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“Ask a Priest: Should I Attend My Daughter’s Goth Wedding?”
Q: My daughter is a fallen-away Catholic, 25 years old, and she is marrying a non-practicing Christian. At age 15 she full-force chose to be confirmed. She talked to me about how some kids were being confirmed only because their parents wanted them to. I am all for letting them choose to be confirmed or not. She was well-trained in the Catholic faith. Yet, she and her fiancé are marrying with a justice of the peace. I know each situation is different. My daughter has a tendency in that, if I say nothing, I am OK’ing a situation. I plan to talk to her and her fiancé about how my husband, I, and two young kids might decide to attend the wedding, but that I am not giving it a stamp of approval. Still, if I tell her that and then attend the wedding, it might be that in her mind I am OK’ing it in the end. They want my son and daughter to be flower girl and ring bearer. The wedding is going to be Halloween-themed because my daughter likes the Goth look. The music is not going to be traditional at all. They will probably have a lot of heavy metal or grunge music. There will be a lot of black and purple coloring and something like a “Nightmare Before Christmas” type of wedding cake. I will have to explain to my children that this is not how Catholics are supposed to get married and that their big sister had quit being Catholic some time ago. If we decide to go to the justice-of-the-peace wedding, is it best we not participate in it? Should I not have my kids be ring bearer and flower girl, for instance? Thanks so much for any input. -T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I am sorry to hear about your family situation. Your daughter obviously has made decisions that she probably knows go against the Catholic faith. You can certainly pray for her and for her conversion.
But what about attending the wedding? The Church doesn’t issue hard-and-fast rules in this case. It does, however, offer principles that can guide us.
First, all of us have an obligation to avoid scandalizing others. Two numbers from the Catechism are quote citing here:
No. 2284: Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
No. 2285: Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” [end quoted material]
Here you would want to ask specifically: How will your daughter interpret your attendance? You already fear that she will think you really approve of the whole thing.
More importantly, will you scandalize the children, especially by allowing them to participate in the wedding? At their age they won’t be able to distinguish between a valid and invalid marriage. And it is it understandable if they think everything is fine — why else would they be there as flower girl and ring bearer?
Second, we should be willing to give witness to our faith. Your daughter probably expects to have her own opinions and free will respected. Doesn’t her mom have the same rights? In other words, does your daughter have a right to expect you to compromise your beliefs in order to make her feel good?
This might be the moment when she needs your witness of faith more than ever.
The Goth theme of the wedding indicates that your daughter has some deeper issues to work through. These issues might surface sooner or later, and when they do, she will be grappling for answers. Answers that only the Church can provide.
You might want to take all this to prayer, and see if you are ready to risk scandalizing and confusing the little ones about the wedding. And keep praying for your daughter; she needs your motherly love more than ever. Whatever you decide, having that sincere and calm conversation with her about it beforehand will be very important. She needs to know that you love and respect her, even when you don’t agree with her choices.