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You Do? I Do! : Preaching For Weddings

By David N. Mosser
For most Protestant pastors the phenomenon of a bride or a groom (or both) requesting the pastor to preach a "little sermon" during their wedding ceremony is perhaps a rare occurrence. Despite the infrequency of such desires in the past, however, I have found in my own ministry this seemingly newfound need. Although not limited to, but especially for young couples, the wedding sermon or homily furnishes a pastor an opportunity to place the wedding not only into the context of worship, but in fact, place matrimony directly into the context of the Christian faith.

Could this be a reaction to the common notion that Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe outlined in their research? A report on their work notes that, "Traditional social forces, such as the family, religion, and the workplace, used to pressure men toward marriage, but that is no longer the case. . . . With the relaxation of social pressures, coupled with general silence about unmarried couples living together, 'men can relax their timetable indefinitely.'" (from "Wedded Bliss Not a Priority for Bachelors" by Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, 26 June 2002). The article goes on to share many of the commonly held assumptions about marriage that have little, if anything, to do with the church's biblical and theological understandings of Christian marriage.

The repetition of the wedding sermon requests indicate to me that at least some couples sense the need for recapturing the sacredness of marriage. It is not necessary to provide a long litany of statistics about marriage difficulties in our society. Pastors know from long and conceivably agonizing experience the statistics all too well. Instead, I want to believe that a rethinking of the wedding as a worship service in the minds of at least those who enter into this sacred covenant is a positive sign. Let us all live in the hope that this is the case.

From the Beginning

It may seem odd, but from the pastor's perspective the success or failure of a wedding ceremony as a worship occasion rises or falls during the initial moments of the wedding rehearsal. So, I would first insert a succinct word about the wedding rehearsal. The rehearsal is the best and most logical place to set the tone of the wedding. It is the one place where the pastor can help participants understand early on in the process just how important and sacred the service of marriage is.

While we all want a beautiful wedding, want to preach a meaningful sermon, want to celebrate a family's love for its children, what is most vital in the wedding process in the resultant marriage. The rehearsal allows the pastor to say things to the wedding party that helps them understand their role as authentic worship leaders in this sacred worship rite of the church.

I suggest that the wedding sermon also offers a pastor the unique opportunity to speak to the theological vitality of marriage in a culture that, at best, looks upon marriage with some ambiguity. Worse than that, because of the culture in which we live, too many people think of marriage as a hopeless exercise in optimistic futility.

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