Christian Weddings Should Reflect Reasonableness
THIS is what I’ve wanted since I was a little girl,” said the prospective bride in Florida about her wedding.
She was thrilled over what was planned, including her costly lace-and-pearl gown, with its thirty-foot train. The traditional wedding music would flow from a ten-piece orchestra as she made her entrance. And what an entrance it would be! Emerging from an artificial “cloud” emitted by a hidden device, she would descend a twenty-one-step staircase. Down she would come, between gilded cages of doves, to her waiting bridegroom.
Following the ceremony, the reception or wedding feast would include champagne and an eight-foot-tall wedding cake. When the bride began to cut the cake two lovebirds would be released to flutter through the ballroom. How did the prospective bridegroom react to all this? Unnerved by the extravagant plans for the $25,000 affair, he fled the scene nine hours before the wedding!*
You probably have never seen a wedding as lavish as that one. Yet you likely know that weddings and associated events range from modest to mammoth, from simple to sumptuous, from God-honoring to godless.
How, then, is a Christian who loves God and desires to be guided by the principles of his Word to decide what to arrange for his own wedding? Where does he draw the line? Complicating matters further, one author observed: “No social custom is as deeply rooted in tradition and bound by convention as a wedding.” Should the Christian try to follow all the traditions, some of them, or none of them? Just what is a reasonable Christian wedding?*
True Christians know that when they marry, the ceremony must fulfill the requirements of the secular law, whether that be in a religious service or a civil one such as at a courthouse or registration office. (Luke 20:25) Throughout the earth Jehovah’s witnesses recognize this and so fulfill local requirements. Yet questions remain as to certain customs followed at the wedding ceremony. Just what should Christians do?
A key quality needed to gain the proper view of this subject is reasonableness. This is something that Christians should display in all their activities, but it is especially needed in connection with social functions involving so many people and traditions. Under inspiration the apostle Paul wrote fine counsel to Christians in his day, and remember, they also got married and had wedding celebrations. He counseled: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Phil. 4:5) Emphasizing this, the disciple James said that wisdom from Jehovah is “reasonable.”—Jas. 3:17.
Christians who are spiritually mature and who appreciate the importance of applying Scriptural principles evidence this by manifesting reasonableness. Without needing a long list of specific rules, they exercise care that the spiritual aspects of the wedding are not overshadowed by mere ceremonial matters.
However, not too long ago a wedding in Brazil turned out to be an extremely elaborate affair in view of the financial means of those being married, and unusually opulent for the modest Kingdom Hall where the Bible talk was given. For many there, the excessiveness of the arrangements, the luxurious gown, the abundance of bridesmaids and attendants and other details, drew so much attention that those things eclipsed the fine counsel being offered from the Scriptures. Truly, when reasonableness is lost, other things are lost by many persons, including the bride and groom.
Since there are so many traditional practices, should a Christian try to avoid all the wedding customs of his area? Not necessarily. He can be selective. Sometimes marriage customs have a practical basis, such as marrying on the day when most people are off from secular work, or in the cooler part of the day, after “siesta.” Or a tradition may be a touch of local color; one would hardly expect that persons in their hometown in Korea would dress as do natives of Lebanon, Finland or Fiji.
Of course, some customs are unscriptural and so they are objectionable to Christians. In many lands odd customs are followed so that the bride and groom or their guests will have “good luck.” Jehovah’s witnesses do not worship the god of Good Luck. (Isa. 65:11) Nor do they follow traditions that would lead observers to think that they do. Other customs are plainly acts of false worship. So one planning a wedding does well to examine practices common in his area and analyze how people view them locally. If it is acknowledged that a custom is connected with false religion or “good luck,” then the Christian will shun it.—2 Cor. 6:14-18.
Other traditions are unreasonable or unloving. In many lands it is common to throw rice at the bride and groom. What is the point of the custom? “Some peoples believe the rice is food to keep evil influences away from the bride and groom. Some say it assures the couple fertility.” (Science News Letter, June 8, 1963, p. 357) This illustrates that there are often a number of opinions as to the origin of a certain custom. But whatever the background of this one, do Christians normally take food and throw it at their friends, dirtying up the street in the process? Also, consider the matter of loving your neighbor as yourself. Would Christian love move one to play “practical jokes” to the embarrassment of a bride and groom? Jesus said: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31; 10:27.
Then there is the tradition of the wedding ring. A study of the subject would likely leave you confused as to the origin and meaning of the wedding ring; the claims are many, the facts muddled. Even if the Bible does not directly mention wedding rings, it is plain that Jehovah’s servants could wear rings. (Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22) But what if people in one’s land believe that a wedding ring symbolizes a couple’s unbroken faith, love and devotion? Christians do not attach any symbolic meaning to a wedding ring, even though they cultivate these qualities in marriage, and even if many in the world are hypocritical in claiming to manifest such. A wedding ring ensures nothing. It merely serves public notice of married estate. It is not improper for a Christian to give evidence of his or her married status by wearing a wedding ring, be it on the right hand, as in Germany, or on the left. Yet this is not a necessity where it is not a legal requirement. So the couple can decide what to do in accord with their financial situation and personal preferences.
Hence, in regard to wedding customs one can be selective, asking oneself: What is the significance of the custom in this locality at present? Will it offend others? Is it loving? Is it reasonable?
One decision that the couple will have to make before the wedding is what to wear. One’s wedding is a special occasion, so attention is ordinarily given to looking joyful and attractive. Yet this does not mean that one must wear a certain type of gown or suit. One does well to consider local styles, expense and personal tastes.
In Bible times the bride and groom often wore very fine garments. (Ps. 45:13, 14; Jer. 2:32) Even the holy city, New Jerusalem, is described as “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2) Thus elegant marriage costumes are not unscriptural. Yet, they are not necessary for a happy wedding. Spiritual apparel is more important.—1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
If an engaged couple wanted to purchase a special gown, for example, and the circumstances allowed for that, it would be for them to decide. Would it be reasonable, though, to buy such an expensive costume as to cause a financial burden for themselves or others? One Christian in northern Europe relinquished the treasure of serving as a special full-time minister to do secular work so as to get a fancy wedding dress. Which do you believe would have been of more lasting value to her? And what about those in the bridal party, if there is one? Will they feel obligated to buy expensive clothing because of the richness of the bride’s dress?
The matter of apparel can be handled in various ways. While many have bought or rented “wedding” garments, some brides have enjoyed using the gown of a dear friend or relative. Others have received great satisfaction from making their own bridal outfit, possibly in that way being able to have a garment that could be used on other occasions in the future.—Prov. 31:13, 22.
And it is perfectly proper for a couple to wed in their most attractive regular clothing, having it neat and clean for the occasion. Some have done this so as to be able to use the money saved to help them to enter the pioneer ministry or to continue in it. Others who might be in position to have an elaborate wedding may personally desire to have a “quiet wedding” because of the criticalness of the times, “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:12.
While well-intentioned friends and relatives may have ideas as to how they would arrange the wedding, and some of the suggestions based on experience can be helpful, the couple getting married should let their wedding reflect their own preferences and plans for the future. And if there are small differences in ideas, the bride and groom can resolve them in a loving way. That should be the case with matters after the wedding, both recognizing God’s arrangement of headship in the family. So this would be an opportunity for them to show their ability to work together in love and according to godly principles.—Eph. 5:22-33.
‘But what about wearing white, and having a veil?’ some have wondered. As with other traditions, ideas about the meaning of these vary greatly. To some in Germany, a white gown signifies virginity. Others there believe that it prevents evil spirits from recognizing the bride. In Japan some view the white gown as a symbol of mourning; the bride ‘dies’ to her parents and remains with her husband until death. However, to many persons throughout the earth, the white dress is simply a quaint tradition with no particular meaning. A Christian bride need not think that a white gown is essential, nor that it is universally forbidden.
A veil may be viewed similarly. The Scriptures do not disapprove of a woman’s wearing a head covering in the presence of her husband-to-be. (Gen. 24:63-67) So there is no objection to wearing a bridal veil as an attractive article of clothing. However, if there is considerable local feeling as to a false religious or superstitious significance of a bridal veil, the couple should consider that.
There is no need to discuss other examples involving wedding garments. The point to keep in mind about wedding apparel, whether it be luxurious or simple, is that it is not the most important thing! It should not be allowed to be a source of stumbling or unhappiness. (1 Cor. 8:13) It will soon dim in one’s memory, but the happiness of a reasonable Christian wedding will endure as husband and wife apply the Scriptural counsel received.
THE CEREMONY ITSELF
This mature emphasizing of the rewarding spiritual aspects of the wedding applies especially to the ceremony itself. There is no special form of ceremony necessary, beyond what the law of the land might require. So most details can be worked out on a personal basis. This includes questions such as whether the wedding party will enter the hall in a certain way, whether anyone will “give away” the bride, whether there will be a bridesmaid and friend of the groom (“best man”) or others sharing in the ceremony, and other such matters that are actually just minor technicalities. (Ps. 45:14; John 3:29) If any one of them would, if added, rob the occasion of its proper joy, why include it?
Before a wedding takes place at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses, the Christian couple should have the approval of the ministers responsible for the hall as to the arrangements. These mature men do not desire to impose their personal tastes on the wedding. But they are concerned that nothing be done in connection with the Kingdom Hall that would interfere with the meetings held there or that would stumble or disturb those in the congregation or community. They keep in mind the counsel: “Make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others.”—Phil. 1:10; Ps. 133:1.
But this should create no difficulty, since the Christian couple getting married endeavor to apply that same Bible counsel. For instance, the bride and groom can show their principled love and consideration for those attending the wedding by setting a time for the ceremony and then striving to be on time. This punctuality, as recommended in Jesus’ illustration of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:10-12), will mark the Christian wedding as different from many in the world, where disregard for others and idolizing of womanhood are often displayed by the bride’s purposely being late.
If this is the first time worldly relatives of the couple attend the Kingdom Hall, they may well be impressed by such differences. They may note that if music is used it is based on Scriptural themes, taken from the songbook used by Jehovah’s witnesses, and not the traditional marches involving secular music. And especially should they be impressed by the beneficial marriage talk based on God’s inspired Word.
Yes, Jehovah’s witnesses are willing to be different from the world in many avenues of life, so they do not feel compelled to study books outlining how weddings “must” be performed. They realize that the worldly weddings described often turn out to be extravaganzas, prestigious affairs that leave those involved exhausted, disappointed and debt-ridden. And at such a wedding so much time and attention are taken up by material things and formalities that the deep spiritual significance of the wedding is lost. In contrast, at weddings, as elsewhere, mature Christians manifest the balance and reasonableness they obtain from studying God’s Word by being moderate, thoughtful and loving. Thus, they let their “reasonableness become known to all men.”—Phil. 4:5.
Saturday Evening Post, August 13, 1966, p. 29.
Social events connected with marriage, such as the wedding feast, will be considered at a later occasion.