Find Balanced Enjoyment at Wedding Feasts
1, 2. (a) Why should we give attention to wedding receptions today? (b) How necessary are receptions?
YOU probably have seen ample proof of the prophecy being true that in “the last days” people are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Evidence of this can easily be seen in the way many view wedding feasts or receptions and the way they act at them.* What should our view of these be? Should Christians avoid holding or attending wedding feasts? Or is the point that to be “lovers of God” we need to avoid certain pitfalls?
2 No matter how common it is locally to hold a social event right after a couple’s wedding, Christians certainly are not under any Scriptural obligation to do so. Some couples prefer instead to gather with just their immediate family or a few very close friends, perhaps enjoying a private meal with them. But having or attending a wedding feast cannot of itself be equated with being “lovers of pleasures,” for Jesus and his disciples attended such a celebration in Cana.
3. How common were wedding feasts in Biblical times?
3 A wedding is a time of rejoicing for the newlyweds, and their relatives and friends. Joyous wedding feasts have long been common. (Genesis 29:21, 22; Judges 14:3, 10, 17) Because the Jews were familiar with wedding feasts, Jesus could use them in three illustrations. (Matthew 22:2-14; 25:1-13; Luke 14:7-11) Even the final book of the Bible says: “Happy are those invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage.”—Revelation 19:9.
4. What have many wedding feasts been like?
4 God’s servants in the past—including Jesus and his disciples—found balanced pleasure in wedding feasts. Thousands of Christians in our time have also done that. An unbelieving relative who attended one in South Africa said: “I didn’t know that the Witnesses have such nice weddings. We are tired of all this drinking and loud music that goes on at weddings nowadays.” Many, many Christian receptions would qualify for similar commendation.
5. Problems of what sort have arisen?
5 However, pressure from the world to become “lovers of pleasures” is strong. Thus some Christian elders report:
“A number take advantage of [a wedding feast] to unwind. They reason that there are not many such opportunities, so they want to make the most of it to let off steam, to give free rein to desires that are held in the rest of the time. It is not surprising that the atmosphere is turbulent.”—Europe.
“It appears that a marriage celebration consists of a talk, eat a bite and then dance until the wee hours of the morning. Some feel that at receptions they can drink more than usually, and often they drink too much.”—Latin America.
“A wedding feast may include ‘dancing till daybreak.’ Some of these affairs are truly worldly—boisterous, with much drinking and worldly dancing. Many endeavour to make a showy display with expensive dress and numerous cartons of beer.”—Africa.
6. We can learn what about Jewish feasts from a remark made in Cana?
6 Most people know that at the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus turned water into wine. Recall, though, this point: “When, now, the director of the feast tasted the water that had been turned into wine . . . , [he] called the bridegroom and said to him: ‘Every other man puts out the fine wine first, and when people are intoxicated, the inferior.’” (John 2:9, 10) He did not say that at this particular feast the guests got “intoxicated.”* In fact, it is unthinkable that Jesus would countenance drunkenness and add to it by making more wine. Still, this man knew that overdrinking was common at Jewish wedding feasts.
7. What should the Christian consider about serving alcohol?
7 At some receptions the hosts have not served any alcohol because overindulgence was so common in the area, and so as to avoid tempting any guest who had had a drinking problem. Certain African brothers even stated that serving no alcohol made for a “pure Christian wedding.” And it is true that not having alcoholic beverages may be advisable where community sentiment is strong against Christians’ consuming liquor. (Romans 14:20, 21) Still, balanced evaluation is needed. Ask yourself, Was the feast that Jesus attended ‘impure’ because wine was served? The Bible condemns drunkenness, not moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages.—Proverbs 23:20, 21; 1 Peter 4:3.
8, 9. (a) If alcoholic beverages are served, how can moderation be maintained? (b) What did one elder say about the problem?
8 If a couple wishes to have alcoholic beverages at their reception, it is wise and considerate of them to give due attention to moderation. (1 Timothy 3:2; Matthew 23:25) For example, at the feast in Cana, how were the guests served? Evidently by “those ministering.” (John 2:5, 9) Thus a couple may designate people to serve (and perhaps limit quantities of) drinks. Of course, at any Christian reception, there should be nonalcoholic beverages for those who should have, or may prefer, such.
9 An elder in Central America commented: “A problem has been that the receptions are too big, so there is no way to control all who attend. Sometimes worldly people have crashed the parties, bringing with them bottles of liquor and causing a scandal.” So who will provide control or direction? How many will attend? What will take place at such feasts?
Direction From Whom?
10. Following what Biblical indication may contribute to better control at receptions?
10 At the feast in Cana, there was a “director of the feast.” (John 2:9) Similarly, at receptions today a capable, responsible brother may be authorized to oversee details. Being familiar with the newlyweds’ wishes, he can provide direction for the musicians, waiters and others, or can consult with the couple and then follow through. That may include overseeing the attendants. Together they would be able to assist the guests and deal with any ‘party crashers.’ Bearing on the matter of control, note in Jesus’ illustration what occurred with a guest who showed blatant disrespect at a wedding feast.—Matthew 22:11-13.
11. What should be considered in selecting someone to assist the couple in directing matters?
11 At many worldly receptions the manager of a hall or the band leader acts as master of ceremonies. He may know the normal routine and likely he has some practiced speech or suggestive jokes. But if you want a reception that harmonizes with Christian principles, would you have some worldly man—who was neither your spiritual brother nor a member of your family—address your guests or be the focus of attention? Would that fit the counsel to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to [you] in the faith”?—Galatians 6:10.
12. What indication does the Bible give as to who mainly is responsible for what goes on at a reception?
12 Sometimes the parents of the bride or groom help the couple by paying for the wedding reception. The parents thus may feel that they should have a major voice as to who will be invited, the type of food and drink that will be served or what the program will be. The Bible does not say who paid for the feast in Cana, but it does tell us that when an important matter developed “the director of the feast called the bridegroom.” (John 2:9) At a wedding reception the groom is the Scriptural head of the newly formed family. (Ephesians 5:22, 23) Hence, while he lovingly ought to consider the wishes of his bride on this special day, and their families’ wishes, he primarily needs to accept responsibility for what will go on and for what will not.
Who Will Be There?
13. How large were wedding feasts in Biblical times?
13 We do not know how large wedding feasts were in Bible times. Samson’s included his parents, 30 acquaintances of his bride and likely other friends or relatives. (Judges 14:5, 10, 11, 18) Guests at Jewish weddings were fellow worshipers from the town as well as visitors. Jesus and his disciples, from elsewhere in Galilee, went to the feast in Cana. The amount of wine that was produced suggests a sizable group.—John 2:1, 2, 6.
14, 15. How have some arranged for “open house” receptions, but what problems can develop?
14 Today, customs and preferences differ as to the type and size of receptions. In some areas it is customary to have open house; all fellow Christians who are friends of the newlyweds are welcome. They may be served light refreshments, the object being not to satisfy everyone’s appetite but to let them extend good wishes and enjoy warm association. Elsewhere at gatherings open to all friends, many people bring some food—a cooked dish, a beverage or a dessert. All who thus volunteer have the joy of contributing, and everyone can enjoy a varied meal without a burden falling on the couple or anyone else.—Acts 20:35.
15 From what we read in Jesus’ illustrations, it seems that often at Jewish weddings a large meal was provided. (Matthew 22:2; Luke 14:8) Of course, having a regular meal for all guests at a reception today requires much planning. A mother in North America related this sad experience:
‘When it became known that there was a wedding, young people from a wide area showed up for free food and dancing. While those who were invited were at the Kingdom Hall, others went to the reception hall and took all the available tables. When I arrived I could have cried, for there was no room. I was terribly hurt at the lack of love shown by crashing a wedding and eating up food put out by the host for close friends and relatives.’
16. We can learn what from the Bible as to wedding guests?
16 Mary, Jesus and his disciples did not crash the feast in Cana; they ‘were invited.’ (John 2:1, 2) Jesus said, “When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast . . . “ (Luke 14:8, 9, 16, 17) In the illustration of the marriage of the king’s son, Jesus also spoke of “those invited.” (Matthew 22:3, 9, 10) Moreover, when an invited man showed disrespect, attendants were directed to put him out. In another parable, five virgins who wanted to share in a marriage feast were actually prevented from entering the door. (Matthew 22:11-13; 25:10-12) So it should not seem strange if a reception is restricted to invited guests and that these be properly attired. And it is understandable that a host’s generosity need not cover people whose primary concerns are food and pleasure.—Philippians 3:18, 19; Ecclesiastes 5:11.
17. What difficulty has arisen about the size of wedding feasts?
17 If a couple or their relatives wish to provide a full meal for many guests, that can involve quite an expense. (Compare Mark 6:35-37.) From the Pacific comes this report:
“There is a tendency to overdo receptions. Some go into debt to put on a big feast, thus starting off married life in debt. Often there seems to be a desire to avoid losing face, so they put on a reception that is beyond what they can afford.”
How sad when a young couple begins married life burdened with debts that can strain their relationship. Or how would they feel knowing that their parents faced a problem in paying off the major expenses of a large reception? Of course, worldly people might assume a staggering wedding debt out of a prideful desire to impress others or to save face in the community. (Proverbs 15:25; Galatians 6:3) But should that be true of Christians, in view of what we read at Luke 12:29-31?
18, 19. (a) Why may some have decided to have large receptions? (b) How should we react if we are not invited to a friend’s reception? (Luke 14:12)
18 The motivation behind some very large feasts has been a desire to match or outdo others. Elders in West Africa commented:
“Some go into heavy expenses over refreshments. The one spreading the most costly wedding feast is the pacesetter. This has caused problems for those not courageous enough to be different. The showy display of one’s means may stumble others and trying ‘to keep up with the Joneses’ is not necessary.”—See 1 John 2:15-17.
19 Others have felt pressured into a mammoth reception for fear of causing offense. They imagine that if certain acquaintances are not invited, these will be hurt. Hence, more are invited than is wise. Honestly, though, who of us would want our friends to be so afraid of slighting us that they would get saddled with debt and perhaps miss out on the full-time ministry? If we are not invited, how much better to trust that they maturely weighed all factors, including finances. Their not inviting us may even reflect their confidence that we are mature and will not be quick to take offense. (Ecclesiastes 7:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) We still can share their happiness by attending the Bible-based wedding talk, which is the more important part. If we held that in lower esteem than the reception, might we be turning into “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God”?—2 Timothy 3:4.
20. Limiting the size of one’s reception may avoid what sort of practices?
20 Being reasonable about the size and cost of receptions also helps to avoid undesirable practices. For example, desire for money has moved a few to buy special cloth for wedding garments, then to ask the wedding party to purchase it from them at a higher price. Guests at some receptions had to “buy” pieces of the cake or “purchase” a dance with the new bride, pinning money on her dress. Such emphasis on money may also underlie guests’ flaunting their money by “spraying” (throwing) money on the musicians or making large gifts so as to get special seating near the newlyweds.—Luke 14:8-11.
Help All to Find Enjoyment
21. What role does music play in wedding feasts?
21 During the Maccabean wars a Jewish wedding procession was met by a group “with tambourines and musicians.” (1 Maccabees 9:39, The Oxford Annotated Bible; compare Psalm 45:8.) Today, too, music often is included at wedding receptions. It can add to the Christian enjoyment of the occasion—or it can take away from it. Why may the latter be so? In a number of cases the music has been very loud and unrestrained. Some musicians like disco-type music, or they may revel in wildly showing off their abilities. But a Christian reception is not the place for either of these. Can guests, young or old, enjoy Christian fellowship if the music is so loud that conversation across a table is impossible?
22. How can problems about music be reduced?
22 Clearly, the music at wedding feasts needs careful planning and oversight, especially live music. It is preferable not to engage worldly musicians. If there are paid musicians, the bridegroom or the brother chosen should firmly explain to the musicians what music may be played, and what may not. (Exodus 32:6, 17, 18) It should be stipulated that no special requests from guests may be played without approval from the bridegroom or from the “director” of the reception. Because of common problems over the nature and loudness of live music, many couples have chosen to use phonograph records or tapes with the exact selections they want. They have had these played by an adult who will not be easily swayed by what is popular among immature youths.—1 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 5:14.
23-25. What other practical steps can newlyweds take to assure a pleasant Christian gathering?
23 Christian newlyweds want their guests to be able to look back on the reception with happiness. So if there is music and/or dancing, it should harmonize with Christian principles. If some people are asked to say a few words, those selected and what they say should fit a dignified Christian gathering.
24 In the parable of the ten virgins the feast began “in the middle of the night” because the wedding party had been delayed. (Matthew 25:5, 6) In another case, what Jesus said about the king’s having a feast ready and servants inviting people on the road indicates that the feast was in the daytime. (Matthew 22:4, 9) In modern times some receptions have gone late into the night, becoming more uncontrolled as mature Christians leave to get a reasonable night’s sleep. To prevent this, many balanced couples have scheduled a time for their reception to begin and a time to end. That way all can make their plans, including plans for appropriate Christian activity the day following an enjoyable reception.
25 A wedding reception can be a splendid occasion for proper and balanced Christian enjoyment. But what is its role in relation to what follows—married life as true Christians?
In some lands, after a marriage ceremony, all guests can attend a reception where soft drinks or coffee and pastry are served. Later the newlyweds, their family and some friends share a wedding meal at a home or a restaurant. Elsewhere the reception is a postwedding gathering—whether with snacks or a feast.
From the Greek methusko, meaning “get drunk, become intoxicated.” Some commentators argue that the word implies drinking just enough to dull the taste or to produce hilarity. Other texts do not support this view.—Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:45; Acts 2:15; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:7.
From the Foregoing, Do You Recall?
□ Why should Christians be concerned about receptions?
□ What is advisable as to alcoholic beverages at wedding feasts?
□ Who is responsible for what is done at receptions?
[Picture on page 19]
The director of the feast consulted with the bridegroom about the wine
Looking Beyond the Wedding
1, 2. Weddings in Japan present what instructive contrast?
TIME magazine (December 6, 1982) stated that in Japan weddings are a ‘$17,000,000,000 business,’ amounting to “an astonishing $22,000 per couple.” Yet “Japan’s divorce rate [is at] an alltime high; three out of ten couples will break up.”
2 In contrast, the newspaper Hokuu Shimbun said about a wedding of two of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Noshiro: “Both are zealous Christians, and based on that teaching they think, ‘The wedding can be simple but also one that has everyone’s blessing.’” Compared to the costly, elaborate weddings that are common, the simplicity of this wedding made it newsworthy. “Even so,” the newspaper pointed out, “the wedding was filled with the happiness of wishing the couple well for the future.”
3. How can your wedding day affect your happiness?
3 A couple’s attitude toward and the demands of a wedding can bear directly on their future happiness. Why? According to psychologist Dr. Sally Witte, “studies show that it’s not only stressful to have bad things happen to you, but good things, too.” Mental health experts indicate that getting married brings more stress on you than losing your job. Obviously, when the wedding is mammoth rather than modest, sumptuous instead