January 6, 2015

A Practical Church Wedding

Never ever would I have believed I could be a “bridezilla.” Not me! I’m older, independent, and an introvert. “Just give me a practical church wedding,” I’d say. Then I got engaged last week. Already I’ve felt the demanding, impatient behavior creep upon me at the news my desired venue might not be available for an autumn wedding reception.

It’s tough to admit that I had to take a deep breath and check back into reality. I know better. Marriage isn’t about the extravagance of the wedding. If it were, then my little church wedding would set a dreary tone for matrimony (especially compared to the decadent $25,200 blowouts the average American couple is willing to spend!). I’ve received the best wedding advice while single. And so it is time for this traditional marriage advocate to reexamine the meaning of marriage.

(Yes, this is an unusual type of JuicyEcumenism blog. But considering December is the most popular month to get engaged—notably Christmas through New Year’s Eve— it seems reasonable to share the top three pieces of wedding and marriage wisdom I’ve gleaned from leaders within the Church.)

(1) Marriage is not about our “happily ever after.”

Pastor Tim Keller and his wife Kathy co-authored The Meaning of Marriage back in 2011, in which they set straight that marriage isn’t about finding “the one” in order to find happiness, but a commitment to deny our own self-serving actions for the sake of our spouse. An idea shunned by our popular culture and every fairytale story I’ve read.

Fairytales convince young women love is found when the prince rescues us from our evil dragon. Unless you count the Metrorail system, there is no dragon in Washington D.C. from which I can be saved. How about those romance novels that tell girls that love unfolds in one of two ways: at first glance or over thousands of small, wondrous precious moments. Well, my fiancé and I saw each other tons of times seven years ago while in church. Nada. We’ve certainly had lots of precious moments. But it was after a hard moment that I knew I loved my fiancé because I was ready to put aside my pride and self-centered desires and work through the trials with this man.

This is a point the Kellers try to drive home. Love and marriage are not meant to fulfill our own idyllic dreams and desires. Instead, marriage is a triune covenant that we enter with another imperfect human being and God. The couple explains that marriage is a reflection of the Gospel that is both painful and joyful, writing,The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.”

(2) Couples must recognize their marital covenant extends beyond themselves.

While reporting on an “upward mobility” symposium at Catholic University, I listened as Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said, “One of the most controversial things that I ever say is not anything that I talk about on television. It’s when I sit down with a couple who want to be married and I say to them, ‘I’m not going to allow you to write your own vows.’”

I’ve sat through weddings where personalized vows were sung, spoken in whispers so no one else could hear, or written to impress the audience. So when Dr. Moore said the age-old vows are a necessary part of the ceremony, you can bet I took notice.

Dr.  Moore elaborated, “Because the couple assumes that this wedding ceremony is their event, it is about celebrating their life, about celebrating their love. And I have to say it is about you but it’s about vows that you are exchanging with one another ‘for these witnesses’ with an accountability to a larger community and to the Church.”

(3) Your capacity to love does not depend on you.

I’ll never forget asking my colleague, Mario Diaz, Esq., Concerned Women for America’s Legal Counsel and Washington Times contributor on the issue of marriage, the question, “How do I know I’m in love?” His responses was priceless.

“Love is an outward expression of your appreciation as much as it is an emotion,” said Mario. “Before trying to grappling with such a narrow question, you should first ask yourself, ‘Can I love?’” Mario explained that because only God loves perfectly, we must seek him and rely on him in order to love.

Because love is not a gushy feeling but requires action steps our flawed human nature cannot achieve on our own, we must rely on the Lord to accomplish I Corinthians 13:4-13 which tells us:

Love is patient and kind;
Love does not envy or boast;
It is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way.
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never ends. …
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Your turn! What is your best wedding/marriage advice?

5 Responses to A Practical Church Wedding

  1. JamesClarke says:

    Congratulations! Good article too.

  2. David says:

    That was a very good article, and after almost 23 years of marriage, I can attest to some of this too.

  3. Pudentiana says:

    After 37 years of marriage, I urge you to study those traditional vows and really keep them. Don’t think about how you feel or what you need ahead of your spouse, but before you take those vows do the best you can to know your affianced is capable of keeping those vows, too. The real secret to marriage is not whether you are loved, but that you obey God’s command to love unconditionally. This is the most you can do to be faithful and live together evenly yoked. “Love is not a feeling or a fancy…”

  4. Chelsen Vicari says:

    Thank ya’ll! It is encouraging to hear from seasoned spouses that love is not a feeling, but an action meant to be taken seriously in a culture that has turned marriage into a merry-go-round.

  5. Kim C Milburn says:

    Chelsen, I’ve been married to my wife now going on 38 years. I can honestly say that my love for is greater now than ever before. And this was based on a decision I made at the alter that I would love her and stay faithful and committed to our marriage regardless of where my feeling were. I recognized that feeling are based on emotions which are based on perceived circumstances and cannot be trusted for making good decisions. I believe that true love must be based on commitment which is a decision. Truly our Lord made a decision to love us, even when we are not that loveable. His is truly a decision, thankfully, and not an emotion. Certainly my wife and I have our ups and downs (usually my fault) but we’ve never questioned our commitment to each other and never approached the conversation of divorce. The decision I made at the alter before God and man was sacrament. And guess what, the Holy Spirit always stepped in to help keep our love for each other going and our emotional attachment never departed. Truly committed love never fails! God is faithful. Hope this helps.

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