Sloan’s Baptism

Exactly one week ago, Sloan was baptized. If you read my blog preceding last Sunday, you knew I was greatly anticipating this big day in Sloan’s life. I promised I would shed some light on this happy and holy occasion so today I will say a few words about the baptism.

One week ago today, Sloan was baptized at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach.

About a month and a half before Sloan was baptized, I went into the parish office of St. Andrew Catholic Church and met with the pastoral associate. He went over the meaning, significance, and logistics of baptism with me. I filled out some paperwork and we set a tentative date for Sloan to be baptized. That date, June 25, 2017, would be finalized once I had Sloan’s Godparents fill out some paperwork as well. The Godmother, Stephanie (Sidney’s sister), and the Godfather, Glen (my brother), wasted no time getting it done. Sidney brought the documents back to the parish office and the date was set!

This is the outside of St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, the place where Sloan was baptized.

Two days before June 25, we went gown shopping. My mom, Sidney, Glen, Sloan, and myself went to a children’s store in Myrtle Beach and picked out a beautiful gown for our daughter to wear. Obviously I don’t get that excited going out to look at clothes but this was kind of fun.

My mom and Sidney looking at baptism gowns.

On the day of her baptism, Sloan’s ceremony took place at 1 p.m. The same crew that went dress shopping showed up at the church at 12:40 p.m. The celebrant, Deacon Robert Jones, was waiting for us when we walked through the doors. It was this man who would give Sloan the sacrament of baptism. Although I had listened to Deacon Jones at mass numerous times, I had never personally met him. We chatted and then he went to put on his vestment.

Deacon Robert Jones was the man who baptized Sloan.

Shortly thereafter, Steph and her family showed up. They were followed by Sid’s parents. Also attending the ceremony was Sidney’s teaching partner, Melissa, and our friends, Kathy and Tim McCormick. With 1 p.m. approaching, we had a nice little group ready to take part in the holy sacrament.

Deacon Jones took charge. With Sidney, Sloan, and I right next to him at the baptismal font, he spoke to the people gathered in a sort of semi-circle fashion. He welcomed everyone and went over what was about to take place. He used the expertise of our niece and nephew, Russell and Harrison, to explain the healing power of water. He described why it was important for Sloan to be baptized and then made it a point to let all gathered know that everyone was welcome to take photos. He then invited Steph and Glen to join us up front.*

Russell and Harrison attended the baptism and helped answer questions asked by Deacon Jones.

The ceremony then started. Deacon Jones asked Sidney and I the name of our child followed by what we were asking for her. He then asked Steph and Glen if they would be willing to help Sid and I with our duty as Christian parents. The deacon then welcomed Sloan into the church. Then, in a moving display, Deacon Jones welcomed everyone gathered to come up and trace the sign of the cross on Sloan’s forehead. As I held her in my arms, our family and friends came up and blessed Sloan.

Everyone was invited to come up to the baptismal font and trace the Sign of the Cross on Sloan’s forehead.

Deacon Jones then anointed Sloan with the Holy Oil of Catechumens. This is a good time to point out that Sloan, looking as beautiful as an angel, was peaceful the entire ceremony. She was half awake for the duration of it and was nothing but sweet from the start to the finish. I say this because the oil was the first time Sloan could have “objected.” You see, the oil was placed on her breast so Sidney had to pull up her long gown (I was holding Sloan in my arms) so Deacon Jones could apply it. She didn’t make a peep.

Deacon Jones blessing Sloan with the oil.

It was now time for the main event. Deacon Jones asked all of us gathered some basic tenets of the faith. After we accepted, he specifically asked the parents and godparents whether it was our will that Sloan be baptized in the faith of the church. Once we all answered to the affirmative, the water flowed.

The parents and Godparents played a big part in Sloan’s baptism.

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Deacon Jones proclaimed as he poured holy water on Sloan’s precious head three different times.

Deacon Robert Jones baptizing Sloan. After an initial wave of shock, Sloan calmed right down.

The first time the water touched Sloan’s head she tensed up right away and let out a little noise. However, right after the initial shock wore off, she was right back to being a peaceful little girl.

Her baptismal candle was lit and a blessing was said. Our small group started to clap and a couple of tears streamed down the cheek of Sloan’s proud daddy. Cleansed from original sin and baptized just the way Jesus commanded, it was a very joyful moment.

Deacon Jones lighting the baptism candle.

With the ceremony concluded, we all took photos. We thanked Deacon Jones for not just doing a good job with the structure of the ceremony itself but for more importantly administering the holy sacrament to Sloan. When the last photo was taken, we exited the church absolutely elated. Our girl is now baptized and salvation has been given to her. Alleluia, Alleluia. Don’t Blink.

* If you are Catholic, you have probably witnessed numerous baptisms during the course of an actual mass. I attended one parish where it seemed like there was a baptism at mass every week! Although this is the preferred method for many of the faith, I had always wanted a more intimate and personal ceremony away from the stresses and unpredictability of a regular service in front of the congregation. As a parishioner of St. Andrew, I never needed to worry about this because it is parish policy that all baptisms occur outside of mass.

My Proud Daddy Moment

Since becoming a dad, I have not had a single instance where I wasn’t proud of Sloan. However, this past weekend I had a defining “Proud Father” moment.

Before I became a dad, I would probably respond to that opening paragraph with something along the lines of “How can you be genuinely proud of a 9-week-old?” I mean it is not like Sloan’s brain is developed enough to ace a test. She can’t even crawl at this point so she can’t accomplish an athletic feat. She isn’t talking yet so she surely can’t blow us away with her singing voice.

But when you become a parent of a newborn, you immediately realize what being proud means. It isn’t about achieving something that society deems as an accomplishment. Just the fact that your baby happened to start as a speck in the womb, grow into an actual infant, and then enter the world is reason enough to be full of pride. However, like I said, Sloan recently provided me with a specific prideful moment that I will always remember.

On Sunday, I took Sloan to church by myself. It was my first real time taking Sloan somewhere without anyone else. I walked into St. Andrew carrying a car seat with a big diaper bag draped over my shoulder. I navigated the crowds and found a seat at the end of a pew. I then crossed my fingers that my daughter would make it through the mass.

This was Sloan and I after mass this past Sunday.

I kept Sloan in her car seat for most of the service. Because she was semi-covered and because she was a perfect angel, fellow parishioners who were fixated in prayer didn’t really notice the baby at the end of the row.

After we recited the Lord’s Prayer and offered the sign of peace, I knew it would be just a couple minutes until I would remove Sloan from her car seat and take her up to the altar with me for Holy Eucharist. I knelt down with the congregation as we recited the important words of Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. At that moment, as the eucharistic ministers approached the altar, I sat back up in my pew. I then slowly and gently took Sloan out of her seat and cradled her in my arms.

The couple behind me immediately cooed and asked her name and age. I answered their questions and they remarked on what a beautiful baby she was. Little did I know that this would be just the tip of the iceberg.

By that time, the communion line had started. Sloan and I were seated in the front half of the church but we were in one of the back rows of the particular section. Not only that, but because of our location, we (well, I) would be receiving the holy sacrament from the priest himself right at the front of the church. Thus, we would be walking past a lot of rows and a bunch of people to get to Father Jose.

I had the pleasure of taking Sloan right down the aisle of St. Andrew Catholic Church and straight up to the front of the altar.

The usher gave our row the signal to ease into line. Sloan and I moved from one end of the row to the other and then took a right to head toward the altar.

At that moment, I swear I knew what Sidney felt like the day she walked down the aisle at our wedding. I kept my eyes either directly on Sloan or straight ahead but I could feel eyeballs looking right at me. Well, let’s be honest, I could feel the eyeballs looking at Sloan. It was such a beautiful feeling, one I couldn’t really even find the words to describe to Sidney when we got home. The whole way down I could sense the gazes and hear the ever so light gasps of the people celebrating mass that day. When I finally reached Father Jose he had his wide grin once again. He gave me my host and then gave Sloan her blessing.

On the way back to our seats I could again feel everyone looking at Sloan. Although I still looked mostly straight ahead, I did shift my eyes back and forth as we walked back. I could see smiles.

Upon returning to my pew I was hit with emotion from not just receiving Jesus’ body but also from the reception that Sloan got. Even though I had absolutely no scientific evidence that people actually were indeed touched by Sloan, the feeling I had in my heart was proof enough. I was one proud daddy.

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With Sloan’s presence now out of the bag (ummm…I mean out of the car seat), parishioner after parishioner came up to me at the end of the mass to say what a precious little girl I had. Although the compliments were so sweet and nice, it still didn’t beat the feeling I had walking down the aisle with her.

When Sidney and I talked when I arrived home, she told me that there is just a sweet spot that people have for a daddy by himself with a little baby. I would say her assessment is right. I know I spent most of this post bragging but it was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you God for blessing Sloan with her mama’s looks. Don’t Blink.

A Man of Faith: Monsignor James LeBlanc

Last weekend, St. Andrew Catholic Church was packed. As is usual for the 4:30 p.m. Saturday vigil this time of year, a standing room only crowd had gathered. A few minutes before mass started, Monsignor James LeBlanc left his spot in the entrance procession. Walking away from the staging area near the vestibule, he started strolling past the rows. Giving the hardworking ushers a big hand, he used his lapel mic to point out to the folks standing against the walls of possible seats within the pews.

“We got some room here.”
“Looks like we got a spot right there.”
“Brothers and sisters, please make sure to move to the center of the pews so others can sit down.”

St. Andrew is not a small church. Msg. LeBlanc had probably went 20 rows deep, almost reaching the altar itself, before turning back around and meeting his altar servers and deacon back at the vestibule. You don’t usually see a pastor of a large parish take on the role of usher but then again you also usually don’t get the opportunity to be in the presence of a special priest like Msgr. LeBlanc.

Msgr. James LeBlanc strolled past several rows of pews inside St. Andrew Catholic Church to try and find seats for the people standing. Try to picture this photo with an overflowing crowd.

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A parish is not defined by its pastor. Rather, it thrives or declines based on the faith of its community. To make this point perfectly clear, the Catholic Church does not keep priests around at one church for too long. Dioceses hand out new assignments to priests on a regular basis, uprooting them from one parish home and transferring them to another.

It is by design that the names on a parish marquee won’t be there forever. However, it is still bittersweet when the priests move on.

Although I understand this thinking and although I have come to expect it after three decades of practicing the faith, it is still bittersweet to see a priest move on. However, when Msgr. LeBlanc announced he would be departing St. Andrew a few weeks ago, I felt more “bitter” than “sweet.”

When Msgr. James LeBlanc announced he was leaving St. Andrew, both Sidney and I couldn’t help but feel sad.

If you know Msgr. LeBlanc, the story about him navigating a crowded church to find seating for those on their feet wouldn’t surprise you. You see, the man just doesn’t fit the mold that some people might concoct of a Catholic priest. Msgr. LeBlanc made no qualms about challenging the congregation to sing louder or say a prayer with more conviction. He liberally exclaimed “AMEN” with the expectation that the congregation would respond with the same (they did). He opened up his homilies for discussion. He wasn’t always 100% politically correct.

But even though he effectively smashed stereotypes that some people might have about how Catholic priests should serve and/or act, make no mistake about it, he was always Catholic to the core. He ran smooth services, gave beautiful homilies, displayed absolute reverence for the Holy Eucharist, and was very knowledgeable about any question you might have about Catholic doctrine. He made me proud about my faith; he made me confident to introduce Sidney to it.

Sidney and Msgr. LeBlanc made quick friends. He helped make me comfortable to introduce Sid to the faith.

St. Andrew is a tough assignment. Serving as an administrator for a large parish is one thing, it requires management and diplomacy skills. But St. Andrew is more than a big community. On any given Sunday, the crowd for that mass could be comprised of 75% vacationers and/or snowbirds. The constant revolving door of new worshippers can throw a wrench into a pastor’s plan for cohesion. Traditions that priests want to instill with their parishes become harder when the population changes drastically week to week. However, Msgr. LeBlanc successfully implemented the type of mass he wanted to run. More importantly, he served as a strong and holy man of faith for the thousands of people who travel to the Myrtle Beach area on a yearly basis. By giving a great impression to our visitors, he not only represented the parish well but the entire Diocese of Charleston.

Sidney and I with Msgr. LeBlanc at his farewell party.

As you can see, Msgr. LeBlanc was an incredible pastor when it came to Sundays. He mastered the responsibilities that many outsiders and even people of the faith think priests solely concentrate on. But Msgr. LeBlanc’s mass presentation, preaching style, and rapport with the audience weren’t the only things that endeared himself to so many during his time at St. Andrew. Rather, it was what he did on the days when the church wasn’t overflowing with people that made him stand out.

Sidney and I had the pleasure of getting married by Msgr. LeBlanc. In addition to listening to a workshop he gave on marriage in the Catholic Church that was open to the parish community, he also privately counseled us. About 10 days before our big day, we met with Msgr. LeBlanc in the parish offices. He blew us away. We chatted for almost two hours, a truly inspiring conversation that touched both Sidney and I. As Sid and I talked later that night, we both expressed how thankful we were for that special time.

About 10 days before our wedding, we sat down with Msgr. LeBlanc for a very spiritual and memorable conversation.

The day of our wedding was incredible. He squashed nerves, provided a sense of calm to the ceremony, and made it special from the entrance procession to the signing of the marriage certificate. He preached about how it wasn’t him that was administering the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony but rather Sidney and myself. We will never forget him coaching Sidney’s 3-year-old nephew to give us the rings right before we said our vows.

The moment where Msgr. LeBlanc coached our nephew, Harrison, to help with the ring delivery. Under LeBlanc’s guidance, Harrison held out the rings so they could be sprinkled with holy water and then he brought them to us.

Whether it was listening to confessions, attending church functions, or pouring his heart into starting the area’s first Catholic high school, Msgr. LeBlanc gave 100%. He didn’t do it for recognition or praise, he just did it for God and the people of the parish. You see, they don’t come more humble than Msgr. LeBlanc. During the summer, a nice reception was held to honor his 20th anniversary to the priesthood. But the truth is that if parish officials had not learned about that milestone themselves at the last minute, Msgr. LeBlanc would have let it pass by without saying a word. He also said next to nothing (at least when I was around)  about his elevation to the rank of Monsignor, a major and holy achievement in the career of any priest. And, as I have been told, any gratuity he received for performing special ceremonies such as weddings went promptly into the collection basket at the next mass.

Msgr. LeBlanc speaking at the reception marking his 20th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

Msgr. LeBlanc is off to the Columbia area to become pastor of two parishes, Transfiguration Church and St. Theresa Church. Undoubtedly he will touch countless more people. Both parishes are very lucky.

It goes without saying that the community of St. Andrew is so appreciative toward Msgr. LeBlanc. We are sad to see him go. On a personal level, I will really miss listening to him preach. I will miss the way he impacted Sidney, an influence that has helped her express to me that one day she wants to become Catholic. We will both miss him when it comes time for the baptism of our daughter. But more than anything else, we are just thankful. Msgr. LeBlanc touched and enriched our lives and we can’t express our gratitude toward God enough. Don’t Blink.

Proud To Be A Myrtle Beach Local

Last night, Sidney and I attended Taste of the Town, a Myrtle Beach event where over 40 area restaurants set up booths and offer food samples. As we walked up to the convention center I looked at Sid and said, “Can you believe this is the third year we have attended this?”

This was Sidney and I at Myrtle Beach's Taste of Town last night. The event is sponsored by the St. Andrew Catholic community.

This was Sidney and I at Myrtle Beach’s Taste of Town last night. The event is sponsored by the St. Andrew Catholic community.

Although I have come to realize it for at least a year now, when I asked her that rhetorical question the truth couldn’t have been more obvious to me: I am a genuine Myrtle Beach local.

Of course I was immediately a Myrtle Beach local the day I moved here by way of my address but I don’t think from a psychological standpoint I was. Now, almost exactly two and a half years since I arrived here in a U-Haul, I don’t think they come much more local than me.

Besides still messing up on directions every now and then, I would say I am a solid Grand Strand citizen. I work here, got married here, and our baby will be born here. I know about all the popular restaurants, the diviest bars, and the best ice cream parlors. I am familiar with all the local high schools, car dealerships, and putt putt courses. I have spent enough time on 501 to last a lifetime and enough time in the surf shops to know that if you have seen one you have seen them all.

But back to Taste of the Town real fast. It really is a fabulous event. Besides the restaurants I mentioned above, there is also entertainment, a beer garden, activities for kids, and much more. It is a major Myrtle Beach event and it is all put on by the St. Andrew Catholic community. As Sid and I walked around during the peak period of the event and admired what seemed to be the entire city inside that convention center, we felt very proud to be members of St. Andrew.

But you know what else I am proud of? Being a Myrtle Beach local! This place is my home and it is much more to me than just a popular tourist town. Don’t Blink.

The #SidAndBrent Wedding

Quick story. The sweetest part of our wedding day for me was when my brother, dad, and cousin came over that morning. Glen handed me a tiny gift bag. He told me it was from Sidney. Knowing it would be best to open in private, I went upstairs to see what it was. Sidney had written me a heartfelt note and knitted a handkerchief with a special message. It was a beautiful gesture and set the day off perfectly.

I will keep the note private but this was the handkerchief Sid gave to me the morning of the wedding.

I will keep the note private but this was the handkerchief Sid gave to me the morning of the wedding.

Now that I got that emotional moment off my chest, let me back up just a little bit. I woke up at our house at 7 a.m. Sidney had stayed the night at her parents. It was important to both of us that we didn’t see each other until she walked down the aisle a little after 1 p.m. that afternoon. I spent the next few hours packing for the honeymoon, writing in my journal, and just gathering myself.

I also spent time tweeting. I know this tweet is CORNY but it is how we felt. We were engaged for a year and really looked forward to this day. At the same time, most people look forward their whole lives to that day they finally get to tie the knot.

I also spent time tweeting. I know this tweet is CORNY but it is how we felt. We were engaged for a year and really looked forward to this day. At the same time, most people look forward their whole lives to that day they finally get to tie the knot.

It was at 10 a.m. when the guys came over. My brother was my best man, my cousin was a groomsman, and my dad also had a tux to match us. Kenny, another groomsman, was already with me as he stayed at our house. On the way over, my family had picked up breakfast from Bojangles. So before we started to jump into our tuxedos we all scarfed down chicken fillet biscuits. My west coast fellas couldn’t believe how good they were.

I was pretty dressed down that morning as you can see. This is me eating my chicken biscuit and Botato rounds from Bojangles.

I was pretty dressed down that morning as you can see. This is me eating my chicken biscuit and Botato rounds from Bojangles.

With breakfast completed, I hit the shower. I then got dressed with my dad helping every step of the way. He pulled my tie straight, helped me with my cuffs, and opened up the jacket for me to slip into. With my best man, my groomsmen, and myself ready to go, my dad jumped in the shower and then into his suit. There now wasn’t anything left to do except go to the site of the wedding. A little bit before noon, we piled into a rental car and made the drive to St. Andrew Catholic Church.

My dad giving me a hand with my tie.

My dad giving me a hand with my tie (photo credit to Glen).

Once inside the church we hung out for about 20 minutes. We took some photos, tested out the geofilter, and talked amongst ourselves. Guests started to show up. Our priest, Father James LeBlanc, appeared from the front of the church and walked to the back to greet me. Word spread that the bride and her bridesmaids had arrived. My groomsmen started to escort guest to their seats. We were now only about 20 minutes away from show time!

Right when I got in St. Andrew Catholic Church I tested out our own special geofilter. It worked!

Right when I got in St. Andrew Catholic Church I tested out our own special geofilter. It worked!

For the month leading up to the wedding, I fielded the “Are you nervous yet?” question over and over. Each time I said no. A couple minutes before the service started I felt the same way. Although I had to work hard to keep my emotions in check, I never had strong nerves.

This photo clearly shows I wasn't nervous, I was just focused (photo credit to Jay).

This photo clearly shows I wasn’t nervous, I was just focused (photo credit to Jay).

It was time. The organist played Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and I walked my mom down the aisle to her seat. My brother-in-law then walked my mother-in-law down the aisle to her seat. With my mom and Brenda in their pews, it was time for the procession.

This was my beautiful bride in the bridal area of the church just a few minutes before she walked down the aisle (photo credit to Stephanie).

This was my beautiful bride in the bridal area of the church just a few minutes before she walked down the aisle (photo credit to Stephanie).

I walked behind Father LeBlanc to the altar. When we arrived he shook my hand. I stood off to the side and watched as my groomsmen made it to the front of the church. Then came Russel and Harrison, our flower girl and ring bearer. Following them were four beautiful women, Sidney’s bridesmaids (my sister, both of Sidney’s sisters, and Sidney’s best friend). With everyone now in their places except for the most important person, the time had arrived for the best moment of any wedding.

Sidney appeared at the start of the aisle looking breathtakingly gorgeous. With her dad to her right they started to walk toward me. St. Andrew has a looooooong aisle so it took a minute for them to reach the point of no return. When they arrived at the fourth pew from the front, Fr. LeBlanc nudged me to go get her. I walked to Mr. Sid (Sidney is named after her dad) and gave him a handshake followed by a hug. He then took Sidney’s hand and placed it in mine. Sid and I then walked to the front of the altar where Fr. LeBlanc stood before us.

Hallelujah! We had made it this far!

Fr. LeBlanc started the service, greeted the congregation, and said the opening prayers. Sid and I then walked up onto the altar and sat in our two chairs right next to Fr. LeBlanc. Just like at a regular Catholic mass, two readings are said at a Catholic wedding service. A relative of Sidney’s, Ed Galloway, gave the first reading. Before he read from the book of Genesis he spoke a few eloquent words about the Mathis family. After Ed spoke and did the reading, the responsorial psalm was performed. Then one half of our sponsor couple, the same man who said the blessing at our rehearsal dinner, Tim McCormick, gave the second reading. Call us cliché, but Sidney and I went with the standard “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage from 1 Corinthians.

The proclamation of the gospel and the delivery of the homily was done by Fr. LeBlanc. Looking over at us as he talked, Father stressed that it wasn’t him administering the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. Rather, it was Sidney and I. It was such a powerful way of saying that the two of us, along with God, held the power for a long and successful marriage.

Suddenly Father LeBlanc switched the tone of his voice, looked at us again, and asked, “Are you ready to do this?!”

Before we knew it, Sid and I were once again up in front of the altar. Although this time our eyes were locked and we were standing directly across from each other so the congregation could see us 100% as opposed to our backs being to everyone. My brother was standing on my side and Sidney’s sisters were standing on her side. At this point, we went off script just a little…

Sidney and I just about to say our vows (photo credit to Bill Plate).

Sidney and I just about to say our vows (photo credit to Bill Plate).

As part of his best man duties, it was rehearsed that Glen would present the rings. However, Fr. LeBlanc had a better idea. He asked Harrison, our three-year-old ring bearer nephew, to do the honors. Now it would have been totally understandable if Harrison got scared or froze during this very unpredictable time; but he didn’t. Harrison took the plate that the rings rested on while Fr. LeBlanc sprinkled them with holy water. He then let Harrison bring the plate to us so we could take our rings and say our vows. The little guy did a masterful job. Word is still out on whether my brother has forgiven Harrison for stealing his most important job.

We spoke our vows with sincerity and conviction to each other. We could feel the Holy Spirit within us. Fr. LeBlanc talked about how we were now one. He then gave a blessing over us and that was it…WE WERE MARRIED!

Sidney and I right after we signed our marriage license.

Sidney and I right after we signed our marriage license.

Ode to Joy started to play and Sidney and I shared a kiss. We then walked back up the aisle. I had successfully held in my emotions for the entirety of the service but once we hit the vestibule of the church a few tears flowed. We were congratulated by family and friends but we couldn’t bask in that glory long. We had to go back down to the altar and sign our wedding papers. The photographer then took some photos of us and that sealed it. Our business at the church, very important business might I add, was finished. It was time for Mr. and Mrs. Reser to head to the reception. Don’t Blink.

* A blog post centering on the reception will come soon. Professional photos were taken at the wedding but not used for this post.

The #SidAndBrent Wedding Timeline

When Sidney and I became engaged last June, I quickly became acquainted with wedding magazines. After I popped the question, Sid and I flew to Spokane the next day. For the long flight and the two week trip, she loaded up on a variety of matrimonial magazines. I became familiar with the layout and features of these publications.

One mainstay of any wedding magazine is a monthly or weekly timeline. The pages will tell you how far along you should be in the planning process at eight months, six months, two months, etc.

Recently I realized I essentially had created my own wedding timeline over the past year. For most of the weeks over the last 12 months, I have given a weekly “Wedding Update” in my Thursday Rundown blog posts. The idea occurred to me that perhaps I should lay out all of these updates in one grand blog post. With the start of our wedding week tomorrow combined with the fact that I wrote my last Thursday Rundown (and thus last Wedding Update) a few days ago, now is the perfect time.

Starting with the first update I wrote and ending with the 37th one I wrote, I give you the #SidAndBrent Wedding Planning Timeline.

Wedding Update #1 (July 9, 2015) – Sidney and I met with a representative from St. Andrew Catholic Church yesterday to begin preparation for our big day next June. We are excited to start the journey that will help us grow as a couple and lead us to the altar in 11 months. In related news, by next week we will have a specific date selected.

Wedding Update #2 (July 16, 2015) – Today at our second marriage meeting we expressed the date we want for our wedding and submitted it for approval by the priest! Also related to our wedding, I am amazed at the amount of planning that Sidney and her mom have already devoted to the big day. Although we won’t say our vows for another 11 months, important things still need to be done this early in the game. Shout out to my fiancé for picking out her dress this week!

Wedding Update #3 (July 23, 2015) – It is official! Sidney and I were granted our first choice for our wedding date. On June 11, 2016, we will become a married couple. This past Friday, the pastoral associate at St. Andrew called me with the good news. We can’t wait!

Wedding Update #4 (July 30, 2015) – Sidney and her mom have done such a great job wasting no time at all getting things squared away for our June 11 date. Our reception venue, caterer, and photographer are now all booked. As all of these developments became official late last week, it has allowed Sidney to relax a little bit more this week. She deserves it!

Wedding Update #5 (August 6, 2015) – This is a big development…Sidney has selected her dress! Actually, she has had it picked out for a few weeks now. But do you know what she is waiting on?! Tax Free Weekend!! The purchase, minus the sales tax, will be made this weekend.

Wedding Update #6 (August 13, 2015) – I have a couple informative updates from this front. First, if you look at a countdown clock, we are now at single digits month-wise until our big day. On Tuesday it was exactly 10 months until our wedding. Now we are at 9 months and 29 days! Also, my parents booked a beach house for the week of my wedding. Technically it is a three-bedroom condo but this news got me really excited. It makes me feel good that my parents and other family members will have the opportunity to come down to Myrtle Beach and have a memorable vacation while staying in a nice place.

Wedding Update #7 (August 20, 2015) – You can now check wedding invitations off the list! Sidney and I decided upon our design last week. From the Reser family front, my mom and dad explained details of the trip to Myrtle Beach with other immediate family members over dinner last night. My mom also went dress shopping at Nordstrom and I hear she found something that she liked.

Wedding Update #8 (August 27, 2015) – I am told this one is a big deal…Sidney has picked out the bridesmaid dresses! Hopefully she doesn’t make me wear one. In other news, earlier this week my parents went ahead and bought airfare for the big wedding week!

Wedding Update #9 (September 10, 2015) – The biggest update I have for you is that tomorrow it will be exactly NINE MONTHS until Sidney and I tie the knot. Also, the flower girl dress that Sidney’s beautiful niece will wear has been picked out. For those in Myrtle Beach who have an idea of the area, we will be having our reception at Waterway Palms Plantation.

Wedding Update #10 (September 24, 2015) – Our beautiful flower girl, Russell, now has her dress! Also, our Pre-Cana classes start October 13. In case you are wondering, just 261 days remain until our big day!

Look how pretty Russell looks in that dress!

Look how pretty Russell looks in that dress!

Wedding Update #11 (October 15, 2015) – This past Tuesday, Sidney and I had our first Pre-Cana class. We have an absolutely wonderful sponsor couple who welcomes us into their home for these classes. Tuesday we talked a lot about our families and how they have influenced us to be the people we are today. Yesterday, Sidney and I went to the community center of St. Andrew where our pastor, Father James LeBlanc, discussed holy matrimony in the Catholic church. He went over marriage, divorce, and annulments in great detail. While of course we are just focused on marriage, we wanted to get an idea on specifically what the church teaches about it all. It was also a great opportunity to hear the questions of others and to personally chat with Fr. LeBlanc.

Wedding Update #12 (October 22, 2015) – Sidney and I enjoyed our second Pre-Cana class on Tuesday. We talked more about our upbringings and family traditions. It is important that two of us understand how we were raised and how that has shaped us into the people we are today. The main takeaway lesson is that we can’t focus on changing each other, rather, we need to concentrate on changing ourselves.

Wedding Update #13 (October 29, 2015) – Last night, Sidney and I attended our third Pre-Cana meeting. The past two weeks we talked mostly about family and where our influences came from. At this latest meeting, we touched on different subjects. Sex, money, and communication were prominently discussed! Don’t think it was awkward or difficult, though. As I have said before, our sponsor couple is absolutely incredible and obviously these issues are critical to a strong marriage so it is very important to talk about.

Wedding Update #14 (November 12, 2015) – We are in the process of trying to choose the venue for our rehearsal dinner. Sidney and I want to get our restaurant selected so we can make a reservation and beat out the swarm of engaged couples that will sprout up over the holidays. Best way to make a quality decision? Treat yourself to dinner at each prospective location! Last Friday we ate at Sea Captain’s House, a Myrtle Beach favorite that is on our short list. After we ate we were able to ask questions. To all my Myrtle Beach readers, Sidney and I would LOVE suggestions on other good places to consider. Keep in mind that we want a restaurant that isn’t too far from St. Andrew Catholic Church.

Also, we had our fourth Pre-Cana meeting on Tuesday. We only have one meeting left but that will be on hold next week. Why? Well, our sponsor couple is graciously having us over solely for dinner! The books will be put away as they prepare a meal for the four of us. Sid and I love our sponsor couple!

Sidney and I with our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick.

Sidney and I with our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick.

Wedding Update #15 (December 10, 2015) – Tomorrow will be the six month countdown until Sidney and I get married! Speaking of six months, this also means that we have now been engaged for half of a year. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we recently finished our marriage counseling classes. Lastly, our initial choice for a rehearsal dinner venue is not going to work out so I have to figure out an alternative. But all is good!!

Wedding Update #16 (January 7, 2016) – We are now just five months out from the wedding! I have narrowed my choice of our Mexican honeymoon location to two resorts (thanks everyone for the suggestions). I hope to book by mid-month. As for the rehearsal dinner venue, I am still struggling on that front. You would think that in a town of over 1,000 restaurants it would be easier. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, our initial desired location did not work out. On a lighter note, Sidney’s dress arrived this week!

Wedding Update #17 (January 14, 2016) – Earlier this week, Sidney put three cloths of different colors in front of me and asked which one I liked best. I picked wrong. She was showing me colors of bridesmaid dresses (unbeknownst to me at the time) and I don’t think I exactly chose what she was hoping I would. It is all good, Sidney has more intelligence than to ever take my advice on fashion anyway.

After announcing last week that we had two finalists for the resort we will stay at for our honeymoon, we decided over the weekend our ultimate choice. Booking will take place very soon.

Wedding Update #18 (January 21, 2016) – I do have a significant item to report in this latest update…I booked our honeymoon!! After much research and discussion about what we exactly wanted, Sidney and I will be staying at the Sun Palace in Cancun. We ended up booking with the Sun Palace because it is a couples only resort and it consistently appeared high on lists ranking the best hotels in Mexico. I depend on Instagram to gain honest feedback on hotels/restaurants/venues/etc. and everyone I messaged remarked that Sun Palace is nothing short of superb. Take a look for yourself if you want, we can’t wait to go!

Wedding Update #19 (January 28, 2016) – When I booked our honeymoon a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. However, another important groom responsibility was still on my plate….a rehearsal dinner plate that is. At times it was a frustrating process trying to find a venue for our rehearsal dinner but I finally found a spot. Our wedding party will be dining at Thoroughbreds the night before the big day. Thoroughbreds is a steakhouse and seafood grille located on Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. The restaurant is beautiful, it is close enough to church, and it can handle a group of our size. I am glad to have this selection made.

After we chose Thoroughbreds we went and ate dinner there. It was amazing.

After we chose Thoroughbreds we went and ate dinner there. It was amazing.

Wedding Update #20 (February 4, 2016) – It is at that point where Sidney’s birthday is like my birthday! This past weekend we celebrated Sid’s special day with her extended family. When it came time to open up gifts, she received several items off of our registry such as dinner plates, mugs, casserole containers, and a skillet. Of course these items will be shared by both of us as we start our life together.

Wedding Update #21 (February 11, 2016) – The biggest item I have to mention in this latest update is that we are exactly four months away from the big day! That means Sidney and I are now 2/3 of the way through our engagement (I popped the question in June 2015). This past weekend my mom called Sid’s mom and they had a nice long discussion about wedding developments. The day will be here before we know it.

Wedding Update #22 (February 18, 2016) – Sidney and I met with the pastoral associate at St. Andrew yesterday. During the meeting, he gave us a book for us to make our selections in regarding the readings, prayers, responsorial psalm, etc. to be said at our wedding service. How exciting! This past Saturday, Sidney and I sat down and rounded up the final addresses we need for our wedding invitations. With under four months to go, things are really starting to heat up.

Wedding Update #23 (February 25, 2016) – Last week I mentioned that Sidney and I received the book to choose our readings/prayers for our wedding. This week we actually chose them. You see, in this book you have around 6-10 different bible passages or prayers to choose from for each reading or blessing that makes up a Catholic wedding service. The two of us decided to review the options individually and then mark down our two top choices on a separate piece of paper. We then compared our selections. For pretty much every one, we overlapped with one of our choices!

Wedding Update #24 (Marh 3, 2016) – We are now counting down from just DOUBLE DIGITS until the big day. Only 99 days remain until our wedding. Sidney sent all the invitations across the country for my dad to address. Why? Well, my dad has a thing for calligraphy. He writes in beautiful script and ever since I can remember he has had friends and co-workers ask him to “lend a hand” with their Christmas cards or documents. However, he had never received a wedding invitation request up until this point. He gracefully accepted by saying he would be honored to do it. He has already finished them off and will be sending the invites back to Sidney and her parents to mail off.

I remember well when we were 99 days away.

I remember well when we were 99 days away.

Wedding Update #25 (March 10, 2016) – Lots of fun things are happening! My dad mailed us back all the invites he addressed and they look beautiful. Additionally, Sidney, her mom, and I chose the type of stamp we will use (I never knew the Postal Service offered so many options!). With so much fun getting the invitations ready to go, Sidney was a little disappointed when her mom gently reminded her that we still have several weeks to go before we actually mail them out.

However, Sidney was feeling anything but disappointed when she was able to bring her wedding dress home this past Saturday! After her final fitting, the ensemble was released into her possession. Adding even more excitement to this loaded wedding update, Sidney and her mom also met with the florist we will use for that big Saturday in June. Just 92 days to go.

Wedding Update #26 (March 17, 2016) – These updates just keep getting more and more significant! This past Saturday, Sidney and I went to Jos A Bank and picked out the tuxes for me and my groomsmen. Even when it comes to details such as what the guys will wear, I still claim complete ignorance. Luckily I had Sid there to run the show and pick out what would look the best. In an additional development, Sidney’s mom received our wedding stamps yesterday. I have never had my name on postage before so I definitely think they look pretty cool.

Wedding Update #27 (March 24, 2016) – I detailed our meal at our rehearsal dinner venue earlier in the week, but I saved the most important wedding development for this update. This past Saturday, Sidney and I went to Zales in the mall and bought our wedding rings for each other. It was a nice outing and much, much easier on my wallet than the engagement ring experience. Sidney’s ring was in stock and we took it home but mine is being ordered.

Wedding Update #28 (March 31, 2016) – A couple items to report on for this update. First, Sidney went to Charleston yesterday to get her bridal portraits done. At her parents’ house there is a large framed photo of Sid’s oldest sister in her wedding gown. Pretty soon there will be one of Sidney too. Secondly, as a wedding gift my parents are paying for Sidney and I to spend our wedding night in a Myrtle Beach hotel of our choice. After some research and after determining which venues actually have vacancy (Myrtle Beach is a tourist destination after all), we have narrowed it down to two choices. A decision is expected by the end of the night.

Wedding Update #29 (April 7, 2016) – The other day, Sidney handed me the bag full of wedding invitations she had recently stuffed into envelopes. I took that bag full of invites and carefully handed it over to the lady at the post office to send out. In the next couple of days, people will start receiving the request from Sidney’s parents to attend our big day! Also, yesterday, Sidney received a call from Zale’s informing her that my wedding ring has arrived (we had to order it). It just keeps getting more and more real.

Me holding our wedding invites right before I brought them into the post office.

Me holding our wedding invites right before I brought them into the post office.

Wedding Update #30 (April 14, 2016) – Yesterday evening, Sidney and I met with the music director at St. Andrew Catholic Church to pick out our song selection for our wedding. We sat up in the choir loft with the director as she played different melodies for us. After about 45 minutes, we had our music picked out. It was quite fun.

Here is a look at the inside of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach. I took this photo last night before our meeting with the music director.

Here is a look at the inside of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach. I took this photo last night before our meeting with the music director.

Wedding Update #31 (April 21, 2016) – Sidney keeps telling people that the major responsibilities are taken care of. Now it is just handling the smaller things that will come up over these final 50 days. This past weekend, Sid’s mom finalized the reception dinner menu. Relatives of the bride are also now in the process of planning Sidney’s bridal shower. Little or big, each new development is exciting as we inch closer to the date.

Wedding Update #32 (April 28, 2016) – We are just 44 days away from the big date. Sidney’s bridal shower invites went out in the mail this week. Items are disappearing from our registry. My mom bought her dress. It is all very exciting and hopefully other big developments will transpire between now and my next update.

Wedding Update #33 (May 5, 2016) – I have a few things to share. Sidney received her wedding portraits back (of course I wasn’t allowed to look). Also, with the invites sent out a couple weeks ago, we recently figured out the probable number of guests we expect to have at our wedding. Finally, I was very honored when my cousin Cody accepted my invite to serve as a groomsman in my wedding party. At the last minute, an original groomsman unexpectedly said he couldn’t make the trip, sending me into crisis mode. Luckily Cody graciously answered my request and I couldn’t be happier to have him standing up front with us on our wedding day.

 I received this from my parents. It is so nice to have a framed wedding invitation! Thank you to my parents.

I received this from my parents. It is so nice to have a framed wedding invitation! Thank you to my parents.

Wedding Update #34 (May 12, 2016) – Was my month countdown post not enough yesterday? I don’t know if I have too much more to update you on but we are now officially 30 days out from the big day! This weekend, Sidney’s relatives will host her bridal shower. Also, wedding presents have started to trickle in. It is fun to watch Sidney get really excited when she opens them.

Wedding Update #35 (May 19, 2016) – Sidney had her bridal shower last weekend and in addition to the lawn mower we received some fabulous gifts. We met with the church last night to finalize our liturgy. Now, when it comes to St. Andrew (where we are getting married), we just have our meeting with the priest and the rehearsal to go before it is showtime. Also, earlier this week we narrowed our song choice for our first dance to three finalists. And, believe it or not, we just now decided on which one we will use! It is a special melody indeed. Only 23 days to go!

Wedding Update #36 (May 26, 2016) – The biggest news I have to report is that Sidney and I requested and received our marriage license! In South Carolina you have to visit the courthouse and formally apply for the license. After you pay $50 and fill out paperwork, you then must wait 24 hours until you can pick it up. I snagged it yesterday and this afternoon Sidney delivered it to the church!

In other news, the teachers at Sidney’s school threw her a special bridal party. She left work that day with a super nice vacuum. I also received a nice surprise in that my aunt and cousin will be making the trip to Myrtle Beach to enjoy the wedding festivities. We are just 16 days away from the big date!

Sidney and I outside the courthouse on the left and our wedding license on the right!

Sidney and I outside the courthouse on the left and our wedding license on the right!

Wedding Update #37 (June 2, 2016) – What can I say, we are almost there! Sidney and I had the distinct honor of meeting with Fr. LeBlanc, the priest who will marry us on June 11. Aside from the rehearsal a week from Friday, we have now done all the prep work for the ceremony/spiritual part of our wedding. Let me say this: when it comes to marriage preparation, the Catholic Church is incredible. I don’t think we could be anymore ready for this commitment.

I talked with our DJ today and earlier this week I sent out information packets to my groomsmen. Sidney, her mom, and sisters are extremely busy doing all the necessary tasks that can really only be done a couple weeks before the wedding. This upcoming Saturday evening, Sidney will be treated to a bachelorette party. Then Monday will roll around and my family will start arriving from out west! What a blessed time it is.

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What an incredible journey it has been. I would like to thank Sidney, Brenda (Sidney’s mom), Sidney’s two sisters, my parents, Tim & Kathy McCormick, Father James LeBlanc, and Greg Allen for all they have done. Because of their efforts, June 11, 2016, will be an extremely special day. This timeline will be something that Sidney and I will be able to show our kids and maybe way down the road we will even use it for their wedding planning. Don’t Blink.

Other Blog Posts Written About Our Wedding:
The Proposal
The Best Way to Prepare for Marriage
The Proposal (Her Side)
An Excellent Rehearsal Dinner Preview
Wedding Countdown: Two Months Out
The Pre-Honeymoon

Last Thursday Rundown As a Bachelor

It is June and that means it is our WEDDING MONTH. Tonight’s Thursday Rundown will also be my final one as a bachelor. Here we go with the topics…

Ice Cream Disappointment – This past weekend, Myrtle Beach was home to Bike Week. Taking place every Memorial Day weekend, thousands of bikers come to the city to have some fun. Sidney and I decided to observe the spectacle by watching the participants go up and down the busiest street in Myrtle Beach from the back of Sidney’s vehicle. To make the experience more enjoyable, we stopped at Kirk’s Ice Cream Parlor to get a treat to enjoy while we watched the motorcycles cruise by. I couldn’t resist getting this flashy cone with birthday cake ice cream. Unfortunately, while the ice cream itself was good, the cone looked better than it tasted.

This was the ice cream cone I ate from Kirk's Ice Cream Parlor this past Friday.

This was the ice cream cone I ate from Kirk’s Ice Cream Parlor this past Friday.

Back on the Air – Our television/web show at Coastal Carolina University, Coastal Now, came out with a new episode recently. That meant I was back on the air with my segment! In this latest show I talked about our award winning “Inside the Classroom” social media campaign. To watch me give you the low-down, just click here.

Watch my latest Social Circle segment on Coastal Carolina University's Coastal Now program.

Watch my latest Social Circle segment on Coastal Carolina University’s Coastal Now program.

Interesting Dear Abby Question – Although I did find the below question interesting, I still found Abby’s answer obvious. If you and office mates or a significant other set a spending limit for a gift exchange, it means you spend as close to that amount as possible. If I have a $20 limit to buy my brother something, I am doing everything I can to make all 2,000 pennies stretch as far as possible. If you are able to buy a $20 item for $10 then buy two of that item (or use the remaining $10 on something else). In my opinion, a spending limit is based on actual money spent, not the actual retail price of something.

Although I found the question interesting, I thought the answer was very obvious.

Although I found the question interesting, I thought the answer was very obvious.

Major Haircut Change – Most people know I pride myself on going to Great Clips for every single haircut I get. However, with my big day coming up I decided to my wedding haircut at an actual reputable salon. Yesterday I went to Madison Avenue Salon, a place right next to where I live. When I told my stylist that I usually just go to Great Clips, she responded, “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

The time she took and the hair styling tools she used definitely made me realize that there is a certain difference between a place that sets a goal to cut as many heads of hair as possible in the least amount of time versus a professional salon where the goal is to actually make you look good (not that I am saying I look good by any means). Thanks to Hailey for cutting my hair!

How about a quick lunch hour selfie to show off my haircut?!

How about a quick lunch hour selfie to show off my haircut?!

Wedding Update #35 – What can I say, we are almost there! Sidney and I had the distinct honor of meeting with Fr. LeBlanc, the priest who will marry us on June 11. Aside from the rehearsal a week from Friday, we have now done all the prep work for the ceremony/spiritual part of our wedding. Let me say this: when it comes to marriage preparation, the Catholic Church is incredible. I don’t think we could be anymore ready for this commitment.

I talked with our DJ today and earlier this week I sent out information packets to my groomsmen. Sidney, her mom, and sisters are extremely busy doing all the necessary tasks that can really only be done a couple weeks before the wedding. This upcoming Saturday evening, Sidney will be treated to a bachelorette party. Then Monday will roll around and my family will start arriving from out west! What a blessed time it is.

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I will be back Sunday with a special blog post and then that could very much well do it for the next two weeks as we get married and go on our honeymoon. As always, thanks for your readership. Have a fantastic weekend. Don’t Blink.

Thursday Rundown Not Sponsored by Reser’s Fine Foods

Let me start this post by asking us all to take a moment to realize how lucky we are to be alive. Life is good. Okay, now let’s get to the Thursday Rundown…

I Don’t Make Potato Salad – There is a food brand headquartered out west called Reser’s Fine Foods. The company makes potato salad, smoked meats, tortillas, and much more. Reser’s is successful enough that the Oregon State football stadium bears its name. Although I have never attended a game at Reser Stadium before, I think I should get free tickets if I ever do. With all that said I want to make something clear: My family has no relation to this company. If we did, I would probably be driving a different vehicle.

My family has no relation to Reser's Fine Foods

My family has no relation to Reser’s Fine Foods

Another “Honor” for Spokane – Last June, I wrote about an incident that brought unflattering attention to my hometown. This morning my eye caught sight of the trending topics on Facebook and sadly Spokane was in the news again. This particular headline said that citizens spend more money on marijuana than they do on milk or bread. Pot use is legal in Washington state so people in the Lilac City aren’t breaking the law but they are just making the town look really bad.

Come on, Spokane.

Come on, Spokane.

From the Archives – I wrote a couple blog posts on this date that I thought would be worth sharing again. One year ago, I took advantage of the Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day and rushed to four different stores in Myrtle Beach and got ice cream at each. On this date in 2014, I explained my dilemma with packing as I was preparing to move from one side of the country to the other. How about you pick one or the other to read?

Enjoying Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day last year (one of four stops).

Enjoying Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day last year (one of four stops).

More Wisdom – I thought today’s Life’s Little Instruction was worth sharing. This advice is perfect for developing relationships with people. Simply put, everyone wins in this situation. The person who receives the compliment is flattered, the person who originally gave the compliment is established as a nice person even in his/her absence, and the person who actually says the remark comes across as a caring and attentive individual. I recommend trying it.

Whenever you can do this, I recommend you don't let the opportunity pass by.

Whenever you can do this, I recommend you don’t let the opportunity pass by.

Wedding Update #27 – Yesterday evening, Sidney and I met with the music director at St. Andrew Catholic Church to pick out our song selection for our wedding. We sat up in the choir loft with the director as she played different melodies for us. After about 45 minutes, we had our music picked out. It was quite fun.

Here is a look at the inside of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach. I took this photo last night before our meeting with the music director.

Here is a look at the inside of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach. I took this photo last night before our meeting with the music director.

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It has been a busy week for me! I am looking forward to the weekend. Hope all is well and I thank you for reading. Don’t Blink.

Reserving Seats

Believe it or not, the angry mother at Great Clips wasn’t the only awkward situation I observed last Saturday. For the other episode I take you to a place I have brought up before in this blog…my church.

St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach attracts large crowds. Because St. Andrew is one of the few Catholic parishes in the Grand Strand area and because Myrtle Beach is a magnet for tourists and snowbirds, our weekend masses fill up. Even with five services offered throughout the Saturday and Sunday, the church seems to get packed for each different mass.

As our pastor Fr. James LeBlanc says, “February is a busy time for us.” You see, this is the peak month where folks who call other northern states and northern countries (Canada) home migrate down south to spend the colder months in our little slice of paradise. The second month of the year is when you see this population truly balloon.

The mass that I prefer to attend lately is the 4:30 p.m. Saturday vigil mass. I have learned that during this time of the year if you don’t arrive at least 15 minutes early you will be hard pressed to find a spot. This past Saturday I walked in the church at around 4:11 p.m. and it seemed as if every seat was already taken! I kept walking down the outer aisle hoping a place would pop up. It was not until I reached the second row to the front that I saw some actual wood of the pew. In fact, there was enough space for at least two people. Not only would I have a seat but I might also have some wiggle room!

“Good evening ma’am, could I please squeeze in here,” I said in my sweetest voice to the woman at the end of the pew.

“I am sorry,” she said in an equally sweet voice. “These spots are saved.”

My heart sunk and I began the humiliating walk of turning around and strolling back up the aisle. I could feel the eyes of the hundreds of people who watched me walk all the way down the aisle (St. Andrew is a large church) only to see me reverse course and walk the other way. Thankfully, after I passed about ten rows, a couple of precious old ladies made room for me to sit at the very end of their pew.

As I got settled in, I watched people do the exact same thing I did. They walked all the way down to the pew only to be told that the seat was reserved. I witnessed this about three times. The final time the usher took a family of three down to the location, thinking just like all of us that the space was open. With the usher guiding the wide-eyed and helpless trio to the seemingly open spot, the woman who was reserving the pew surrendered. She stood up and made the long walk to the back of the church where I assume she waited for her guests while joining the legions of people enjoying the standing room only accomodations.

This story isn’t a knock on St. Andrew. Rather, it is a tribute. I am proud to say that I am part of a parish that hosts full houses frequently and employs the hardest working user team in the diocese. I am also not putting down the lady who was saving seats. You know why? Because we have all been there…

I will never forget my sister’s high school graduation. It took place in an arena where it was a first-come, first-served seating situation. I went with my dad and uncle right when the doors opened to save seats. We immediately claimed a row right in the center of the venue. My dad took out a long piece of thick paper ribbon that stretched across the entire row except for one seat at one end and two seats at the other. Across the ribbon he wrote RESER-ved.

My dad and uncle sat on the end with two seats and I sat on the end with one seat. I was on the end that was closer to the stage and thus had an aisle that was exposed to many more people using the stairs. While my two family members on the other side had a great time chatting it up for two hours, I was basically abused by angry attendees who thought it was the cheapest move in the book to block off a whole row. I mean, could I really blame them?

Saving seats sucks so much. You feel multiple negative emotions ranging from fear to embarrassment to anger. People usually save seats to help friends and loved ones so in theory it is a noble act. However, good intentions many times morph into a tough afternoon for the person doing the deed and frustration for the many folks who see open seats in a crowded place but are denied. In the end, is it worth it?

Unless you have pregnant, elderly, or handicapped individuals in your party, resist the urge to save seats. If we have the need for premium seating, I think we should make the effort to round everyone up and go to the venue together. It would make a smoother experience for all. Don’t Blink.

The Best Way to Prepare for Marriage

Last night was bittersweet. Over a special evening that included a delicious dinner and fabulous fellowship, Sidney and I completed our Pre-Cana classes. It was sweet in the fact that we finished a major step in the process that will lead to our wedding at St. Andrew Catholic Church on June 11. It was bitter because it marked the end of our formal relationship with Tim and Kathy McCormick, our incredible sponsor couple.

Sidney and I with our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick, last night.

Sidney and I with our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick, last night.

The Catholic Church, along with other churches as well, require that engaged couples go through marriage prep before tying the knot in a church-sanctioned ceremony. For Catholics, a main portion of this preparation is Pre-Cana, or, in non-Catholic terms, marriage counseling. At some churches, the priest or a parish employee will administer the counseling. At St. Andrew, married couples provide it.

For six weeks, Sidney and I went to the McCormick’s home for counseling sessions. These meetings were structured by a Pre-Cana workbook that Sidney and I each received. We would read the material and answer questions corresponding to the chapters we would cover that week. We would then sit down at Tim and Kathy’s kitchen table and go over the material. Topics we discussed ranged from prayer to problem solving to sexuality to money to traditions to family planning. To have the opportunity to discuss these prominent aspects of marriage with such a strong and seasoned couple was invaluable.

A look at my Pre-Cana workbook I used these past six weeks.

A look at my Pre-Cana workbook I used these past six weeks.

But we got so much more out of the past six weeks besides the scripted lessons. Each time we arrived at the household, Tim and Kathy warmly welcomed us. They set out snacks on the table. They discussed our days with us. Sid would talk to Kathy about classroom issues (both work at schools) and Tim and I would talk sports. We would swap stories. We would all give updates on our own families. It was such an enjoyable time as both Sid and I looked forward to each Tuesday evening.

Sitting down with a proven, fruitful couple that has been married for over three decades was a wonderful experience for Sid and I. While we both have parents that have also lived out beautiful marriages of similar lengths, it is different when the couple isn’t your blood. You just observe different things and ask different questions. Along with the examples that my mom and dad and Sid’s mom and dad have set for us, the McCormicks will be the other powerful marriage that we look to for inspiration and guidance once we begin our own journey.

Tim and Kathy made us these tags that they placed at our spots at the kitchen table.

Tim and Kathy made us these tags that they placed at our spots at the kitchen table.

I started this post talking about the incredibly nice evening we shared last night. To be technical, our counseling actually ended last week. However, Tim and Kathy wanted to have us over for an evening that wasn’t tied to book chapters and discussion questions. The couple rolled out the red carpet for us as not only did they cook a wonderful meal but they also took great care in setting the table. We talked casually and freely about several topics, including the lighter parts of our wedding such as the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. It was the perfect way to end our six weeks together.

This was how the McCormick's set the table for us last night.

This was how the McCormick’s set the table for us last night.

To those engaged couples who might have two or three different options when it comes to fulfilling their Pre-Cana requirements, I strongly encourage electing to work with a sponsor couple. You will get a lot out of it. Sidney and I can’t thank Tim and Kathy enough. We respect both of you greatly and admire how you have let God play such a large role in your marriage. Know that a wedding invite will be coming your way as we can’t wait to introduce you to our parents. Don’t Blink.