Well, that’s an awful title…

Maybe I should entitle this: Why Your Wedding Doesn’t Matter As Much, or Why Your Wedding Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think.  Meh, too late, I’ll just stick with that title.  It got you this far, didn’t it?

One of the great joys that I have as a pastor is being able to walk with a couple for one of the most important events in their lives.  To date, I have had the privilege and honor of officiating 11 weddings, with three more on the calendar over the next year and a half or so.

Weddings have become big business in today’s American society.  The wedding industry generates an estimated $40 BILLION in revenues every year, and some believe that number will only go up with the legalization of gay marriage in the United States.  The average wedding costs around $28,000.  That’s insane, right?

At the same time we live in a society where it is not uncommon to hear about a divorce rate hovering around 50%.  There seems to be some indication that the 50% is a gross over-generalization, and that the divorce rate is actually on it’s way down over previous decades.  This is good news.

I think some of what we have seen in a society with a booming wedding industry, and the proliferation of Pinterest-inspired insanity, is that for some, the focus is so much on the wedding that the marriage is put on the back burner.  And here’s where I come back to the title of this post, and this is something that I want to emphasis to the couples that I walk with during this time in their lives, your wedding is a great occasion.  It is a beautiful day.  It will be memorable, and it will be a ton of fun.  But… it’s only one day.  It’s an important day.  But it’s only the start to your marriage.  The wedding is not the endgame; it’s the beginning of something more.  In the grand scheme of life, your wedding doesn’t matter… nearly as much as your marriage.

As I work with couples and we plan the ceremony, one thing I tell them is that something will probably go wrong.  You may stutter when you speak.  You may feel like you are shaking from the nerves.  You may say the wrong words, or forget what you were supposed to say.  The reception hall may burn down (or, as happened last summer, a giant tree may fall down on the outside of the reception hall).  But…

At the end of the day, no matter what goes wrong, when everybody goes home, or stumbles to their hotel room, when all the decorations are down, when all the food and drink are consumed, no matter what went wrong, at the end of the day, the couple will still be married.  Husband and wife, embarking together on one of life’s greatest adventures.  And that’s what is really important.

When I meet with couples about their wedding, we only spend a couple of hours planning the ceremony itself.  We spend a lot of time talking about their history, handling conflicts, managing finances, hopes and dreams for the future because those are the important things.  Those are the details that make or break a marriage.

When it comes time for the dress rehearsal, I have three rules for the wedding party:

  1. Anybody that is under the influence of anything – drugs or alcohol – may not take part in the ceremony.  They do, however, get to tell the bride why they thought the drugs or alcohol were more important than her on her wedding day.  If somebody can’t hold off on drinking for a few hours before the wedding, then they have a problem that needs to be addressed.  Also, if it’s the bride or groom, there’s no wedding.  I can’t legally marry a couple when one or both are under the influence.
  2. If anybody besides the bride or groom have an idea of how the ceremony can be better, they should write it down and come talk to me about it on the following Monday in my office.  You may be surprised to hear that I haven’t had a lot of well-meaning, meddling people disrupt the flow of a ceremony that has already been planned with the bride and groom.
  3. From this point forward, what the bride and groom need more than anything is support from their family and friends.  Marriage is hard enough as it is.  There need not be any outside forces making the relationship more difficult.  If you have a problem with their relationship, keep it to yourself.  Nobody cares what you think.

That third rule is really the most important one.  The wedding is one day.  The marriage is for the rest of their life.

What if we paid as much attention to detail in our marriages as we did on the wedding plans?  What would the landscape of marriage in the United States look like?  What if we emphasized the relationship more than the event?  Because at the end of the day, one is far more important than the other.

It could be, when we focus on the relationship and not the event, some people would discover they only wanted the big party, and not the work that comes with the relationship.  That’s fine.  Throw a big, expensive party.  Don’t get married.

It could be, when they really think about it, that marriage isn’t the right next step in the relationship.  And that’s okay as well.  Don’t marry somebody because you feel stuck in a relationship, or because you are too scared to go out on your own once again, or because you think that’s what you should do.  Some relationships go as far as they can, and it becomes clear that marriage isn’t necessarily the next right thing to do.  If that’s the case, don’t get married.

In order to make a wedding work, people will pour hours and hours into the details of the wedding over a certain period of time.  In order to make a marriage work, people need to put that same kind of focus and attention to detail into everyday life with their spouse.

Your wedding doesn’t matter as much as your marriage.  So put the time, effort and resources into what really matters.