What Happened to the Church Wedding?

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with a long-time member of our church who has been homebound for some time. I was surprised to discover that she has been a member of the church for over 70 years. She and her husband were married in the church building. All her children, except for one, were married in the church building as well. She reminisced about the days when you just had a “cake & punch” reception in the hall. Then she asked me this question, which got me thinking: What happened to church weddings? Why aren’t young people getting married in churches anymore?

 Good question! I gave her the short answer, but I’ve got a longer one today.

I’ll tell you what happened to the Church Wedding. The internet kicked Church Wedding in the groin. Then, Facebook hit Church Wedding upside the head with a 2×4. Instagram came along and put a gun to Church Wedding’s temple and put it out of its misery. And Pinterest fitted Church Wedding with cement shoes and dumped its body in the river, where it will likely not be seen again. That’s my graphic way of saying social media killed the church wedding.

The rise of social media in our culture has led to an environment where everything must be compared and evaluated with everything else like it out there. Social media provides an easy way to do that. So, every event in a relationship, from the proposal to the bridal shower, the wedding day preparation to the final moments of the reception, must be packaged in a presentable manner that will gather likes, heart-eyed emojis, and shares for days, weeks, and months to come.

A guy can’t propose these days without picking out the most picturesque location. He must hire a photographer and collect enough smartphone wielding friends to record video, live stream on Facebook, and send the appropriate Snapchats with filters. The wedding hashtag must be figured out even before the wedding date is chosen. The shower, sometimes multiple showers, have themes that are brought to life by the friend with the best Pinterest board for the occasion. With ideas aplenty, bachelor and bachelorette parties are well documented in all the right locations with all the right props. The wedding pictures, which will be looked upon for years and years to follow (hopefully hanging on the walls of a very happy home), must look like they were processed right out of the bride’s dreams.

Most church buildings don’t fit the mold. They are built and designed for worship. Even more contemporary buildings are designed to have a simple, comfortable feel. The reception hall is nice for the cake and punch reception or a potluck reception. But, it won’t do as a backdrop to the party of the year planned after a lot of weddings these days.

While my words may carry with them an air of criticism, I recognize that this isn’t a bad thing. It’s different from my experience, and that’s OK. Of course, when I got married 25 years ago, I had only heard rumors of the internet and there were no phones that could fit in your pocket. I admit I have been sucked into the social media trend, as well, with the “Pastor’s Perspective” photo that I’ve taken of every bride and groom I’ve married over the past 6 years. It began when I realized that I have the best view of a newly married couple when they are at the pinnacle of joy on their wedding day. The moment after they have been pronounced husband and wife is the perfect opportunity to capture the joy of the day. I use it to remember the couples I’ve married and a reminder to pray for them. Many couples have said my photo of them is the best picture from their wedding. So, I get it. I’m part of it.

My problem with this phenomenon really has nothing to do with the phenomenon at all. I have no preference at all where a couple decides to get married or why they decide to get married there. I’m already married. So, what you decide to do with your wedding day is on you. Most often, it’s finances that keep the Pinterest fantasy weddings in check anyway. I have a problem with couples that put more emphasis on the aesthetic of the wedding than they do on preparing their hearts and minds for the lifetime of work ahead of them in marriage. Couples that find success in marriage don’t find it because their engagement photos were so cute or because they had a clever wedding hashtag. Great marriages are built on a foundation of God’s Word not the foundation of the church’s building. They’re held together with love and respect, empathy and sacrifice.

In my experience, those weddings can happen anywhere, and there may or may not be any photo documentation to speak of. Either way, it’s the work you put in after the wedding day that matters. So, have your cake and punch or make all the Pinterest ideas come to life! Whatever suits you! Just remember a wedding isn’t the whole of a marriage, and the success of a marriage isn’t determined by the look of the wedding.

What about you? Why do you think people aren’t getting married in church buildings as much these days? If you’ve gotten married in the last 5 years, did you get married in a church building? Why or why not?

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