Behind closed doors clergy often ruefully observe that they would rather officiate at a funeral than preside at a wedding.
That sounds harsh, but I’m convinced that it’s because most of us watch in frustration as weddings, as well as marriages, get off on the wrong foot.
Here’s what your clergy wants you to know:
1. Don’t wait for the movie. Save the moment. Snap the pictures. But remember: there’s no substitute for being in the moment…making vows, exchanging rings, and looking one another in the eye, alert to the larger embrace of God. Don’t wait for the reruns and try to put yourself back into that moment. There is only one moment in this wedding and it’s yours.
2. Don’t let the wedding planner turn your wedding into a circus. It’s great to have a planner take the administrivia off of your plate, but don’t let turn your wedding into entertainment or a stage for her competence as a planner. Weddings are worship services and clergy are in charge, not the wedding planner. Don’t make the clergyperson presiding at your wedding remind the planner of that fact.
3. Don’t marry for love. Sounds strange, but it’s not. Marrying for love is a needy thing. Marry to love. In other words, give yourself to mature, adult, full-grown, vibrant, “I’d go to the wall for you, I know you would go to the wall for me” kind of love.
4. Don’t commit to the vows. The surest sign that something is wrong is when someone in a marriage says, “I’m committed to our marriage.” Don’t commit to the institution, commit to one another.
5. Don’t “say yes to the dress.” This is not “your special day.” This is the rest of your life. Say “yes” to your future with one another and let that realization guide your “yes” and, if necessary, a “no.”
6. Don’t settle. You may not think you are going to find her or him, and you certainly shouldn’t wait for “perfect” or “ideal.” That person doesn’t exist. But don’t “make do” or hope for improvements. You are marrying a life-long partner, not a “fixer upper.”
7. Don’t marry to be whole. You can’t be happily married until you know yourself. Don’t marry to be saved. Your spouse can’t do it and, if they make noises that suggest that they can, they are probably fulfilling their own needs.
8. Don’t marry for sex. Marry for intimacy. Making love is much more than what happens in bed.
9. Don’t forget to talk. There are a number of things on the top ten list that kill a marriage, but most of them revolve around a failure to communicate. Talk to one another. Keep the books balanced on daily basis. Don’t stockpile grudges. Don’t let large silences grow around small differences.
10. Don’t forget, there is nothing magical about a wedding service. Religious communities matter more as a place to find support for your relationship after you are married than they do as a place to host a service. Religious services celebrate the resolve of a couple to nurture their mutual well-being in God’s presence.