My wife and I got married only eight years ago, but it feels like an eternity. We didn’t know we were supposed to find a billowy field with a rustic barn for an outdoor wedding. We didn’t know we were supposed to wear suspenders and mix-matched dresses. We didn’t know we were supposed to have chalkboards everywhere with fancy calligraphy. We didn’t even know how get a piece of chalk to make letters that fancy.
Because eight years ago, much to my wife’s chagrin, there was no such thing as Pinterest.
Pinterest is changing our expectations.
Pinterest flung open the lid to a Pandora’s box with millions of searchable DIY wedding ideas making that special day infinitely customizable. No longer did you have to use the florist everyone else in town used for their wedding: Here’s how to make beautiful arrangement using Mason jars! No longer did you need to book a church and a reception hall: Think outside the box–click here to see the amazing transformation of this old factory into the dream wedding!
All of the sudden, we expected our weddings to be absolutely and perfectly unique. With Pinterest, it became possible to customize every single aspect of the festivities. Sure, there were wedding magazines before, and brides have always picked flowers and a dress and other particulars, but Pinterest poured jet fuel on the fire.
Pinterest is changing our ceremonies.
I was preparing to officiate my brother’s wedding last summer, and as we waited for our cue from the wedding planner, I looked over the pond across the beautiful green grass at the outdoor venue. A thought struck me: A wedding is a perfect place to communicate God’s design for marriage.
It’s novel, I know. But think about it: In a culture where people are arguing about marriage and gender issues in Facebook comments, blogs, and Twitter battles, a wedding provides an unique opportunity. There is a captive, sentimental, and receptive audience. Visual aids are present (i.e., the bridal party!). Special opportunities arise to define marriage, read and exhort from Scripture, and hear vows.
Unfortunately, in a Pinterest-driven wedding culture, the ceremony gets in the way of the $15,000 photographer who is eager to sweep the couple off to some picturesque field. Every tick of the watch during the ceremony is one less second enjoying the perfectly curated dance set waiting at the breathtakingly Instagram-worthy reception venue.
So the ceremony shrinks. At many weddings, it now takes longer for the bridesmaids to make it down the aisle than for the officiate to get from “Dearly beloved, we are gathered…” to “…you may now kiss the bride.” Archaic elements that feel clunky and alien are discarded. Everything is streamlined so only the bare essentials remain.
The customizable elements of the service become most important. The special music. The poem. The unity candle or unity braid or unity sand or unity water or unity knot (or whatever other unique unity symbol you found on Pinterest). And most of all–the personalized vows.
Wedding ceremonies have become completely plastic. Everything is moldable. If a bride and groom want to vow to always eat pancakes on Sunday, or vow to be together forever or only for a while, or vow to be completely faithful or only mostly faithful or to have an open relationship, it’s up to the bride and groom. Or the bride and bride. Or the groom and groom. Like I said, the marriage agreement has become completely defined by those participating–no one else.
Should Pinterest be changing an institution?
In some sense, it is true that every relationship is unique. However, as Christians we believe there are things essential to marriage as an institution that must remain the same. Weddings by Pinterest™ can have a way of distorting this truth. It is important for all men and women, particularly Christian newlyweds, to realize that they have not entered into a self-determined relationship, but an institution–a covenant relationship–designed and established by an Authority outside of themselves.
It begins with pastors. It’s important for us to explain to a bride and groom that their wedding gives them an incredible opportunity to shine forth the glory of God. Pastors have to make an extra effort amid the beautiful personal touches and trendy decor to officiate the wedding in a way that communicates that marriage is an institution as old as time–and the rules are fixed by God himself.
This is one of the reasons why I took the structure and much of the language in my wedding service from the 1584 Book of Common Prayer and insist on using traditional vows. It communicates to the bride, the groom, and the congregation that marriage was not invented yesterday, and it will not be reinvented today.
Pastors need to sit down with brides and grooms-to-be and talk about how their wedding will intentionally communicate the ancient, unchanging nature of marriage. In what ways will congregants see in the groom and bride an imperfect portrait of Jesus and His Church? Will they feel as though they are being drawn into a passing fad or a reflection of a transcendent reality predestined before the foundation of the world?
Listen. Pinterest is great. I’m not trying to take all of the fun out of wedding planning. But let’s make the wedding something worth celebrating. All of the festivities should feel like more than the most expensive party your guests have ever been to. It should feel like a foretaste of the wedding supper of the Lamb. That will only be the case if the actual wedding ceremony shines forth the blazing glory of our Savior Jesus Christ.
So go do that DIY floral arrangement. Make those cute party favors you saw online. Take that iconic photo of you and the hubby running through sparklers. Just remember, in a Pinterest shaped world, it takes that much more effort to make sure that your wedding day celebrates the glory of Christ and his Church.