Go Get Your Bride – The Wedding Ceremonies that Changed My Heart

by Andy Wood on March 3, 2009

in Life Currency, Love, Turning Points

carrie-and-me

It took more than 25 years, but I finally met Jesus at a wedding.  And when I did, I made peace with weddings in general.  I’d like to tell you how.

For years I have made the statement that I’d rather do a funeral any day than a wedding.  Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds twisted, vile, and patently un-American.  But from a ministry perspective, there’s no comparison.  Unlike weddings, at the funeral:

  • The family will actually listen to what I have to say.
  • Nobody has spent years fantasizing and obsessing about how this will be the perfect day.
  • The cost, even with caskets and cemetery plots, is usually less.
  • Long-term success is assured – deceased persons don’t have a 50/50 chance of changing their minds at a later date.
  • Prospective candidates aren’t inundated with supermarket magazines modeling the latest casket fashions.
  • There are no attendants who are required to buy swishy dresses or rent tuxedos.
  • People don’t “experiment” by cohabitating with the casket for a year or two to see if there’s a fit.
  • Photographers don’t roam freely about the service, or dominate the entire reception.
  • Expenses can be offset by life insurance.  (Try telling your insurance agent you need wedding coverage.)
  • People actually give some thought to life after the ceremony.

Simply put, marriage is made in heaven, but weddings (aka American Idolatry) are made in hell.

An Idea Born of Necessity

All that changed a couple of years ago, however, when I was doing premarital counseling with two couples who had a similar problem.  In both cases, the bride had an estranged or difficult relationship with her father, and came in assuming their mothers would walk them down the aisle.

Totally off the cuff, I suggested to one couple – Harlan and Yvette – “Well, you could do it like they did it in the first century.”

“How was that?” they wanted to know.

I told them what I knew of it.  Rather than focusing on the bride, the focus of weddings back then was on the coming of the groom.

The Back Story

In the first century, when a groom was ready to make a commitment to his bride, he would pay a price to redeem her.  When the price was accepted, he would go away to prepare a place for her – back to his father’s house – so that they could be together.  When he left, the bridegroom could not tell his bride how long it would be before he came back for her. No one but the Father knew the day or hour.  The groom was to prepare the place, and the bride was to prepare herself.  The groom would be anxious to come back, but it was not up to him. It was up to his father.  Only when he acknowledged that all things were prepared would he say to his son, “the time is now at hand… Go get your bride.”

It was great shame for the bride not to be ready for her bridegroom.  So in anticipation of his coming the groom would send the “Friend of the Bridegroom” to announce with a shout his coming.  People would start pouring out of their homes. They would light up torches, play tambourines and trumpets, and there would be an amazing celebration. The bridegroom would bring his bride back to the house where all the family and friends were. Once she was inside, the father would shut the door tightly and if you weren’t already in, you didn’t get in.

The Ceremonies

“Sound familiar?” I asked.

It should.  The language Jesus used in John 14 to describe his second coming was wedding language – something every first-century Jew would understand.

I suggested that somehow we create a Gentile version of that kind of event.  “What if the wedding party came in first, and we explained the love of the bridegroom?  What if I acted as the spokesman for the Father, and declared that everything was ready?  Then what if I sent Harlan to go get his bride, and he escorted you in?”

Not only would this solve a logistics challenge, it would also be a living picture – a human video – of the love of Jesus for His bride.

Harlan and Yvette’s ceremony was a wonderful outdoor event and despite a couple of distractions, the simplicity and beauty of their love was a sweet reflection of the love of Christ.  Yvette had done some extra research and, being a graphic designer, had self-published a beautiful description of what they were symbolizing in her wedding program.

The second time we took this approach, Tim and Malee were married at Lubbock’s grand First Baptist Church.  I had learned some things from the first experience, and had Yvette’s words to draw from as well.  With my daughters standing behind me as bridesmaids, and the thunderous, cavernous sound system at FBC to rattle a few rafters, I gave a challenge to the parents, and an explanation to the congregation.  I then said to Tim,

Just as Jesus Christ has asked for the commitment of His bride, the church, so you have asked for and received the commitment of your bride.  Just as He has gone to prepare a place for us, you have worked to prepare yourself to provide a home for the two of you and your family.  Just as Christ, our Bridegroom, awaits the time in which He comes again to take His bride and present her to the Father, you have anticipated this day, and this time.  You have the release of your parents, and the blessing of your Bride’s.

Tim, the time has come.

Go get your Bride.

I don’t know how to describe what happened next.  I have words for it that don’t do it justice.  Words like “electric,” “charged,” or “overwhelming.”  But there in what should have been a typical American Christian wedding, a young groom portrayed the return of Jesus Christ to capture the heart and future of His bride.  And somehow we all entered into that experience with him.

He went to the back doors of that sanctuary, where assistants flung them open in grand style.  And there she stood – a radiant bride.  And somehow we all stood there with her.

Before he did anything else, Tim knelt there and kissed her hand.  He offered her the gift of honor.  And somehow we all – those who know this Redeemer’s love – felt the honor of our Heavenly Bridegroom.

And so he came and presented his bride to me.  And for the first time ever, I nearly couldn’t speak.  It was holy ground, and I was privileged to stand on it.

One Step Further

I couldn’t imagine this ceremony being any more revealing of the love of the Bridegroom until Carrie, my daughter, said, “I want to have the ‘Go get your bride’ thing in my wedding.”

So a year later, we returned to First Baptist, and there I had the privilege of witnessing – and leading – this scene again.  Only this time, in addition to giving the blessing to Kyle, the groom, I was also Father of the Bride, and pastor/boss of them both.

There again, more than 700 witnesses saw a demonstration of the return of the Lord Jesus.  And He was there in our midst.  Holy ground.  And there I stood in the midst of it.

It was holy to bless and honor the two of them in a personal and prophetic way.

It was holy to release as unto the Lord one of our children for the first time.

It was holy to witness the vows of two members of my pastoral staff as they were surrounded and blessed by an army of children and teenagers whom they ministered to.

It was holy to catch the glimpses of people in the sanctuary who “got it” – whose spiritual lights were suddenly turned on.

It was holy to serve communion to my children as a brother and sister in Christ, anticipating the day when we will remember His body and blood for the last time.

It was holy to witness my own bride of 24 years, who willingly accepted the role of doing the crying for both of us.

So I don’t rail against weddings any more (much).  Not since Jesus performed His second wedding miracle.  Only this time, instead of turning water into wine, He turned whine into rivers of living water in my heart.

(Click here for a full .pdf copy of Kyle and Carrie’s ceremony)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Malee March 3, 2009 at 12:45 pm

What a wonderful day that was, it brings tears to my eyes to remember the moment when those doors swung open and Tim stood there, finally ready to be my husband. There is so much to thank you for, your advice and fatherly perspective and protection were invaluable to me. I loved the symbolism in what we did that day… such a fantastic way to remember Jesus.

Thank you for the suggestion of ‘go get your bride’. It was AMAZING!

Carrie March 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I,like Malee still tear up when I think about our sweet worship service – I hope I always will.

Carries last blog post..Elephants Never Forget

Harlan March 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm

I can still vividly remember that conversation. You’re right, it changes the way you look at weddings. But more than that even, it changes the way you look at marriage. Instead of your bride being someone that is just given to you, she becomes someone you must pursue. I hope I never stop learning that lesson.

Thank you Andy, for teaching me a lesson about marriage in the what would seem a most unlikely of situations…..my wedding day.

Love you…
Harlan

Harlans last blog post..Lent & Other News

Mama March 8, 2009 at 4:07 pm

that was a beautiful ceremony. It was the first time I cried at a wedding. Because I got it !!! I thought I would cry at yours but I was so happy for you that I didn’t feel the need to cry.

Jeff M March 15, 2009 at 1:39 am

Andy,
You brought tears to my eyes with the descriptions. I have studied with keen interest the way the Jewish wedding customs fit into those images from the gospels thanks to a pastor who first turned the switch on for me to see it. What a great idea and what a moving testimony.

Jeff Ms last blog post..Romans 10:4 – This is not the “End”

Andy Wood March 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Jeff – Thanks for the encouragement! It really casts a whole new light, doesn’t it?

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