Let me begin by saying that my wife and I had a nice wedding ceremony. Her wedding dress was elegant, and there were beautiful flowers, decorations, and delicious food and cake! No, it wasn’t a thirty thousand-dollar wedding, but we were indeed blessed, and as we look back there is nothing extra that we would have added to the celebration. I say that to clarify that I am not opposed to nice, ornate wedding ceremonies.
But there is something, or rather a lack of something, in many of our wedding ceremonies that we should find troubling. There is a lack of acknowledgement that a holy covenant is being made before the Lord on that day.
We see evidence of this lack when marriage vows are changed from “till death do us part” to “as long as love shall last.” We see the evidence when couples write their vows, vows that have absolutely no language of promise or commitment for the future but are simply a sentimental expression of their past stories and current feelings toward one another. We see it when there is absolutely no recognition of the Lord’s presence: no Scripture, no hymns, no church. The wedding day may be special, but it has lost its sanctity.
But marriage, and therefore the wedding, is meant to be something much different. In Malachi 2:14 we read that marriage is to be a covenant before the Lord:
“. . . The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” (emphasis added)
The Lord was rebuking His people for their faithlessness in marriage because they had forgotten these two important characteristics of marriage. They had forgotten that it was a sacred, promissory relationship that they had entered into. It was a covenant relationship that was to be a reflection of God’s own covenant love to his people. And, second, they had forgotten that God had been the witness. His holy name was affixed to their marriage license to legitimize the union.
If God rebukes the marriage that forgets that it is a holy covenant made before Him, then He must certainly have a rebuke for the marriage that never recognizes these things in the first place.
A Different Picture
So how do we bring this focus back to the center of the Christian wedding? Do we set up guidelines for wedding ceremonies in our churches that keep out the secular and focus on the holy? This would certainly be wise. However, I think it begins long before the wedding day gets there, before the planning of the ceremony, and even before the engagement or dating. It begins with churches teaching from Scripture what a wedding and a marriage are supposed to be.
From the time they see their first movie, the minds of our sons and daughters are filled with the world’s ideas of marriage. Therefore, we ought to be more diligent to fill them with the picture of marriage that we see in the Word of God.
Let us teach young women that the wedding day is a continuation of the first wedding ever performed, where the Lord brought the woman to the man as the perfect helper fit for him. Let’s teach young men that when they see their bride, the feeling in their heart should be “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:23). Let’s teach them that this union is a covenant, a relationship consisting of promises that are never meant to be broken.
Let’s teach both men and women that God formed the marriage in making them one, and that He is the primary witness of this union. Let’s teach them that marriage should glorify God as a picture of the relationship of Christ and the church, with Christ giving His life selflessly in love for His bride, so that He might sanctify her and present her holy to himself (Eph 5:25–28). In turn, the bride, the church, is to lovingly submit herself to Christ (Eph 5:22–24).
If we are faithful to teach what marriage is from God’s Word, then our weddings may (by the grace of God) better reflect Scripture instead of the movie screen. Perhaps the language, music, and imagery that Christians choose to incorporate into their ceremony will proclaim that this is no mere party, nor is it a formality, but rather a holy moment. It is a time when two redeemed people ask for God’s grace as they make a covenant with each other—before God—that they will reflect the covenant love of Christ for the church.
Perhaps by filling young people with the Word of God, weddings will be less about self-focused sentiment and more about the truth that our marriages are from God’s creative hand, that they continue by His loving grace, and that they exist unto His great glory!