The New York Times has this wonderful “weddings” feature where a staff reporter writes up the backstory of one of the couples featured on their wedding announcement page. At least, I think that's how the Times finds these stories. In the case of a story that ran last week, the groom was the great-grandson of Maria and Georg von Trapp of “The Sound of Music” fame.
The tale of how he met and wooed his bride is such a romantic story, not the least because the two were graduate theology students at Boston College. Yes, that word was "theology."
Thus, the groom comes up with quotes like, “We are people who enjoy lots of books and investigating particular questions having to do with the human existence, or God, or the nature of beauty.”
The chance of the Times ever finding, much less writing about such a couple, got me interested in reading more. We learn:
The two had met briefly during the summer of 2012 at a mutual friend’s wedding and he remembered her as quiet and thoughtful. ”There was an introverted loveliness about her,” he said. (By contrast, Jon Petkun, a friend, said Mr. Peters possessed an “ear-piercing loveliness.”)
That fall, Ms. Sloan and Mr. Peters got to know each other better. She wore Warby Parker eyeglasses that were almost identical to his. She appreciated both liturgical music and Ella Fitzgerald, as he did.
Growing up in Carmel, Ind., she was a bookworm with an early curiosity about God. “When she was small, she’d say things like, ‘This summer, I’m going to read the Bible,’” said her father, Dan Sloan.
The two began walking back and forth to each other’s houses for long talks about early Christianity (her specialty) or the pros and cons of joining a religious order. “Sometimes, I could hear him coming because he would be singing to himself, usually opera,” said Ms. Sloan, 31.
"Liturgical" music? The early church? Questions about joining a religious order?
Then near the end:
On June 4, they were married at Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, he in a vintage morning coat and she in a gown that was both subtle and sparkly, like her. The couple created a 16-page illustrated pamphlet to guide the 172 guests through the carefully curated nuptial Mass, which was led by the Rev. Brian E. Daley, a Roman Catholic priest. Along with many prayers, blessings and readings, there were 15 different pieces of music performed. Mr. Peters described the music as: “Joyful, rich, lush. Lush like a forest, not like an alcoholic.”
We learn at the end of the piece that the groom had once considered joining a religious community (kind of like his great-grandmother, the one-time nun). And that their wedding guests included 12 doctors, three astronomers, four computer programmers, 18 Ph.D. students, four Roman Catholic priests, 10 teachers and one private investigator.
It’s very heartening to read a piece about people who are obviously Christian and are likeable people, in contrast to so much coverage that pits Christ-followers at the wrong end of a political or cultural battle. This couple sounds like someone you’d run into at a Tolkien or C.S. Lewis discussion group, no?
My only bone to pick –- and it’s a small one -– is that this couple is so obviously Roman Catholic (attending Boston College and later, Marquette University should give you a clue), that I wondered why the C-word wasn’t mentioned except in connection with the priest who married them. These people sounded like some evangelical Protestant couples I know, so it wasn’t until we got to the marriage ceremony that it was clear what sort of church they attended.
I’m curious what difference being Catholic made in this relationship and in their pathway to God and I wish that had been made clearer. And what will they be doing with those doctorates in theology they're both working on?
And there was a small disconnect, at least on the part of the photo desk. In the slide show accompanying the story, there is a shot of the couple and guests, all with their heads bowed over folded hands before the start of the meal. It's obvious they are saying grace. Yet whoever wrote the caption didn't grasp this and inserted something totally unrelated to the photo.
However, I’m grateful for some of the profound jewels found in this piece, one of which is the description of his marriage proposal. I’ll leave you with that:
On May 31, 2015, he proposed in a tiny stone chapel that his great-uncle, Werner von Trapp, built in the woods behind the family lodge. He asked her to wait outside while he decorated the floor with beeswax candles arranged in the shape of a heart and a cross, which glowed in the dark like a constellation.
“I came in and the first thing I remember is this beautiful smell of beeswax, this lovely, warm smell,” she said. “I gave him a hug for support, like: ‘We both know what’s happening. You can do it!’”
By the time his proposal was over, and she accepted, all of the candles had melted. “I said, ‘I have a feeling this is what marriage is going to be like,” he said. “We’ve just had this moment of intimacy and now we’re sitting here scraping wax off the floor.’ ”
Beeswax! I mean, who uses natural beeswax candles these days? Oh, right. Believers in ancient, liturgical churches. That's who.