I've been a keen follower of Boundless for a few years now; it's influenced my thinking enormously and has rippled out to those around me. Now freshly engaged, we're thinking about what a Christian wedding looks like. Is a wedding list an appropriate thing to have? Should we be collecting a style of crockery (as seems to be common here in Northern Ireland)? How can we create a wedding which glorifies God and not the couple?
Congratulations on your engagement! It's a joy to hear your good news and to learn that we've been an encouragement in the process. Thank you, too, for this excellent question about your wedding. I talked at length about wedding gift registries both on The Boundless Show podcast (episode 56) as well as the Boundless blog. So I’m going to focus here on your question about planning your wedding to glorify God.
Planning to marry Steve was preparing for the biggest party I'd ever hosted. And because we felt like the hosts, we worked really hard to make it an event our guests would enjoy. But if I'm really honest, I have to admit I worked even harder to make sure it would be my perfect day. I told myself all the aesthetics of food and drink and music and flowers and beauty were for the enjoyment of our guests. And to some extent, they were. But I knew that my heart wanted to make our wedding everything I'd always dreamed it would be. I believed the line: This is your day. I wanted it to be perfect.
The object of glory for most weddings is the bride. And we think she's being generous if she's willing to share that glory with her groom. But as you've rightly discerned, that's not how it should be for believers. The object of glory in all things, even weddings, if you are found in Christ, is God.
First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV)
Colossians 1:15–17 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” [emphasis added].
You’re asking the absolutely right question: How do you plan a wedding for God’s glory?
And you asked it at just the right time. By God’s providence, Steve recently handed me one of his school books and asked me to read the chapter by Timothy B. Bayly called "The Marriage Ceremony: A Cornerstone in Building Godly Families." Starting with his title, Bayly suggests that a wedding is much more than a party and photo op. If a godly family is your goal, a godly marriage ceremony is the necessary starting point.
What does that look like? Following the framework of the historic, five-centuries-old wedding vows, he explains the history of each element of the ceremony, as well as their significance to God's design for marriage. Not all of these elements have been jettisoned from secular weddings, of course. Many brides still wear veils; many brides are still walked down the aisle and given away by their fathers; rings are still exchanged, and most couples still promise to stay together "for better or worse." But sadly, far too many couples getting married do these things without understanding their significance. That's especially true when it comes to the vows.
The vows hold the power to bring God the most glory because the vows point people to the cross. But how?
Speaking the traditional vows reminds bride and groom, and all in attendance, of the sheer magnitude of what they're promising to do. It's ludicrous to think two human beings can actually do what they're agreeing to — in all circumstances to love and to cherish and obey (wives) all to one person for the rest of their lives — in their own strength. This is even more the case in our current culture where there are few if any societal pressures left to help hold marriages together, and many pressures pulling them apart.
The divorce rate — 40–50 percent of all marriages split apart — begs the question: Why bother? If as many as one in two marriages ends in divorce, isn't it better not to marry?
Enter the cross. We can't keep these vows in our strength. But for those who are born again — who accept the gift of grace that Jesus achieved when He died in our place — for them, God gives the power, through the Holy Spirit, to keep their vows. This is good news! Two sinners can stay married for life when they make their goal a marriage for God's glory.
Bayly reminds us that the very old wedding liturgies are timeless in their ability to lead "bride and groom, their families, and all those assembled to think sober thoughts about God's commands concerning marriage and to plead for His grace to fulfill those commands." The best way to have a God-glorifying wedding is to pattern your ceremony after the one in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Bayly notes it's been the model for God-glorifying weddings across the English-speaking world for nearly five centuries.
If this is the message of your ceremony — that you are getting married according to God's design (Genesis 2:18–25) for the purpose of procreation, companionship and as a remedy against sin (from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer) and are aware of your inability to do any of this apart from His grace — He will be glorified, and your marriage will be built on a sure foundation.
Certainly bride and groom are essential to a wedding, but they shouldn't be the focus. God designed weddings to make marriages. When a man and woman come together in marriage before God, it's God who’s making the marriage (Matthew 19:4–6). He is worthy to receive the glory.
I pray your wedding day will be truly and rightly glorious.
P.S. I’d love to see a photo or two!
Copyright 2011 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.