desire for you.

[Groom's name], please hold [Bride's name]’s hands, palms up, where you may see the gift that they are to you. These are the hands of your best friend, smooth, young and carefree, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as she pledges her love and commitment to you all the days of her life.

These are the hands that will hold each child in tender love, soothing them through illness and hurt, supporting and encouraging them along the way, and knowing when it is time to let go
These are the hands that will massage tension from you neck and back in the evenings after you’ve both had a long hard day.
These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times
These are the hands that will comfort you when you are sick, or console you when you are grieving.
They are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will hold you in joy and excitement and hope, each time she tells you that you are to have another child, that together you have created a new life.
These are the hands that will give you support as she encourages you to chase down your dreams. Together as a team, everything you wish for can be realized.

God, bless these hands that you see before you this day. May they always be held by one another. Give them the strength to hold on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. Keep them tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. Help these hands to continue building a relationship founded in your grace, rich in caring, and devoted in reaching for your perfection. May [Groom's name] and [Bride's name] see their four hands as healer, protector, shelter and guide. We ask this in your name, Amen.


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