“MY WEDDING day was one of the most meaningful and joyful days of my life,” said Gordon, who has been married for almost 60 years. What makes the wedding day so meaningful for true Christians? It is a day when they make a sacred promise to ones they dearly love—their mate and Jehovah God. (Matthew 22:37; Ephesians 5:22-29) Yes, couples planning to marry want to enjoy their wedding day, but they also want to honor the Originator of marriage.—Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:5, 6.
How can a groom enhance the dignity of this happy occasion? What can a bride do to show honor to her husband and to Jehovah? How can others who attend add to the joy of the wedding day? Considering some Bible principles will help to answer those questions, and applying those principles will minimize possible problems that could detract from this special occasion.
Who Is Responsible?In many lands, a minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses may legally officiate at a marriage ceremony. Even in places where the legal step must be performed by a civil agent, a couple may want to have a Bible-based talk. In such a talk, the groom is usually asked to reflect on the God-given role of the family head. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Accordingly, the groom has the prime responsibility for what happens at the wedding. Of course, the arrangements for the wedding ceremony itself and for any gathering that may follow are usually made well in advance. Why may this present challenges?
One reason is that relatives on one side or the other may attempt to exert a dominant influence on wedding plans. Rodolfo, who has performed many weddings, notes: “At times, the groom comes under tremendous pressure from relatives, especially if they are helping to pay for the wedding reception. They may have strong opinions as to what should happen during the wedding ceremony and at the reception. This could undermine the groom’s Scriptural role as the one responsible for the occasion.”
Max, who has been performing wedding ceremonies for more than 35 years, observes: “I have noticed a trend toward the bride taking the lead in deciding what will take place at the wedding and at the reception, with the groom having less to say.” David, who has also officiated at many weddings, comments: “Grooms may not be used to taking the lead and are commonly not sufficiently involved in the wedding preparations.” How can the groom effectively shoulder his responsibility?
Communication Increases JoyFor the groom to carry out his responsibility for wedding preparations successfully, he must communicate effectively. The Bible pointedly says: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” (Proverbs 15:22) However, much frustration can be avoided if the groom first discusses wedding preparations with the bride, family members, and others who can give sound Bible-based advice.
A couple should communicate openly but respectfully while planning their weddingYes, it is vital that an engaged couple first discuss with each other the plans and possibilities. Why? Well, listen to some comments from Ivan and his wife, Delwyn, who have been happily married for many years but who came from different cultural backgrounds. Recalling their wedding plans, Ivan says: “I had definite ideas about what I wanted for my wedding, including a reception with all my friends present, a wedding cake, and my bride wearing a white wedding dress. Delwyn, on the other hand, wanted a small, simple wedding with no wedding cake. She even considered wearing something other than a wedding gown.”
How did this couple work out these differences? By kind, honest communication. (Proverbs 12:18) Ivan adds: “We studied Bible-based articles on the subject of weddings, such as those published in The Watchtower of April 15, 1984.* This material helped us to have a spiritual view of the occasion. In view of our different backgrounds, we had to compromise in several areas of personal choice. We met somewhere in the middle.”
Aret and Penny followed a similar course. Regarding their wedding day, Aret says: “Penny and I discussed our different desires for the wedding, and we were able to reach a harmonious agreement. We prayed for Jehovah’s blessing on the day. I also sought the advice of our parents and some other mature married couples in the congregation. Their suggestions were very helpful. As it turned out, our wedding was beautiful.”
Maintaining Dignity in Dress and GroomingIt is understandable that both bride and groom want to be well-dressed for their wedding. (Psalm 45:8-15) They may spend time, effort, and money on appropriate clothing. Which Bible principles can help them to choose what is both dignified and attractive?
Consider what the bride wears for the occasion. While tastes vary from person to person and from country to country, the Bible’s admonition is applicable everywhere. Women are “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” That applies to Christian women at all times, and it certainly includes the wedding day. The fact is that a joyful wedding does not require “very expensive garb.” (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3, 4) How satisfying when this advice is applied!
David, mentioned earlier, comments: “Most couples endeavor to follow Bible principles, and they deserve commendation. There have been cases, though, when the gowns of brides and bridesmaids were immodest, being very low-cut or see-through.” In his meeting with the bride and groom beforehand, one mature Christian elder helps them to keep a spiritual perspective. How? By asking them whether the attire they have in mind would be modest enough to wear to a Christian meeting. Granted, the style of clothing might be different from regular meeting attire, and what is worn for the wedding may reflect local custom, but the level of modesty should accord with dignified Christian standards. Even if some in the world might view the Bible’s moral code as restrictive, true Christians are content to resist the world’s attempts to squeeze them into its mold.—Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 4:4.
“Rather than viewing the clothes or the reception as the most important thing,” says Penny, “Aret and I focused on the ceremony, the spiritual part of the occasion. It was the most important part of the day. The special things I remember are, not what I wore or ate, but whom I spent the day with and the happiness I felt at marrying the man I love.” A Christian couple do well to keep such thoughts in mind as they plan their wedding.
The Kingdom Hall—A Dignified VenueMany Christian couples desire to have their wedding ceremony in a Kingdom Hall if such is available. Why do they prefer this? One couple explained their reasoning: “We realized that marriage is Jehovah’s sacred arrangement. Getting married in the Kingdom Hall, our place of worship, helped impress upon us right from the start that Jehovah needed to be part of our marriage. Another benefit of having the ceremony in the Kingdom Hall instead of at another location was that it showed our nonbelieving relatives who attended how important worship of Jehovah is for us.”
If the congregation elders responsible for the Kingdom Hall give permission for the wedding to be held there, the couple should advise them in advance of preparations that are being considered. One way the bride and groom can show due respect for those invited to the wedding is by being firmly resolved to arrive at the scheduled time for the wedding. And they will certainly want to be sure that everything is done in a dignified manner.# (1 Corinthians 14:40) They will thus avoid the outrageous displays that mark many worldly weddings.—1 John 2:15, 16.
Those who attend the wedding can also show that they have Jehovah’s view of marriage. For example, they would not expect the wedding to outdo other Christian weddings, as if there were some competition as to whose wedding was more elaborate. Mature Christians also realize that being at the Kingdom Hall for the Bible-based talk is more important and beneficial than being at a wedding feast or a gathering that might follow. If time or circumstances will permit a Christian to be present for only one of the two, being at the Kingdom Hall would certainly be preferable. An elder named William says: “If guests are needlessly absent from the Kingdom Hall but are present at the reception later, this shows a lack of appreciation for the sacredness of the occasion. Even if we are not invited to the reception, we can show our support for the bride and groom and give an excellent witness to nonbelieving relatives at the wedding by attending the ceremony at the Kingdom Hall.”
Joy That Lasts Beyond the Wedding DayThe commercial world has turned the wedding celebration into a huge industry. According to one recent report, the average wedding in the United States “costs $22,000, or half the average [annual] income of an American household.” Influenced by commercial propaganda, many newlyweds or their families incur for that one day a burdensome debt that they carry for years. Is such a course a prudent way to start one’s marriage? Those who do not know or do not care about Bible principles may opt for such extravagance, but how different it is among true Christians!
By limiting the size of their wedding to what is reasonable and affordable and by focusing on the spiritual aspect of the event, many Christian couples have been able to use their time and assets in line with their dedication to God. (Matthew 6:33) Consider the example of Lloyd and Alexandra, who have continued in the full-time ministry for 17 years since their marriage. Lloyd comments: “Some may have viewed our wedding as a rather simple event, but Alexandra and I were very pleased. We felt that our wedding day should be, not a financial burden to overcome, but a celebration of Jehovah’s arrangement to bring great happiness to two people.”
Alexandra adds: “I was in the pioneer ministry before we were married, and I did not want to give up this privilege just to have an extravagant wedding. Our wedding day was very special. However, it was only the first day of the rest of our lives together. We applied the advice to avoid concentrating too much on the act of getting married and have sought Jehovah’s guidance in our life of being married. This has definitely brought us Jehovah’s blessing.”%
Keep the spiritual significance of your wedding day uppermost in mindYes, your wedding day is a special occasion. The attitudes and actions evident on that day can set a pattern for your married life for years to come. Therefore, rely on Jehovah for guidance. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Keep the spiritual significance of the day uppermost in mind. Support each other in your God-assigned roles. You can thus lay a solid foundation for your marriage, and with Jehovah’s blessing, you will have joy that lasts well beyond your wedding day.—Proverbs 18:22.