Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weddings, Marriage, and Pastor Mark's Thoughts On Them

I just love officiating weddings!  I also love participating in weddings as a groomsman, best man, usher, or whatever.  I believe in love, and I am old-fashioned in that type of thinking.  Still...there is something happily goofy about weddings that make me smile.

The first time I was ever in a wedding was in college; I was a groomsman for a friend named John.  I could not attend the rehearsal the night before, but I was assured it would be no big deal.  But when I arrived only 5 minutes before the wedding started (a little problem at the tuxedo rental store!), I found that everyone was a little upset.  The guy next to me coached me through the wedding.  I am pretty sure they can all laugh about it after more than 30 years...at least, I hope so.

In my own wedding, it took place in the little town in New Jersey where my wife's parents lived.  My whole family made the trip there, and it was actually a lot of fun.  Jeanne's two-year old niece, Catie, got loose during the service, so my favorite photographs are of her running around and trying to get someone to pick her up.  Also, after that service, my favorite memory was of my wife's grandmother meeting my grandmother: Bayonne, New Jersey meets Fentress, Texas.  We almost needed an interpreter!

When I was in seminary, I had two friends from my home church approach me about marrying them.  I could not do it - I was not ordained yet.  But the interim pastor, Jim, was an incredibly gracious man and a truly good sport.  This couple had a theme wedding in which we all dressed up in costume.  The groom and his groomsmen came as French musketeers.  The bride wore a middle-ages peasant dress and arrived in an open horse-drawn carriage with flowers in her hair.   Jim and I wore kilts complete with knives in leather holders attached to our leg socks (I still LOVE that photo!).  It was great fun!

I have officiated a few weddings since I've been ordained, and here are my own top ten personal rules and standards for weddings:

1.  I will go anywhere WITHIN REASON that the couple wants to go for their wedding: outdoors, in a backyard, in a field of wildflowers, on the beach in Costa Rica, etc.
2.  There are limits to #1: I won't jump out of an airplane, or do a wedding underwater wearing scuba gear (I have heard of both!).  Let's keep at least a little dignity, folks!
3.  If you want to enter dancing to music, I am game!  But let me hear the music first and see the dance moves.  Nothing is more painful to experience than inappropriate music or poor-quality disco moves at a wedding.
4.  If you are going to insist on including "obey" in the list of vows, then both parties need to be prepared to say it to each other.  That's fair.
5.  Speaking of things that are said at weddings, I usually leave out the line: "If anyone here knows of any reason why these two should not be wed, let them speak now or forever hold their piece."  This is awkward!  Also, when it's done, everyone kinda gives a sigh of relief.  I don't include it in the weddings.  Instead, I ask for the couple to declare their intention publicly to be married and that each of them comes to the ceremony free of any pressure or influence.  I also ask the families and the guests/witnesses to voice their support too.  That's good enough for me.
6.  At all weddings, I work for the Lord and the couple that is getting married.  I do not work for anyone else in a wedding, including anyone's mother, anyone's grandmother, or anyone's sister.
7.  Something unforeseen will happen during the wedding; it adds to the day.  Laugh at it now or laugh at it later.  It's not the end of the world and it never "spoils" the wedding.
8.  I get to say "no."  If I don't think the couple should be married - for whatever reason - I have the right and the obligation to say no.  Pressure does not work on me.  I take weddings very seriously, and I think everyone else should too.  So I claim the right to say no.
9.  I also get to say "yes."  If I believe the couple should be married - and perhaps there are folks who disagree - I have the right and the obligation to say yes!  Like I said, pressure does not work on me.  Family members, and especially former loves, do not get veto power!
10.  At the end, when I declare the couple to be married, I will say, "By the authority vested in me by the Lord Jesus Christ..." I do not say the authority is from the state of Texas, or the city of Houston, or even the Presbyterian Church (USA) - although all three DO give me authority.  My true authority to wed people comes from the Lord.

So that's what I think.  Check out our church web page (www.heritagepresbyterian.org) and click on the WEDDINGS button for more information.  If you want me to marry you, give me a call!

Like I said, I love doing weddings!



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