Messy Pastoring: To Perform or Not Perform a Wedding

Last Saturday I was planning on attending a wedding, as a guest, but less than two hours before the ceremony was to begin I received a phone call from the maid of honor, informing me that the person who was supposed to officiate the ceremony was in the emergency room, and requesting if I would conduct the ceremony. I chose to fill in, but now that I have more than one minute to reflect, I can ask myself if I ethically made the correct decision.

Several years ago, Keith Drury posted When to say “No” to performing a wedding. My personal list of convictions regarding weddings is not as long as Dr. Drury’s, however, in that moment on the phone, I had to decide if I was going to go down my checklist or turn their water into wine. Here is what I knew, did not know, and had to guess:

  • I knew this was a marriage between a man and a woman.
  • I personally knew the bride. She attends my church, and I know she is a Christian.
  • I had only met the groom once, at a church potluck.
  • I knew they had been friends for a long time.
  • I did not know if they had pre-marital counseling.
  • I did not know if the groom is a Christian, but . . .
  • I did believe that the bride was mature enough and was willing to wait for the right Christian man.
  • I did not know for certain why I was called (but I had reasonable guesses) since I knew there would be other, more senior, pastors at the ceremony.

In this case, I was willing to take some action in faith. Practically, I figured that they were going to get married that day, somehow by someone, and I could either be the pastor that saved their day or helped to ruin it. I may have broken one or more of my rules, but because I acted in love, I now have standing to come to them and say something like, “Did you two have pre-martial counseling? Because if you didn’t I would really like to have a few sessions with you. I want your marriage to have a great foundation, and this crazy situation may have been God’s way of getting us together.”

Jesus replied, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (John 2:4). The wedding in Cana had nothing to do with Jesus . . . and everything. He was pushed and under pressure, and still chose to act out of love for his mother. Some people probably got drunk on the wine Jesus provided, but that did not stop him from blessing them with the miracle.

©2011 Paul Tillman

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