STURGEON BAY — Flowers and candles on the tables. Beautiful glassware. Romantic lighting.
The atmosphere said “posh restaurant” but it was really the social hall at St. Joseph Church, transformed by creative volunteer hands to provide an elegant, intimate evening out for couples, both young and old, on Feb. 7.
To make it accessible for everyone, child care was provided for young parents, and the charge was simply a free-will offering.
“This wasn’t a fund-raiser,” said Deacon Ray Ambrosius of Corpus Christi, who guided the evening with his wife, Cathy. “We just wanted to do something to encourage healthy, happy marriages.”
The idea was something that had been discussed for the past couple years by the Tri-Parish Faith Formation Committee, which includes St. Joseph and Corpus Christi in Sturgeon Bay and Ss. Peter and Paul in Institute.
Pulling the evening together meant including Life Teen students and a few adults to act as servers and enlisting the services of Chuck Eaves, a new Corpus Christi Parish member with extensive kitchen experience, who whipped up a savory meal of spaghetti, garlic bread, salad and dessert.
Eighteen couples arrived, some of them almost shyly, to find places at the elegantly set tables. Most had dressed for the occasion, and all wore smiles. They were given name tags to make conversation with unfamiliar table mates easier, but many had obviously come with friends.
The evening began with lively chatter among the couples, and then laughter when Deacon Ray and his wife, microphone in hand, began talking about the challenges, joys and inevitable male-female differences in their own married lives.
“For those of you who don’t know us, we’re very different,” Deacon Ray said, eliciting amused chuckles. “You’re soon to find out,” he promised.
They called the evening’s theme “He Said, She Said — Vive la Différence” because “we’re not always on the same page,” said Deacon Ray.
“Or perhaps not even reading the same book,” Cathy said.
The couple went on to prove it with stories that highlighted their differing personalities, likes and dislikes, even their bedtime preferences.
“They say opposites attract,” Deacon Ray said.
“But a lot of people don’t know the chaos it can cause in a marriage — and how you can put that chaos into a harmonious long-term relationship,” Cathy added. “But we’re going on 30 years of marriage this year, so it can be done, with a lot of compromises, and that’s what we’ll speak about.”
The laughter and applause that followed set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Dinner followed their talk, and then the couples played a he said-she said game. Couples decorated heart-shaped cookies for each other. Simple door prizes were given away, and each couple was invited to take home a beautifully decorated bag containing a rose, some candy, and a list of 12 unique activities for a monthly date night, which was encouraged by the deacon and his wife. Most involve little or no money, requiring only a bit of time and creativity.
“The main purpose here was to help others build happy marriages,” Deacon Ray said later. “No marriage is perfect, but you have to believe that God is part of it, and with his help you can overcome difficulties.”
And, as Deacon Ray and Cathy showed, laughter can be a good part of it, too.
“At the end of our evening, everyone said they really enjoyed themselves,” Deacon Ray said.