We’re approaching wedding season—full of June brides, scenic destinations, and as many gift cards and blenders as one heart could desire.
Yet as Matt Chandler points out in this excerpt from The Mingling of Souls (which happens to be May’s free book), weddings aren’t about the setting, the gifts, or even the bride and groom.
One of the greatest privileges I have as a pastor is officiating wedding ceremonies. It is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. There’s a special kind of energy present on a wedding day. It’s the rare occasion when all the people a couple loves are gathered in one room together. The people who have most influenced and shaped the couple’s lives have all assembled to celebrate this love that God has brought into their lives.
And while I enjoy all the aesthetic beauty that is produced on a wedding day—from the dresses to the decorations, from the desserts to the dance floor—I am most interested at weddings in the beauty underneath all the beauty we’re seeing. So at every wedding I’ve ever officiated, I have said these words at some point in the ceremony:
All of this is beautiful today: the candles and the dresses, the tuxes and the flowers. But there is something roaring underneath it all. And if we miss it, then today’s occasion will be shallow. Because the real intent behind all of this is that we might know and grasp God’s love for us, his pursuit of us, his romance of us, despite being a people who prefer what was created rather than our Creator.
What I’m trying to do at a wedding ceremony is [to] highlight the reality grounding the reality. If we don’t make the spiritual reality the main point, we’re actually going to miss the point. Because all the hard work that goes into the wedding day fades away. The cake gets eaten. The clothing goes back to the rental shop. The dress is stored away. The decorations are trashed or recycled. The flowers wilt. The reality of the marriage must remain long after the reality of the wedding has faded.
When I officiate, I draw attention to Ephesians 5:22–33, which explains what’s going on when a man pursues a woman and they enter into a covenant relationship together. In light of Paul’s words there (and elsewhere) on marriage, the covenantal union of a man and a woman is a shadow of God’s pursuing love and affection for his bride, the church. And what we see in a wedding ceremony is a shadow of God’s loving, merciful pursuit of us in Christ.
Therefore, it’s important to give God so much glory on the wedding day, to give him credit for the entire romance from beginning to end. We want to rejoice in this fact that “Day of Epiphany”1 occurred in the groom’s heart. Something clicked, and he wanted a woman. Yes, of course, that’s a biological impulse, but it’s a biological impulse because God invented human biology. The man’s desire for a bride exists to show us that God in Christ desired a people.
At a wedding we celebrate that a woman’s affections were won by this man. Similarly, we are celebrating that Christ wooed his people away from their idols, away from their self-reliance, and into his tender and loving care.
So when those doors swing open and all the people stand and gaze upon the bride in her dazzling wedding gown, they traditionally see her arrayed in white as a representation of her virginal purity. The bride may or may not actually be a virgin, but the white dress is a reminder that every sinner who comes to the Savior is made spotless before his presence.
The couple makes vows to each other because God has not just called them to profess romantic love to one another but to profess a particular kind of love, the kind that endures, that sticks, that commits.
The man promises to lead and sacrifice. The woman promises to trust and respect. Vows patterned this way reflect the truth of the gospel.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is not at the center of a wedding ceremony, it is likely not going to be at the center of the marriage. This would be a grave mistake, however, as marriage itself is designed to be a great reflector of that gospel.2
Keep reading in May’s free book, The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson.