Friday, March 09, 2007


Living in a university town, our church building gets a number of requests for weddings. Not wanting to turn into a glorified wedding chapel, we have a clear policy. Weddings may be held only for congregational members OR members of other Lutheran congregations. After all, we recognize that we are connected to other Lutheran congregations through shared mission and polity. This week, I had a dilemma. A young couple, one of whom was Lutheran, needed a place to hold their wedding. I asked about the date. It ends up that their date is the day before another couple's wedding. That scheduled wedding also involves visiting Lutherans. The date is coming soon, so I needed to make a decision, host the second requested wedding, even if that meant only a slight overlap in the wedding of the one couple and the rehearsal of the second. If it were only so easy. The couple that already had the place scheduled is upset because now their decoration time is curtailed. They had assumed that they could decorate throughout the day. The experience that I have had was that decorating happened the morning of the wedding. Not so in this case. So now I am juggling several families... thankfully, the earlier wedding's couple is being very flexible.

Why are weddings such a thorn in the church's side? Why do so many pastors wail and moan the lost place of honor that marriages used to hold in societies? I think for one important reason. We have fallen into thinking that the proper way to honor marriage is to center our attention on the two being married. I cannot tell you how many people I hear use the phrase, "Well, it's their day." Presumably they could do anything they want if that is the case. I say, we fall into idolatry if leave our center of Christ.

Wait, you may say, lots of people are married who aren't Christian. Yes, but in the Church, we take on an additional and richer layer of meaning and responsibility. Our marriages (and presumably our wedding ceremony) are to be places where we live out our faith. We are in essence still bearing the cross, following Jesus, and as such we can never claim that it is our day. The only thing that we may say about any day is that it belongs to the Lord, and as such we are to live out our witness in thanksgiving and praise, and in discipleship.

In this belief, I may be another one who appears to be jousting at windmills. Our society is so good at diverting our attention toward ourselves, that it actually makes sense that we can talk about a wedding day belonging to the couple. In so doing, we open ourselves to idolatry. And we will pay that price.



P.S. an after-thought said...

For the future, you might want to have some policys regarding minimum time to have some pastoral counseling before a wedding to make sure you aren't getting some last minute weddings.

Although the church my daughter got married in isn't as popular for weddings as your church apparently is, it has a policy of having a certain person help with all the details, make the bulletin, be there to answer questions, be a sort of background hostess at day of the wedding. She gets $100 for this (non-postoral) service.

My current church has a number of not-so-cheap fees for various items and using the church and facilities for weddings to try to discourage "rent-a-church" weddings.

If people aren't planning very far ahead, then it has to be "first come, first served."

Brian said...

Actually I do have policies... we meet four to six times for conversation and catechesis. The weddings in this case are not happening for a few months yet... we have plenty of time. This case was not a matter of the second couple not planning far enough ahead, but running into inhospitable congregations (which were the same denomination as the bride-to-be).

And I don't think the Church should ever run on a first-come, first-served. The Kingdom doesn't operate on that thinking... how bad for us if it did. Our actions are to witness to that "economy" and not the world's, at least as I understand it.


shaketeachmd said...

I hear what you're saying, and I agree with you. God should be center and the reason for having a marriage in a church. Otherwise, why not just do away with church weddings and create wedding chapels a la Las Vegas? Yet, it is a very special day in the lives of the two getting married, and so in that view it is their day. Now, that does not mean that the chuch cowtows to the demands of the couple, but the other participants should. Also, I agree with you that the first couple should be more flexible; although, I know how frenzied a wedding can become. In that frenzy people lose focus and turn minor changes into major overhauls. They trap themselves into the planning that they then can not see anything but that somebody is messing with their day. Then, we come back to your problem that you mentioned. At that point, the couple has removed God and the church as a central piece to the wedding and marriage.