Your Wedding Dress: Modest or Sexy? Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon
When it comes to wedding planning and “The Dress,” what’s making it pop? (And is there a chance we’re getting things wrong?) Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon offer biblical, practical wisdom for a beautiful now and a forever future.
Men, regardless of how women are dressed, are called to cultivate purity in their hearts and in their minds. That is their responsibility before God to honor Him in the way that they’re thinking regardless of how people are dressed around them. That’s always their call. -- Sean Perron
About the Guest
- Check out more from Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon at unspokenblog.com
- Learn how to share of your sexual history with a new romantic interest.
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- If you're interested in hearing more from Sean and Spencer, listen to their Unspoken Blogs podcast
- Purchase Sean and Spencer's books: Letters to a Romantic: On Dating,
- Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement, and Letters to a Romantic: First Years of Marriage
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Wondering how to be engaged and do it right? Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon offer biblical, practical wisdom on for a beautiful now and a forever future.
Your Wedding Dress: Modest or Sexy? Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon
Spencer: Men, regardless of how women are dressed, are called to cultivate purity in their hearts and in their minds. That is their responsibility before God to honor Him in the way that they’re thinking regardless of how people are dressed around them. That’s always their call.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Do you remember your wedding dress?
Ann: I do. I just got it out not too long ago.
Dave: What do you mean, you just got it out?
Ann: Yes, because—
Dave: You got it out, and I don’t know about this?
Ann: I have an eight-year-old granddaughter. I took it out of the box because I thought, “Why is it in this box?” And you know, it’s the box that won’t turn it yellow; and now I’m so old, who cares if it’s yellow? She wants to wear it. Anyway, I put it on. She put it on. We all put it on.
Dave: You did? I didn’t even know this?
Spencer: So fun.
Ann: It’s so sweet.
Dave: All I remember is standing at the front of that church. When I saw you in the back in that dress--
Dave: –I can still see you.
Ann: That’s nice.
Dave: Of course, I had hair back then, but it was—
Ann: You’re pretty—you’re pretty handsome yourself there. [Laughter]
Dave: Ah man, you walking down with your dad, who’s now with the Lord. I mean that’s just—gee whiz, I didn’t think I’d feel what I’m feeling right now—but it’s such a tender moment.
Ann: That’s sweet, wasn’t it?
Dave: Last couple of days we’ve been with Spencer Harmon and Sean Perron, and they’ve written three books, Letters to a Romantic, and you guys have written about dating. We talked about that day one, and a little bit yesterday about engagement, and yesterday was also about marriage.
Ann: You’re dads of kids. You’ve been married for a while. You’re pastors. You work in the same church at different campuses, but this is an area that you guys are really passionate about.
Sean: That’s right.
Ann: And you’ve had to say, “We’re passionate because of—.” For you, Sean, why are you so passionate about this?
Sean: I think the Bible pops with relevance in every area of life, and every season of life, and the seasons of dating and engagement and marriage; but particularly dating and engagement are preparing for your wedding day, preparing for marriage, [and] they get neglected. People think God doesn’t have anything to say. They think it's all about them, and the Bible comes in with a really incredible, better, and more appealing vision of how to do life in those seasons.
Ann: That’s awesome. What would you say, Spencer?
Spencer: Yes, I think that we were made to glorify God, and not just to glorify Him, but to enjoy the process of glorifying Him with our whole life. And when a person, or when a couple, takes these seasons of their life that sometimes feel like throwaways, they feel like the Bible doesn’t seem to say anything about them. It’s as if, “I’m engaged. I just have to wait till I get married,” or whatever. “It’s dating, just drudge through it.” No, no, no. I want people to see these as, “This is a really unique season we have to glorify Christ, and we are going to seek to do that with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And I want to help people do that.
Dave: You know, we mentioned the wedding dress--
Dave: –and then your Letters to a Romantic on Engagement. You have an interesting perspective on the wedding dress, and I don’t think I’ve ever read something like this. So, let’s hear it.
Ann: Well, when we read it, I remember Dave saying, “Oh, this is going to be controversial.” [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, I did say that.
Ann: I said, “What?” So, then I had to pull it out. Yes.
Dave: Yes, so give us a little of your perspective.
Spencer: Yes, I'm a pastor. I do weddings all the time. One of the things I care about is ceremony and how it’s done. We wrote a chapter in this book—my wife and I co-authored this chapter together because I wanted her voice involved in this as well—saying, “Hey, one area we want to encourage our sisters to think about is modesty on their wedding day.” And the way that we approach this topic is, if you’re a woman and you’re about to get married, and you’re thinking about [your dress], or maybe you’re about to go get your dress, and you’re thinking about which kind of dress you want, I want you to think about this: First of all, let me say this: it’s wonderful that you want to wear a beautiful wedding dress. I know little girls dream. I have a little girl right now who’s obsessed about getting married. It’s really concerning to me, actually. [Laughter]
Sean: She’s cute.
Spencer: She is. She’s so sweet, but she really wants to get married. Little girls dream about this day and want to have this beautiful wedding dress. Here’s what I want you to think about: I want you to actually think about the very end of your ceremony, and I want you to imagine everybody walking out of your ceremony. What do you want them to be thinking about when you leave? Think about that for a second.
What types of things do you want them saying to each other as they’re walking out of your ceremony? Do you want them to be saying, “That dress was amazing?” Is that the primary thing you want them to be saying? And a lot of times, we think about these issues of the stuff of our wedding. This applies to other things outside of dresses. This applies to the whole ceremony itself; what are you trying to highlight? Are you trying to draw attention to yourself, or are you trying to draw attention to Christ? We were made to draw attention to Christ, and that applies to our bodies. This is 1 Corinthians 10:31, that we were “bought with a price, so we should glorify God with our bodies.: So, the question is how do we do that? How do we glorify God with our bodies?
Sean: You’re saying God cares about it.
Spencer: God cares about your body, and He cares about what you put on your body, and whether it is drawing attention to you or drawing attention to Him. I believe that we should apply that principle to every aspect of the wedding ceremony, including the dress. What I’m caring about is actually—I’m not going to give you a neckline standard; I’m not going to do that. What I want to say is, I want you to think about your wedding day. Think about what you wear. And I want to encourage you that the motive of your heart be, “I want people to see how great Jesus Christ is in every area of my wedding, and I don’t want to distract. I actually don’t want to draw the eyes of people to my body.”
Now. let me anticipate an objection. It’s a real one [for] many of my sisters, I’m a pastor, [and] I talk about modesty because the Bible talks about modesty. They’ll say, “Well look, it’s not just a woman thing. Don’t put all the blame on women. There’s a pornified culture that’s trained the eyes of men to look at specific parts of a woman’s body.” And I say to my sisters, “Yes, and amen.” That’s exactly right!
Men, regardless of how women are dressed, are called to cultivate purity in their hearts and in their minds. That is their responsibility before God to honor Him in the way they’re thinking, regardless of how people are dressed around them. That’s always their call. What I’m asking the women, though, with the wedding dress is, I’m asking you just to examine your motivation. Why? Why that dress? Is the primary motive, “I want to draw attention to myself?” Or is the motive of your heart, “I love this dress. It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to wear it on my wedding day?” And my heart overarchingly on this is [that], governing the type of dress I get, is the glory of Christ.
Ann: Well, I was 19 when I got married, and I was young. And so just to give you a perspective, I have no church background. I’m a new follower of Christ, and I was being discipled in college through Cru at the University of Kentucky. I’ve shared this story before, but my discipler came up to me, and she said, “I want to talk to you about what you’re wearing.” I said, “Oh, okay.” She said, “What you’re wearing is not modest, and it’s causing guys to stumble.” I said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about right now.” [Laughter]
“What’s stumbling? What do you mean?” And she said, “You’re drawing people’s eyes to yourself.” And I said, “I know. [Laughter] That’s the whole idea.” So. for me, this whole concept of modesty is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Of course, some women are hearing [that], but I do want people to say, “She’s the most beautiful bride,” you know? You want them to say, “Oh, look at her. She looks amazing. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.” Now you’re saying, “No, take your eyes off of yourself,” which is like, “Wait, what? It’s my wedding day. This is the only time I do get attention on myself,” but you’re giving a bigger picture of what’s going on.
Sean: Yes, I would say modesty and beauty are not at odds. Modesty actually can be incredibly attractive and incredibly beautiful, because I think, as Spencer was talking about the whole ceremony, it’s designed to point to God. Why you wear a white dress represents purity: Ephesians 5, “without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish.”
There’s this beautiful bride adorned for her husband. Psalm 19 says, “The sun is like a bridegroom coming out of its chamber.” This [is a] radiant, amazing picture that’s represented in the gospel. And I think a sister in Christ who’s getting married should look amazing. They should look beautiful, because that is how God has made us for the great marriage feast that we’re going to be a part of. We are going to look completely conformed to God’s image and radiant, but that is very different than being immodest.
Modesty is about covering parts that are only meant to be seen by the one who you are in a covenant relationship with, and dressing in such a way that does not amplify or accentuate those parts to draw attention to them. Jenny and I, we counsel a lot of couples, and a lie they think is, “I have to dress provocatively,” or “I have to wear a wedding dress that looks provocative so my husband will be attracted to me sexually on our wedding night.” That is just a lie from Satan. It doesn’t make sense, because we’ve had couples that have been so pure in their entire relationship, but on their wedding day they look more immodest than I’ve ever seen them, than anyone in the church has ever seen them.
They bought into the lie that’s what they need to do to be appealing to their husband and to look good and to look beautiful, when actually the opposite is true. Just a few hours later, they’re going to be completely unclothed in a great way as God intended to. But when people leave the ceremony thinking, “Oh, wow. That was really uncomfortable,” they’re not thinking about Jesus Christ and His gospel. They’re thinking, “That’s awkward. Did you see that? It was awkward,” and everyone is talking about it. Everyone always talks about it. The difference is, are we being beautiful and radiant in a way that’s modest and humble and honoring God, or are we being self-centered?
Spencer: Can I say one thing? This is a provocative statement, but I think it’s really important. When we talk about the wedding day, we often say, “Hey, this is your day. This is your day. This is your big day. It’s all about you.” But what I want to say for the Christian is, no day is your day. Every day is His.
Sean: I so agree.
Spencer: Yes, it’s crazy, but this is what it means to be a Christian. What it means to be a Christian is, “I find my deepest joy and my deepest satisfaction in living for the One who redeemed me and bought me by the blood of Jesus Christ. I’ve been transformed, so I love living for Him.” And we are saying, and I know that this is an intense thing to say to grooms and brides who’ve been planning this big day: it’s not your day. It really isn’t. It’s a day in which we celebrate this gift that’s being given to you by God, and we’re honoring you, but we’re honoring you because of what marriage is and what it points to.
It should be celebrated because of what it is. It’s this magnificent display of the gospel, which is why I believe in big party wedding receptions. The reason I do is because it’s a reflection of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Christians should be the biggest celebrators of marriage. We should celebrate marriage because of what it is, and I think, brides and grooms, we have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). You should have so much joy on your wedding day! I want my sisters to enjoy picking out their wedding dress. I want them to enjoy life, and the décor, and all the things. I celebrate it with them, but at our heart level, our motive, my why for my dress and my decor and my everything is: God’s day, not my day.
Ann: I love all of this, but I also think when I see a woman, because I was that woman, dressed provocatively or immodestly, I tend now to have grace toward her. I think there was a time I was judgmental, “What was she thinking? Does she need all the attention to be on her?” But I now realize there is a story behind the story, and I think the thing for me is what we’re trained as little girls; what’s beautiful. Because I’m from a family [where] there was pornography around, I was exposed to that. So, I thought, “Men think this is beautiful.”
There was a time my dad was a baseball coach, and he had the whole baseball team at our house in the living room. I was nine years old, and I walked through the middle because I had to. I was so embarrassed with this whole baseball team of boys, and he said, “Oh this is my daughter Ann. She’s all dressed up today. When she fills out that sweater, then she’ll really be a looker.” Now think about that. As a nine-year-old, what I think is, “Oh, when I look a certain way and I’m shaped a certain way, then I’ll be beautiful.” So, I think to–if I was discipling, and this is why we need to disciple our daughters, our women, our men—“Honey, this is what beauty is.”
Sean: Yes, yes
Ann: “Oh, you’re so beautiful.” It’s not that you’re going to attract certain kinds of looks, or you’re being a temptress, or you’re showing off all these amazing parts of you. It’s having another woman say, even ask this question: “Tell me why you think that’s so beautiful.”
Ann: Because there’s a story behind the story. I’m just thinking about my sisters coming from a rough past like me.
Sean: That’s wonderful.
Ann: I didn’t know what beauty was. I didn’t know what God thought beauty and modesty was, so we need to teach our daughters and teach our friends these things.
Sean: Yes, and God is the author of beauty. He’s the One who made it. He wants everyone to be beautiful. We distort beauty—
Sean: –and make it about us, and it’s not. It’s about being made into His image. The adorning of the heart Peter talks about. The heart is deceitful, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. That is true beauty.
Spencer: Yes, I mean God created romantic and erotic love.
Sean: Song of Solomon, a whole book of the Bible.
Ann: A whole book!
Sean: It talks about everything.
Spencer: Yes, it does. We’ve got little girls, and we live in a world that focuses on external beauty.
Spencer: All the dolls they play with, everything; you can’t escape it. It’s just the water we swim in, and we’re constantly talking with our girls. They love dressing up, and I love it when they dress up. It’s so sweet and cute, but they’ll talk about being beautiful, and we’ll talk about that question, “Well, tell me about that. Why is that so pretty? What is it?” You know, they’re young, but those are the kinds of conversations we want to have.
Spencer: –and to say, “Hey, God’s definition of beauty is far more freeing and far more liberating, and not enslaving, because He says that you are incredibly beautiful because you are created in His image. He loves you. And He loves the way He made you. You don’t have anything to prove right now. You don’t have to prove anything by the way you dress. Just because God made you; [that’s] what makes you beautiful.”
Dave: Let me ask you—let me ask you this: what I was thinking about what you guys are saying. I know Ann’s dad—again, he’s passed. Great man—
Ann: –in many ways.
Ann: –and super flawed.
Dave: –I didn’t have a dad, [and he] became my dad. He was my high school coach. And those words that he said to Ann—I know him; he didn’t mean harm.
Dave: That’s just the way—he thought, the way—men of the world think. He didn’t have any of the teaching you just did. He had never heard that, and he matured over the years; but he said what he thought every guy would say. So, here’s my question to you guys: I was thinking about what you just said about your daughters. How have you guys made your wife feel beautiful? Because I know there were days I made Ann feel the same thing her dad made her feel by a harmful comment, or even maybe a flippant comment, about her body or her beauty or being connected to her body.
Ann: –or even a struggle with pornography.
Ann: That can [make] a woman feel less than.
Dave: Oh, yes! I was wondering what you guys do, because I know there are others out there, “I want my wife to feel beautiful—"
Dave: –by how I speak and treat her.” How have you done that?
Spencer: So many thoughts here. Let me give you a homework assignment that I always give guys. Whether they’re struggling with pornography or not, I would encourage you to do this. Men, saturate your mind with biblical definitions of beauty. You spend time in Proverbs 31; spend time in 1 Peter 3:1-6; and saturate your mind with what the Bible calls beautiful. Meditate on it. Read it every day. Memorize it. Put it on the mirror.
Let that soak up you mind, and then let that be the language of your compliments and affirmations of your wife, because what you’ll start saying to your wife is, “Honey, you look beautiful today, but I want you to know the thing that is most amazing about you is the way you serve our family. I want you to know that I know you’ve had a really stressful day today, but the fact that you were so kind to our children, even when it was a really long day, is just amazing to me. I find that incredibly attractive.”
I sent my wife a text message the other day. It was the most vanilla thing ever. I can’t even remember what it was, but I said, “Hey babe. I just want you to know I just hung up the phone, and I was thinking about the fact that you said this thing to me, and I just want you to know I appreciate that so much. I love you so much for that.” Do I compliment her physical beauty? Yes. She’s absolutely beautiful, but is my mind soaking in scriptural definitions of beauty?
Guys, if you only compliment your wife’s physical appearance, you are training her in what you believe beauty is, and you will train your daughters and every woman in your life on what beautiful is. But if you spend more time complimenting the hidden person of her heart, you’re training her what biblical beauty is.
Sean: Yes, we have a chapter in there called “Love Her Invisible Pearls.” There are all these invisible gems, all these beautiful treasures, that you might overlook that are invisible; but they’re not. They’re obvious. They’re character traits of God and who He is. They are things in her that you can highlight and praise. I would say this as far as having the perfect body: if you think about Genesis, you think about Adam and Eve. They’re in the Garden, and they have probably the most beautiful bodies that have ever happened [Laughter] in the human race. They’re incredible. Not a flaw, not a blemish, absolutely amazing in the Garden of Eden paradise.
They eat the fruit, and they’re ashamed, and they go and try to get fig leaves to cover them. They feel this overwhelming sense of shame, and they try to cover their bodies. The funny thing is nothing changed physically about their appearance. They looked the same, but they felt shame. For wives, even if they had the perfect body, whatever they think that is, that isn’t going to solve their problems. That is not going to bring them satisfaction. That is not going to bring them happiness to their marriage. It’s not going to bring happiness to them because the perfect body is not the solution.
What is the solution? The solution is the perfect body of Jesus Christ, which is broken on their behalf. He hung naked and ashamed. He bore our shame on the cross so that we could be forgiven of our sin and have confidence to approach the throne of grace and have confidence to approach one another as husband and wife, knowing that we are accepted by the other person because of what Christ has done in our lives. We’re accepted by God, and that gives us confidence in not having the perfect body or perfect appearance. And reinforcing that truth can change an entire marriage. It can change your relationship for the better.
[End Studio Interview]
Dave: [Ann], do you have any thoughts, any reflections? We just finished our interview with Sean and Spencer, and we got to the modesty of the wedding dress. [Laughter] I never thought we’d have a conversation about that in my life, let alone they wrote about it, and we got to talk about it.
Dave: You know, what do you think?
Ann: There’s a part of me that’s always careful. I’m always thinking about maybe the new follower of Jesus or somebody that has a rough background. They’re hearing that [and thinking], “Oh, I’ve never heard this before.” I give grace to people like that, because I had no idea, as I said earlier,--
Dave: –no idea about—
Ann: –about being modest. I had never thought about that because I grew up in a culture saying, “Flaunt it.” But I liked talking about it; I liked thinking about it, and maybe what I should say is, I hope we don’t get stuck just on the wedding dress, because the entire day is this beautiful covenant commitment between two people that are following Jesus. We’re making these vows before God and before friends. So, the wedding dress is not the highlight of the day. It’s what God is doing between a man and woman in making them one.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon on FamilyLife Today. You know, Sean and Spencer have written a three-book bundle called Letters to a Romantic, and they separate each book to talk about specific areas of life. One is on dating, one is on engagement, and one is on the first years of marriage. This three-book bundle is an excellent resource to have or an excellent gift to give to someone you might know in your family or in your church.
Now, this three-book bundle is our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800, ‘F’ as in family, ‘L’ as in life and then the word ‘TODAY.’ You can feel free to also drop us something in the mail if you’d like. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832.
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Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be with Juli Slattery. They’re going to get together to talk about how we should emphasize that sexuality should be approached from a position of honoring God’s design and purpose rather than seeking self-gratification. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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