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A wedding is not a marriage counseling session

There is no way that I could begin to count the number of weddings I have been to and been in now. I have experienced quite a variety of weddings, from bare-bones minimalist to extremely extravagant. I have seen short weddings, long weddings, boring weddings, touching weddings, traditional weddings, strange weddings, and everything in between.

Now that I am a "full-time" campus minister, this means two things: 1) I will continue to constantly attend weddings, and 2) I will be asked to officiate weddings (and, indeed, already have been). Now, I have known this for a while so I have been carefully observing how the weddings I attend are officiated. I have developed quite a list of mental notes, but one of my friends called me out today because he could see how I was visibly reacting to something that the minister was doing in the wedding many of us attended.

Now, as a disclaimer, if you are connected to this person I must say that he did a fine job. It was a beautiful wedding that was officiated very well. But there is something that I have seen in many weddings that I must comment upon because I think it subtly undermines the beauty and joy of a lot of wedding ceremonies.

The wedding ceremony is not a marriage counseling session.

Many officiates use the wedding ceremony as a chance to speak about the realities of marriage. Marriage is not easy - this is something that I believe is readily obvious to most people. Marriage will include difficulties. Marriage will include days, weeks, months, and possibly years of challenges and will most definitely include times where both may contemplate ending the relationship. Marriage will include friction, arguments, misunderstanding, conflicts, and dark temptations. Statistically, in America around one out of every two marriages will end in divorce. Since all of these are realities, it seems expedient to many officiates to address these things directly to the new bride and groom. In many cases, the wedding leader does little more than spend 10-20 minutes (and sometimes more, and sometimes much more) standing before the bride, the groom, and the family and friends and speak of the darkness that is to come. This is wrong.

Think I'm exaggerating? I was at a wedding this summer where the minister, who also happened to be the father of the groom, said, and I quote: "The worst that could happen obviously is that this ends in divorce." I am not making this up. I literally almost fell out of the pew.

The wedding is not the place for this. The wedding is the celebration and symbolic binding of a love that is second only to God's love for Jesus Christ and for mankind. This is a radically profound kind of love, especially if we are celebrating the commitment of two Christians to each other under God. The wedding is a celebration of love. The wedding is a joyous communal witnessing of two people coming together for a lifetime of love, service, and devotion to each other. The wedding is the symbolic representation of something that two people having committed to - imitating God. This is a point that the minister today made very well. It is a covenant vow - something that God has been very serious about observing with mankind for a very long time.

To me, these ideas are so powerful that we could discuss them for lifetimes and never see the end of their depth and meaning. If we are spending our time at the wedding celebrating the wonderment of these ideas, why is it that so much talk of the dark side of marriage gets mixed in? Nobody is denying that, but let's put that where it belongs! This is the stuff of marriage counseling, of relationships with other people, of open and honest communication with each other, of daily living in the marriage relationship, and of prayer together before God. The wedding emphasizes the love that will oversee all of the difficulties, not the difficulties themselves!

So, this is my challenge to ministers and other wedding officiates everywhere, including myself: quit the marriage crap talk. We all know that it will be a challenge. We get that. We see it every day. Instead, help the bride and groom and everyone assembled see a glimpse of the glory of a love that comes from God and has manifested itself in a relationship between two people.

And do it briefly. I'm hungry and there is a magnificent spread are cheese cubes at the reception.

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Blogger not so zen momma - 9:13 PM

First, if there are cheese cubes we all know that Cary McCall will be there!

Second, I totally agree. We told Derek's dad to concentrate on speaking about keeping God first, in marriage, in life, and in the ceremony. He said it was the first time he has ever had that kind of request.    

Blogger Cary - 9:31 PM

So true. Post updated.    

Blogger Sarah - 2:24 PM

TESTIFY! I went to a wedding a few weeks ago where the gentelman preached a lovely 30 minute sermon about marriage, including various and sundry antecdotes about his own 35 year marriage AND presenting the couple with a gift of a 'scripture bowl' in the middle of the ceremony. All lovely things -- NOT THE TIME OR PLACE. My family was hot and chafing. Enough. Pronounce. Be done.    

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