My thoughts here are about those things a couple should expect when they come to the pastor and say, “We’d like to get married at the church.” (The following items are based on 24 years of experience in the parish, somewhere between 150 and 200 weddings, and a Lutheran bias when it come to worship and ministry.)
- A wedding in the church is a worship service, including an invocation, scripture readings, a sermon, prayers and a benediction. We worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While you may have always envisioned your wedding beginning with “Here comes the bride” (the Bridal Chorus) and ending with “There goes the bride” (i.e. the Wedding March), you can do so much better than that! There are so many powerful hymns you can choose from that truly honor the God before whom you will take your vows. Give them a chance.
- We preach the word. We proclaim Christ crucified. When you pick your scriptures for the wedding, why not look beyond 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? Those overused verses about “love” weren’t written about marriage at all. The apostle Paul wrote them to a church divided about who had better teachers and abilities. Why not consider some passages important to you? Like a confirmation verse, or one that helped you grow in your faith. Let the pastor suggest some passages that speak to you and your relationship. You’ll get a much better message that way.
- Just because it’s “your day” doesn’t mean you get to do anything you want. Remember, when you step into the church, it’s really not about you, but about God. If you have some really unique (read “bizarre”) things you’d like to do for your wedding, don’t plan a church wedding. Have your ceremony on the beach, in your home, in a backyard or a museum.
- I probably won’t attend your rehearsal dinner or reception. Why? Unless you are an active member of our congregation, I probably won’t know many people there and it’s not that much fun sitting off in the corner by yourself. Need a prayer before the meal. I’ll gladly write one for someone else to say.
- Try to show up on time for both the rehearsal and ceremony. Besides myself, many people have set aside some time to witness your vows and celebrate with you. Unexpected things always come up, but if you arrive a little early, it relieves some of the stress of that day.
In the early days of my ministry, I was honored when someone asked me to do their wedding. I soon grew to dread it when I learned I was basically just being hired to preform a service, along with the photographer and florist. In the past few years, however, I have begun to enjoy it again as I have worked with a number of young couples who had a marvelous faith and relationship with the Lord. I am grateful to them for helping me rediscover some of the joy of performing a wedding ceremony.