Take a moment and think about the weddings you have attended. What is it that makes them different from one another? Does one stand out as being unique? I can think of just a handful I have attended that really stand apart. It’s not the dress, the music, the food, or the venue that makes these particular weddings so different. Much of the time, when it’s all said and done, those things just tend to blend together. Rather, the weddings I cannot forget are those that have a distinct gospel focus.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a wedding in which the gospel was front and center—on display for all in attendance to see and at which to marvel. The bride was radiant, the groom beamed, but the true focus was on Christ and His sacrificial love for His bride, the church. The vows, the music, and the message all proclaimed His glory. If you have witnessed a wedding like this, you know what we mean. The humility of these two people is evident as they marvel not at their own greatness, but at the greatness and goodness of a loving God.
However, these weddings are the exception, not the rule. Weddings have evolved over the past few decades to become a major industry, with the average cost of a wedding in 2010 coming in just under $27,000! Unfortunately the vast majority of couples spend the bulk of their resources without much attention to the message of their weddings. Whether we intend them to or not, our weddings convey a message to our guests. They reveal a lot about ourselves—our tastes, our personalities, and what is most important to us.
If this is true, why then are the weddings of those professing to be Christian frequently no different than those of the world? Why is God so often absent from our ceremonies, except as a token prayer or Scripture reading?
Resisting the urge to make the bride the focus of the wedding
When I was planning my own wedding in 2005, it was my senior year of college. It was a unique situation: Five of my closest friends were also planning their weddings during this period. Our dorm rooms were buried under bridal magazines, and we were inundated with advice from the world on what our wedding should entail. It was difficult to withstand the pressure imposed by these “experts,” especially since nearly every article included the idea that the wedding is the “bride’s day” or “all about you.”
It is truly difficult to resist the urge to make the bride the focus of the wedding. We stand in her presence as she walks down the aisle, and the attendants are told to keep their eyes on her at all times. Generally she is involved in every decision made, and a wedding will usually reflect the bride’s taste and personality.
However, a couple must fight the desire to make their wedding an opportunity to show off. It is natural to want our weddings to reflect our tastes and personalities—natural and wonderful. We have those tastes and personalities as gifts from our Creator. But we are made to worship the Creator, not His creations. And so our desire must be for our Creator to receive the glory in our weddings as we present the gospel for all to see.
Instead, however, we often have adopted the world’s view of a fairy-tale wedding day. Everything must be perfect—a flawless reflection of the bride and, to a lesser degree, the groom. Yet the “perfect wedding” is elusive. Too often the joy of planning this event quickly takes a turn as arguments arise from every side—the couple argues about attendants; the bride and her mother argue about serving pigs-in-a-blanket at the reception (true story); the mother-in-law is unhappy with the guest list; and the bridesmaids hate their dresses. This does not exactly conjure up an image of a Disney wedding.
The greatest wedding ever
Yet in another way, weddings are a fairy tale. They are a beautiful depiction of the great Rescuer joining with His rescued bride, the church. This is the greatest story, and we miss the point if a wedding is only about a beautiful bride coming down the aisle to her groom. It should be pointing to the much greater, truly perfect wedding we have already discussed—the marriage feast of the Lamb as described in Revelation 19. In a sermon on this passage Charles Spurgeon wrote:
Oh, what a day that will be when the eyes of the entire universe shall be turned in one direction and the glorious Christ, in the splendor of His Manhood and of His Godhead, shall take the hand of His redeemed Church and, before men and angels and devils, declare Himself to be one with her forever and forever! That will be the beginning of the marriage supper of the Lamb—it will be the publication to all of the great fact of mutual love and union.
I confess this was not the picture I had in mind as I planned my own wedding, nor was it what I thought of as I walked down the aisle toward my husband, Erik. I wanted to glorify God through my wedding, but lacked the big picture. Now as I stand and watch brides walk the aisle I am usually the one with tears running down my cheeks. It’s just so beautiful—we get to be the bride of Christ!
When I see things that describe a wedding as a fairy tale, I have mixed feelings. This can either conjure up an image of a misdirected bride placing all her faith in her groom or a grateful bride placing her faith in her Rescuer. May our weddings, and our lives, represent the second picture.
Weddings as covenant ceremonies
Marriage is a covenant—a binding agreement between two parties. As Tim Keller points out in his book The Meaning of Marriage, marriage is the only covenant that is both horizontal and vertical. It is a horizontal agreement between the bride and the groom, and it is a vertical agreement between a couple and their Creator God.
A wedding is a covenant ceremony in which two people are made one in Christ, not because they sign a marriage certificate and the state recognizes their marriage. Rather, they are made one because they have covenanted before God to be faithful to one another, and He has made them one. This is a commitment they make not just to one another, but to the Creator of marriage.
As a covenant ceremony, a wedding sets the tone and provides the foundation for a marriage. What a wonderful way to start a life together as one—with a wedding that proclaims the goodness, grace, and faithfulness of a loving God in sending His Son to redeem His bride. To settle for less than this is to miss the great joy of the wedding.
Adapted excerpt from A Christ-Centered Wedding by Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode. © 2014 by Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode. This material is used by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
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1. Read Sabrina Beasley McDonald’s article “Are You Preparing for a Wedding or for a Marriage?” If you are engaged, read it with your future spouse. Apply one or more of Sabrina’s steps for a lasting relationship.
2. Watch a three-minute video of Dennis and Barbara Rainey answering the question “We're engaged to be married. What's your best advice to prepare?”
3. Attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway or The Art of Marriage® video event.