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Wedding Trends


I have been paying attention to weddings these days… Granted, I have always been intrigued. I will stop to watch a wedding party as they pose for pictures, staying quietly on the fringe, hoping they won’t notice as I take in the styles and colors and flowers… and the joy. Seeing the beginning is captivating, so I have always been a sucker for a good wedding. But recently, planning our daughter’s wedding has piqued my interest in all things ‘wedding.’ And many of you have fed my curiosity with stories from the weddings you have experienced. When I put your stories together with my experiences over the past few years, I have noticed a few trends.

Rice is out- paper is in! Back in the day, rice was thrown to wish the new couple prosperity and fruitfulness, and by fruitfulness they meant children. But rice is very hard to clean up after the ceremonial send-off, so many churches switched to bird seed. The mess was the same, but there was hope that the bird population would help in the clean-up. Yet, as you can imagine, when birds come to eat the birdseed, they leave their own unpleasant calling card. So much for a cleaner alternative. Then a brilliant fireworks salesman convinced some young couple to use sparklers for their send off. These proved to create great photo ops for the wedding album, so the idea caught on. But imagine how dangerous it could be to have people who have enjoyed hours of adult beverages, waving around heated sticks with flying sparks. So, the trend has shifted again, this time to paper streamers. Yet one has to wonder: is there any inherent symbolism in waving paper at the new couple?

Matching bridesmaid dresses are out, but the white wedding dress is still in. For many of us who have been a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding, we know the discomfort and frustration of wearing a dress that is less than flattering with no say in the choice. But in today’s weddings, women attendants are often welcome to find the style that best suits them, creating a lineup of women who feel comfortable and beautiful. While bridesmaid styles have changed, the traditional white wedding dress is still in. Granted the original meaning in the white dress may have been lost along the way, as the biblical expectation of waiting until marriage has become the exception rather than the rule, brides still want to walk down the aisle in white. An old trend now devoid of meaning.

One wedding planner observed, “Couples are not planning the same weddings as their parents and grandparents.” From expensive, destination bachelor and bachelorette parties, to weddings that are now weekend experiences, and wedding invitations with QR codes and online RSVP responses… nothing looks like it did in my day. For better or for worse, the world has changed and so have weddings. For the most part, I am fine with change. But there are three trends that have given me pause…

Church is out, wedding venues are in. Back in the day, a couple was expected to get married in a church, even if they did not go to church. It just didn’t feel like a wedding without a church with stained-glass windows, a few religious words, and an organ bridal procession. But now, couples get married in a garden, on the beach, by a lighthouse, or in a barn… anywhere, as long as it is not in a church. Even those rare young adults who go to church do not want to get married in a church. A church used to be a safe-haven, the bastion of all things good, the place to ask for God’s blessing. Today, the church is the symbol of the old ways, that seem to many to be irrelevant today. I know that the building does not make a marriage strong, but the faith can. As couples walk away from the church building, many are walking away from the faith expressed in that building, and they are not planning to come back… ever.

The minister is out, the friend with an online officiant’s license is in. You may think that I am trying to protect my job as I complain about this trend. Though I do enjoy working with couples, my concern comes from what is lost in that transition. An online officiant, though perhaps a good friend, does not have the training or experience to guide a couple through important discussions about living a lifetime together. When I marry a couple, I work with them for months doing premarital counselling. We talk honestly about family and finances, fighting, and faith. As a Christian pastor, I want my couples to have more than just good communication skills and wise counsel about decisions they will need to make in the years ahead. I also want my couples to see the value of faith in the God who created them. I know that life can be hard and that holding a relationship together in the storm is near to impossible, unless you know a Psalm 46-God who is stronger than the storm.

God is out, the ‘universe’ is in. This trend is by far the most concerning and is a reflection of what we are seeing in the whole of our society. I am not sure when God fell out of favor. I don’t know when our culture decided that the ‘universe’ is the origin of love, but the Creator of the universe is irrelevant. I don’t know when the Bible with its beautiful descriptions of love lost out to the philosophy of an atheist astronomer like Carl Sagan. Imagine his quote in a wedding, “We are beneficiaries of chance… that pure chance could be so generous and so kind… that we could find each other.” Chance? Why appeal to chance, why thank chance and ignore a good and loving God who has a plan and purpose for our lives? Couples are encouraged to appeal to the ‘universe’ for help… They are told that the “eyes of the universe are on you.” “You are children of the universe.” Why does our culture now think that the ‘universe’ has more to offer than the Creator of the universe? The trends we see in our weddings reveal a deeper abandonment of the One who is LIFE itself. How can we, the people of God, bear witness to the One who is the Way, the Truth, the Life?

With you, bucking the trends,
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