Buckle in. Here's a shock: as I sit here writing my monthly newsletter article I have marriage on my mind. Maybe it has something to do with long to-do list I have sitting next to me, with things to get done for my own wedding.
So the most basic question: What exactly is a wedding? Or, to put it another way, why does a wedding matter?
We most often think about a wedding as being all about the couple. It is when the couple says their vows to one another, it is their special day, it is a celebration of their love.
All those things are nice, but I think that they miss much of the point of the Christian wedding service. Vows could be said before a justice of the peace, or even in private. And ideally, any couple should be celebrating their love for one another every day.
Such an assumption about the importance of a wedding also misses point of Lutheran worship. The theological emphasis of Lutheran worship is not on the worshipers. No, wedding is first and foremost not about the bride or the groom, but about God.
In a service of marriage, we ask for God to bless the life of the bride and groom. No matter how nice the bride’s dress, no matter how cute the flower girl, the center of attention at a wedding is God. The most important part of a wedding is what God does. God blesses the couple, and the community.
But then the bride and groom, right? Nope. Secondly, a church wedding is about the community. Again, a couple could go off and get married in a private ceremony (and many couples do that—these are also holy and blessed marriages). But to get married in the church, surrounded by the community of faith, gives the community an important role to play.
Those who are gathered at the wedding act on behalf of the whole church, on behalf of the whole people of God. On behalf of the church, the community that is gathered witnesses the couple’s vows. But even more importantly, the community that is gathered also makes a vow, to support and care for the couple. A wedding is about the support and prayers of the community of faith.
Only at the very bottom of the list, the church wedding is about the vows of the couple. There—in the presence of God and the community—the couple declares their vows to one another. Blessed by God, blessed by the community, the couple goes out to live their life.
There are lots of different sorts of weddings—from big church weddings to services at the courthouse to an elopement. No matter the setting, these are the things that matter in a wedding service: God—community—and the couple.
This is an edited version of my September 2012 newsletter article for St. John Lutheran Church of Prairie Hill.