I got to the Colinda and Brent's wedding an hour early today. I always do when I am speaking or officiating. I joked with the couple 'If you muck it up on a Sunday people remember for a week. If you muck it up at someone’s wedding they remember for the rest of their life.’ (I think Al Stewart taught me that).
There has been so much angst and planning gone into the flowers and the colors and the dresses etc. And relatively much less thought goes into the really important issue of what is actually said.
Although I wasn’t speaking today I spent a little time reflecting on how I put together a wedding talk.
- Understand that most of the guests are probably on a ‘first date’ with God and so therefore my aim is to ‘make a little ground,’ commending the experience of coming to church, engaging with God and his word.
- I want people to hear that it is possible to come into a relationship with Jesus as Saviour and Lord and that this will involve trusting and obeying.
- Keep it short. Remember they are here for a wedding not a lecture or crusade. No one really wants you go to over ten minutes.
- As you are the first speaker of the day you can cherry pick and showcase the most important information relevant information about the couples relationship with Christ and each other. I think it's really important to show that the couple are real and serious about their relationship with God and what that looks like in their life and how that will impact their marriage.
- Pick a passage that doesn’t take too much work to give context and background. I often will speak evangelistically from narratives, but rarely at weddings. I am much more likely at a wedding to pick a propositional text that can be illustrated from either the couple’s life or marriage etc.
- I generally ask people to pick a wedding passage that I haven’t spoken on before so that I am not just in my mind changing the names of the bride and groom from last time.
- See it as an occasional address rather than a regular exegetical presentation. Therefore this is not really the time for a detailed exegetical argument.
- I have chosen not to use the wedding to address the controversy over gender roles (I’ve not tackled Genesis 2 or Ephesians 5 at weddings). If people are to go home remembering something I would rather then remember the cross, rather than feminist controversy. That leads me to put emphasis primarily on the husband’s obligation in laying down his life for his wife as Christ did. (Note this doesn’t mean that I back away from complementarian wedding vows. I am very keen that people model their relationships on Christ and the church in a complementarian rather than egalitarian way. But I think that the time for teaching this is in the study beforehand rather than in what is a guest meeting.)
- Every talk needs an action point. What am I going to do. For the husband it’s love like Christ, for the non Christian guest it’s talk to the couple about what that means, for Christian guests it’s pray for them.
- I make sure that the couple are clear about what is going to be said and then encourage them to ensure that at the reception things said in church are backed up an reinforced. As everyone expects the minister in church to say Christian things, but it’s when the individuals say later on, off church property, that they believe the things that were said that people may really take notice.
I should say that although I have spoken at weddings about every six weeks for the last ten years. Only about four of them have been for people outside our ministry. So for those weddings their may be a different approach.