March 14, 2009

Bribing your priest and tipping your altar boy

When you get hitched everyone wants a bite of the cake. Literally even father George helping you with your vows expects a bit more than what you agreed upon. Tips are expected. Even the altar-boys are used to getting a piece of the action. Yes, they're doing God's work, but they also like to shop online, so slip 'em something.

i had a girl friend who isn't Catholic but her husband is and it was important to him they get married in a Catholic church. After they two spent months discussing their beliefs and comments like "There's no way my kids are going to be raised to hate themselves," and "my mom was right i should have married a Catholic girl," were tossed around, she reluctantly agreed to do it his way -- while he agreed their children would be left out of the whole church thing until they were old enough to make up their own minds. They thought the hardest part was behind them. but no, they now had to find a church that would marry them. she felt she was compromising enough and wasn't willing to be baptized. initially, they were told this would never happen. "No Catholic church will marry someone who hasn't been baptized. no way." But then a parish secretary -- the really power players in the house of prayer -- tipped them off.

if you make a substantial donation to the parish they'll marry anyone. it sounds horrible, but i've now seen it with a few couples. you may have to pick your church based on the size of the donation you can make -- the big, more famous churches require bigger donations. they won't want you advertising that you were never baptized, but they're willing to look the other way if the other way involves money.

likewise, you may have to work with the priest -- who will also be expecting you to sweeten the deal if he's going to leave his religious compass at home that day.

the truth is whether you are both Catholics or just you are the people performing your ceremony expect to be tipped.

another good suggestion i've heard is to directly ask the parish secretary what's customary. she (generally a woman) will know what others before you have done and what works. so the priest may not feel comfortable accepting cash, but he loves getting gift certificates to the movies. whereas, the altar-boys may be saving up for school and would appreciate the cash. Normally, anywhere from $20 -$100 per altar boy is expected -- but again the parish secretary will have all the answers. And while you may think this is an unholy conversation to have, chances are she's expecting the question.

is this a strange custom? yes and no. yes, it feels a little icky that these people "serving god" are expecting your hard earned deniro. no, come on, grow-up, they're spending their saturday with you rather than catch up on the Real Housewives of Vatican City, so they expect some gratitude. They're working for you and the big man that day. He pays them with eternal love, so in comparison your meager tip is nothing.