Winter planning for summer weddings is a lot of fun. It is always humbling when asked to serve a couple as the officiating minister for their wedding ceremony. Christmas time often leads to a few phone calls each year where someone on the other end of the telephone conversation says, “well preacher, you know what I’ve done.” One of the joys of my ministry over the past 30 years has been the privilege of knowing the individuals I am called upon to serve in marriage. It is not my custom to just unite folks in marriage who have a license in hand. Being mentored in ministry by older ministers, they shared some great stories from their experiences about such moments. I too have married some folks that I didn’t know personally, it comes with territory. Either way one thing for sure, I enjoy getting to know folks and serving people is one of the ways I am able to fulfill God’s call on my life.
One of the things I enjoy about winter wedding planning is that the weather outside can be cold, snowy, icy and just dreary, but the planning is on a furious hot trail as things are being planned, confirmed and on the move in every direction. There are a few things that must be done nearly immediately if you have selected a wedding date already. No. 1: wherever this wedding is going to take place, it’s best to get that reservation made. The truth is your wedding day is special but depending upon the day, and location, there could be 10 other couples thinking the same thoughts. Even in small towns like ours scheduling conflicts occur and before you know it someone has to change a date. No. 2: best to secure your photographer, florist, and catering service collectively all at once or at the same time if possible. These folks only have so many resources and the biggest hurdle to overcome is that we’ve yet to figure out how to clone them to be everywhere when many folks need their skills and training all on the same day. Let us just call these experiences a part of the joys of planning.
Ministers who officiate in wedding ceremonies do so in one of two distinctive ways. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” I have used this scripture to challenge myself to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. Counseling a couple is a privilege and the greatest opportunity we each have through grace is the opportunity to become a Christian. I have been blessed over the years to see several make the decision to ask Jesus into their hearts through our time together in discussion of marriage and wedding planning. When we as a minister unite a couple who are both Christians this type of wedding is distinctively Christian because of faith. To know if you have witnessed a Christian wedding simply listen to the pronouncement of the minister. When we say, I pronounce you husband and wife, under the authority given to me by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is your key or sign that the wedding was distinctively Christian. The other distinctive way in which we as ministers officiate in wedding ceremonies is through a civil union. With all the discussion in society about same-sex marriages many people hear the phrase “civil union” and think this is something new or a part of some specific agenda. Truth is we as ministers have been conducting civil unions for years. When individuals are not Christians there is no way to have a Christian wedding. You will hear the minister say “I pronounce you as husband and wife under the authority given to me by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” This is same phrase that judges and magistrates use in performing marriage rites. Unless they are licensed and ordained as a minister of the Gospel they have no authority to perform a Christian ceremony. Nevertheless, this type of wedding ceremony is distinct and it is a “civil union.” Some of you reading this column if you have videos of your wedding day might go back and watch your wedding video to see how your pronouncement was made. This is a detail that most folks were never asked about or have never considered. The fact remains whether considered or not — it is what it is.
Wedding planning is taking place at a fast pace as spring, summer and fall will soon arrive. I am excited about the wedding couples I served in 2012 and with Valentine’s Day approaching, 2013 is going to be a lot of fun too. Until then...