By Beverly Chao Berrus
Weddings can be stress inducing. Being a third culture kid, I have witnessed complicated and tense exchanges in families as a result of differing ethnic or cultural expectations on either side. Maybe the mounting tension is over a difference of ceremony or reception preferences, or over the issue of whether alcohol should be at the wedding, or the amount of authority a parent will have over the wedding decisions. Perhaps there was already existing conflict in the relationship between the parents and child, or one set of parents is divorced and there is some awkward family dynamic that affects wedding participation. And of course, there’s the always the ever present issue of who pays. There are so many scenarios that can bring out conflict in wedding planning. But a wedding is just as much a story and a growing experience as it is an event.
So for the benefit of brides, grooms, and parents everywhere who are having a difficult time in the wedding planning process, let me start by stating something you may not expect to read or hear:
Your wedding IS NOT just about you.
Let me explain.
So, Whose Day Is It?
For the Christian, it’s not really just the bride and groom’s day, nor is it just the parents’ day either. It’s a day to highlight God’s good gift of marriage and to picture on a smaller scale, the grandest wedding day that all of time is speeding towards. As blood bought Christians we understand what it means to have the ultimate bride price paid for us. Jesus is the focus of the great cosmic wedding that will take place at the end of time. And each Christian wedding since he came is a personal picturing of that wedding to come. Jesus should be as central in our weddings on earth as he will be in that final wedding day (Revelation 19:9).
So, my question to you is WHO is the focus of your wedding? And moms, who is the focus of your child’s wedding?
Beginning the Process of Leaving and Cleaving
Wedding planning offers a unique opportunity to begin practicing what literally happens in marriage—leaving and cleaving. No longer depending on mom and dad, the couple can slowly begin the process of taking on the roles that God has designed for each of them in marriage.
In Eden’s paradise and untainted by sin, God, the Father, gives away the first bride to her groom. It’s a pattern we have been emulating in weddings ever since. There, God’s design and purpose for male and female in marriage is established (Genesis 2:22-24).
The habits you practice now play a part in your impending marriage. I remember feeling confused as I planned our wedding between wanting to please my fiancé and my dad and mom. There’s a reason for that. I now know that I was at the beginning of this process of re-orienting my life around my future husband. Like a hibernating butterfly about to emerge from a cocoon, I had slowly begun the change of becoming someone’s wife, a role that takes priority over being a daughter.
This transition to marriage is good and allows you and your groom an opportunity to mature in the likeness of Christ. That means the man delights and grows in leading by the example of Christ’s sacrificial death and the woman delights and grows in submitting according to the example of Christ’s obedience.
As a couple, talk about the demands being made on you both, then hold these observations up to the light of God’s word and examine your motives and desires while being reminded that the focus of the wedding is still Christ. God should be the one to receive the glory above all else.
Honoring parents does not equal obeying your parents
In this particular season, there is a difference between honoring and obeying your parents. Scripture calls all of us to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12, Deut 5:16, Ephesians 6:1-3). Remember that in Eden, God established in the first wedding and marriage that the man would leave his family and cleave to his wife. The authority structure changes as a man marries. While he is still called to honor his parents, he is no longer a child required to obey them. Scripture says he leaves his father and mother to be united to his wife (Genesis 2:24). He has now been given authority over his own family, no longer under the authority of his parents.
There is a level of respect to be given to parents no matter what stage in life we are in or whether or not they’ve used their authority well in the past. We can lovingly acknowledge our parents’ requests, without promising to give them exactly what they want. And we can offer unfettered forgiveness to those who don’t seem to hear us. Just remember to ask yourself, who is the focus of the wedding?
There is a direct correlation between our dependence on God and our prayer life. Brides, pray for your spouse-to-be and for your parents! Parents, pray for your son or daughter and in-law-to-be. Pray that Jesus Christ would be the centerpiece of the wedding and that any notions of personal glory would be held at bay. Pray for a sacrificial love for the other and that offenses would be seen in light of the gospel. Surely our understanding of that great truth will bear upon every wedding planning decision, from the least to the greatest.
Beverly Chao Berrus was born into a family that practiced the worship of idols and ancestors. She became a Christian in middle school and was born again into the kingdom of heaven. Bev is married to Jason and they have one daughter, Sam. They’ve recently moved from Washington, DC to the United Arab Emirates, where Jason serves on staff at Redeemer Church of Dubai.
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