I have been involved in two destination weddings for the past three years. None of them have been exotic, but they still provide the opportunity to make several observations. I offer these not as criticism but as food for thought.
This first observation is not so much about the destination phenomena as it is about focusing on the party. Now, my Bible-reading friends will no doubt be quick to remind me that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding feast, so please, do not be prudish about a wedding party. And I would agree and even point out that his miracle turned the water into the best wine at the party. However, my point is that in most instances, much more effort is poured into the party preparation than preparing for the marriage. My first book, Three to Get Ready: A Premarital Counseling Manual, laid out seven sessions, a minimum of an hour and a half each. What was surprising is how many parents objected to the investment of time and expense.
Between 18-22, I was privileged to be invited to be a participant in nine weddings. Of course, there was some expense involved, but it was minimum. Then, of course, there was the time involved, but seven of the nine amounted to two round trips of perhaps twenty miles, two or three hours for rehearsal and dinner and the event with reception, another two to four hours.
However, even a modest destination wedding will require half a day of travel time each way: many times, expensive airfare and two to three nights’ accommodations. Two or three full days, I invested. It almost always requires a significant investment in the proper attire that accommodates the atmosphere and will likely seldom be a regular piece of the wardrobe.
An older gentleman said at a recent destination wedding, “This wedding cost me more than the entire cost of my wedding.”
In other words, if planning such a wedding, it seems appropriate for those getting married to provide a generous account for participants.
While most undoubtedly relative to the families, young people would do well to consider the added financial burden they are asking parents to embrace when they consider a destination wedding. In most instances, the use of the church building comes at the cost of janitorial services and a modest usage fee to cover air conditioning/heat.
I offered a blog recently considering the condition of marriage in American culture. The piece’s point was to bring to the readers’ attention how the culture over the past fifty years has dumbed down the sacredness of marriage. You can track it in the movies in the manner marriage is presented. It is casual. It is about the party. It is often not in the church, or the pastor conducting the ceremony will come across as a buffoon. Or there will not be so much as a reference to God. Even in the Hallmark traditional movies, marriage ceremonies are stitched together with major pieces left out.
Whatever happened to the church? When we were married, my wife was part of a very large church in the 1960s, and it did not offer much worshipful ambiance. Dogwood Baptist was a smaller sister congregation of several hundred whose sanctuary was very worshipful. It also required far less investment in flowers to add that feminine touch. In addition, it provided the church setting, which emphasized the event’s sacredness. The ceremony featured prayers, hymns, Scripture reading of the Old and New Testaments, and a homily. Our wedding was, in character, a Sunday Morning worship service.
The destination wedding I recently participated in included most elements but occurred in an outdoor venue. Yes, God created natured, but he also ordained the Temple as the place of worship. There is something about corporate worship in a place of worship that reminds us of the sacredness of worship.
A wedding ceremony conducted in the church also provides an opportunity to draw friends and family into the beauty of worship in the place of worship. Often these folks have not darkened the door of a church in years. Or they are part of a church that no longer honors the gospel, and their attitude towards an evangelical church has been disdainful. But they will attend and participate for the sake of family or friendship. Hence, an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Bringing the bride and groom together in a worship service and not just in a marriage ceremony enhances the opportunity to emphasize what this couple is about to do. For example, in marriage counseling, I frequently ask a couple, “What did you do when you got married?” The answer will be anything from, “Whatever the Pastor led us to do? To “We got married!”
I will then walk them through the process of entering three covenants. I explain that the first covenant, when I ask, who gives this woman to be married to this man, is not made with each other. But each is making a covenant with God to take the other as their spouse. This is the foundation of your marriage. You may think it was love, but from what you tell me, your foundation has crumbled if that is true. However, the covenantal foundation that you signed with God lasts a lifetime.
Now, when you turn and face each other, the pastor had you repeat your vows to each other, making a covenant with each other with God as your witness. The first covenant with God motivates you to keep your vows to each other even when you want to cut and run if you are walking in fellowship with Him.
The third covenant you make with each other is to wear the ring as a seal upon your previous two vows and wear it to tell the world, “Don’t mess with me; I am committed.”
A church-setting worship service wedding gives a sense of the vows’ scaredness.
As I said at the beginning, there is no intent of criticism in the piece for anyone who has had a destination wedding. Instead, this piece is intended to be an appeal built upon sound logic, like Jesus’ argument for not worrying in Matthew six. With the culture diminishing of value, beauty, and legitimacy of marriage, please consider doing everything you can through your marriage to lift high the God-given institution of marriage. Embedding your wedding in the context of a worship service in a place dedicated to the worship of God is one significant way of doing so.
Keep the focus of your wedding, the joining of two lives into one flesh as God has ordained, establishing a new family unit that represents the relationship of Christ to His church.
To God be the glory! Amen.