Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Wedding Planner

In the last week, two different people approached me about the possibility of serving as the pastor who would officiate at their wedding ceremonies.  Neither were members of my church, but that is where the commonality ended.

Like many other clergy, I will not perform a wedding without fairly extensive pre-marital counseling.  I might not be able to talk someone out of a marriage that I think is unwise, but I can at least offer some tools to help the couple work through the inevitable problems that will arise.  A wedding also involves making sure the bride and groom get the kind of ceremony they want, writing the wedding message, orchestrating the rehearsal, performing the ceremony itself and often attending the reception.  On occasion, it also means cleaning up the church afterward to make sure it is ready for church services the next day.  I estimate that all this takes between 20 and 30 hours of my time.  Weddings also mean working on Saturdays, and generally Friday evenings as well because of the rehearsal, so they cut into the few precious hours I have with my husband.  So, while I'm delighted to serve church members this way, I have to think it over before agreeing to do a wedding for those outside this church. 

The first request came from a couple who sit in front of my husband and me at the SMU football games we attend each year.  We've both had those seats for three years now, and enjoy exchanging pleasantries with each other, but never learned each other's names.  The bride-to-be approached me by email with great respect, telling me how much they especially enjoy my husband's good voice when singing the SMU Alma Mater, knew that what she was asking was an imposition, and told me that she would consider it a great honor if I would perform the ceremony, scheduled in December at the chapel on the SMU campus.

The second request came from someone who had found the church on the Internet, told me that she was looking for a church where she could be married late in October and asked to use the church and for me to perform the ceremony.  She gave the impression that this was her last choice, and that she was pretty desperate.

In both cases, I emailed back explaining my policy of not doing marriages without premarital counseling and offered dates when these sessions might take place.  The young woman from SMU immediately agreed to the suggested schedule and offered graceful thanks for my willingness to do this.  The second person said that the times I was available were inconvenient to her and asked me to meet on weekends, effectively meaning that I would give up multiple days off in order to make sure her wedding took place at minimal inconvenience to her.  There were no words of thanks, no particular respect given to the many years of training and education necessary for me to be in the position of being able to perform a wedding ceremony, and no understanding at all that her schedule was not the only one that mattered here.

I found the differences in these two requests to be intriguing, and perhaps insightful as to why our prayers to God may often go unanswered.  How often do I go to God demanding that God perform on my time schedule?  How often do I insist that God give me what I want when I want it?  How oblivious am I to the fact that getting what I want when I want it might be detrimental to the well-being of others?  I believe God's love for us is so powerful that it pleases God to give good gifts to us.  Could it be that God's pleasure in giving good gifts increases when we chose by our words and actions to give honor and praise to God?  Could it be that God gets tired of our demandingness and might appreciate a little gratefulness?  It makes sense to me.

The rest of the story here--I will be doing the wedding for the couple from SMU.  But after a few emails back and forth with the other bride-to-be, I chose to decline to perform the ceremony.  I most sincerely hope she found a place and a pastor, but I decided not to re-arrange much of my life for her.  I made this decision sadly.  Let's hope we can all learn something from this.

1 comment:

Angie said...

Ok, I can agree that God probably gets tired of us demanding and not being grateful for the gifts he gives to us. And I can agree with the statement that he might get more pleasure from his giving when we are grateful.

But I don't think that our prayers go unanswered. I believe that all of our prayers are answered, but maybe not the way we wanted them to be. The very fact that God knows what we need means that he listens especially to those demanding prayers and answers them by giving us what we need, but not necessarily what we asked for. Just like a parent who listens to the demands of a child gives the child what they need not necessarily what they demanded.

I'd like to suggest that while we are taking the time to be grateful for what God gives to us, that we also take the time to listen for what he would have us do. And then try His time schedule instead of ours. I think we'd find that life would be less stressful even if it was still a full schedule.