A romantic proposal and a sparkling diamond ring have a way of filling the mind with thoughts of a long white gown and a church full of flowers. Most girls dream of their wedding day, usually taking mental notes as they attend weddings of friends and family members. Once they say yes, they have a thousand things to plan and organize. Her day to be a fairytale princess is finally arriving, and she has so many details to work out to make her special day perfect.
Weddings indeed should be beautiful. Throughout the following years, couples should look back on their wedding days and remember both their vows of commitment to each other and the joy they experienced as they looked into each other’s eyes and promised to love, honor and cherish as long as they both shall live. In the weeks leading up to her death, John’s mom repeatedly showed me her wedding album, wistfully recounting her happiness. John and I watch our wedding video each year on our anniversary to laugh about his struggle to lift my veil, to relive the intense romantic feelings and to recall the promises we made before the Lord. Certainly, weddings must be such special events that we never forget their wonder.
Sadly, many women invest so much thought and energy into weddings that they neglect to prepare for marriage. Oh, they attend the required premarital counseling sessions with their pastors. Usually. But they don’t always really pay as much attention to those sessions as they pay to the wedding coordinator. After all, the Lord has brought them the perfect guy. What could go wrong? Better to focus on orchestrating the perfect wedding…right?
Actually, I’ve been to perfect weddings that ended in divorce. I’ve watched friends walk down the aisle to proclaim that God had put them together, and I’ve watched them dedicate their marriage to Him. A few years later, one spouse would walk away. Most of those seemingly godly marriages fell apart under the strain of adultery. A few marriages died because of expectations that hadn’t been discussed before the ceremony. A couple marriages died because one spouse turned to a false religion. I’ve seen fairytale weddings that didn’t mean they lived happily ever after.
Well planned weddings don’t always guarantee well planned marriages.
Ladies, hear me on this. I fully support you or your daughters in planning beautiful weddings that honor the Lord. What troubles me is the tendency to overemphasize weddings to the degree that you underemphasize the importance of planning marriages.
Let me show you a passage that’s primarily about divorce, but demonstrates the serious nature of marriage:
3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples *said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” ~~Matthew 19:3-12 (NASB95)
Immediately Jesus corrects the Pharisees by taking them back to God’s Word in Genesis. The law of divorce in Mosaic law came as a concession to human selfishness, but God only tolerates it when one spouse commits an act of sexual immorality. Otherwise, marriage is intended to be permanent. As a matter of fact, He flat out tells them that remarriage after divorce (for the spouse that initiates the divorce) constitutes adultery.
I chose this passage because of the disciples’ reaction to this teaching. They reason that, since marriage is so binding, it’s better not to marry at all. Jesus counters that not everyone is suited to a lifetime of celibacy. Marriage, then, is the norm that God intends, and He intends it to be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Period. No escape clause. Therefore, Christians must not enter into marriage lightly. A fairytale wedding may be wonderful, but it only lasts until the bride and groom drive off together. Pretty quickly, they have to begin living together, and they learn that princes and princesses aren’t always very charming.
All too often, they discover that they hadn’t discussed their expectations and goals. He didn’t know she wanted children. She didn’t think he was really serious about being a missionary. Her job wants her to relocate? They never talked about whose career would take precedence. He wants to go to baseball games with his brother? She assumed that practice would change once they got married. It had never occurred to them to actually talk about such things before the wedding.
Even more serious, couples assume that, since they’re both Christians, they won’t have theological differences. If they attend the same church, theological differences are most likely minimal, but more and more frequently people meet online and one of them will necessarily have to start going to the other’s church. If a Baptist marries a Presbyterian, for example, they need to discuss whether their children will be baptized as infants or when those children come to their own faith. Many other theological issues could jeopardize a marriage. A couple absolutely must be sure that they agree on doctrinal distinctives that affect how they will worship together and how they will teach their children about the Lord.
Now, I understand that no couple can anticipate every possible contingency that will arise in marriage. Life throws all sorts of unexpected curve balls. And as people grow in the Lord, their theology changes. Obviously a bride and groom can’t predict everything that will happen to them. But they place themselves in grave danger if they go into marriage without seriously considering its possible implications. Unlike fairy tales, happily ever after requires lots of preparation.
John and I spent most of our engagement going through premarital counseling with my pastor. In addition, we studied the traditional wedding vows that we’d decided to take. We talked extensively about those vows, forcing ourselves to think about what “for better or for worse” might really entail. Some of our conversations sobered us as we realized that God would hold us accountable for the vows we planned to make. As a result, the wedding was thrown together at the last minute, and fell far short of the fairytale wedding I’d always wanted.
Do I regret skimping on our wedding? Rarely. After over 19 years of hospitalizations, struggles with Personal Care Attendants, financial hardships and those annoying small frustrations that eat at us, we still feel awestruck by the Lord’s kindness in putting us together. We believe that we used our engagement period to build a solid foundation for a marriage that is lasting far longer than even the most extravagant wedding would have.
Every night, just before going to sleep, John says, “Good night, my princess.” And I praise God for my fairytale marriage.Follow my blog with Bloglovin