Weddings That Honor Jehovah
The following article on Christian weddings was originally prepared in Ethiopia to provide helpful guidance in the Amharic language for many in that land who have recently become Jehovah’s Witnesses. It deals with some local customs and practices that may be different from those where you live. You will likely find the contrast quite interesting. At the same time, the article presents balanced Biblical counsel that you will see is applicable even if wedding customs differ in your locale.
“CHRISTIAN Weddings That Bring Joy” was the title of a fine study article in The Watchtower of April 15, 1984. The next article in that issue was entitled “Find Balanced Enjoyment at Wedding Feasts.” (For anyone contemplating marriage, there is additional wise counsel in the books Making Your Family Life Happy, chapter 2, and Your Youth—Getting the Best Out Of It, chapters 19 and 20.)* Many have become Jehovah’s Witnesses since those articles appeared, so we want to review some points that are particularly applicable to our area, as well as other suitable points that will help us to make weddings occasions that honor Jehovah, the Originator of marriage.
A question that might be considered first is, When should a wedding take place? Should the date be governed by the dates of the traditional local wedding season? Local belief is that any marriage concluded at any other time of the year would not be successful. This is a superstition without foundation, for many married couples who are happily and unitedly serving Jehovah did not marry during the traditional season. We do not believe in good or bad luck. (Isaiah 65:11; Colossians 2:8) We would not help unbelieving relatives to see the difference between truth and falsehood if we set a wedding date according to their superstitions. The fact is, Christians can get married in any month.
When a wedding talk is arranged after the necessary civil ceremony, it would be wise not to have a time gap of many days between the two events. If the couple would like to have a wedding talk in the Kingdom Hall, they should approach the congregation elders well ahead of time to request the use of the hall. The local elders will confirm that the arrangements for the ceremony would leave them with clean consciences. The time should be set so that there will be no conflict with any congregational activity. The brother chosen to give the wedding talk will meet beforehand with the prospective bridegroom and bride to offer helpful advice and to be sure that there are no moral or legal impediments to the marriage and that he is in accord with the plans for any social gathering to follow. The wedding talk should be about half an hour in length and given in a dignified manner, emphasizing the spiritual aspect. The wedding talk is definitely more important than any reception that may follow.
A Christian wedding is a good opportunity to show that we are “no part of the world.” (John 17:14; James 1:27) Our orderliness should stand out. This would mean that we would be on time instead of making people wait, possibly interfering with congregational activities. This is especially something for the bride to appreciate, since worldly relatives may urge her to be late—as if to enhance her importance. By being punctual a mature Christian sister can demonstrate that spiritual qualities, like humility and consideration, are important to her! Also, when a photographer is invited to record the occasion, orderliness is important. We do well to require that the photographer come dressed in jacket, tie, and formal trousers and that he does not interfere with the talk when he takes pictures. No pictures should be taken during the prayer. Our orderliness will honor Jehovah and give a fine witness. There is no need to try to conform to social formalities that would eclipse the real meaning of the event.
A reception is not a requirement for a successful wedding, but there is no Scriptural objection to such a happy occasion. However, such a gathering for true Christians should be different from worldly receptions marked by extravagance, heavy drinking, overeating, wild music, suggestive dancing, and even fights. The Bible categorizes “revelries” with the works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:21) It is easier to have proper control when it is not a very large gathering. There is no need to erect a tent to satisfy popular customs. Should some decide to use a tent for reasons of space or weather, this is a personal matter.
Experience has shown that a good way to limit the number of guests is by using specific invitations in writing. It is wiser to invite individuals instead of whole congregations, and as orderly Christians, we should respect such limitations. Written invitations also help us to avoid the embarrassment of having a disfellowshipped person show up at the reception, for if that happened, many brothers and sisters might choose to leave. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11) If a couple invite unbelieving relatives or acquaintances, these will no doubt be limited in number, giving more importance to those “related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Some have chosen to invite worldly acquaintances or unbelieving relatives to the wedding talk rather than to the reception. Why? Well, there have been cases when worldly relatives created such an embarrassing situation at a wedding reception that many brothers and sisters felt that they could not remain. Some couples have arranged to have only a small dinner with close family members and Christian friends.
In accord with John 2:8, 9, it is practical to select a “director of the feast.” The bridegroom will want to choose a trusted Christian who will see to it that orderliness and high standards are maintained. Where friends bring gifts, this should be done without “showy display.” (1 John 2:16) Music can be happy without being tainted by questionable lyrics, excessive noise, or wild rhythm. Many have found it best to have an elder listen in advance to the music to be played. Dancing may bring pitfalls, as many traditional dances are derived from fertility dancing and feature inappropriate sensuality. The “cake and champagne moment” has sometimes been a signal for worldly people to cut loose. In fact, many Christian couples have decided not to have any alcohol at wedding receptions, thus avoiding problems.
Since we want to honor Jehovah, we will avoid a showy display to attract excessive attention to ourselves. Even secular publications have spoken against the popular spirit of being extravagant. How unwise it would be for a couple to go into debt because of a fancy wedding and then suffer deprivations for years in order to pay for the expenses of that one day! Of course, any dress worn on the occasion should be modest and well-arranged, befitting a person professing to reverence God. (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) The article “Christian Weddings Should Reflect Reasonableness” (The Watchtower of January 15, 1969) made these interesting comments on apparel:
“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. . . . Would it be reasonable, though, to buy such an expensive costume as to cause a financial burden for themselves or others? . . . 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. And it is perfectly proper for a couple to wed in their most attractive regular clothing . . . 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.”
Similarly, the wedding party (the friends of the bridegroom and the female companions of the bride) does not need to be large. They too would not want to draw undue attention to themselves by their dress and actions. While a disfellowshipped person could be allowed to attend the talk at the Kingdom Hall, The Watchtower of April 15, 1984, said: “It would be unfitting to have in the wedding party people who are disfellowshipped or whose scandalous life-style grossly conflicts with Bible principles.”
Though Jesus attended a wedding, we cannot imagine that he would approve of the popular custom of having a cortege of cars circulate through town with much noise; police have even fined drivers for honking in a wedding procession. (See Matthew 22:21.) In all of this, rather than copying the showy display or typical actions of the people of the nations, Christians manifest the wisdom that is with the modest one.—Proverbs 11:2.
But what about attending weddings of neighbors, worldly fellow workers, or distant relatives and acquaintances? Each Christian must personally decide on this. It is good to bear in mind that our time is precious, since we need time for our ministry, personal study, and other family and congregational pursuits. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) On weekends, we have meetings and field service that we do not want to miss. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) The timing of many weddings conflicts with assemblies or special service efforts linked to the Lord’s Evening Meal. We should not permit ourselves to become distracted from making the same special efforts that our brothers around the world are making to attend the Lord’s Evening Meal. Before coming to a knowledge of the truth, we spent much time with worldly people, perhaps in circumstances that dishonored God. (1 Peter 4:3, 4) Now our priorities are different. It is always possible to wish a worldly couple well by sending a card or dropping in for a brief visit on another day. Some have used such occasions to give a witness, sharing some scriptures that are fitting for newlyweds.
A wedding where the spiritual aspects dominate over worldly ways will truly honor Jehovah. By making sure that they keep separate from the world with its superstitions and excesses, by not letting it interfere with regular theocratic activities, and by manifesting modesty instead of a showy display, Christians will enjoy the occasion. Moreover, they will be able to look back at the event with a good conscience and fond memories. With a display of wisdom and reasonableness, may all our Christian weddings give a witness to honesthearted observers.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Picture on page 24, 25]
Christians do not slavishly follow every local wedding custom