The Wedding Day—Happy but Demanding
THE Bible shows that it was Jehovah God—who knows humans better than anyone else—who presided at the first marriage. He instituted marriage as the basic foundation of human society. (Genesis 2:18-24) And in God’s inspired Word, the Bible, we find various principles that can help guide us when planning a wedding.
For example, Jesus said that Christians should ‘pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.’ (Matthew 22:21) Thus, they must abide by the law of the land. A marriage that conforms to legal requirements protects those involved in many ways, such as by defining responsibilities toward the children (including maintenance and education) and rights of inheritance. There are also laws designed to protect family members from abuse and exploitation.*
Once it is decided that a couple will marry and that the marriage will conform to Bible laws and principles as well as to the law of the land, what practical matters must be considered? Among these are the date and the type of wedding ceremony desired.
“It may be that the couple’s ideas do not fit exactly with those of the parents, and they may feel torn between choosing exactly what they want and following the family traditions,” says one book on the subject. What can be done? “There are no easy solutions to this, except to listen tactfully, talk problems through, and compromise. It is an emotional time for everyone, and a little forethought and understanding will go a long way to making the arrangements easier.”—The Complete Wedding Organiser and Record.
Although loving parents can do much to ensure the success of the day, they should resist the temptation to impose their own wishes. On the other hand, though final decisions will be made by the bride and groom, they should listen to well-intentioned advice. When deciding which suggestions to accept, the couple would do well to remember the Bible counsel: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:23, 24.
Preparations include various activities, from sending invitations to organizing the reception. “The more orderly this preparation is, the more foresight and planning are applied, the less will be the fatigue and tension,” says H. Bowman in his book Marriage for Moderns. “Under the best circumstances,” he cautions, “there may be some fatigue, and it is sensible to make every reasonable effort to minimize it.”
There will be errands to run and guests to entertain. Can friends or family make themselves available to help? Could some of the things that the bride and groom do not necessarily have to do themselves be delegated to other responsible ones?
A reasonable budget is essential. It is not reasonable or loving to expect a couple or their parents to go into debt to pay for a wedding that is beyond their means. Many who can afford a more elaborate wedding still choose to keep it modest. In any event, some couples have found it helpful to have a checklist for estimated and actual expenses. It can also be useful to have a list of deadlines for all the things that need to be organized. Entrusting deadlines to memory is very likely to be stressful.
How much will the wedding cost? Prices differ from place to place, but wherever you live, it would be wise to ask yourselves: ‘Can we afford all the things we have planned? Are they really necessary?’ Tina, a new bride, said: “Some things that seemed ‘indispensable’ at the time turned out to be unnecessary.” Consider what Jesus advised: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) If you cannot afford everything you would like, eliminate something. Even if you can afford more, you may still want to keep things simple.
In Italy, a fair held to promote services and merchandise available for weddings provided some approximate figures on how much the typical Italian bride may spend. Makeup and hairdressing, $450; hiring a luxury car, $300; a video of the day, $600; a wedding album (excluding photos), $125-500; flowers, from $600; banquet, $45-90 per head; gown, upwards of $1,200. Considering the importance of the event, the desire to do something special is understandable. But whatever is decided upon should be done with balance.
Though some spend a fortune, others are happy to economize—or do so because they have no other choice. “We were both pioneers [full-time evangelizers], and we didn’t have any money, but it didn’t matter,” said one bride. “My mother-in-law bought fabric for the dress, which was sewn by a friend as her wedding present. The invitations were handwritten by my husband, and a Christian friend lent us a car. For the reception, we bought the essentials, and someone gave us wine. It was nothing extravagant, but it was enough.” According to one groom, when family and friends give practical assistance, “expenses are greatly reduced.”
Whatever their financial situation, Christian couples will want to avoid any excess, worldliness, or ostentation. (1 John 2:15-17) How sad it would be if a happy event like a wedding should cause someone to fall short of Scriptural principles of moderation, which warn against overeating, overdrinking, or anything else that could impede a person from being considered “irreprehensible”!—Proverbs 23:20, 21; 1 Timothy 3:2.
Avoid the trend of trying to have a bigger and better wedding than others. Consider the extravagant veils two brides in one land wore—one veil was 42 feet [13 m] in diameter and weighed some 500 pounds [220 kg]; another was a thousand feet [300 m] long, requiring 100 bridesmaids to carry it. Would it be in harmony with the Bible’s counsel on reasonableness to imitate such spectacles?—Philippians 4:5.
Should Tradition Be Followed?
Wedding traditions vary from country to country, thus it is impossible to comment on all of them. When deciding whether they will follow a certain custom, the couple would do well to ask themselves: ‘What is its meaning? Is it tied to a superstition that is a good-luck or fertility wish—such as showering the newlyweds with rice? Is it connected with false religion or other practices condemned by the Bible? Is it unreasonable or unloving? Could it embarrass or stumble others? Could it raise doubts about the couple’s motives? Is it in bad taste?’ If doubts exist on any of these points, it would be better to avoid that tradition and, if necessary, let guests know of the decision ahead of time.
Joy and Emotion
Emotions on the big day can range from euphoria to tears. “The joy was so great, it seemed like a dream come true,” says one bride. But a groom recalls: “It was the worst but also the best day of my life. My in-laws were weeping in torrents because I was taking their firstborn daughter away, my wife was in tears seeing her parents crying, and in the end, I burst into tears too because I couldn’t take it any longer.”
Reactions like these should not cause alarm—they are due to tension. Nor should it be surprising if family relations, even between the couple themselves, are a little strained at times. “After all, it is probably their first experience at scheduling a major event together, and the excitement is bound to affect their relationship in some way,” says The Complete Wedding Organiser and Record. “It does not help to get upset because things are not going as well as hoped; to seek advice and support at a time like this will do wonders.”
One groom stated: “What I would have greatly appreciated and have always regretted not having was an adviser in whom I could confide and with whom I could share my inner feelings.” Who better to fill such a role than a mature friend or relative or another experienced person in the Christian congregation?
When parents observe their child leaving the family nest, they may experience a mixture of joy, pride, nostalgia, and trepidation. They should unselfishly realize, however, that the time has come for their child to “leave his father and his mother” and to stick to his mate and “become one flesh,” as the Creator purposed. (Genesis 2:24) Commenting on her own reaction to the marriage of her firstborn son, a mother recalls: “There were tears, but in addition to those of sadness, there were tears of joy for acquiring a truly dear daughter-in-law.”
To make the occasion pleasant and upbuilding, parents—just like the bride and groom—need to display the Christian qualities of cooperation, calmness, unselfishness, and tolerance.—1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Galatians 5:22-24; Philippians 2:2-4.
Some brides fear that something will go terribly wrong on their wedding day—that the car will get a flat tire and arrive at the ceremony late, that the weather will be foul, or that the wedding gown will be irreparably damaged at the last minute. Probably none of that will happen. However, be realistic. Not everything can run perfectly. Setbacks have to be accepted. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Try not to lose your sense of humor in the face of difficulties, and keep a positive outlook. Should something go amiss, remember that in years to come, you may laugh about it as you tell the tale. Do not let minor mishaps mar the joy of the wedding itself.
In this regard, various lands forbid bigamy, incest, fraud, marital violence, and the marriage of minors.
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“Some things that seemed ‘indispensable’ at the time turned out to be unnecessary.”—TINA, A BRIDE
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A SAMPLE PREPARATIONS CHECKLIST*
6 months or more ahead
❑ Discuss plans with future husband or wife, in-laws, and parents
❑ Decide on type of wedding desired
❑ Work out budget
❑ Check legal requirements
❑ Book reception location
❑ Contact photographer
❑ Choose (from existing wardrobe), purchase, or sew wedding garments
❑ Order flowers
❑ Choose and order invitations
❑ Send invitations
❑ Purchase rings
❑ Obtain necessary documentation
❑ Try on wedding outfits
❑ Confirm orders and appointments made
❑ Write thank-you letters for any gifts already received
❑ Start taking personal belongings to new accommodation
❑ Make sure all helpers know what is expected of them
❑ Arrange for return of any hired or borrowed items
❑ Delegate everything possible to others
This can be adjusted to fit local legal requirements and personal circumstances.
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“What God has yoked together let no man put apart”