I traveled to Orlando with my wife this past weekend to perform a wedding. As the ceremony was about to begin, I realized something quite unusual for me. I was actually enjoying the experience. This is quite evolutionary for me. For many years, weddings were the part of pastoral ministry I enjoyed the least. Now, suddenly, it is a pleasant experience.
Granted, it was a beautiful evening at Paradise Cove, a very nice venue on Lake Bryan. We even got to spend the night at a the Diamond Grand Beach resort on the other side of the lake before heading home the next day. But it wasn’t just the setting. Something else was different.
Clueless couples, demanding mothers, horrid musical requests, frequent late starts and irreverent guests contributed to my aversion to weddings in the past. Graciously, I never had to officiate at more than three or four a year, but even that was a monumental strain on my patience. I almost always declined the last minute invitations to rehearsal dinners and receptions, because I rarely enjoyed sitting off in a corner with strangers. I did my best and concealed my displeasure because I didn’t want to ruin someone’s special day. But it was tough.
But lately, it’s been OK. Better than OK, it’s been enjoyable. What’s up? Have I mellowed in my old age? Are the couples I’ve been marrying more savvy, polite, reverent and prepared? Probably not. So what’s up?
Well, for one thing, I am older. And most of the weddings I do are for a younger generation, around the age of my adult children (20-somethings). I think I relate to them the way I relate to my own children, and am a little bit of a dad to them. I enjoy sitting and talking to them as much as I enjoy my own. Maybe they fill in the gap since I don’t get to spend as much time with my out-of-town son and daughter.
Also, we spend as much of our pre-marital counseling hours getting to know each other as talking about the realities of two becoming one. The relationship formed is at least as important as the information conveyed. By the time we’re done, we’re friends. Kind of like getting to know Jesus is as important as knowing what he taught. I’m not just performing a service, but sharing an experience with them.
I think I’ve lowered my expectations, too. (Whoa, you say, don’t do that. If anything we should raise the bar of expectations for marriage! Whatever.) I’ve learned that much of what I say and do isn’t going to make or break that day or their lifetime together. That kind of thing is far beyond my pay grade. So I can relax, have some fun, say what’s on my mind, and make everyone laugh a little. After all, if I make a few of the pictures, I’ll be pastor “do you remember his name?” who got them through the ceremony in one piece so they could enjoy the reception afterwards. I’ve always said that you can’t take yourself too seriously to survive in this business.
I’ve known Brett and Corina for years before this past weekend, and we started meeting together over a year ago in preparation for their wedding day. I’ve been close with Corina’s family for a long time, too. I wasn’t just doing my job. I was giving them a gift.
In addition, Brett made a batch of excellent beer for the occasion. Nice touch. Brett and his groomsmen arrived in a speedboat which pulled up on shore when we were ready to begin. Too cool. Brett and Corina made everyone put their phones and cameras away before the ceremony began. Wise touch. And the cake was better than most I’ve eaten.
So there you go. An enjoyable wedding experience!