Few weeks ago I sat down with a couple who asked me to officiate their upcoming wedding. After talking about the ups and down of their love story, our discussion quickly turned to the rigors of wedding preparations. Since my fiancée and I are also getting married very soon, we felt like we are on the same boat facing the same sets of difficulties. We talked about the usual suspects: the challenge of coming up with a guest list, the drama of choosing the motif, the obvious gap between the dream wedding and the budget constraints, and the little things in between like fonts and chairs and table runners. Two hours into our conversation we just sat there stunned at the fact that weddings are far too complicated than we anticipated. We had to ask the obvious: what are the bare essentials of a wedding ceremony?
As far as I understand the Bible and the law of the land, a Christian wedding only needs five basic elements—the couple, a Bible, a marriage license, a solemnizing minister, and at least two witnesses. Everything else is extra.
This means that almost all the trappings of wedding ceremonies that we know of are secondary. The ring, the motif, the doves and butterflies, the cursive fonts for the invitations, the photo and video services (to SDE or not to SDE), the string quartet, the insanely pricey catering services, the P8,000 bridal bouquet, the goofy dance number with the entire entourage, the prenup photography, the giveaways, the unlimited coffee, the photo booth, the P10,000 wedding cake, the embarrassing slide show of old photos, these are all extra stuff that we can actually remove and still not lose the biblical meaning of marriage.
I doubt if anyone would actually chuck out all of these stuff from a wedding, after all, people would probably think we’re crazy if we insist on getting married without rings. But knowing the bare essentials frees us from the heavy burden of having to keep up with the wedding trends of our time. Not all women can wear something like Marian Rivera’s gown and that is okay. The trick is knowing what is essential and adding only the things that matter to us. There is no shame in getting married with typical Filipino dishes on the menu the same way that there is nothing inherently glorious about serving French food that we can’t pronounce.
Christian couples, this is where good theology can save you real money and help you sleep better. When Adam and Eve married, God performed the ceremony even if there were no people around to witness it (Genesis 2). This is instructive for all of us today. This means that marriage is something that you live out, first and foremost, before the face of God. The primary audience of your marriage union is the Holy Trinity, not the world wide web, and what really makes a wedding special is not the presence of titled people and expensive details but the presence of God. Stop chasing after Instagrammable wedding elements. There are far more beautiful things than those.