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Wedding expo, anniversary Mass on tap

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SAN DIEGO — This February, married and engaged couples can look forward to something old and something new (albeit nothing borrowed or blue).

The “old” consists of a returning event: Back for a fourth year, the annual Diocesan Marriage Anniversary Mass will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, at The Immaculata Church on the campus of the University of San Diego. A marriage ministry fair and a reception will follow.

As for the “new”: The first San Diego Catholic Wedding Expo, which promises to help engaged couples to prepare for a Catholic wedding and to connect them with Catholic vendors and ministries, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 10, at St. James Parish in Solana Beach. The expo will be followed by a special Mass for engaged couples.

Both events are slated to take place during National Marriage Week, Feb. 7 to 14.

The Expo will be open from 12 to 4:30 p.m. in the parish hall, followed by a 5 p.m. Mass in the parish church. There will be a stage area where Catholic wedding musicians will perform, and a patio set up as a wedding reception space where couples can enjoy food and cocktail samples.

The expo was the brainchild of Maria Saradpon, who envisioned something more than simply the “Catholic equivalent to the secular bridal bazaar.”

She saw the event as one that also would highlight the sacramental nature of marriage.

John Prust, director of the diocesan Office for Family Life and Spirituality, views the expo as a way “to reach out to those couples who … are open to getting married in the Church, but maybe don’t know where to start, don’t know who to talk to, don’t know where to begin …”

In addition to connecting couples with about 15 Catholic wedding vendors, such as caterers, photographers and florists, engaged couples also will be able to meet with representatives of the  Family Life and Spirituality Office and marriage ministries like Engaged Encounter. There will even be a priest available.

The fourth annual Diocesan Marriage Anniversary Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Michael Pham at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 3.

Prust said it provides an opportunity to celebrate “all the ups, and downs, and the gifts and the graces that have come with marriage.” It’s about “remembering that ‘I do’ isn’t just a one-time thing, that it really has to be renewed — really every day — on one level or another.”

All of the Mass readings and music will have a marriage focus. At one point, the couples will be asked to stand in recognition of how long they have been married, from newlyweds to those with 60 years or more together. Once the longest-married couple is standing, the couples will be invited to renew their vows in English, Spanish or Vietnamese, and the husbands will be told that they “may now kiss the bride.”

Nick and Jen Rivette, of St. Patrick Parish in Carlsbad, have been married 28 years and plan to attend the anniversary Mass again this year.

“For me,” said Nick, “it’s a recharge seeing all the young couples who attend and seeing their love for each other, and it’s an inspiration to see those couples who have been married longer than we have, as well.”

Jen said, “I really enjoy the affirmation of our vows as part of the Mass. It is a reminder of what we committed to all those years ago.”

Sammy and Margie Guerra, members of Queen of Angels Parish in Alpine who will celebrate their 58th anniversary in April, agreed that the anniversary Mass is “an incredible experience” and “a time of prayer, reflection, and unity and renewal.”

A ministry fair after the anniversary Mass will showcase Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter, Retrouvaille and other apostolates that are active throughout the diocese in promoting and supporting marriage. A post-Mass reception will include wedding cake.

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