Two young girls were talking about marriage one day, and one asked the other how many husbands they were allowed to have. Her friend said, “Sixteen. Four better, four worse, four rich and four poor.”
I remember some of the 200 plus weddings I’ve officiated better than others, but there is one that stands out in my mind for the wrong reasons. I performed that wedding as a visiting pastor in the bride’s church. Let me say up front that many churches have wedding coordinators that provide valuable assistance to the wedding party and make the officiant’s job much easier. They distribute flowers, help wedding party members and families know when to be seated, when to line up, when to process and generally provide hospitality.
One of the most helpful functions for a wedding coordinator, especially with a visiting pastor, is to help organize the wedding rehearsal. But not always. I normally begin my wedding rehearsals by introducing myself to the wedding party, offering a prayer and some general comments including a statement meant to reassure and relax everyone like this: “Weddings have lots of moving parts; so it’s very likely that at least a thing or two won’t go exactly as planned tomorrow, but that’s ok. The bride and groom will still be married even if one of us makes mistake.”
At the wedding in question I got only to the part of my speech where I said that it was likely something could go wrong when the wedding coordinator interrupted me and said very sternly, “Nothing will go wrong when I’m in charge.” I know she meant well, but that kind of expectation of perfection only added more stress for the wedding party. I was taken aback to say the least, and I don’t remember what I said to her, but here’s what I wish I had said.
“You know, weddings are like marriage itself. Both are complicated and can be stressful. We’re all fallible human beings, and we make mistakes. People from out of town get lost on the way to the church and are late. Sometimes a groomsman forgets his tux. I had one wedding when the flower girl’s parents thought the grandparents were bringing her and vice versa, and she was left home alone. She was ok, but we had to hold up the wedding till someone could go back and get her. Jesus even went to a wedding where they ran out of wine!
Marriage is messy too. If a bride and groom were exactly alike, one of them would be redundant. Intimacy is hard. Sharing a bathroom and a kitchen, not to mention a bedroom with a new partner can be dicey. No matter how much we love someone else there are times when they will disappoint us and we them. So when the wedding starts a few minutes late or the best man can’t find the wedding rings, or the ring bearer picks his nose, that’s just practice for real life. Marriages work best when we can laugh at our mistakes and forgive our partner’s. So let’s relax and enjoy this celebration no matter what surprises may occur tomorrow or in the next 50 years!”