I performed my first wedding ceremony when I was 25. That means almost 35 years of doing these babies. I don’t know how many I’ve done, but if I’ve averaged seven per year (a pretty conservative estimate), that’s nearly 250 weddings. Wow.
Every one of them have been different. Different people. Different personalities. Different styles. Different words. Each one has some similarities, but they are all unique.
I started doing the pastor thing back in the day when they gave new ministers a little black leather “minister’s handbook” that had two standard wedding ceremonies and two or three standard funeral services. The wedding ceremonies were the traditional ones that started like this:
Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God – and in the face of this company – to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore – is not by any – to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace…
I can honestly say I have never uttered those words in a wedding. Just couldn’t do it. If you know me, you know why.
Although the words and order and rituals were all unique to each wedding ceremony, there is one thing I have done in every service…without exception. I have prayed. I have asked the Father to be the focus of attention. I have called on the God to be honored and blessed by the occasion and the vows that were exchanged. I have requested that the Holy Spirit give energy and power to the promises the two were making to each other. I have pleaded, with passion, that God would give each one the heart and compassion to love and serve each other like Jesus would. Every time…in every ceremony.
The reality? I would say about one-third of the couples I have married honestly and sincerely identified with the words of my prayers…deeply desiring God to honor my requests…and fully intending to have a marriage that reflected the heart and priorities of God and the pattern of relationship revealed in Scripture.
Those weddings were…and are… easy to do and a joy to be a part of.
Sadly, about two-thirds of the couples simply wanted to get married because they loved each other (at the time) and wanted a church wedding with a minister officiating, instead of a justice of the peace or the captain of the Love Boat… either because of tradition or because that’s what their parents wanted or because of some mystical belief that a church wedding had a better divorce insurance policy. Some made it. Some didn’t.
The challenge for me has always been to get the two-thirds to be open to becoming part of the one-thirds.
Way easier said than done.