Wedding traditions, marriage commitments deserve honor
‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh …’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That powerful scripture has been repeated for centuries as a woman and a man meet at an altar to be married.
I am a great advocate of marriage and I even like wedding ceremonies and all the pomp and some of the nonsense that goes along with them. The summer of 2002 was filled with weddings (an average of one every two weeks) and two 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.
Since my work as a college professor creates lots of connections with young adults, I usually attend a wedding many weekends from late April until early September and usually a couple around Christmas and New Years. I have seen almost every possible variation on wedding ceremonies and the events that go with marriages, and I am still enough of a romantic to be fascinated by these occasions. Knowing how significant marriage has been in my life, the lives of my best friends, the lives of my children and the lives of former students, I am drawn to these pivotal moments when two people make vows and pledges that forever change the patterns and directions in their lives.
The national statistics about divorce indicate that our culture has failed in making marriage the bedrock of personal integrity and strength. Sadly, more and more couples, even with strong religious training from home, are choosing to live together without a legal marriage. Many people, according to marriage counselors and therapists, marry without understanding themselves, the person they are marrying, or the meaning of the vows they make. Many wedding ceremonies have dropped the phrase that describes marriage as lasting until death separates the couple.
The two golden anniversary celebrations I attended reflected the power of having a community of friends to support and encourage the couple. At both parties, there were friends who had also attended the wedding ceremony. Those parties revealed the support of grown children and long-time friends. Both celebrations were hosted by the children who described loving parents who had stayed close to them when they were marrying, having children and grandchildren. At one of these ceremonies, the daughter had become a primary care giver for parents who had health problems. These celebrations of longevity should be required attendance for couples in the first decades of marriage. Everyone who celebrates a golden anniversary will admit that there were many difficulties and troubles, but most confess that they would do it all over again.
One of the marriages I attended this summer was performed by the father of the bride in the garden of his mother’s house. The father explained that 25 years earlier his father has performed his wedding and that he was using the same script his father had used at that wedding. The power of such a tradition on a young couple is hard to estimate.
At another wedding, the older brother of the groom performed the ceremony. When the wedding party first assembled on the platform, the bride and groom presented special gifts with a poem to her parents and another to his parents and with speeches expressing their love and appreciation for their parents. Later in the service, the bride’s brother told about his sister and her love for telling stories, especially stories about the Christ. The groom’s best man, a childhood friend, told about the groom’s devotion to people and making every event an adventure.
At still another wedding, the groom’s party and the bride’s party had separate 10-minute prayer sessions half an hour before the start of the ceremony. The groom had written the whole ceremony and it was a long script including almost every traditional statement related to marriage. Because it was such a sincere expression of love and commitment I was deeply touched. The groom has one sister, and she was his attendant. The bride had one brother and he was her attendant. After exchanging vows and rings, the couple was encircled by parents and sibling while each father talked about his child, blessed the marriage and prayed for the couple.
A wedding ceremony that reflects the nature and character of those getting married makes a good beginning, but it does not guarantee success or reduce problems. Life is too complicated for any marriage to be trouble-free. And every stage of life with its attendant problems will bring new challenges and issues. A woman and a man who love God with all their being and value each other as God’s special gift will find richer and fuller lives together. Couples who lovingly and thoughtfully communicate about every event in their lives will weather whatever storms come. I hope marriage will be honored more and more until Christ returns.
Contact BAILEY McBRIDE at [email protected].