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The Wedding Day!!

photo exitWell after 33 years of waiting and seven months of being engaged Jane and I finally married on 29 December 2012. What a wonderful day it was and I cannot even begin to describe it here in such a short space.

One of the first amazing parts of the day was at the church when the guests began arriving. Never before have I had everyone I know, all my family, friends and acquaintances in one place. There were friends from the parish I grew up in who have known me my whole life, school friends from high school that I first met 20 years ago, colleagues (but really friends) from work, people from so many different activities and areas of life and then all of my extended family plus all Jane’s family and friends. I don’t expect to see all those people together again but it was such a blessing to know that so many people gave up their afternoon to come to the church and witness Jane and I celebrate our marriage. Read the rest of this entry


Weddding Rehearsal

photoOne of the last items to tick off our preparation list was the wedding rehearsal and I can now report that it is has been ticked. Jane and I gathered at the church last week to run through the ceremony with the main celebrant Bishop Porteous, Archdeacon Anthony from the Melkite Church, the Master of Ceremonies (a very good friend), the altar servers (more friends), our parents and of course the bridal party.

Before we began the actual practice there were some logistics to sort in regards where the furniture in the sanctuary would best fit. On the day, along with Bishop Porteous, there will also be in the sanctuary, the Melkite Eparch Bishop Rabbat, a few clergy friends and the bride and groom. Thankfully the church has a good sized sanctuary so there will be enough space. Being the Christmas season there is also a large Christmas tree in the sanctuary to work around. Read the rest of this entry

Last Minute Preparations

wedding-countdownWell I can now count on my two hands the number of days until Jane and I walk down the aisle! I cannot believe that after 33 years of life and 15 years of seriously looking to find my vocation, I am about to embrace that vocation in Jane. If I sit and think about it I am probably still not completely sure that it is all real. To desire and pray for so long to meet someone and then for that to actually happen is an awesome reality. I think back to all the conversations I had with people about wanting to get married and now I am on the threshold of that reality…praise God!

A few people have asked if I have cold feet and I think my feet are just fine. If I had any worries those were all at the start of being engaged and getting used to that. I am looking forward to everything, although knowing that I am not a huge fan of change there will no doubt be some adjusting to married life in the beginning. At this stage it is the excitement of the reality of being married that is present. Read the rest of this entry

Gifts and Gift Registries

wedding gifts by cwmgaryOne of the nice things about getting married is partaking in the generosity of family and friends in regards to gifts. As we near the wedding some people have begun delivering early gifts which we will excitedly open upon the return from our honeymoon. However one of the ongoing questions we have had is about our gift registry…the reason being because we do not have a gift registry. Why not you may ask?

Well apart from writing this column, I also write a separate fortnightly column called ‘Foolish Wisdom’ which looks at issues in news and culture, and earlier in the year (before being engaged) I wrote an article on the subject of gift registries and why I thought that they were utilitarian in nature. Instead of paraphrasing, allow me to include some sections from the article that explain my thoughts. Read the rest of this entry

What’s in a Name? By Jane

changing namesIt’s impossible to ever forget about the life-changing event (aka wedding) taking place for me very soon (especially when I am asked almost daily how the preparations are going). But every now and then, I have a sudden ‘Oh My Gosh!’ moment where it really hits me just how close and how real it all is. An example was the other day when a friend greeted me as ‘Miss Brotherton’ before playfully adding ‘but not for long’. Realising that she was right (yes, I will be changing my name once married), I suddenly felt as though I should be making the most of the short amount of time I have left to use my surname… like taking the opportunity to announce my full name each time I answer the phone at work or somehow savouring those moments when I have to write my signature.

I read somewhere that 82% of newlyweds change their name and that 20% of brides admit to feeling nervous about the name-changing process. I would have to say that I can relate. One reason is for the simple fact that I hate paperwork. Unfortunately, the numerous forms of identification and membership cards in my wallet don’t automatically change the instant that I become Mrs Toutounji. It seems that the list of people to inform of my new name and address might be considerable. There are of course the bigger ones like my drivers licence, passport, Medicare, ATO, bank accounts, health insurance, phone company, electoral roll, etc. but there are also many others like email addresses, business cards, club memberships and magazine subscriptions, not to mention my discount card at the local coffee shop! And then I won’t even begin to tell you how ridiculously unnatural and clumsy I have felt in my few attempts to practice my new signature. With all that effort, it’s no wonder some women decide not to change their name! Read the rest of this entry

Searching for a place to call Home

first-home-buyersThis week’s installment is about an adventure that took Jane and I across Sydney and to a final place that we didn’t expect to find ourselves…and this adventure was looking for a place to live. We had already decided to rent initially, so we were not looking for a family home for the next fifty years, but rather a reasonable place for a shorter period of time. We both work in the city so our criteria included close proximity to a train station and a price that would allow us to save a good amount for a future home purchase.

I live in the Inner West of Sydney while Jane has spent her whole life in Southern Sydney so we planned to look at some units between those areas. We compiled our list of destinations and inspection times the day before and were ready at the first place 10am Saturday armed with pen, paper and camera. This first unit was a modern one bedroom but we only had to be there a minute before knowing it wasn’t for us. We had toyed with the idea of a one bedroom unit and we probably could fit everything into a unit that size but we wanted to leave ourselves some space to move about. Also this particular place was more expensive than some other two bedroom units we had listed so we got back into the car and Jane navigated us to our next destination. Read the rest of this entry

How many children to have?

Another important aspect of our marriage preparations has been in the area of Natural Family Planning. Contrary to popular belief, the Church does encourage married couples to plan together their family size, but there is vast difference between the Church’s vision of family planning and that of the secular society. Out in the world ‘family planning’ usually means the choice of contraception that a couple will use in between having their one or two children. In the Catholic vision, however, family planning takes on a much more positive and personal understanding. At a foundational level, children are always seen as a great gift and a sign of God’s blessing. All through the Old Testament the blessings of the Lord were always seen in the children bestowed upon a couple and it is wise for us to recall that.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about one of our marriage preparation sessions on the sexual union and how it should be seen as the pre-eminent form of communication because it echoes the love of God. If this ideal is carried through then it can be seen why contraception is so harmful to marriage. Contraception says ‘I give you all of me but I withhold my fertility, I do not want our love to be fruitful’. With contraception, the language of the body becomes distorted. The Church is often criticised for prying into the bedrooms of couples but it is God himself who has made us as sexual beings and that sexuality has a very real meaning. In this fundamental teaching on contraception the Church is simply reminding couples of their dignity and the greatness to which they are called in their love. The Church could never approve contraception because contraception turns the sexual union into something other than what God planned it to be; and it is only in living out God’s designs for life and love that genuine happiness can be found. Read the rest of this entry

Planning the Wedding Ceremony

With almost forty days to the wedding it was time to begin planning the finer details of the actual wedding ceremony. Not that we had left the wedding to the end. You might recall one of my earlier columns on the big discussions Jane and I had about whether to marry in the Melkite Catholic Church or the Latin Catholic Church. Having discerned to marry in the Latin Church we asked Bishop Julian Porteous, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney, to be the main celebrant. While we both know different priests, we know Bishop Porteous in common and we both work closely with him in our respective jobs. We were honoured when he agreed to marry us.

As I had also written about earlier there had been the hope to include some elements from the wedding ceremony (more correctly called the crowning ceremony) of the Byzantine rite. Jane and I met with Bishop Robert Rabbat of the Melkite Eparchy to discuss this and he recently came back to us with permission to incorporate some parts of that rite. Bishop Rabbat also accepted our invitation to be present at the ceremony which is a double blessing. Read the rest of this entry

Sex: Action or Language?

You might recall Jane and I began our marriage preparation course back in August. Well I am pleased to announce that we have finally wrapped it up. Although we initially intended to complete the sessions over six consecutive weeks, there was so much material to absorb (and homework to be done) we thought it best to meet with our mentor couple every two to three weeks. The experience has been very valuable and if you are getting married I can heartily recommend the ‘Smart Loving’ Catholic marriage preparation course!

One of the sessions during the course dealt with the important topic of body language and the sexual union. All of us use body language hundreds of times every day; we cross our arms, shake hands, smile or hug. What we do with our body language is often more important than what we do verbally and for any married couple the most profound body language is that of the sexual union. Sex is sold today in culture, media and entertainment as something people ‘do’, but the risk is that when sex is primarily something we ‘do’, then we naturally begin to deal with it in the way we deal with other things we ‘do’. If we play basketball we want to do it well, or, if we play music then we want to do that well. If sex is just another activity that is done, a couple risk getting caught up in notions of sexual ‘performance’ and sexual ‘compatibility’; concepts that have never been as mainstream as they are today. Read the rest of this entry

Men…and Wedding Planning

“It’s the woman’s special day”… “Whatever she wants”… “Leave the planning to the women”. These phrases and a hundred derivations of them are what I have been hearing from the day Jane and I became engaged. Two recent incidences though moved me to look again at this issue of wedding planning and the roles of men and women. The first incident was around the choosing of the suits for myself and my groomsmen and having a variety of friends (men included) tell me that all that mattered was Jane’s approval of what we would be wearing. Secondly, I was at the gym last week and speaking to a recently married man about the general stresses of wedding planning. As if to offer me a helpful solution, he told me that he had left absolutely everything to his fiancé at the time. He expressed to her that he was happy to pay for it all, but that he was very busy at work and he knew she wanted to plan it all anyway. I found both incidences frustrating.

I do not like being told that my choices and preferences are somehow secondary, or worst still, not relevant compared to those of my fiancé. Nor do I not need to be told what suit I can wear. I have dressed myself well for 33 years and I will dress myself exceptionally well on our wedding day. I must state immediately that Jane has very much been one to share out this day and for that I am thankful. I am well aware though that wedding planning is by and far the domain of the bride-to-be. I am not trying to buck the trend, nor do I want to assert planning control over the entire event. I do not mind what colour scheme we have, what type of dresses Jane and the bridesmaids wear or what flowers are used, but I do wish to stand up for the general role of men. Read the rest of this entry

Gender Roles in Marriage…by Jane

Hi, it’s Jane again. A few weeks ago you read about Bernard’s ‘tool party’ with the boys – an afternoon of blokey frivolity which included cold drinks, lots of meat and some sort of activity involving the men running and throwing themselves against a giant velcro wall. As I prepare for my Kitchen Tea with the ladies, I can fairly confidently predict that the afternoon is not likely to bear much resemblance to Bernard’s event.

I sometimes find the differences between men and women highly amusing. It is no wonder they wrote a book about Men being from Mars and Women from Venus. However, apart from the occasional frustrations when either sex just cannot seem to understand the other, I would not have it any other way. I think it would be quite foolish not to recognise the fact that men and women bring very different qualities and strengths to a relationship. Read the rest of this entry

Take this Ring…

Moving along the checklist Jane and I found ourselves in need of a couple of wedding rings. Not knowing a great deal about rings it seemed logical to return to the jeweller from whom I bought the engagement ring some months earlier. Actually the man I bought the engagement ring from is not a jeweller as much as a diamond wholesaler who had been recommended to me by a friend at work. The man (Zorro) has been in this family business all his life and operates one of the few remaining jewellery workshops where they design and make high quality rings and jewellery for stores around Sydney. He doesn’t actually have a shop front or regularly see individual clients unless they come recommended so I was glad he was recommended to me. Zorro sees his work with individual clients as more of a favour towards them and not really a business transaction so in selecting an engagement ring he was not in any way pressuring me to buy a particular ring or stone. It was also good to go back to him as Jane’s ring turned out to be a quarter size too big and he was able to have one of his jewellers both resize and polish it on the spot! Read the rest of this entry

Operation Wedding Invitation

O humble wedding invitation, how can thou cause such stress? That is the question that Jane and I have been asking as we finalise our wedding invitations. The need and idea for a wedding invitation is simple enough: we are getting married, we would like family and friends to join us and we need to let them know the details. So in comes the all important wedding invitation, but this step has been far from a simple one.

Naturally our preference would be to send out something that we both like and this has been a task in and of itself. All the way along the planning process, my standard has been a royal wedding minus the royals so when it came to invitations I envisaged a classical fine square of crisp white card with the text pressed through the card and traced over in gold. I soon realised that the reason such a design is used at royal functions is because it requires a royal budget. Prices for embossed and letter press finish invitations can easily come out at around $5 or $6 per invite and especially when we are creating invitations for both the reception and the afternoon tea we had to be mindful of costs. Read the rest of this entry

How Much Does a Wedding Cost?

Last weekend Jane and I officially embarked on the path towards marriage because we attended…a Bridal Expo! We trekked over to join a bevy of brides, bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-brides and a few sheepish grooms as they prepared for the special day. There were about 70 different exhibitors on show from jewellery to wedding invitations to teeth whitening and even fitness training.

With most of our own major wedding items in place, Jane and I were there for more of the novelty value than anything else (and I was certainly on the lookout for material for this reflection). Of course the main question asked at each stall was ‘when is the big day’ and we had some gasps of horror when Jane let them know it was December this year and not December next year.

One of the stalls was promoting a new wedding planning app in which the couple can enter the basic details about their wedding and receive an email showing the approximate cost of the wedding, according to industry averages. So we had a go and filled out the few questions asked: date of wedding, style of wedding, number of reception guests, type of honeymoon etc. The email we received sent me into shock. It informed me in no uncertain terms that my wedding to Jane, with 150 guests at the reception, was going to cost $105,936.09! This included $20,000 in outfits, $4500 in decorations (including $550 of balloons…not sure where they are going), $42,000 at the reception and $25,000 of pre-wedding expenses. Read the rest of this entry

A Tool Party with the Boys

I am sure you have heard of a pre-wedding kitchen tea for the ladies but have you heard of a pre-wedding tool party for the gents? Well that is exactly what I had last weekend with some of the boys.

As soon as my best man Sam got the job he hit the ground running with ideas for the pre-wedding social events beginning with the Tool Party. Sam claims the tool party to be a unique event which he invented (or at least perfected) and I have no reason to doubt him as the first tool party I ever attended was his own tool party a couple of years ago.

What is the tool party you may ask? Well it is a gathering of men, usually around cooked meat of some kind and chilled drinks for the purpose of…well gathering. Being a tool party the attendees also bring a small tool that will be of help in married life. The invitation emailed out by Sam to my male family and friends included a picture of Bob the Builder with the wording “Let’s give him all the tools he’ll need to have wedded bliss” and the instructions to come dressed in hard hat, fluoro vest or other similar manly work wear. Read the rest of this entry

Wedding Cars and Wedding Cakes

Even though I have been determined from the start not to be pulled into the ‘magic-making’ world of the wedding industry I have to say this wedding planning business really does take some energy! Jane and I have to be careful not to allow every time we see each other to be necessarily wedding related. I know a number of married couples who have a weekly ‘date night’ and even as an engaged person I can already see the value in implementing such an idea. In fact thinking about it, I have been glad that our engagement has been at the shorter end of the scale at seven months (with only three months to go next weekend). I can’t help but think that if our engagement was drawn out over twelve or more months we would have taken far too much time making this one day more than it needs to be at the expense of continuing to build the relationship that is the whole point of the actual wedding day. So with the date getting closer it was time to lock in a couple of the key wedding things: cars and cakes.

Jane and I have not been particularly fussed about fancy wedding cars. So much so that I had an initial idea to hire a couple of white cars from the local car rental company, pop a ribbon on the front and ask some friends to drive them around for the day. Of course once you go down that path it’s a matter of working out who will pick up the cars, who will put the ribbon on, who will drive them and who will return them. It did seem it would just be extra trouble so we moved to think about hiring some simple wedding cars. Luckily Jane is daughter number four to be married, so all the research on these important wedding related matters had previously been done and we were able to tap into the information sourced for previous family nuptials. Read the rest of this entry

Our Tropical Honeymoon

In the weeks before Jane and I got engaged we had discussed the topic of marriage and so by the time I proposed we actually had both our wedding date and honeymoon location in mind. Let me explain. Jane has an annual ritual of gluing assorted pictures in the pages of her diary at the start of each year, a mix of nature, people and religious images. One night we were at dinner and she was showing me these different pictures and on 31 December there was a photo of one of those over water bungalows with the thatched roof amidst the perfect clear water. Jane had it on her bucket list to visit such a place for a holiday. I remember nudging Jane and telling her that if we got married on 29 December we could be in a tropical bungalow in time for New Year Eve, just as her diary foretold! (I may have also tried to hint that this was a sign from God that we should get married this year).

Even if it had not been an overwater bungalow I would have been definitely keen to have a relaxing honeymoon. I love the idea of a honeymoon that is a holiday and not a trip. One where we can basically sit around all day and there is absolutely nothing to be done! In the previous years when I have taken annual leave it has been to go overseas for a course and sightseeing and while they have been wonderful experiences, I always get back in need of a holiday to recover. So this honeymoon is so exciting because (a) it will be with my new wife Jane and (b) we get to spend it resting and relaxing. Read the rest of this entry

Finding a White Dress – By Jane

I’ve never been one to particularly enjoy going out of my comfort zone. So when several people suggested that I somehow contribute to Bernard’s weekly reflections I was not an instant fan of the idea. Nonetheless, it is with great joy (and slight nervousness) that I write this special ‘guest’ column for Proposal to Marriage. I decided to pick a topic that I felt I could offer a little more insight than Bernard – the experience of finding a wedding dress.

After spending the better part of the last decade searching for Mr Right I suddenly found myself in the unfamiliar position of being able to say that I had found him. Now what? Well having been involved in quite a few weddings as a bridesmaid, I knew there would be lots of jobs to get done and that the planning would be a potentially time-consuming and even stressful process. I was aware that many bridal stores say it takes 4-6 months for a dress to arrive, and having only 7 months from the date of our engagement to the date of our wedding, I didn’t want to waste any time. Read the rest of this entry

Marriage Preparation: Training for a Lifetime

Part of my work is in the area of marriage and family so I have long seen the importance in undertaking a pre-marriage preparation course. I realise that some engaged couples (and most often the men) can think it is a bit of a waste of time but I have never really understood that logic. After all we put years of education into the field we desire to work in, we undergo courses in personal areas of interest, we read self-help books by the millions, but yet when it comes to marriage, the largest single life investment a person can make, we think “no worries, it’ll be right”.

Being in love and being engaged is a wonderful thing, but all this new found joy can give a false sense of reassurance, that the mere ‘feeling’ of being in love is what will keep a couple going for fifty years. Even a young couple who are active in their faith and have the right idea of what marriage is about are not completely prepared. The fact of the matter is that a couple at the starting line of marriage cannot possibly foresee or completely understand how life changes after the honeymoon is over and the wedding gifts are unpacked (and I willingly put myself in this category; these past three months of engagement have been lesson after lesson). It can be too easy to ignore discussing what marriage will be like and instead hide behind the fun of being together and planning a wedding and honeymoon. Putting time aside to think about the vocation of marriage is without a doubt the most foundational and important task an engaged couple need to put on their ‘to-do’ list. Read the rest of this entry

Who to invite?

Marriage is a very public event and that is the way it is meant to be. Marriage is the public joining of one man and one woman and it is recognised not just by the Church which blesses it as a sacrament but also by the State. Why does the State concern itself with marriage? Simply because marriage (and the family that will most often flow from it), is absolutely essential for a healthy and functioning society. Every wedding celebration then is actually a celebration that life will continue, that children will continue, that society will continue. It is the ultimate celebration and so of course married couples have guests to celebrate with them at their wedding.

Many, many years ago, and for all time before that, Jane and I would have most likely been from the same village and so making a guest list would not be that hard. We would simply invite the entire village to a massive celebration in the town square. If we were to invite our entire suburbs to join us nowadays we would need a place slightly bigger than the town square so we sat down to craft yet another list, the guest list. Read the rest of this entry

Changing friendships

Over the years I have been blessed to cross paths with some wonderful men and women who I have had the privilege of calling friends. Among those friends, the connection I have made with certain female friends have been some of the most rewarding. They often included regular lengthy conversations about the deep issues of life and faith. However as these young women have married, the nature of our friendships changed. I remember when my first very close female friend married.  While I was very happy for her and her husband I did feel the loss of our friendship not being able to continue at the same depth and frequency. And now that I am engaged I find myself having to look at friendships in a new way.

To cite one example; I have a female friend that I met close to 15 years ago and for a good proportion of those years we have caught up every other month for a movie and a meal. Our friendship is a purely platonic one and while I enjoy having a movie buddy once I got engaged I found myself having to consider in what way this friendship would exist into the future. My fiancé Jane is a wonderful and trusting woman and she has never given me instructions on who I could or could not see, but of my own accord I began to wonder if my movie friend and I had seen our last film together.  Read the rest of this entry

The Reception Venue: A Place to Celebrate

With all this talk of becoming engaged and our families meeting and engagement blessings you may have been wondering if we had made any plans for a reception venue…well rest assured, we did. I have known some people who have needed to book a reception venue up to two years before the actual date but we managed to find a good selection of choices still available. Perhaps 29 December is a less popular date being between Christmas and New Year’s Eve but whatever the case it seemed to work for us.

So where does one begin in locating a reception venue? Of course the answer is Google. Jane and I sat down one afternoon, sent a raft of enquiry emails and receiving back responses, we compiled a spreadsheet of where, how much and what was included.

We discovered that in considering a venue we had to ask ourselves some questions about what was important to us. Some couples choose venues that have stunning views overlooking the water or some other natural wonder, other couples choose venues that are renowned for their five-star menus and other couples choose venues that are significant to them or their families. And then of course most couples need to balance all that against their budget and find a happy compromise.  Read the rest of this entry

Sealed with a Blessing…Byzantine Style

Jane and I opted not to have an engagement party, after all there was not a whole lot of time until the wedding date and now there are less than 150 days to go! However I was keen to have an engagement blessing of some sort. I had been to engagement parties where the priest comes along and in a simple ceremony blesses both the ring and the couple. In the Middle Eastern region the idea of an engagement blessing seems to be bigger than it is in the West and an added Eastern tradition is that the man would also have an engagement ring. Even though I don’t have ring we did arrange to have the blessing at my Melkite parish last Sunday evening after the Divine Liturgy (i.e. Mass). We didn’t want to turn the event into an engagement party in itself so we only invited our immediate family and a few very close friends for the Liturgy and then to join us afterwards for dinner.

For Jane’s family and all of our friends the evening was a more novel event as it was of course a Byzantine Liturgy. The Sunday night Liturgy is in English, which is just as well as I don’t speak Arabic. The Liturgy was beautiful as always with its ongoing chant, incense and processions, with the iconastasis (icon screen) reminding us that we worship amidst all the saints and the angels. A touching homily was preached by our archdeacon who is actually a full born ‘Australian’ but who came over to the Melkite Church many years ago. While the Divine Liturgy was taking place Jane’s engagement ring sat on the altar which was a lovely blessing in itself, that the offering of my love to her was placed on the altar at which the ultimate showing of love takes place. Read the rest of this entry

From ‘my’ Wedding to ‘our’ Wedding

I feel I should put it straight out there that I am not a huge fan of weddings. Let me explain. While the institution of marriage is wonderful and I firmly believe more people should make that commitment, I do not like the way in which the wedding ‘industry’ has taken over the ideas of fidelity and genuine love and replaced them with make-up trials, chair covers and expensive cars. There seems to be little concern for the actual wedding ceremony; it is more about the party afterwards. Interestingly the rise of the wedding industry and the amount of money spent is almost in direct correlation with the fall in the understanding of the nature of marriage and its purpose. Once upon a time a couple met, became engaged and soon after married in a simple but joy-filled ceremony and celebration. Today a couple meet, move in together to live as husband and wife and some years later decide to host a massive wedding celebration. Often the authentic joy that should be present at a wedding is disguised behind the grandeur of a show that is more akin to a Hollywood production than the sacred union of a man and a woman. I did not want my wedding day to be a day unlike any other in its excessiveness, but rather a day which felt like the start of a sacred journey and where my new wife and I could truly celebrate with all our loved ones in elegant simplicity.

So when it came time for Jane and I to sit down and consider our wedding I came to the process with some fairly concrete ideas of what I did not need including a team of professional camera and video people, a convoy of hired wedding cars, a cake that cost more than a widescreen television and a reception venue that felt like a wedding fairy land. My pre-Jane plan included a church, followed by a marquee in a field with a lamb spit-roast. However as I have learnt recently a wedding is the celebration of two people and for that reason I think I see why it can be an excellent part of the preparation process, because it requires discussion and compromise. Read the rest of this entry

Two families becoming One

Not long after becoming engaged Jane and I thought it would be good to invite our families together for a meal to get to know each other…and that gathering happened last weekend. Jane is the youngest of four sisters, I am the eldest of four brothers and all our siblings are married, so it was no small feat to bring together 18 adults and 13 children. My mum and dad offered to host the lunch at their place. They have a big backyard with plenty of room for running and playing (for the children that is).

My parents were providing the lunch and Jane’s parents were supplying the dessert. Dad, mum and I thought we would opt for a Middle Eastern BBQ menu with lamb and chicken skewers, tabouli salad (homemade, not like that so called ‘tabouli’ you buy in the shops), hummus dip and plenty of Lebanese bread. I even bought a coal BBQ to add to the authenticity! As I have mentioned previously my dad is Syrian and a great cook so he prepared and marinated the meat and spent half a day chopping up enough parsley and tomato for 21 hungry people. Read the rest of this entry

The challenge of finding a Church

The perceptive reader would have noticed that the heading above uses a capital ‘C’ for Church instead of a lower case ‘c’, the first being a proper noun and the second being a common noun. This is not an English lesson but the distinction has been vital in the journey Jane and I had to make in considering marriage. In the way of a very brief explanation, ‘church’ describes the actual building where people come to pray, for example St Joseph’s parish church, whereas ‘Church’ refers to a particular grouping of Christians e.g. the Catholic Church. Now while Jane and I are both Catholic there is actually more than one Catholic Church, in fact there are twenty three of them. Most Catholics, 98% in fact, belong to the Western – or Latin – Catholic Church, but there are also twenty two Eastern Catholic Churches which are autonomous and self-governing. These are Churches like the Maronite, Ukrainian and Melkite Churches; they have their own liturgical traditions and rich cultural heritage that stem from the very areas where Christ lived.

I mention all this because I am a Melkite Catholic through my father who is Syrian. Although I was baptised and raised completely in the Latin Catholic Church, one’s ‘Church’ is transmitted through the father regardless. About five years ago I felt a desire to embrace this ancient Church of my ancestors so began attending the Melkite Church each Sunday. Jane is very involved in the life of her Latin Catholic parish and I am very involved in the life of my Melkite Catholic parish. So when we came to discuss where we would marry you might begin to see there were a few more complications involved than usual. Read the rest of this entry

Sharing in the Joy

Good news friends…Jane and I have been engaged for one month! Where did the time go? This also means that it is now only six months until 29 December! Very exciting!

One of the wonderful aspects of becoming engaged is the joy that is shared by family and friends.  There was certainly something magical about those moments right after becoming engaged when we made phone calls to our parents and siblings to announce the news. It’s the first thing we did, got engaged then told others. Right on the very spot where I proposed we stood and called our parents to tell them that we were going to get married. (Incidentally my parents, who knew I was going to propose that day, told us on the phone that they were, at that moment, at the checkout and had just bought our engagement gift…talk about efficient!) I guess telling others makes sense because the whole point of becoming engaged is to get married, and the whole point of me marrying Jane is be publically state that I choose to love her before all others. It’s definitely something to celebrate. If you are considering engagement, I can recommend it!   Read the rest of this entry

Learning to Swim

ImageI am used to other people getting engaged. I know what to do and what to say. However as I discovered it was very different when I got engaged myself. Someone asked me the day I proposed if I felt any different and at that point I was surprised by the question, why would I feel different? I got home after proposing, went to bed and got up the next morning.

However, returning to the regular cycle of life, one is made very aware of what has happened. Jane and I work in the same building; in fact we work on the same floor so there was the joy that goes with our colleagues knowing both of us. I was not at work the day after we got engaged so it was Jane who faced all the initial cheers and spent most of her day showing the ring and re-telling the story. I arrived back the next day and although having no ring and being a guy meant there was not as much interest in me there were still plenty of congratulations. Every time someone shook my hand or slapped me on the back I would thank them with a smile and a laugh. My mind though had not really come to understand what was going on around me. People were saying ‘you must be so happy’ and I wasn’t unhappy but I was in a strange semi-dazed world of my own. Read the rest of this entry

The Mystery of Being an Engaged Man

ImageThe only word I can use to describe the whole task of becoming engaged is ‘surreal’ but it’s unlike any surreal I have previously experienced. Even now – just a week into being engaged – I think back to visiting the jeweller and wonder to myself, ‘how on earth did I even get there’? However, buying a ring was child’s play compared to the thought of actually asking another human being to marry me. In the weeks before proposing, Jane and I had talked about getting married and it all seemed like a fun idea providing plenty of smiles and giggles. To actually stand on the precipice though, between being a single man and being an engaged man, is something I can still barely comprehend.

In the days around the proposal the image that came to my mind was that of the prophet Moses standing before the burning bush and hearing the voice of God thunder, “Take off your shoes for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” How could I with all my vices, sins and inadequacies offer to Jane the promise of love for a lifetime? The whole concept, the very idea, is a mystery beyond me. After Moses removed his shoes he covered his face, afraid to look at God, not because God was bad but on the contrary, because God was so perfectly good. Before the Divine Majesty, Moses realised how unworthy he was. And this was me; the concept of proposing marriage rose up before me like a mighty mountain and I could only bow in trepidation before the grandeur of such an idea. Read the rest of this entry

The story begins

Hi. My name is Bernard. I live in Sydney Australia…and I just got engaged. This is my attempt to record the journey that is going to take place from 29 May to 29 December 2012 when my new wife and I will walk down the aisle together. I have only been engaged for six days and in those days my mind has been working in overdrive to understand what has taken place. So let me begin this first entry with a few background details.

I met Jane – my new fiancée – at work late last year. For me it was not instant love but we soon became friendly and I eventually realised I was spending an inordinate amount of time crafting witty emails in response to her even wittier emails. Still not knowing completely how I felt, we began dating at the start of this year and within a month we were ‘going out’. We both very much enjoyed our time together and have steadily grown in our feelings for one another. Within three months our conversations turned to the idea of marriage. I have never been one to be indecisive and being 32 years old I was not going to take two or three years to discern a potential spouse. Jane was also in the relationship with a serious view to discerning marriage. Read the rest of this entry

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