Weddings and Hope

I attended a first of a kind wedding for me. I have been to and officiated at almost any kind of wedding you can imagine.  Indoor weddings, outdoor weddings, very small weddings, very large productions, weddings where the children of the couple were present, weddings that happened really quickly because a baby was on the way, even a wedding where the couple’s dog was part of the wedding party. I have had to help the bride light the unity candle because (as I realized too late) she was too drunk to do it herself. That was when I started telling the whole wedding party at the rehearsal that if any member of the wedding party showed up drunk or under the influence of drugs for the wedding I would not perform the ceremony. I once did a wedding with two hours’ notice. The man was a member of the church I was serving, The woman was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in a nearby small town. At the rehearsal on Friday night they were told about some rules in that church that they did not like. The groom’s little sister could not light the candles because only boys could do that. The couple could not kiss at the end because it was not seemly to do that in church. And so on. They decided on Saturday that they did not want to put up with all of that so they had my clerk of session call me to see if I would do it. (I lived 25 miles away.) I told them “yes” and that we should start the wedding 30 minutes later than the advertised time so that their guests could get there from the church where they thought the wedding would be. They asked me what they should tell their guests at the other church. I told them they should say that there was a plumbing problem and we were moving the wedding to our church. Everyone who has been a pastor for any time could go on for hours with funny and sad and irritating stories about what has happened at weddings.

But I recently attended a first for me. It was the first non-religious wedding I have attended. It was not the first one I have attended at which the officiant had recently been credentialed to perform a wedding by filling out a form online. But the other one I attended had prayer and scripture lessons. This one was completely religion-free or so they thought. It sounded like something straight from Pinterest to me—kind of a blend of things someone heard in yoga class and some self-help sayings. Then the officiant said that he hoped their wedding would be blessed with joy, etc. I leaned over to my husband and said, “Blessed by whom?” At the reception the photographer was taking a picture of the couple signing the license with the officiant. I saw that they were clearly struggling. My husband went over to help them figure out who signs where. I told him he should probably remind the officiant that he also actually had to mail the license to the County Clerk if they wanted the marriage to have legal status.

The very rapid move toward having a friend of the couple get “ordained” to perform their wedding says something about the place of church and religion and faith in our society. For many couples, there is no longer any reason to go to church to get married, or having a minister remind them of God’s involvement in their lives, or of celebrating who and whose they are as they start another chapter in their lives. It is only one symptom of the marginalization of what, for many of us, is at the center of our lives.

I never really liked working for the State of Illinois or Iowa when I performed a wedding anyway. But, as we see the trend in weddings, it is another piece of evidence that it is our responsibility as congregations and the larger church to find ways to make our faith known in the world. Just because they do not need us to marry them anymore does not mean that people do not need to know that we bring hope into the world, hope that is built on something far beyond ourselves.



Susan D. Krummel (Sue)

Executive Presbyter

Presbytery of Chicago