This is a great story that was sent to me a friend of ours:
The Cross of Christ Custom for Marriage
Sr Emmanuel, a French sister of the Beatitude community, who lives in Medjujorje, shares one of the beautiful local customs regarding marriage
In the town of Siroki-Brijeg in Herzegovina not one single divorce has been recorded among its 13,000 inhabitants. Not one single family has broken up in living memory. For centuries, because of the pressure of the Turks and then the Communists, the people suffered cruelly as their Christian faith was always threatened. They knew through experience that salvation comes through the cross of Christ. That is why they have indissolubly linked marriage to the Cross of Christ.. they have founded marriage which brings forth human life, on the Cross, which brings forth divine life. The Croation marriage tradition is so beautiful that it is beginning to take hold in Europe and America too.When a couple is preparing for marriage, they are not told that they have found the ideal partner. No! What does the priest say? "You have found your cross. And it is a cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away, but to be cherished." I know if fiances were told this in my home country France, they would be struck dumb. But in Herzegovina, the Cross represents the greatest love and the crucifix is the treasure of the home.
When the bride and groom set off for the church, they bring a crucifix with them. The priest blesses the crucifix, which takes on a central role during the exchange of vows. The bride places her right hand on the crucifix and the groom places his hand over heers. Thus the two hands are bound together on the cross. The priest covers their hands with his stole as they proclaim their vows to be faithful according to the rites of the Church.
The bride and groom do not then kiss each other, they rather kiss the cross. They know that they are kissing the source of love. Anyone close enough to see their two hands joined over the cross understands clearly that if the husband abandons his wife or if the wife abandons her husband they let go of the cross. And if they abandon the cross they have nothing left. They have lost everything for they have abandoned Jesus. They have lost Jesus.
After the ceremony, the newly weds bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honour in their home. It becomes the focal point of family prayer, for the young couple believes deeply that the family is born of the Cross. When a trouble arises or if a conflict breaks out, it is before this cross that they will seek help. They will not go to a lawyer, they will not consult a fortune teller or an astrologer, they will not rely on a psychologist to solve the problem. No, they will go straight before their Jesus, before the cross. They'll get on their knees there and in front of Jesus they will weep their tears and pour out their hearts, and above all exchange their forgiveness. They will not go to sleep with a heavy heart because they will have turned to Jesus, the only One who has the power to save.
They will teach their children to kiss the cross every day and not to go to sleep like pagans without having thanks Jesus first. As for the children, as far back as they can remember, Jesus has always been the friend of the family, respected and embraced. They say "nighty, night" to Jesus and kiss the cross. (As Fr Jozo says "They go to sleep with Jesus, not a teddy bear") They know that Jesus is holding them in his arms and that there is nothing to be afraid of, and their fears melt away in their kiss to Jesus.
The thing I like is that we did something similar during our wedding, a fellow parishioner who attends morning mass with Jordan knew of our upcoming wedding, He stopped Jordan one morning and let him know his prayers would be with us on our special day and handed him two crucifix pendants, one blue and one red. And during our ceremony the priest told the story and blessed those for us. I felt so blessed that day not only to be marrying Jordan but to have the love of a parishioner who I have never met with a gift like that. But I fully agree that Christ needs to be the center of your marriage and also your relationships with your children. I cannot wait for the traditions we are setting with Vincent to be passed on through the generations, I will fully know that we have done our part.