I am 27 years old and engaged to be married to a lovely man who loves God. We are set to get married in April, but the money and family demands are driving us crazy. Initially we had agreed on a small wedding of up to 50 people, but as time went by and our families have been involved, this has grown to 200 guests and the budget is not what we can meet. We still want to honor our parents and invite all our relatives, but it's becoming too expensive.
Now in African culture, weddings are a big thing involving the whole community. Most weddings range from 300-500 people. Initially we were looking at a worship service before our vows, then the vows, and a non-alcoholic cocktail where we serve bitings and our guests bond. Thing is we don't want to borrow the money from our friends and relatives — when people give you money they feel they can now call the shots. My fiancé says we should trust in God for provision (which I do) but does that mean we stop planning until God comes through or what does it mean?
I know I am asking many questions, but I really need clarity. An alternative would be to delay the wedding till we have the money, but we are walking in purity and the waiting is becoming too long ... we don't want to make it too lengthy that it becomes a stumbling block. We don't want to do a big wedding just to please everyone else, and we are left stuck in debt.
What do you recommend? What is the biblical guideline for this?
To an engaged woman, the wedding is the biggest, most expectation-laden event of her life. It holds the promise of unrivaled delights as well as more peril than she's ever feared. OK, maybe I'm overstating it a bit. Maybe.
A wedding can seem that all-consuming, all-important to someone anticipating it. But in hindsight, it's more easily recognized for what it really is: a wonderful celebration, but certainly not the pinnacle of the relationship. It's just the beginning.
This is a great opportunity for self-sacrifice, servanthood and demonstrating the fruit of the Holy Spirit. At the risk of sounding trite, I'll say what you've likely heard before: The more you keep your wedding in perspective, the better prepared you'll be for what comes after that grand event: the marriage.
It's a common sentiment among pre-marital counselors, but it's common because it's true: This test is a chance to see what you, and your fiancé, are made of. Will you work together to meet challenges? Are you capable of working as a team — indicative of your ability to become one? Are you willing to leave your parents and their expectations and demands in order to cleave to one another?
That's what's at stake. Now for some practical, on-the-ground help. Good news: This is not an irresolvable problem! There are some things you can change as well as some things you shouldn't.
You say you don't want to delay the wedding in order to save more money because you're committed to purity. Bravo! I'm cheering! Short engagements are an excellent aid to the morality of bride and groom. I agree that this is one non-negotiable. The other is your desire to avoid taking on debt. Given that money troubles, disagreements and stress over debt are among the top reasons couples divorce, everything you do up front to be financially one, and fiscally sound, will go toward the health of your relationship.
So if you don't change the date and you don't enlarge your budget, can you still honor your parents and meet everyone's expectations? Honor, yes. Expectations, no.
Consider what it means to honor your parents. In a column on his Moore to the Point blog, Southern Seminary Dean Russell Moore wrote about what the Bible requires:
The command to honor father and mother never ends. It is part of the holy will of God, and is applicable to every person, regardless of age. When you're ninety, you'll still have an obligation to honor your parents, even if only in memory and in speech. The way one honors one's parents changes, though, throughout the span of life. Jesus lived this life before you. His honoring of his father Joseph and his blessed mother Mary was of obedience in all things in childhood (Luke 2:51), of listening to pleas for help in adulthood (John 2:1-5), and of caring for weakness at the end of life (John 19:26-27). All of this was an honoring of father and mother.
He talks about the difference between Ephesians 6 obedience required of children, and Exodus 20 honor that finds us being responsible for making our own decisions. Now that you're at a place where you're moving from your father's home into your husband's and where, presumably, you'll be economically independent of your parents, it's time for you to embrace adulthood.
Moore writes that "in Scripture, maturity is less a chronological or biological matter than an economic one." He equates that maturity with your ability "to establish a household, a household for which you are responsible. The creation pattern is that a man is equipped to provide for his household (Genesis 2:15). He then 'leaves father and mother' as he cleaves to his wife and forms (within the larger tribe) a new household (Genesis 2:24)."
This, of course, is the point of your wedding and the point of your question. The challenge is honorably helping your parents see the transition for what it is — your move from their child who obeys them, to their daughter who is married, and allied with another. You might appeal to their faith, reminding them that you're preparing to take vows to that end.
This brings us to your need to act with your fiancé. The two of you need to be of one mind. You say you don't know what your fiancé means by "trusting God's provision"? Ask him and then follow him in that. Not just in prayer. But with a plan.
Here are some ideas you might talk through:
Have a big celebration and a small one.
When we went to Brad and Kelli's wedding, the church ceremony and cake reception immediately following in the church basement was very large. Everyone they knew and loved was invited. But it was a much smaller group that received invitations to the sit-down dinner later that day. The after-after party was more expensive, and necessarily, smaller.
Don't ask to borrow money. And if people offer, accept without strings.
When my sister got married, my dad said he'd pay for the wedding. After a few months of arguing over details of what things cost — and competing ideas about what things were worth — he knew something needed to change for the sake of their relationship.
He figured out how much he was willing to spend — the total dollar amount, told Katie and Jeff that was their budget, made the deposit into her bank account, and said that was as much as he could give. They were free to make all the decisions, just the two of them. And they knew if they went over, they'd have to fund the difference. And he knew he'd done his part and could just enjoy the celebration.
Change the menu.
In her witty, funny and eminently practical guide, Miss Manners on Weddings, Judith Martin talks about all the many perils and politics of trying to please so many people, including yourself, at such an important event. As you know, it's a huge challenge. She says, though, that the emphasis should be the celebration, not the menu. Number 3 on her opening checklist for brides reads,
Do not worry about how many guests you can invite and still afford to serve your dream menu. The proper formula is to count up the relatives and friends first, and then figure out what you can afford to serve to that number of people.
If you need to invite more people but can't afford to feed them all hot hors d' oeuvres, then scale back on the "bitings" (I love that word, even if I don't know exactly what it means) and serve only crudités and/or just cake. It's better to exclude foodstuffs than people.
In short, my advice is to decide with your fiancé what you can manage and how you will proceed and then follow his lead. Some of your decisions may make your parents unhappy. But thankfully, their happiness is not your responsibility. You are called to honor them, and you should do this — it will make any unhappiness more bearable. But you are not called to meet all their (or anyone else's) expectations.
Remember, the most important thing about your wedding — the vows you and your fiancé will take before God, and your community of family, friends and believers — is the part that costs nothing at all.
I wish you all the best and hope you'll send some pictures.
Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.