Over thirty plus years, I have officiated many weddings. Every pastor has some great and forgettable stories about wedding rehearsals and ceremonies. Perhaps seeing your children married is one of the most interesting.
Pastor’s kids – aka PKs – live in a glass house. Some fare better than others, but it is their reality. And when there are little and adoring of mommy and daddy, they talk about getting married. Little girls might dream of that day, and having their daddy perform the wedding ceremony.
With all of my children, I have told them, “You do what you want. I’m happy to officiate but it’s your wedding and I’m perfectly fine to ‘just’ be your dad.” Now in full disclosure, that’s not entirely true. I’ve sat in 100’s of weddings and some were great and others, well let’s just say, “not so great.”
So when my oldest daughter told me she did not want me to officiate her wedding, I was quite surprised. After all, this was the little girl who always wanted her daddy to do her wedding.
- Keep your eye on the wedding. Nothing brings to surface relationship tensions like a wedding. The drama is as elaborate as the decorations. From overbearing parents to meddling, sullen or depressed friends, there are a lot of moving parts! I chose to focus on simply being the father of the bride. My “role” was imperceptible in one sense. My job? To be there cheering her on, to walk her down the aisle, and to be with my wife, the mother of our daughter.
- Keep your eye on people you want to see. With hundreds of guests, it is impossible to interact with everyone. You have to rid yourself of others expectations and define your own realistic expectations. I chose to see, to make deliberate eye contact with the people I wanted to see. This isn’t playing favorites. Rather, I made the decision, “who would I not normally see?” So local friends and family are not taking first place. I can see them anytime. Sure, I may have offended some folks – I daresay it is impossible not to – but I tried as best as I could to greet, welcome, hug, thank friends whom I knew had traveled to be here for this occasion.
- Keep your eye on a few who are hurting. Keeping #2 in mind, I didn’t want to be caviler or ignore the obviously hurting folks. So while this was not a counseling session nor time for a long interaction, I tried to connect with a few who were hurting, lonely, going through a divorce… I did not spend a lot of time here, but a kind word, a hug, a loving, “so glad you came” goes a longer way than we think.
- Keep your eye on the celebration. From the officiating side of things, many weddings are ceremonies but few are celebrations. Some are nearly lurid parties… so it’s a mixed bag. Yet when two believers in Christ become one, it is an otherworldly experience and one believers can celebrate. When my oldest and her husband planned their wedding service, there was one “element” that was new to me (so obviously it can’t be good!). I did not play a “I’ve been a pastor thirty years” card, but internally I thought, “this is odd and isn’t going to work.” Even the rehearsal coordinators – unbeknownst to me – encouraged them not to do this. But during the wedding, my daughter’s wish turned into a beautiful thing. I’ve told people ever since, “we went to a wedding ceremony and a worship service broke out.” With all the moving parts of a wedding, keep your eye on the celebration of two becoming one.
- Keep your eye on Christ. As a “pastor,” it can almost become “professional” to be the one leading the service, controlling this and that. Yet what greater goal than to be Christ honoring no matter what our “role” may be? As father of the bride, family member, or friend, the unique relationship of marriage was God’s design for man, not man’s idea. It was God’s design to make two become one, in the image of God, to reflect His Son and His bride – the church – being joined together for all eternity to worship in His kingdom.
It was a great celebration. At one time, late into the reception evening, I pulled up a chair and sat way in the back. I reflected on God’s goodness, His kindness that brought us to this place. To see my daughter marrying a man who loves Christ. To see smiles a mile wide on the faces of two young people who remained pure. To see family, friends, guests I’d never get to know, laughing, dancing, smiling… all around this marvelous marriage. What I’d have missed had I not kept my eye on the right things…