…so how’s that working out for the few, the called, the already beleaguered pastors?
Getting married? Chances are it won’t be in a church is a splendid article in the Wichita Eagle by Katherine Burgess. Bobby Ross, Jr. the excellent Get Religion writer (who really ‘gets’ Southern Baptists) calls it a “fascinating trend piece.”
It likely does not surprise many of us that most weddings are sans-church facility these days. There are three wedding venues near me. One is a rustic barn facility and the other two are renovated and expanded old houses. There is, I hear, big money in these venues and in weddings generally. Funny, there was never big money on my end of a wedding.
The money quote in Burgess’ article is this:
Increasingly, weddings are defined by the couple’s personality, [wedding event businesswoman] Moore said. Brides want the ceremony to be in a beautiful location, whereas some more modern churches have plainer aesthetics, she said.
Yeah. I get it. This is the age of weddings being a self-expression of the couple, mostly the bride, I’d guess. Thus, weddings in barns, farms, and pastures; on beaches, in the mountains, at museums, gardens, wineries; rodeos, ballgames, roller skating rinks. The possibilities are endless.
Interestingly, one of the couples interviewed in the article has a wedding scheduled in Augusta, GA at a barn-type venue. The groom is Catholic. There is a great de-sanctified Catholic Church in Augusta, Sacred Heart. I’ve done a wedding there (family friend, not a church member). It’s not an active church but the building housed the old Catholic church. Do the ceremony and then open the dance floor and start sloshing out the alcohol. Perfect.
So, exactly how to pastors think about handling this trend of boutique, unique weddings where the Reverend is considered something slightly more than a potted plant but infinitely less than the self-actualized and celebrated bride?
I turned down a lot of weddings. Our church was an attractive building and we would often get inquiries about renting it (“and we would like to use the minister also”). When I asked the church to price the use of the building in line with nearby venues, the inquiries ended with the fee schedule.
In retirement, I doubt I will do any weddings except for close family. I’ve already turned down a couple. I’d rather do a dozen funerals than one wedding. There are too many landmines. An active pastor is almost certainly expected to handle weddings within the membership on some basis. A few suggestions:
- Have a thorough discussion of your personal wedding policy with the search committee and be sure to cover it if there is a Q & A with the church before they vote on the call. Anything that lowers the surprises by the new pastor for the congregation is always best.
- Be sure you explain your policy on whom you will or will not marry – divorce, interfaith, etc.
- Educate the church that you consider a wedding to be a religious ceremony and service and that certain things (music types, etc.) are inappropriate.
- Reflect on whether or not you really want to stand on a cow pattie and read Scripture or preside over some goofy sand mixing ceremony or other made-up symbol of unity or read some syrupy, idiotic, self-written, so-called wedding vows. You get the idea. Better to say, “I use this ceremony and these vows. We only will have appropriate church music during the ceremony,” etc.
Here’s how the wedding industry, and likely most couples, are thinking:
“I think couples are realizing that especially within the Christian denominations they can get married and their pastor can come to them at a different location,” said Ashley Moore, founder of Events and Design by Ashley. “We don’t honestly do church weddings much anymore.”
Well, tier pastor can come…but need not, and in some cases, ought not. There are plenty of people other than the pastor who can do wedding ceremonies. Frankly, it degrades the pastor to be inserted into an opera buffa and end up on youtube.
God bless you in your work. It’s tough sometimes.
Addendum: You know that there are more folks cremated than embalmed these days. Funeral directors I work with say they do almost half with cremation. Some clever person could conflate these two trends (more cremations and less church weddings) and come up with something like, “Unfortunately, the bride spontaneously combusted at the wedding in the pasture. Fortunately, the quick-thinking minister did a funeral service instead of a wedding service after a container was found for the ashes. It all worked out quite well and there was considerable savings in funeral expenses with which the groom, once it was determined that the bride’s ‘I do’ came before her death, assuaged his sorrow and loss.”