I serve a congregation that worships in a magnificent sanctuary. It is like being in a piece of art, and it isn’t only beautiful, it’s also warm, if you get me. Sometimes, a place of perfection can come across as cold; it can be so protected by fear of it being damaged that it isn’t used for what it is – a place that allows us to feel God more intimately. Our sanctuary is one of those places that seems to hold you in the spirit while you plan your week of faithful living. I feel truly blessed to be there.
Because it is so beautiful, we get a lot of requests for weddings. I can understand wanting a beautiful backdrop for your special day, but as I have told countless couples, we are not a Las Vegas chapel and I am not an Elvis impersonator (although I do a good “Hound Dog”). What I mean is that too many churches are used as props; backdrops for the couple and their friends so they can look well-staged. The pastor is hired help, working as a tool of the state for free. I don’t take money for weddings – I take people’s time. I have them meet with me to prepare for the marriage, and I have the couple come to church for at least 6 months. Getting married at Calvary is inexpensive, but it isn’t cheap.
I do this because I feel it is my role to help people get prepared for the marriage, not just the wedding. While both can be stressful, they are different kinds of stress. The wedding is about a perfect day with a perfect stage set for the big show. Getting everything right so the memory will last for your whole life together. Marriage is about the day-to-day interactions; the long-term goals; facing life together. I love marriage because it is a partnership that is shared. Weddings? I can take them or leave them.
It is my experience that people put far more thought and planning into the wedding than they do the marriage. Too many couples find the preparation tedious; they just want to pick out the flowers and the clothing so they can look good. I have actually had couples ask if there had to be scripture and a sermon at the ceremony! (Hint – I didn’t do their weddings). So much meticulous planning goes into that 30-60 minute rite of the church, but too often it seems that so little goes into the rest of their life together. It will work out, they tell me. It might, but be prepared to do the work, because it won’t always be easy. Marriages don’t just happen – they unfold and evolve and change and grow. Weddings are a moment frozen in time; marriages are a work in progress.
I hope that the marriages I do work out as well as mine has. I hope they weather the storms and bask in the glow of their moments together in healthy and affirming ways. I hope they remember the church when they are in need, because none of us should go through marriage alone. One of the reasons we get married in church should be because we are part of that community, and they are part of us. While we might be the stars on our wedding day, we part of a community in our marriages. We should never be afraid to reach out for help when we need it. It makes us stronger when we are in this together.
Prayer – We thank You, holy and loving God, for our relationships. May we grow in love every day, with You in our hearts. Amen.
Today’s art is called “Marriage Procession” – it is Tikuli art from eastern India.