The Other Side of Your Wedding Day: Stuff the Preacher’s Not Telling You

 My friends over at HerKentucky are doing a special series during the month of June about–what else?–weddings! For my guest post yesterday, I shared the wedding experience from the ‘other side’ of the chancel; the pastor’s perspective. Your minister might be too nice to tell you this stuff. But we all know, I’m not that nice! Here is some stuff that we are thinking as you plan for and enjoy your perfect day.

1)      We roll inward eyes a little when you say you want 1 Corinthians 13 read in the ceremony. Yes, love is patient, love is kind. We get it. But we have to actually SAY things in the service other than ‘do you take this man/woman, etc,’ and well…that little gem of scripture has done been said. It’s been said a lot. Give us something to work with, other than the magic of your love.

 

2)      We die a little inside when we say, ‘the church will provide a wedding coordinator for the rehearsal,’ and you say, ‘oh, no, my mother’s going to do it!’ Trust us. That will not end well for anybody.

 

3)      You are not going to shock us with your family drama. No matter how many crazy siblings, inappropriate uncles, or unconventional marriages you bring into the church, we have seen it all. Oh, and also? 9 out of 10 of us could care less if you are living together. And even if we did, we know you are lying when you talk about ‘my apartment.’  

 

4)      No, you cannot take down the purple Advent décor in the sanctuary and replace it with red and green stuff that ‘matches the dresses.’ Baby Jesus doesn’t care ‘what it looks like in the pictures.’ You want a church wedding? This is a church.

 

5)      If your cousin ‘who’s a Baptist preacher’ insists on reading something from Genesis, we get to approve which translation he’s packing.

 

6)      We triple dog dare you to question our fee. If you do, we will ask you how much you are paying the caterer, the band, the wedding planner, the hairdresser, the bar tender; and then we will gently remind you that while our services are the cheapest of any of these, we went to more school, and spent way more time planning for your perfect day.  Grace is free, but our time isn’t.

Also—eye rolling and inward groaning aside—from this day forward, til death do you part, we are invested in your marriage. We want it to succeed, and that’s why we’re blessing it. I don’t think the bass player feels the same way about the sanctity of this whole business.

 

7)      And finally, as you plan that perfect day, remember that:

“Perfect” is a dangerous word. For life in general, and for marriage in particular. Chances are, if you have unrealistic expectations of this day, you likely have some unrealistic expectations about marriage, as well.  Expect that there will be a big family meltdown, a major hair malfunction, and/or something in the neighborhood of a bird flying into the sanctuary and dropping an unwanted gift on your grandma’s corsage. Likewise, accept that you will gain a few pounds over the next 50 years, and so will your spouse; you will fight, you will lose money, you will face disappointment—possibly in each other. Life will get messy, and even the most perfect-est, magazine-worthy, color-coordinated and professionally choreographed wedding in the world will not keep that from happening.

So put down that Southern Living wedding edition, step the ^!%* AWAY from Pinterest, and get ready to actually BE married. For better, or for worse. If you go into your special, perfect day in full awareness of all the ways that the wheels can come off, then you will actually have FUN at your own wedding. You will see every little hitch and hiccup as a welcome and introduction to the full, joyful, and unpredictable life you are about to enter, with the person who is your soul’s delight.  Their shoes will not always match you hair accessories… in fact, unless you are getting married in high school (please, don’t) and you still have prom to look forward to (just,
please, no) then your attire will probably never match again. And yet… a life shared in love—in all its sacred messiness—is so much better than even the most ‘perfect,’ day you can imagine.

Because ultimately—even if we can’t read it without rolling our eyes a little—love gives you life. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.

Love endures all things. Even the perfect blush and bashful wedding.

Love never ends.

 

How many people get to marry their brother? This is me officiating for my brother Chris, and his gorgeous bride Nicki.

 

…and my other brother Chris! (my husband’s brother) and his beautiful wife, Dr. Cristen. (who will be guest blogging for me next week. stay tuned!)

 

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://ryanrobinson.ca/ Ryan Robinson

    One of our wedding officiants tried pretty hard to convince us to use 1 Corinthians 13 as our text. Fortunately we convinced him we didn’t want it for the exact reasons you said here.

  • Katie Voigt

    The other thing I would add is how disrespectful it is when I am asked to make sure that the service is short. Yes, I know how warm the room will be for the gentlemen in their tuxes (I’ll be in a robe…), but what we are doing there is gathering as the people of God for God’s blessing, to give thanks to God for the ways God has already worked in the lives of these people, and to covenant with each other to journey with this couple as they move forward. It is important and it will take as long as it takes.

    • Laurie McKnight

      I’ve been asked to make funerals short, too. Isn’t celebrating the life of your loved one worth an hour of your time?

  • Evelyn McLachlan

    Amen, amen, amen and amen sister! And if I could get rid of photographers, I would. And cell phones. I will be printing this off and handing it out to all future couples!

    • AuntiE

      Ah ha..Another way to spend additional money. Perhaps the vast wedding industry could start a “cell phone checker” position, similar to a coat room check system. You arrive, hand your cell phone to the “checker”, obtain a ticket. At the end of the service, you present your ticket, and your cell phone is returned to you. :-)

      • Evelyn McLachlan

        Great idea! :) Wouldn’t ask for money for the cell phones though … just to hold them while the worship’s happening. Unless you’re a doc and on call, then at least put it on silence. The worst was when the groom’s mother’s cell phone went off and she answered it while they were doing their vows. Could hear her say “Call you later, my son’s wedding is happening right now.” Really??? And then a photographer’s went off after I had asked to please turn them off. He said no one ever calls him on that phone … apparently they do!

        • AuntiE

          The money angle was more in line with the wedding industry finding another way to, as I call it, extort additional funds from couples. After considering your comment, perhaps churches could find volunteers willing to put in an hour to utilize this system.,

  • http://barebreathmoments.com/ Joe S

    We had a pastor who felt what he thought was a mouse on his toes during the vows. So he kicked without looking down hoping nobody would notice…. It was the photographer.

  • Chaprich

    I think I’m going to include this blog in my premarital packet.

  • Jim Trimble

    Spot-on! Could not have said it better myself.

  • Ambaa

    My soon-to-be husband officiated his sister’s wedding! It was such a nice thing for him to be able to do!

  • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com The Sanity Inspector

    Very clever and insightful!

  • AuntiE

    I am not a pastor so my opinion may have little value. When did this become more about the event opposed to the reason for the event?
    Your comments were absolutely wonderful.

  • JezabelleDisreali

    I’m glad someone else is tired of 1 Corinthians. My family is huge, and my generation is of the marrying age, I have heard it so many times I could say it in my sleep.

    I also laugh at the idea of a perfect wedding. My cousin was in hysterics over how her husband had to wear sandals because his injured foot wouldn’t fit in dress shoes.

  • AuntiE

    Not to be irksome; however, the most wonderful and meaningful wedding I have ever attended occurred this past October. The couple included their parents in the unity candle portion. The parents stood after the couple had completed their unity statements and made statements that as parents they would commit to provide prayers, love and commitment to the unity of the couple. It was VERY moving.

  • Guest

    You meant to summarize your article with Paragraph #7,
    and while excellent advice before a wedding, it is nothing that I have not read
    on every wedding website or bridal magazine.

    I, however, as a mother of the bride as recently as last week, find your comments #1 and #2 extremely rude and hurtful. I question why you would want to shame or
    embarrass any couple for wanting to use Paul’s beautiful words in 1 Corinthians
    as part of their wedding ceremony. While there are many other appropriate verses, our church’s website lists this as a suggested reading for the ceremony. This is the verse that my daughter has heard at almost every other beautiful ceremony. She dreamed that someday it would be read at hers. She waited a long time for this groom and to finally be married. I taught her to keep trusting in God that her day would come. I thank God that she kept her faith. For you
    to suggest that you are sick of it and roll your eyes is shameful. These are traditional words that she and her groom wanted to share. Imagine the
    number of guests who may have shared these same words at their own weddings, 10-50 years ago. We all need to hear them read again. At what point do you become sick of the Word of God?

    My own beloved Pastor posted your article on facebook today for future couples and their parents. I called crying asking him to remove it. I didn’t want my newlywed daughter and her husband, still basking in the love and joy and afterglow of their wedding to read it and think that the special verses they chose and will base their married life on are some kind of joke to you pastors. You need to be careful. Why risk sucking the joy of their ceremony right from their hearts.

    Comment #2 – Our church does not offer a rehearsal consultant. I was that mother. I promised my daughter that I would do everything I could to make her wedding as beautiful as she wanted it to be. Do you take the time to listen to what your bride and groom want to do? Offer a suggestion or just say, “This is how we do it.” Our church music director who I HIRED and agreed to pay his fee without questioning it treated me as though I was the most unimportant person in his life. I needed his advice. He ignored communication with me. I paid him anyway. I was doing the best job I could as Mother of the Bride.

    The most important thing is that my daughter’s wedding was absolutely lovely, before God, in her home church. I give all the glory to God for that. Like you said, there will be and were little glitches throughout the day that will most likely go unnoticed and are not important. But there were one or two, tasteful, special touches that she and her groom wanted at this one time only ceremony to make it even more meaningful that were ignored or disrespected simply because it has not done that way before. To suggest that a mother’s comments or
    interruption at this point would never end well makes me crazy. I disrespect
    you for that.

    • MaineGeezer

      As a minister’s husband…I’ll point out that the fundamental purpose of a wedding is to publicly exchange vows and become married. It is not to have a beautiful day.

      I think any ministers and spouses of ministers will agree that some of the things couples and/or parents think are splendid ideas and just perfect touches for the wedding are, in a word, dreadful. Trust the minister when he/she says you probably don’t want to include such-and-such in the service. They have lived through any number of debacles and know what things are just asking for trouble.

  • Guest

    You meant to summarize your article with Paragraph #7,
    and while excellent advice before a wedding, it is nothing that I have not read
    on every wedding website or bridal magazine.

    I, however, as a mother of the bride as recently as last
    week, find your comments #1 and #2 extremely rude and hurtful. I question why you would want to shame or
    embarrass any couple for wanting to use Paul’s beautiful words in 1 Corinthians
    as part of their wedding ceremony. While
    there are many other appropriate verses, our church’s website lists this as a suggested
    reading for the ceremony. This is the verse that my daughter has heard at
    almost every other beautiful ceremony. She dreamed that someday it would be read
    at hers. She waited a long time for this groom and to finally be married. I
    taught her to keep trusting in God that her day would come. I thank God that she kept her faith. For you
    to suggest that you are sick of it and roll your eyes is shameful. These are traditional words that she and her
    groom wanted to share. Imagine the
    number of guests who may have shared these same words at their own weddings,
    10-50 years ago. We all need to hear them read again.

    My own beloved Pastor posted your article on facebook
    today for future couples (and their parents) and I called crying asking him to
    remove it. I didn’t want my newlywed
    daughter and her husband, still basking in the love and joy and afterglow of
    their wedding to read it and think that the special verses they chose and will
    base their married life on are some kind of joke to you pastors. You need to be careful. Why risk sucking the
    joy of their ceremony right from their hearts.

    Comment #2 – Our church does not offer a rehearsal
    consultant. I was that mother. I promised my daughter that I would do
    everything I could to make her wedding as beautiful as she wanted it to
    be. Do you take the time to listen to
    what your bride and groom want to do? Offer a suggestion or just say, “This is
    how we do it.” Our church music
    director who I HIRED and agreed to pay his fee without questioning it treated
    me as though I was the most unimportant person in his life. I needed his
    advice. He ignored communication with me. I paid him anyway. I was doing the
    best job I could as Mother of the Bride.

    The most important thing is that my daughter’s wedding
    was absolutely lovely, before God, in her home church. I give all the glory to
    God for that. Like you said, there will be and were little glitches throughout
    the day that will most likely go unnoticed and are not important. But there
    were one or two, tasteful, special touches that she and her groom wanted at
    this one time only ceremony to make it even more meaningful that were ignored
    or disrespected simply because it has not done that way before. To suggest that a mother’s comments or
    interruption at this point would never end well makes me crazy. I disrespect
    you for that.

    • Guest

      You seem to take this very personally, which is interesting, since it was not your wedding, although there are hints in your reply that you are the type of mother of the bride that give wedding coordinators and clergy people fits. As a pastor’s wife, I could not agree more with point number two. There is a widespread feeling among brides and their mothers that they have “paid to rent this space” and are thus entitled to use it as they wish. Additionally, a wedding rehearsal is often scheduled on a Friday evening, before other church activities are set to begin, and the timing of the event is important.

      The church is a holy space, not a stage for your daughter’s “special touches”, and the wedding coordinator that most churches provide is there to make sure that things run smoothly, and to see that the church building, tradition, sacred objects, and personnel are not disrespected. The mother of the bride is there to make sure that the wedding is “as beautiful as she [the bride] wants it to be”. These are sometimes at cross purposes. When a mother of the bride wanted to move the large, delicate, antique brass candelabra for the purpose of staging pictures (the wedding color was SILVER! Gasp!), it was the wedding coordinator who interceded. When a different mother of the bride wanted to run through the whole thing AGAIN, even though they were already thirty minutes over time and there was another event scheduled for the space, it was the wedding coordinator who made sure the rehearsal ended promptly. And when a third mother of the bride wanted to REARRANGE THE PEWS to create a center aisle because that was how HER BABY HAD DREAMED ABOUT IT SINCE SHE WAS SIX it was the wedding coordinator who told her no. Our church does not require a security deposit for using the space, instead they provide a wedding coordinator who has overseen hundreds of weddings in the church, and who will make sure that God, the church, and the marriage are honored.

      • jdens

        I am sure that there are many brides and grooms and their respective families who are unreasonable in their expectations, and there is undoubtedly a culture surrounding the wedding ‘industry’ that should be challenged. However, I share the first Guest’s dismay at the attitude expressed in points 1 and 2, (particularly point 1). The author seems to assume the worst about the audience she’s talking to, and it seems disrespectful to me, too.

        As to the wedding coordinator thing. I’ve never known a church to provide a wedding coordinator. I’m curious if that’s particular to certain denominations or regions or . . .? I think that a church has every right to insist on an appointed liaison to ensure that the church and its traditions are respected. That could take the form of a ‘wedding coordinator’ if that’s acceptable to the couple getting married, but I don’t think the couple should be pressured into accepting that liaison–whose primary interest belongs not to them and their special day but to protecting the interests of the church–specifically as their wedding coordinator. The bride’s mother (or whoever is helping the couple plan their wedding) is likely much more personally invested. I didn’t have anyone helping me coordinate my own wedding a few years ago, but I was given an information packet specifying the restrictions, which I had no problem complying with. Having clear guidelines upfront is important.

  • Guest

    :) Wonderful post. If only ever bride-zilla, mother-of-the-bride-zilla (and groom-zilla, if they exist) were required to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” this post!

  • Rilla Holmes

    And this is why I prefer not to function as an agent of the state at all. Too many brides misunderstand that the church is sacred space, not wallpaper for their ‘dream day come true’. Just because you have had a fantasy, bridezilla or momzilla, does NOT mean you are entitled to see it happen. If I am providing only a blessing, questions of service design are for me to answer, not for ‘Great-Aunt Mathilda’ or whomever the bride or her mother has unearthed.

    I will never grow tired of I Cor. 13, but I am tired of trying to help couples understand which music is appropriate for the church and which belongs at the reception. (If your song is “Muskrat Love” dance to it later, do not have it as an entrance or exit piece. Really. I have had this conversation.)

  • Margaret

    As the daughter of a minister and wife of a priest, I can see how anyone who officiates at weddings can come to feel cynical about aspects of weddings. But among musicians, stage performers, and teachers, the best ones keep it fresh every time, knowing that though they have
    performed it before, it is new and special to their audience or students. The Corinthians passage still captures God’s love, that same love we try to emulate in our marriages when we do our best. For those getting married, it is still one of the most meaningful instructive Biblical passages. Whether or not it is a couple’s first marriage, each marriage is the beginning of something new, full of hope and promise, like the birth of a baby, and there are certain rituals like asking for God’s blessing that we repeat for each individual person and couple anew, because they have been, and continue to be, important to us. The main consideration should be what is meaningful and helpful to the couple, not the pastor. And no matter how familiar I am with this passage, it is still very challenging to actually do.

  • Alice

    Most ministers LOVE cliches and cliche Bible verses to death, and use them year-round so that’s quite ironic. I’m not a big fan of cliches, but they’re cliches for a reason.

  • Scott Alan Nesbitt

    Good article. One grammatical correction should be made, however. In number three, you probably want to say, “couldn’t” care less. To say that we “could” care less means that we actually have thoughts and feelings to spare on the topic. If we “couldn’t” care less, it means that we’ve reached our capacity of concern for the matter.

  • jdens

    “Yes, love is patient, love is kind. We get it. But we have to actually SAY things in the service other than ‘do you take this man/woman, etc,’ and well…that little gem of scripture has done been said. It’s been said a lot. Give us something to work with, other than the magic of your love.”

    I’m surprised at your reaction, and I’m wondering if the vows aren’t also a bit of a drudge for you, or do you prefer the couple to write new ones since the traditional ones have ‘been said a lot’, too? And aren’t there usually at least 2 passages read, so even if you are sick and tired of hearing Paul’s description of love, you can look at the other text for inspiration? Finally, why is the burden on the couple to give you ‘something to work with’ for the homily (I assume that’s what you mean when you say you ‘actually have to say stuff’)? If ever there were an occasion where a sermon did not have to rely solely on a text for inspiration, surely a wedding is one.

  • Erin Smallwood Wathen

    just getting back from vacation, folks. Thanks for all the feedback. A
    quick note to say to some of you, that this was not meant to be taken
    nearly so seriously! I’ve read 1 Corinthians at many a wedding, and it
    is always lovely. As are traditional vows, newly-written vows, or any
    vows at all in which two people commit to love each other for a
    lifetime. I was just sharing a little pastoral humor about having to say
    something original at every occasion…it’s tough sometimes, though always a blessing.

    And mothers of the
    bride are mostly lovely, as well. Though i do think having them
    coordinate the wedding party puts undue stress on the one person who
    should enjoy the day just as much as the bride and groom.

    In my
    on-going attempt to humanize the pastor–and also to make the church a
    little more down-to-earth and approachable–i do sometimes rub folks the
    wrong way. All is meant to be in good fun. Peace.

  • sara

    So true! I understand both sides of the argument on #1, but I’ve got to agree with the author here. I think it is a lovely scripture, and I am very happy to agree to have it read, or printed in the bulletin, however there are many more verses about love than just the one, and I get excited when a couple comes forward with another scripture to use.

    I pastor in a town that is very popular with tourists, and for destination weddings, and I wish more people who came to the church for their wedding understood that the space is not a park, or a beautiful public space, like a museum or library. It is sacred, and holy. While I am happy to perform marriages in the church, it is necessary to be honest, on both sides. We have a well-rounded contract that is signed by the pastor, the couple and our wedding coordinator. We seek to work with what the couple wants, and to accomodate any special requests, however I can’t tell you how often couples come forward during rehersal, requesting changes that were already explained as non-negotiable (one MOB wanted to cover the cross because they weren’t very churchy!!)

    If we all had a bit more compassion and more people understood how to compromise, it might all go a little easier.


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