Jennifer hates Christmas. And you would too if the holiday reminded you of the deaths of your mom, dad and best friend. So, when her future mother-in-law starts planning a Christmas wedding, Jennifer is understandably appalled.
She loves David (her fiancé), but she doesn’t want a big, flashy wedding, especially since it would take guests away from their own families on such an important day of the year.
But while she’s pondering all of this, she meets Azrael, her own personal guardian angel. He snaps her into an alternate universe, à la Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, to show her the possibilities of a New York Christmas wedding.
In this world, Jenny’s dad never died. And rather than losing her best friend, Gabrielle, after a Christmas Eve fight that resulted in them never speaking again, she’s actually engaged to Gabby. It’s the life Jenny always dreamed of having. The problem is, it’s not real. And she only has until Christmas to figure out what she really wants in life.
When Gabby gets pregnant as a teenager and comes out as gay, her family disowns her. However, a Catholic priest named Father Kelly counsels her and finds a place for her at a home for single mothers. She is also welcomed by Jenny’s dad, whom she later says was more a father to her than her own dad.
Azrael eventually tells Jenny that her kindness and compassion prove that life is full of happy moments, characteristics we see in multiple ways throughout the film.
Jenny gradually learns not to dwell on past regrets. She realizes that she is not responsible for the happiness of others and that it’s OK to let them live their own lives. Elsewhere, a man apologizes for not standing up for his fiancé.
Jenny and Gabby were both raised Catholic. They were baptized, confirmed and took their first communion in the same church; now (in this parallel universe), they want to be married there. But Father Kelly is hesitant to sanction and officiate their union. Gabby uses a Supreme Court ruling as well as affirmation from Pope Francis to justify why he should support same-sex couples at their church.
At first, Father Kelly says that it doesn’t matter what man says but what God says. However, after praying about it, Father Kelly gives a sermon, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9 and attributing it to the rise of gay Catholic suicides. He then states that their church will support same-sex relationships, performs communion for known gay members of the church and officiates the wedding of Jenny and Gabby. (And we later learn that in Jenny’s actual universe, he was removed from ministry for performing private same-sex marriages.)
Azrael states that he is Jenny’s guardian angel. He snaps his fingers to transport Jenny to alternate worlds and even back in time. He also emphasizes that this experience is to show Jenny how to live her truth and attain eternal happiness. [Spoiler Warning] We later, we learn that he was the stillborn child of Gabby and her high school boyfriend.
Jenny wears a cross necklace. Many scenes take place in a church; we hear traditional Christmas carols; we see nativity sets as well as pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. We learn a priest counseled a young woman to keep her baby after she became pregnant out of wedlock.
Two women make out and have sex. They are wearing underwear, but we still see a lot of skin. We see this same couple kiss several other times (including at their wedding). Two other women cuddle while riding the subway. And we see two teenage girls kiss.
A teenage boy gropes and kisses a girl while sitting on top of her. We later learn they had sex, which led to a pregnancy. The girl also says she realized she was gay because of the experience. In adulthood, the same guy harasses her and her fiancé, making rude sexual comments.
A man and woman make out in a closet and kiss several other times. (We also see them both sleeping in their undergarments.) We see a teenage girl in her underwear as she gets dressed. Women wear revealing outfits. A boy makes a crude gesture with his mouth.
We learn that a girl died by suicide. We hear about victims of suicide and sexual abuse. We hear that a baby was stillborn.
A man texting on his bike gets hit by a car but is unharmed. A woman punches a man in the face. A girl says she punched a boy. A vet puts a dog down. Azrael says his name means “destroyer of worlds.”
The f-word is used three times and the s-word is used five times. We also hear one or two uses each of “d–n,” “a–,” “a–hole” and “h—.” God’s name is abused 10 times. Someone uses a sexist slur to describe two women. A man makes a rude hand gesture.
People drink wine and liquor at meals and special occasions. An underage girl pours alcohol into her eggnog when her dad isn’t looking. We see some homes with liquor displayed on shelves. A woman stops her dad from drinking, because she’s worried about his health. Someone attributes tequila to memory loss.
As teenagers, Jenny uses the death of her mom to manipulate Gabby and make her feel guilty for cancelling their plans. She then writes a letter to Gabby, telling her to never speak to her again. In adulthood, Jenny regrets her actions, but it is too late to fix them since Gabby died soon after that fight.
Jenny’s future mother-in-law is condescending towards her, upset that Jenny quit working in the field of finance to work at a veterinary clinic instead. She starts planning Jenny and David’s wedding, making decisions without Jenny’s knowledge or consent, and stating that Jenny doesn’t have a choice, since she can’t afford to pay for the wedding herself.
After hitting a man on a bike, a driver takes off because he’s driving a stolen car. Someone says that when your parents die, a part of you dies with them.
A New York Christmas Wedding almost seems as if its title was designed for search engine optimization. And at its most basic level, this film really is about a wedding at Christmas in New York. But don’t let the title fool you.
This film deals with a lot of contemporary issues. Jenny and Gabby convince their priest that he should support and sanction their same-sex marriage. And it seems he condones some of their other sins as well (such as premarital sex and cursing, both of which are played out on screen). These women talk about their belief in God—which is why it’s such a big deal for them to be married in a church. But they seem much more interested in their personal happiness than in what Scripture actually says about Him.
Azrael is meant to be the Clarence to Jenny’s George Bailey. But rather than snapping her back to reality, where she realizes how good she had it all along, she gets the option to go back in time to fix the mistakes of her past.
In short, this story’s not about appreciating what you do have, but what you could have had. There’s also a big emphasis on each person living their own truth and finding their own happiness through that personalized understanding of “truth”—however convoluted it may be.
And while that might be reason enough to steer clear of this film, when you consider its other significant content concerns—especially its explicit sex scenes—this may well be a wedding invitation you’ll want to decline.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.