After the unusually bitter winter that most of our country suffered through, the first hints of spring are a most welcome sight. For students, these are signals that their summer break is right around the corner. For many families, these warmer months will bring a much needed vacation. And for countless couples in love, summer means one thing: they will soon hold hands, gaze into each other’s eyes, and say, before God and their witnesses, “I do.” Chances are, most of these soon-to-be-wedded couples have been planning this big day for months, perhaps even years. Dresses and shoes, cakes and flowers, invitations and accommodations: detail after detail demands attention and decision-making. If the engaged couple happens to be of a religious nature, specifically Christian, in addition to the general planning required, they might also wonder just how churchly their celebration needs to be. To that end, I offer here some practical suggestions and guiding principles on how Christian couples can, consciously or not, plan a pagan wedding.
If vocal music is to be part of your ceremony, pay close attention to the lyrics. Make sure they express, as eloquently and emotionally as possible, that you are in love, desire one another, and are ready to commit to a lifetime of happiness in one another’s arms. Something like that anyway. Do not select songs that speak of God as the one creating marriage as a gift to humanity, hymns that reflect the marriage of Christ to his bride the church, or anything that praises Jesus as the one whose sacrifice of love on the cross provides the very love by which the love of husband and wife is sustained. In other words, keep your music as secular and worldly as possible.
There are numerous unity rituals that can be incorporated into the ceremony. Perhaps you and your fiancé, or even other members of your family, will pour multicolored sands into a single, unifying container. Or as a variation on this theme, you might use water or marbles of various colors, or stick with the tried-and-true unity candle. All of these drive home the same idea of unity. Whatever you choose will work, just make sure that any words accompanying these ceremonies say nothing of the fact that Christ is the one who is doing the unifying. Make it appear as if you and you alone are joining yourselves to one another, not that God the Father is making you one. Unity by human will and decision: that’s what you want to impress upon yourselves, family, and friends.
Be careful about your selection of a preacher or other officiate. There are pastors out there who still believe that marriage is a divine institution, that husbands and wives are icons of the marriage of Jesus and the church. Unless reined in, these clergy are liable to urge you to use explicitly Christian songs and a traditional Christian liturgy in your ceremony. And they may possibly dare even to preach the Gospel on your wedding day. It’s probably best to hire an interfaith preacher for the day, just to be safe. That way you’re guaranteed the service will offend no one, be he/she Muslim, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, or whatever. The last thing you need is a preacher trying to make sure your wedding is a Christian service, and to that end counseling you on what you need to do on your wedding day.
That brings up the final point I want to make concerning guiding principles. It is your wedding, no one else’s. This day, this ceremony, is all about the two of you. Every decision you make needs to be driven by that fact. This is not a day on which you should be thanking God the Father for the gift of marriage between a man and a woman. This is no time to have a Christian worship service, complete with dignity, reverence, and holiness. Your wedding day is all about you, not Jesus, not his cross, not his love, not his church, but the two of you, who are beginning this life journey together.
If that principle guides you as Christians in your wedding planning, then all the details will work themselves out. You are sure to come up with a ceremony that is thoroughly pagan in nature.
If you do, you are also sure to begin your wedded life together by divorcing Jesus from your marriage.