Dear engaged Christian couple,
I’m honored that you would ask me to officiate your wedding and walk you through pre-marital counseling. It’s been a joy to see your faith in Christ, your service together in the church, and your love for each other grow.
During our counseling meetings, we’ll talk through things like the lifelong commitment of marriage, becoming a new family, having and raising children, budgeting and finances, and sexual intimacy. These tend to be the sensitive areas that have the potential to bring great joy, but also, at times, great pain in the years to come.
But I’m writing today about your wedding — about the day, the service, and the celebration after.
There seems to be a subtle, but growing, pressure on couples to make their wedding day better than others, a kind of competition to have the Pinterest dream wedding. No one says it outright (it would sound ridiculous). But it happens, and it seems to me like it happens a lot.
I recently picked up a wedding magazine. In it, there were advertisements for reception halls everywhere from rural barns to Victorian ballrooms. The dresses and photography promised to be “unique,” “custom,” “special,” “perfect,” “unforgettable,” and, of course, “of your dreams.” And to help you plan your perfect wedding, one article offered a checklist of eighty-six “essential” items.
The pressure is real, and it will be for you. Society’s sermon points are clear. When your wedding pictures finally drop on social media, you want them to be better than the wedding pictures your maid-of-honor posted when she got married. Your table centerpieces need to be altogether trendy but not cliché; homespun, yet done with elegance; original, yet exactly what people expect a centerpiece to look like. And what about the gifts for your wedding party? Better start logging hours on Etsy. The venue could be a church, but it can’t be an ugly church. And the reception should probably be outdoors, but only at exactly the right time of year. It all seems so compelling online and in the popular imagination, but silly when we step back and think about what this day is really about.
Your big day should indeed be special, but not on the world’s terms.
The truth is that your wedding day will happen so fast, it will mostly be a blur. And your family and your real, Christ-following friends don’t care about the competition. They care about you. They don’t want to see you go deep into high-interest credit card debt for the next four years, or prolong your engagement so you can save money for your wedding. They want to see you be a happy and faithful husband or bride.
Even more important than them, God doesn’t want you to be distracted by all these peripheral things. Your greatest joy in life will be to know Christ and make much of him, and now you get to do that together in marriage. Your wedding day should be a day to display the joy he’s given you in himself (John 15:11), not an exercise in trying to create your own do-it-yourself happiness. A bride beautifully adorned is a biblical picture of the greater Bride — the Church — and her Groom — the Christ. But as Tim Keller argues, when a good thing (in this case, an extravagant wedding) becomes an ultimate thing, we walk the aisle with idolatry. In short, while Pinterest might be a good tool, it is a terrible master, and a worse god.
It’s a warning for pastors, too. I feel the same pressure when I officiate. There’s something in me, something ugly, that longs to preach Ephesians 5 better than it’s ever been preached: a sermon that engages the un-churched, dazzles the mature Christian, and rescues the estranged couple off the cliff of divorce. In short, I want to preach a Pinterest dream wedding sermon. But I can’t. And that kind of sermon wouldn’t please God anyway.
We all need to fix our eyes on Jesus. I’m asking you to aspire to something greater than the Pinterest dream wedding. Skip the competition, the stress, and all the extra expense. You’ll find the surpassing joy of making your wedding day not finally about you, but about the ultimate purpose of marriage, the displaying of the gospel: the love of a holy God for his sinful bride. And as we do, we’ll show the world a better way to marry, so that they, too, might one day “enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).