I’ll be attending a wedding later today. The couple will be married in the church, and a new baby will be joining them somewhat sooner than later. For a faithful LDS family, this is difficult.

I recognize that weddings are happy occasions. There is joy in the creation of a new family and the celebration of love. But for Mormons, there is also sadness that the wedding is not sealed in the temple and is thus only a marriage for time; our hope is that this marriage is the first step toward an eternal, temple marriage.

When I see the new couple, I will tell them “congratulations.” They love each other and are getting married; best wishes are in order.

My question is what I should say to the couple’s parents. At similar times in the past, I’ve said “congratulations” and felt like an idiot. “Congratulations” seems a bit trite, given the range of emotions this occasion has caused. “Sorry” is totally inappropriate for a wedding, though I know tears of sadness and pain have been shed the last few weeks. I’ve been feeling tongue-tied for days.

What would you say?

42 comments for “Congratulations

  1. April 3, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I’ve never even thought of saying “congratulations” to family of those getting married. They’re not the ones getting married, after all. I would just say hi!

  2. April 3, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I would still say congratulations. These two have taken on the sacred vows of marriage. Even though they are not sealed in the temple, doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

    Of course from a faithful and active LDS point of view marriage outside of the temple is less than ideal, but I think that you can simply say “congratulations” and then pray that these two will be led to the temple.

  3. April 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I just people how lovely the bride is, nice they look or how beautiful the reception or luncheon is. It is always easy to pick something specific and be sincere about it.

  4. gary
    April 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Your are there to witness the creation of a new family. This is a marriage that is just as real, meaningful and sacred as any other. It is a time for heartfelt congratulations and assurances that you, their friend, do not think that this marriage is any different from any other marriage.

  5. April 3, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I would have to defer to J. Golden Kimball for the appropriate phraseology to use in this situation. Even the worst conversations seem to be made better when laced with an appropriate dose of profanity. Hell, it might make the parents forget that their kids fornicated in the first place.

  6. bbell
    April 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I personally have a philosophy that you offer support to people who are in the process of doing “momentus life changing things” Like getting married, having a child, going to school, military etc.

    There are exceptions of course. But generally this is my attitude.

    Out of the temple marriages were at one time in the church standard. Temple marriages were the exception. Most couples that ended up getting selaed in the temple did it after they were married and had children. Check your family history prior to the 50’s and 60’s and the boom in temple building

  7. Hunter
    April 3, 2009 at 11:32 am

    “It’s good to see you” or just “Hello!”

    However, Catania’s comment has got me thinking about “congratulations” more. As members of a Church that believes so strongly in *the sacred institution of marriage*, yes, we should celebrate the fact that the young couple is getting married. It ain’t no small thing. Yeah, I would say “congrats!” That’s the thing.

  8. Kylie
    April 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

    #5–if I had the personality of J. Golden, I might just try it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it just wouldn’t come off the same from me.

    Thanks, Hunter and Catania. You are right, of course. Marriage should be celebrated. In this case, it is a beautiful and committed option compared to other, seemingly easier ways out of a difficult situation.

  9. gst
    April 3, 2009 at 11:46 am

    You might try, “Guess what–I wrote about your painful family experience on my blog!”

  10. April 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

    gst, awesome.

    Congratulations are in order. If they have a problem with that then it’s their problem, not yours. (that sounds much harsher than I mean it.)

  11. Kylie
    April 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I guess I deserved that, gst. As I clicked the “publish” button, I figured I would get some great advice and some slams about me being judgmental and insensitive. My wish for good advice outweighed my reticence. Perhaps it shouldn’t have.

  12. April 3, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    The marriage is a big step up from their current position, and is part of the repentance process. I guess it’s not as good as the ideal the parents would have liked for their children, but given the circumstances as they already are, the marriage is certainly a good thing.

  13. April 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Congratulations! What a beautiful day! What a beautiful family! What a beautiful ceremony!

    Be wholeheartedly happy for the parents of the bride and groom–the all or part of them which celebrates this day is only part that’s out today. And the celebratory part wants joyful company, if they have any regrets they don’t want air them in the reception line. Sharing their delight is supportive.

  14. visorstuff
    April 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    congratulations definitely. i remember a post here many years ago (one of Wilfried’s if i remember right) about how you know sacrament meeting is a sacred experience – and is doing its job in the life of members – when you smell tobacco smoke in the chapel.

    – If they are marrying as part of the repentance process they should be congratulated.
    – If they are marrying as evidence of their love to one another, they should be congratulated.
    – If they are marrying because they would have anyway, they should be congratulated.
    -If they are marrying because they want to provide a family for their child they should be congratulated.

    In fact, the only thing i can think of that they shouldn’t be congratulated for is if they are marrying because they are being forced or coherced to. in that case, they should be encouraged to put the child up for adoption.

    Congratulations to them and their families on this happy occasion!

  15. April 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Well, my family went through this nearly a year and a half ago. My sister didn’t get married at the church because members of the ward were SO nasty to my parents and my sister. So I would say to the parents “I know you don’t feel like this right now, but you are great parents. It takes a lot of courage to be supportive and loving at a time like this. And it’s all going to be okay.” Hugs and kindness go a long way.

  16. April 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    The choice to establish a family in the face of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy is an act of repentance. Thus, congratulations are just as in order as if the bride were not pregnant, and they ought to be as heartfelt and full of gifts and well-wishing as any wedding.

    One young woman in my ward is in a similar situation, but to my knowledge no wedding has yet been announced. She looks happy with her “lot in life” so the thing I’ve said to her is, “It’s nice to see you, you look happy.” When the baby comes, I plan on begging her to let me hold him.

    If they marry, then absolutely: Congratulations. And if the father of that baby ends up learning the gospel, joining the Church, and taking the family all the way to the Temple, then congratulations will be in order a second time.

  17. Kylie
    April 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Ah, Tiffany. I’m so sorry. I always hate to hear about things like that. I hope your sister is doing well–she probably is, since you and your family are supporting her.

    Your insights and advice hold extra weight because of your experience. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Dan Golus
    April 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Keep in mind ALL three state allowing gay marriage have come from court rulings, not from the people. When people have a say, they say NO to gay marriage – you have NOT won the hearts of the American public. Keep that in mind before you celebrate.

  19. Mark Brown
    April 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Awesome, Dan Golus. Paranoia strikes deep.

    Kylie, we believe that marriage, not just temple marriage, is ordained of God. It’s a happy occasion and cause for celebration.

  20. ESO
    April 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I like the point of emphasizing the positive at this occasion. I am guessing it will be hard to enjoy for the parents since it is so different from what they probably envisioned. Share the “congratulations” and “I can see the love your family has for each other” and the positive stuff today. Another time, if the parents want to process their own negative and positive feelings about the situation, you can be a good listener. But today, “I’ve never had such good cake” and “I hope your daughter will emulate your wonderful example.”

  21. deb
    April 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Some time ago our son and his not-LDS girlfriend announced they were giving me a grandchild, and talked about how sweet he would look, dressed up at their wedding.

    I was (outwardly) calm until that point. “if you’re going to marry anyway, hurry up! A child deserves a family to fall into! Just elope or something.” Then I recalled –in a flash–how much we had invested in this son; Eagle Scout, seminary graduate, solid LDS upbringing, and the more recent tears in the night…my next words were “If you elope, I’m coming along. You owe me that!”

    It turned was a lovely elopement, with about 20 close family and friends and lunch afterwards. I was concerned about several extended family members’ behavior, but most were supportive and offered congratualtions. Well, the one uncle did insert LDS social services pamphlets and a list of Repentence scriptures in his gift, but that was about the worst. I had a lot of people come to me privately and offer “sympathy” but on the wedding day, it was a day of celebration. Lots of comments on how pretty the day was, how sweet that a new family was born, etc. One woman told me “they will be okay. You must remember you have no cause to grieve. There was a sin, but they are doing the right thing now, so keep that smile in place!”

    Our new daughter in law was baptized several months later, had the baby, and they were sealed a year later. They have since slipped completely out of the Church, but that’s a different story.

    I say to support the family! Getting married is a GOOD thing, certainly better than an abortion or not getting married. I love my sweet grandchild to bits! We’d have had a far different relationship had the child just been the-baby-of-our-son’s-former-girlfriend. Don’t grieve a happy event!

  22. jks
    April 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Definitely be happy. I think it is horrible when people treat people differently (even there own children) about their weddings.
    Each of my children (boys and girls) will get the exactly same amount of money to be spent on wedding stuff and wedding gift. They will have the same offer of who they want to invite, including my friends.
    A marriage should be celebrated! This is a huge step for the couple for them and they are probably doing it with love and hope and they deserve the love and support of their family and their friends.
    Act like it is just like any other reception/wedding. My sisters, if they marry, won’t be marrying in the temple (they are 36 and 40) and I will be so thrilled for them that they found someone they want to spend their lives with, who loves them and wants to be a family with them. It doesn’t matter that it is not in the temple when it comes to my attitude about it.
    I truly believe my parents would be just as thrilled for them too, if they found someone in life. My parents would be equally happy to see my single brother marry in the temple. If he chooses to marry someone in another state, if my sister gets married on a beach in Hawaii, if they marry someone my parents never met, I think my parents will be supportive and loving and happy for them.
    Should it be different because your friends’ children are perhaps younger? I hope not.
    Who we marry, where we marry, that is all our own choice. It should never be the parents’ choice. It is completely a choice of the couple and their own circumstances. We as a society, show our support of marriage and our support of them as they embark on it by attending a wedding or reception and even giving them a gift.

  23. jks
    April 3, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Why do I forget to proofread? Is it because I’m supervising 6 kids at the moment? I can live with the “there” when I meant “their.”
    However, I really have to add to the “Act like it is just like any other reception/wedding” because it is just like any other wedding.

  24. Wilfried
    April 3, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    # 14 – The story of tobacco smell in the chapel was by Brandie Siegfried. Wonderful story, you’ll find it here.

  25. john scherer
    April 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Unless you’re their bishop or a part of their family, I’d be congratulatory at this happy event.

    I was married under similar circumstances almost 13 years ago, albeit neither of us was LDS at the time. We had alot of friends and family who were very judgemental of our circumstances at the time and I haven’t had much use for them since. We also had other firiends, including a wonderful Catholic priest, who expressed their love for us and their belief that we will make it work. These were the people who were ready with loving advice whenever we needed it. I cannot tell you that value that these kind word and actions carried for us; and it turns out that their belief in us was correct.

    The fact of the matter is that if there is a wedding and your friends are there and have invited you, they expect and deserve to be congratulated. It is a wonderful day. Leave the temple talk and judgement to the bishop unless you are asked.

  26. April 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    There have been, ahem, several of these weddings among my siblings. Being told the news that a daughter is expecting out of wedlock is devastating for parents, but by the time the wedding rolls around, at least in my experience, the parents of the bride and groom are trying not to focus on that (it’s too busy of a day to wallow anyway!), but are trying to focus on the creation of a new family, and celebrating that their kids made this good choice in a difficult situation. Great things have come of those less-than-ideal situations.

    Anything but congratulations or at least kind words would have been snotty and would have made my mom cry. Saying anything else is butting in on a situation you don’t need to get involved in (unless you are really close to the family, and then being a good listening ear is always appropriate).

  27. gary
    April 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I disagree with those who suggest that marriage is part of the repentance process. Repentance is a completely separate issue. If marriage is the right thing to do, then it is the right thing to do. But nobody should ever get married because they think that marriage is part of what they need to do to repent.

  28. Ben H
    April 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Marriage is a wonderful thing. Two people have found someone they want to spend the rest of their lives with. Based on what you’ve said, I say congratulate them with no reservations. What is unfortunate about the situation is past; the marriage is wonderful, and perhaps more so under the circumstances.

    That is what I say, unless you have very specific reasons to think that the parents are unhappy. Along the lines of #s 14 and 26 I think there are so many reasons why marriage, even or especially under these circumstances, is (almost certainly) a wonderful thing, that even if you’re not sure, you really should give them all the benefit of the doubt; if it weren’t a good thing, why would they be doing it?

    There are cases where the marriage itself could be a mistake, such as when through social pressure or the desire to fix one mistake they make a bigger one (marrying someone they don’t really want to be with and can’t really expect to make it work with). Occasionally this happens, and it is very sad, but unless you have specific knowledge that the parents think the marriage (not what went before) is a mistake, and strong reasons to agree yourself, I say congratulate with all enthusiasm : )

    If the parents are grumpy and don’t appreciate your congratulations, it’s their tough luck! The new couple and those close to them deserve all the encouragement they can get. Now that they are married, they need all winds blowing them toward success. If they are devoted to each other, and get the support they need, great things will happen.

  29. April 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    “Getting married is a GOOD thing, certainly better than an abortion or not getting married.”

    I’d agree with the former, but I don’t think the latter can be stated as a general rule. Not everyone that one might fornicate with is worth getting married to. I would think the child would do better with LDS Social Services and adoption than in a family where the parents do not like each other.

  30. James
    April 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I think that one of the best things that could be said in that venue is “thank you for inviting me to share this day with you.” I wouldn’t think that too many families in this situation invite the whole ward and supporting casts. If and when we are invited to weddings like this, it is because the family has enough trust in our friendship for them that they trust us to look to the positive and support them along this journey. Then, we just have to live up to that trust.

  31. Ray
    April 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Congratulations, followed by a big hug, is appropriate in all such cases – even if you believe a particular wedding is a big mistake. If you are right, you can offer just as sincere condolences in the future; if you are wrong, you won’t be seeking surgery to remove your foot from your pie hole and the carbuncles from your heart.

  32. deb
    April 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    RE #29′

    Absolutely! In the case of our son, though, (#21) they were already planning to marry, just got things seriously out of order. For them to not marry, just because a baby was prematurely invited, would have been wrong..and to plan to delay the wedding just so the baby could be adorable in wedding photos, was upsetting. In many cases, the person one sins with is not the one one should marry. It’s very easy to fall for someone entirely wrong. I’m actually a big fan of adoption, but once that conversation was over, a marriage was the nbext best choice In This Case. I was not being judgemental, just stating our own case.

  33. April 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Kylie, I think you should absolutely congratulate the parents of the bride. When a couple gets married, the groom’s family gains a daughter and the bride’s family gains a son. We say “daughter-in-law” and “son-in-law” for technicalities, but I’ve never liked that. Their new son-in-law is their son in God’s eyes.

    So, congratulate them, they are gaining a son.

  34. April 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    And congratulate the groom’s parents on gaining a daughter. Sorry, I just re-read your post and realized you’re referring to both sets of parents.

  35. DavidH
    April 3, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Assuming the couple is choosing to do this, then I think God is delighted, the hosts of heaven are rejoicing (including the couple’s future child), and I think we should too.

  36. queuno
    April 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    You congratulate people on the wedding. This is a happy occasion. Period.

    (Bishops officiating weddings in these circumstances need to focus on the joy of the situation, not the fact that it’s not in the temple. I remember attending a wedding where the bishop officiating talked about how the day was a disappointment. Ye gads.)

  37. Kylie
    April 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks, everyone. It was a brief, nice wedding. The music was lovely; the decorations, beautiful; the bride was gorgeous and the groom was handsome; and the bishop was completely appropriate (advice on putting your spouse first in marriage and working to be happy). Smiles and congratulations from all.

  38. April 4, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I do worry sometimes that we are such a judgmental bunch of people. I’ve seen so many people hurt by sanctimonious members. For goodness’ sake, can’t we look for things to praise and give thanks for? It’s my daughter’s wedding anniversary today, their first, and I really enjoyed making little ivory formal vests last year for their two little boys to wear with their rented tail coats and stripey trousers, one a size 2, one a size 1. They all looked wonderful, it was an altogether beautiful day. I loved my son in law when he put up with being called my son out law, and I love him just as much now. My daughter is a wonderful mother, probably better than I was. She hasn’t embarrassed me anywhere near as much as I’ve probably embarrassed her over time, and I love the boyz to bitz.

  39. thesnakeguy
    April 4, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Repentance is the process of changing your life so you are doing god’s will not yours or put another way, alter your will to match god’s. I see no reason why marriage can’t be part of the repentance process. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be. It just depends on if marrying is part of God’s will or not and figuring that out is a very personal thing.

  40. April 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Marriage certainly can be an important part of the repentance process for fornication. It presupposes, however, that the couple would have gotten married anyway. I have seen such situations turn out very well, with the couple being sealed in the temple in due course.

    Regardless, congratulations on the marriage are in order.

    Where the couple would likely not have gotten married otherwise, there are probably better paths to repentance, such as giving the child up for adoption.

  41. April 4, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    With all the yammering about “being judgmental,” I’m left to wonder what the point is.

    I didn’t see anyone condemn the anonymous (or any other) couple to outer darkness. All I saw was an acknowledgment that having sex before marriage isn’t what God wants. While it takes a mild level of discernment to determine that an unmarried couple having a baby probably broke a commandment, is that “judgment” really supposed to have eluded us?

  42. msg
    April 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    We’re all here to uplift and support one another and help one another along in our journey to the Celestial Kingdom.
    If they’ve married outside the temple, that’s a first step.
    Next, they’ll marry in the temple and that’ll be another step, etc.
    There are plenty of outside temple marriages that have lasted longer than plenty of temple marriages. Just support people along the way.

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