In my years as an ordained minister, I have conducted my fair share of weddings. I continue to do them, but I can’t say they’re my favorite pastoral duty.
These days, I limit the weddings I officiate to those of close friends or alumni of our mission organization. If I had a choice between officiating a wedding or going to the dentist, it would be a tossup.
There is so much pressure on the day of the wedding: the dress, the decorations and the venue. But in the end, most people come for the cake.
Added to the struggle are the issues of dealing with the bossy mothers or mothers-in-law, the photographer, the best man, the maid of honor and the organ grinder with the monkey. Weddings don’t take up an afternoon but weeks or months, including counseling, rehearsal and then the wedding itself. I am not sure many pastors enjoy doing weddings.
I heard another pastor tell the story of a young bride who was becoming extremely stressed and nervous over the plans of her upcoming wedding. She found herself crying often, and it had become harder and harder for her to make decisions. She went to her pastor and talked to him about how she was falling apart with all the preparations.
This wise old pastor told her to search the Scriptures and find a verse she could memorize and claim as her own. It would bring her peace and comfort. In a few days, she went back to the pastor, thanked him for his advice and told him God had given her a verse.
“And what is it, my dear?” he asked.
The bride-to-be smiled and quoted 1 John 4:18a: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” She found such comfort in the verse that she called the catering company and asked if they could put it on her wedding cake. On her special day, it would remind her that it was God who got her to this place.
About a week before the wedding, she received a call from the catering company. “Is this really the verse you want on your cake?” they asked. Yes, she confirmed, it was the one she wanted, and after a few more questions, they agreed to decorate the cake as requested.
The wedding day came, and everything was beautiful—until the reception, when the bride walked in to find the cake emblazoned with John 4:18a: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” One does make a difference.
I once performed a wedding with a young couple who, midway through the ceremony, were to walk over to one side of the sanctuary and light the unity candle. Their parents had come down the aisle earlier with lighted candles and placed them in a holder. During the service, the bride and groom picked up the candles representing each of their families and used them to light the main candle, signifying that the two had become one.
After lighting the candle, the two were to blow out the smaller candles while I read, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
As the bride started to blow out the candle with her veil still over her face, her breath pushed the veil out to touch the flame. The veil didn’t catch fire, but it started to smolder and melt. When the bride came back over to stand in front of me, I could see the place where the flame had touched her veil. As I wrapped up the ceremony, the hole grew larger and larger, and I got tickled. Right in front of me stood this beautiful bride, her nose and a big smile in the center of a widening hole in her veil.
It took everything I had to keep from cackling. When I pronounced, “You may now kiss your bride,” I wasn’t sure if the groom would lift the veil or just kiss her through the hole. He lifted the veil. I was never so glad to see a wedding end.
One wedding lost the “1” in front of John, and the other wedding went in the hole, but weddings are not about the perfect ceremony. They are about life, about learning to live with the good and the bad.
With the achievements and disappointments that come our way, through it all, the love of God is being perfected in us. Good marriages don’t come from perfect ceremonies but from a perfect God. He is the one who “in all things works for the good” (Rom. 8:28b).
Even if we have a hole in one.