Wrestling with the place of tradition in a Christian wedding and, ultimately, the kingdom of God.
Photo credits to Faith Photography, whose person is as beautiful as her art.
It is no secret that we were not married in a traditional wedding. There’s something about eloping that tends to stomp all over tradition.
Our legal wedding was laser-focused on our marriage, the trinitarian union between Jimmy, Jasmine, and Jesus that will last forever. It was a Divinely Orchestrated day that we will never forget.
While a marriage is strictly between these three parties, a wedding is very different, a collision of everyone who has influenced us throughout our lives. And with a wedding, comes expectations.
My gut instinct is to brush off every expectation and scoff at every tradition in favor of what “makes sense” (to me) and what (from my perception) brings God glory.
By honoring tradition, are we dishonoring God?
Tradition does not ultimately stand in opposition to God. While human tradition, if held too highly, can stand in hindrance to God’s glory, it is not to be cast off as worthless or subdued as dangerous. It is to take its rightful place as God leads, when we give Him room.
I see now that God can use the comfort of tradition to soften hearts. Jesus’ warnings on tradition are quite clear:
“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.” – Matthew 15:6b
Tradition is not harmful, so long as it does not oppose the word of God. Can it be that some tradition actually fulfills the commandment of the word of God?
Honor your father and mother
The first five of the ten commandments focus on a person’s relationship to God. Numbers six through ten deal with one’s relationship with other people.
The first commandment God gives in handling all human relationships is honor your father and mother.
If God was in the smiting business, I would be a goner already, no need for seven through ten. But He gives more grace.
I wanted our celebration to be perfect and honor God perfectly without burdening anyone. In my overly rational brain, that meant eliminating the variables. People are variables. We shout in silence and cry with joy and cuss at the least opportune times.
The fault lies in that God designed me for community. I was once a helpless baby. I was later a reckless toddler. I certainly outstayed my welcome as an angsty teenager. And as much as my flesh craved independence, in actuality I was fully dependent. I was born into the most perfect community, a loving family.
In truth, no one can do marriage for you. Not your best friend, your mentor, and certainly not your parents.
But my life didn’t begin on my wedding day.
The best way to honor God is not to take the messiness out of everything. It starts with honoring those who have shown us the most grace, especially in our own messiness. Aren’t we all the messy ones?
So before we renewed our vows, before the pastor spoke a word, before the food, the music, and the celebration, came the honoring of our fathers and mothers.
For us, this was a precessional.
This was a moment of silence when all in attendance considered our parents and their role in bringing us to this day.
This was a father making the memory of walking his daughter down the aisle to give her away to a man he adores.
This was the closure and gratification of seeing their son and daughter profess our love and faith.
This was a tradition we dare not renounce. But there are a few we did
1. Flowers. That’s correct, there was not one flower in the vicinity (with the exception of the silk flowers in our crowns). And as far as I know, no one noticed! Yes I love flowers, but I am so thankful we didn’t spend any money to decorate God’s creation.
2. Bridesmaids and groomsmen. This decision certainly isn’t for everyone. We decided to honor our siblings and lifelong friends all equally, not singling any one out. We did not tell anyone what to wear, but all of my sisters made flower crowns together and wore them as a mark of distinction at our party. In place of showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties, we opted to open our home to our immediate families for a Sunday brunch and craft day as a precursor to our wedding.
3. Cake. Neither of us like cake. We don’t do things just to do them. I did not see any dishonor in forgoing a cake. Instead we served Sciortino’s cookies, our favorite.
4. Bouquet and garter toss. Frankly I find this tradition nonsensical and uncomfortable. I had no problem forgoing it.
5. Fanciness. Not our style. We wanted everyone to be comfortable. Our invitations suggested “summer dressy casual” and warned against grass-intolerant footwear.
6. Church. Some people feel God’s presence most in a church. But to me, a manmade structure could never compare to God’s handiwork. And being exposed to the elements, we gave Him room to show up in an undeniable way.
Do not be afraid to challenge the traditions that aren’t meaningful to you and your family. The beauty of the traditions you do honor will shine brighter in the void.
An unexpected adherence
When I was a little girl, I remember sitting with my mom in her bathroom, digging through her jewelry and asking too many questions. (Me?! No…)
When I asked about a certain piece, she told me it is a tradition for a bride to wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” on her wedding day. My five-year-old brain was no less rational than today, and I remember thinking it made no sense but I was intrigued nonetheless.
I did not think about this again until the day after our wedding. Through a divine orchestration, I had done just that:
1. Something old: the pearl necklace Jimmy bought me on the beach in Puerto Vallarta on our first vacation together. It may not be an antique but it is as old as our relationship. And I imagine pearls are not created instantaneously.
2. Something new: my shoes! I rarely buy new clothes or accessories. But when I saw these on sale at Penney’s, I had to at least run them through the criteria:
- Comfort? Check
- Safety (less than one-inch heel)? Check
- Style (contain math symbol?) CHECK! ∞
- Can be worn for more than just one day? Sold!
3. Something borrowed: confession, I borrowed the pearl earrings from my mom in high school and never gave them back! Does that nullify the part about honoring your mother above? OR does it fulfill it. Nonetheless. Thanks Mom.
4. Something blue: I had exactly one blue flower in my crown. Multiples of every other flower but just one blue. I am awestruck that God uses what I perceive to be my own creativity to achieve a purpose I didn’t know I needed.
God is softening my heart toward tradition and its irreplaceable role in life. I am finding that tradition is an extension of rhythm, the day by day by week by month by year by generation beat to which all mankind dances. Perhaps it is the thread that ties between communities, generations, cultures, and millennia.
While my mind shouts “nonsense!” my heart whispers “perfect sense.” Today I choose to follow from where the Holy Spirit resides.
What traditions did you adhere to and forgo on your wedding day and why? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.