Day 35: A Wedding does not a Marriage make

This may sound a bit strange coming from a minister but . . . I dislike performing weddings. Seriously . . . I really dislike performing weddings. I have many friends who delight in doing weddings but I’m not one of them. In the not quite 11 years I have been an ordained minister I have probably turned down twice as many couples as I actually agreed to marry.

It isn’t that I don’t think marriage is important. It’s that in my (fairly limited) experience most of the couples who show up at my church door looking for a minister to perform their wedding are simply looking for a bit player in a large theatrical production. I’m not sure God even has a walk on role.

Some of the couples I’ve turned down include:
A couple who chose their wedding date because the groom was graduating from chef school in the morning and they already had a big party planned for the evening so getting married in between made total sense to them.

(But not to me.)

A couple who said they attended worship every Sunday 10 miles from here but wanted to get married at this church because theirs was “too far away” for their wedding.

(Too far away? Really? I don’t think so.)

A very cute young couple told me they couldn’t get married at their church or by their pastor because the ladies who do weddings there were going away that weekend.

(That’s not what their pastor said.)

Each of these couples could just as easily have driven from here to Vegas one day and had Elvis perform the service. Not a single one said anything about wanting to be married in the sight of God or even about their future together as a married couple. They were only concerned with the wedding.

On the other hand, I have joyfully performed marriage ceremonies in which the couples were of mixed race, differing faith traditions, same gender and transgender – things that had been unlawful in the past. Those things didn’t matter. What did matter was the couple’s desire for God’s involvement in their marriage.

For example:
In June of 2008 the Supreme Court of California declared the ban on same gender marriage unconstitutional. A few weeks later two women showed up at the church door holding hands and looking worried. Linda and Lucina had been living together over 20 years and had heard that I might be willing to perform a Service of Christian Matrimony for them. Their care and devotion for one another and their very great desire to be declared married in the eyes of God was so evident that I was honored to be the person they asked to preside. The wedding party consisted of one witness who was their brother-in-law and a member of our congregation.

We all cried when I proclaimed them to be married.

John and Tricia came to me during that time period between November 2008 and July 2013 when same gender marriage was unlawful in California and I had vowed not to sign marriage licenses for anyone until all persons could marry under the law. They didn’t care about the State. They simply wanted to proclaim their love for and dedication to each other and to their children before God and in the presence of a congregation. They had been making a life together and had reached a point when they craved God’s blessing to go forward as a family for the rest of their lives. It was a lovely service but more importantly, it was a loving service of Christian Matrimony.

Admittedly, the situations I have described above are a little unusual, but not completely unheard of. We live in a time when the average length of a marriage is only 8 years, when something like 50% of all marriages end in divorce. I have no idea what the statistics are for couples whose major concern is the wedding instead of the marriage but I suspect it is very high. I doubt that my congregation is unique in that there are a number of divorced families, blended families and even couples with children who have never married and have no desire to do so. This is reality in our world and it seems to me that this reality demonstrates very clearly why the church should care about marriage.

The Church should absolutely care as a matter of justice that the State grant all persons the same civil rights regarding marriage. This doesn’t mean, however, that the Church should let anyone who shows up at the front door be joined in marriage. We need not feel obligated to perform a wedding ceremony because someone has a dress and a license from the State. Nor should we feel obligated to perform a wedding ceremony simply because weddings are a good form of income. They are. We all know they are. It just shouldn’t matter.

When two people who love one another have made the decision to spend the rest of their lives together and are determined that God and the community be part of their commitment to each other, the Church should be falling all over itself to help this couple come together regardless of gender or gender identity. When two people want to show their children and families and friends that God is and should be an important part of their lives by joining together in Christian matrimony, the Church should be singing Halleluia! Whenever the Church has an opportunity to live out the love we are supposed to hold for one another, we should be there – loving each other and celebrating that love. Whenever the Church has the chance to show that being Christian isn’t just a Sunday worship or Wednesday Bible Study commitment, but a commitment that encompasses every aspect of life, we should be shouting
it from the steeple.

The Church should care that marriage, Christian marriage, is seen not as a Lifetime Channel extravaganza but as a life long partnership between the couple and God. The Church must be deliberate in helping couples discern what marriage means to them, where they see their life together going, and how committed they really are to God and to each other. And when it is clear that their commitment to each other and to God is real, then we should celebrate their marriage with all possible joy.

Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?