You’ve no doubt seen “Jill and Kevin’s Big Day”–the current YouTube hit–in which a wedding party dances down the aisle of Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN, to Chris Brown’s, “Forever.” If by some chance you haven’t, take a look.
Now, I don’t really want to rain on their parade (or dance), but I must confess I didn’t react positively. My first thought was that this would be better for the reception than for the wedding.
But then I got to thinking. What did my wife and I have as the entrance music for our wedding? Why, like millions of other couples for the past many decades, we used Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus,” from his opera, “Lohengrin.” She was in a long white dress, and marched in on her father’s arm, following bridesmades in matching dresses and flower girls tossing petals. Wagner couldn’t have known that his chorus would be played for the next hundred years at weddings across the globe, on organ, piano, and kazoo. The dominance of this tune didn’t come without opposition from churchmen of all stripes, many of whom decried the use of a secular tune written by a raving antisemite. You can read the original lyrics and get a taste of the controversy at Wikipedia, and can listen to the full chorus on YouTube (of course).
Let’s come at this from a different angle. What is the purpose of the wedding ceremony? It is to provide a public form for the exchange of vows, in which a man and a woman declare their intention to be husband and wife. In a religious context, it will also include prayers and blessings over the couple, and an exhortation by a minister on the nature of marriage. Everything else is secondary.
So what do you think? Does the music of either Chris Brown or Richard Wagner highlight the main purpose of the ceremony? Does this dance? Does the traditional procession?
When I was Director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, I wrote a pamphlet for the Family Life Office, Getting Married in the Catholic Church, that discusses some of these issues in the Catholic context. There’s a lot in there that’s not going to be applicable to non-Catholic weddings, but one thing I think I’d want to retain is the belief that a Christian wedding ceremony is a celebration of the church (not just of the couple), and that as a service of the church principles of Christian worship should guide everything.
The most memorable wedding (besides my own) that I attended was that of my brother, Jim, and his wife, Jessica. Their entrance song (sung by all) was “He Is Exalted” ; their recessional was “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” I’d suggest something Christian couples follow a similar path–choose music glorifying God; make sure the service includes the congregation as participants, not mere spectators. Let this be a time when we may pray for God’s blessing on you–not a time for mere entertainment and amusement. There’s time for that at the reception.
Let everything in the service highlight the awesomeness of this moment, when two people stand before God and us, pledging their lifelong faithfulness–and let it call us to prayer, and to dedicate ourselves to support them.