Digging deeper on the bridal beat

No matter how high a reporter's aspirations, there's something about filing stories for the local police blotter that's always enchanting. A few days ago, a local reporter for the Beaver County Times found himself a pretty big public interest story.

Preparing for a weekend wedding, an Eastvale couple cut copper wire valued at $7,146 from 18 utility poles, according to a North Sewickley Township police report.

April C. Cater, 24, and Joseph Russell, 23, both of 700 2nd Ave., were charged with theft, criminal conspiracy and criminal mischief after the incidents on Aug. 9, according to police.

Russell told police they planned to be married on Aug. 13 and he had lost his job at an auto parts store, according to the report.

And the story was picked up far and wide. No one did any additional reporting, it was just a story that obviously carried meaning to a wide audience. We're preparing to go to a wedding in New York next weekend for a dear friend and I've had to relive the horrors of wedding planning through that and it just reminds me how very, very thankful I am to have avoided most of the wedding-industrial complex, which I have written about here, but also just to have that behind me.

But I came across another story that involved additional reporting and it was fantastic. A reporter went ahead and called the church where the wedding took place and followed-up. Imagine that! The article begins by noting that the template for the story was "out-of-control wedding madness" but that the Rev. Jim Farnan, the pastor of St. Philomena Catholic Church who celebrated the marriage, said they were a young couple who panicked when faced with financial problems.

We learn more details about the couple and how stupid their crime was -- they stole more than $7,000 from utility poles and only netted $30. They have taken responsibility, claiming they were desperate.

Here's a sample from the story:

“It surprised me that they did this. But I’m not surprised that they did it together,” Father Farnan said. “They support one another. They were sincere, they had a real closeness. They are good for one another. I’m sure that’s why they’re so remorseful. You can see it in their interviews.”

According to Father Farnan, Ms. Russell was an adult convert to Catholicism and her husband isn’t Catholic. During pre-marital counseling they never brought up his job loss, although the priest had heard about it from others.

“They tried to handle this by themselves. They thought that the burden fell all on them, but I think they will learn that there is a whole community of people supporting them,” he said.

Their wedding, he said, wasn’t extravagant. “I think they stole to pay for very basic things, like her dress,” he said.

We learn that fellow parishioners are disappointed but will likely help the couple with wedding bills and restitution -- and some words of wisdom.

The moral of the story isn’t a warning about bridezillas, he said. The lessons that people should draw are about what it means to be married in a community of Christian believers.

“The most important people at the wedding are God and the couple,” he said. “There is so much pressure to show your love materially, and you have to avoid that. It’s important to remember that your marriage is a communal experience, it’s a parish experience. You don’t have to go through this on your own. There are a lot of people out there who understand and appreciate what you are going through. Don’t underestimate the generosity of people who want couples to experience the most beautiful side of their wedding.”

Now, I've always been a member of a Christian congregation. Which means that there are people throughout the United States who are aware of stupid things I've done over the years (you just try being a pastor's kid in a small town, OK?). And this story rang so true to me. It sounded exactly like what I might expect to happen if something similar occurred with a member of my congregation. And that includes the pastoral lesson about caring less about wedding materialism.

It's surprising to me how rarely I see a religion story I can relate to. So as soon as I finished this, I went back to see who had written it. It will surprise no one. The reporter is Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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