I just went to three weddings in one week, so now I’m an expert. Call me if you need a consultant.
Here is the brief definitive guide to middle-class Christian weddings, circa 2010. Save the money from that Brides magazine subscription and spend it on flowers. To carry, not to decorate.
Let them eat cake. Maybe.
Only one of the three weddings served traditional cake, cut by the bride and groom. One served a plate with a selection of desserts, and the other served a flat cake provided by the caterer. No sculpting or decorating required.
The traditional cake was served at a very fancy, private venue—think former guests like former presidents and the queen. It was a very expensive wedding (Christina and Mike) with a very expensive cake, but clearly the cake is becoming optional. Unless you want your wedding to be very expensive.
Lighting a candle. Maybe not.
Only one of the weddings (Betsy and Zach) had a unity candle. And the more powerful representation of families uniting at that wedding was both sets of parents forming a circle with their children, and praying together on stage.
We couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the picture was moving. Mixing sand and other symbols seem to be gaining on the unity candle idea, however.
Decorating is unnecessary. Redundant.
Decorations are unnecessary when you have a beautiful bride. In every case, decorations were minimal— a single candle at one, a simple arch at another, and two chairs on the stage at the other one.
No flowers, candles, or ribbon, down the aisle or across the stage. Simple is in, making the bridesmaids more luminous and the groomsmen more striking. (Receptions were the exception.)
Reinforcing the Word. Certainly.
All three weddings had multiple scripture readings by at least two people in the audience. Fathers, grandparents, friends. Mix and match. It was refreshing, adding participation and perspective.
The vows tended toward the traditional, although I hang out with fairly traditional folk so it may not be a trend. But in these weddings the expectations were high, and the words were important.
One wedding had no singing, one had one solo and one (Rob and Lindy) had a whole worship set, instruments and congregational singing. No pattern there.
Searching for symbols. Thoughtfully.
The most compelling symbol, hands down, was a foot washing. I’d not seen this before, but Rob and Lindy sat down, took off one of their shoes and washed each other’s foot, on their knees. It was the most compelling picture of service and submission I’ve seen in a long time, portraying both their commitment to each other but also the relationship of Christ and the church.
Here is what Pastor Lillie said:
Jesus took a water basin and towel and proceeded to wash the disciples feet. And when He had finished He said to them, If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14
In doing this Jesus taught us the importance of having a servant’s heart. Self-centeredness, selfishness and pride are the destroyers of relationships. What Rob and Lindy demonstrate before you this day is the commitment of both of them to set aside self and instead serve the needs of the other.
It was clearly a picture of when actions speak louder than words.
Saying something. Meaningful.
Homilies and toasts were thoughtful, as they should be and usually are.
I was most impressed at Zach and Besty’s, though, partly because Professor Westblade said while they might be teaching science and language as a job, in their wedding they were “teaching theology.”
It’s a line I wish I had thought of. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, as Paul tells us. It’s an important truth.
But at their reception I was deeply moved by the prayer with which best man Trevor Anderson ended his toast:
We do not pray for a life of worldly ease and comfort for you, because we want to bless you, not curse you. We pray rather for a life of self-denying, promise-claiming, soul-satisfying faith and love for Christ. We pray that you would arrive battle-worn and weary at the gates of the kingdom, having fought the good fight, having run the race, having kept the faith, taking in your hands the crown of righteousness that will be your reward as you hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
It encourages me that a young man would have the courage and the wisdom to say this.
A “self-denying, promise-claiming, soul-satisfying” marriage is a good one. Perhaps because I’m still learning what marriage means, and what it takes, I wept.
Make this happen at a wedding and you won’t need a cake.