Focusing on Christ
About the Guest
Should a believer's wedding look different than an unbeliever's? Mother-daughter team Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode encourages couples to be intentional about their marriages, beginning with the wedding. Together they give some practical advice on creating a wedding experience that reflects a couple's faith.
Catherine Strode ParksCatherine Strode Parks writes from home in Nashville, TN, where she lives with her husband, Erik, and their two young children. She has sung some terribly cheesy songs in weddings over the years, and gave one of the worst rehearsal dinner speeches in history to her college roommate. She blogs at CathParks.com.
Linda StrodeLinda Strode is a pastor’s wife and has been involved in multiple aspects of wedding planning over the years. She survived the bridesmaid fashion horrors of the 70’s and 80’s and has quite a few photo souvenirs to prove it. Linda and her husband, Tom, live in Fredericksburg, VA.
Mother-daughter team Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode encourages couples to be intentional about their marriages, beginning with the wedding.
Focusing on Christ
Bob: Linda Strode is a mom who was involved in helping to plan her daughter’s wedding. So, if she was sitting down with a mom and a daughter, what advice would she have for both of them?—for a mom, first?
Linda: I think a mother has to remember it is not her wedding—it’s her daughter’s wedding. Again, I think it’s about serving. I love serving my children. To daughters, I think just being open to their mother’s counsel because older women have been there—we have seen things—we kind of know what works and what doesn’t work—asking their mother for prayer—to me, as a mother, that’s a delight when my children ask me to pray for them specifically for things.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk more with Linda Strode and to Catherine Parks about how to plan a Christ-centered wedding. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, we’re going to do something that—this is historic.
Bob: It is historic.
Dennis: In all of the broadcasting on FamilyLife Today, you have given credit to Keith Lynch—
Bob: I have.
Dennis: —all these years.
Bob: I’m going to go be the engineer, and Keith’s going to come and take my place.
Dennis: And folks weren’t here a few moments ago—but Keith—Keith came into the studio—
Bob: Come on, Keith.
Dennis: —and corrected Bob about something we left out of an earlier broadcast. Are you ladies in agreement? Isn’t that what happened?
Linda: Oh, absolutely.
Dennis: And I’ll introduce our guests before our engineer becomes the co-host of FamilyLife Today. Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode, her mom, join us on FamilyLife Today. They are the authors of A Christ-Centered Wedding. Ladies, welcome back to the broadcast.
Catherine: Thank you.
Linda: Thank you.
Catherine: Good to be here.
Dennis: Yes, it’s good to have you back.
And you kind of heard what happened. Keith stuck his head in—and he didn’t rebuke Bob but he offered—come on, Keith, and have a seat in Bob’s chair. Have a seat there.
Keith: Can’t I just stand?
Dennis: No. [Laughter] He offered an observation as to why we’ve lost, maybe, the gospel-centered nature of the wedding in the Christian community today. And Keith—you said to Bob?
Keith: I just said that a wedding ceremony is a rite of the church. Every church has a liturgy. That sounds like a fancy word, but liturgy is just a work of the people. When people started, in my opinion—when people started inventing their own language of the ceremony, it—in some cases, it took away from the beauty or the theological solidity of that service—and it just kind of crept in.
Dennis: And the church needs to be the origin of—
Dennis: —the marriage and family unit because it was our God who created it in the first place.
Keith: That’s exactly right. And people forget that—which is what you ladies were talking about—which I thought was really powerful.
Linda: Well, I agree with that. We’ve talked about how you will find all kinds of things like people make a vow—“I promise to peel your clementines.” That is actually in vows today.
Linda: What are some others you’ve been—
Dennis: Is that a—
Linda: It’s an orange.
Catherine: Like a mandarin orange.
Dennis: I was thinking it was.
Dennis: “I promise to peel your—
Catherine: Well, I think it’s just inserting a little bit of your personality—but when that’s the basis of your vows—or you will go to some weddings, and there is no vow even made / it’s a declaration of love. The vows become: “You are my everything. You are this. You are that. I love you.” But there is no promise actually made.
We talk to some pastors who—they don’t allow couples to write their own vows at all—
Catherine: —because they believe that using the vows from the Book of Common Prayer—and I did a lot of research into that—and those words were chosen painstakingly.
Catherine: They were argued about for a long time—little words inserted / little words taken out.
Catherine: And we, for some reason, have decided that we can throw those out completely and just decide what marriage is ourselves. But when you say, “These are the vows,”—and they are the same ones that people have been saying for hundreds of years—there is this commonality to marriage. And it’s this camaraderie that: “You said those vows / I said those vows. Our marriage means the same thing.”
Keith: And they’ve been—and those vows have been vetted. They’re vetted—
Keith: —by people. We don’t think of the pastor as a professional, but you’re married to a pastor. He’s a professional at that, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not just a—it isn’t just a word people say. It’s just like having a non-professional, here at this microphone. So, I’m going to say, “Bob, come back!” [Laughter]
Catherine: Nice segue.
Bob: Which button do I push—which one of these buttons do I push to make the recording go and stuff?
Keith: Any of them!
Dennis: You just stay out there Bob. We’re doing just fine in here.
Keith: Come back, Bob! [Pleading]
Dennis: Come on back, Bob. You know, here is the thing I want our listeners to hear—
—we have deep bench strength, here at—
Dennis: —FamilyLife Today. I mean, this is our engineer—he flawlessly/completely took over from Bob’s job.
Bob: No. It was kind of mediocre, I thought. [Laughter] I was listening out there. I mean, he had some good things to say; but it was kind of monotone.
Dennis: Tomorrow, on the broadcast, Tonda Nations is going to be sitting in the chair! She’s going—[Laughter]
Bob: Our researcher is going to step in for that. [Laughter]
But I think you guys were making a great point about the fact that the wedding ceremony should have some elements. So, if you are sitting down with a young couple—and they are starry-eyed and they are thinking about the colors for bridesmaids’ dresses, and they are thinking about whether they’re going to have candles, or they’re going to have flowers, and the photography—you say all of that is fine—but, if you are going to coach them: “Make sure you don’t forget this, and this, and this.”
Where would you point them?
Dennis: And I would just jump in here and say, “Before you have a word about the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, or the reception, you, first of all, need to talk about how you’re going to take a marriage license and turn it into a marriage.” That means you need to have good biblical preparation. That’s what FamilyLife has been up to since our very beginning. This ministry started as a marriage preparation ministry to equip singles in the most sacred commitment two human beings make to one another.
And I’m not diminishing the ceremony in any way. I just want to say to any couple, thinking about answering your question, Bob, “The place you start is at the main thing—making the main thing the main thing.” [Laughter] You’re about to get married for goodness sakes, and you need to make sure you are prepared.
Now, you being, Catherine, a pastor’s daughter—
—your dad, undoubtedly lined you up to go through all kinds of great marriage preparation courses and classes—
Bob: Sent you to the Weekend to Remember® and stuff like that.
Dennis: —sent you to that. You were totally skilled and ready when you got married; right?
Catherine: Let’s just say—God is gracious. [Laughter] You know, I—we had a few conversations—but my husband and I did not have any, really, any premarital counseling, going in. I think some of that was logistical—we were living in different places. We didn’t have a home church / I was still in college. We were kind of all over the place, at the time; but that would be one big regret.
Honestly, my husband sat down with my dad to ask for my hand in marriage. This wasn’t exactly premarital counseling; but I think he fulfilled a little bit of the role that a pastor would do in doing that. He asked my husband 45-minutes worth of questions. My husband was thinking a quick “Yes” or “No”; you know? “Let’s get the answer and move on with it.”
He asked him all sorts of very difficult questions. He said, “How are you going to handle Catherine’s strong will and her stubbornness?” This is what he said—I would not claim those things for myself—but my husband had no idea, at the time. We weren’t engaged yet. He didn’t—I’d kind of been putting my best foot forward for so long, and he didn’t know that I was like that.
And he found out, when he asked me to marry him, through a whole series of events, that I was, in fact, quite stubborn. Thankfully, he knew kind of ahead of time. He had already thought through—and so, I think that’s the role that premarital counseling serves in some ways—and marriage counseling, in general, is saying: “These are the areas that you both need grace,” and “How are you going to work through those things?” and “What does the Bible say about that?”
Bob: Well, and of course, we do recommend that couples—if they can—get to a Weekend to Remember.
Bob: There are breakout sessions at the Weekend to Remember designed specifically for pre-married couples.
Dennis: And if you know someone who is getting married in the next 12 months—I know this is a little more on the expensive side, in terms of a wedding gift—but I’m going to promise you something—out of giving them toasters, dishes, silverware, a vacuum cleaner—all the things that young couples need when they start their marriage—I don’t think there is going to be a gift they receive—if you give them a certificate to go to the Weekend to Remember—you’re going to give them the best wedding gift they are going to get.
In fact, I could introduce you to a couple, right now—we could pick up the phone. We won’t do it, but they got married in 1986. They had been given the Weekend to Remember as a wedding gift by a friend. Both came from families that pretty much were set—so, it wasn’t a matter of them needing a lot to get married. And they both would look back today and say: “You know what? That gift changed the course of their lives, their marriage, their family, their legacy, their ministry.”
Bob: Well, it got them thinking, not about the wedding—it got them thinking about the marriage. And that’s part of what premarital counseling ought to have you doing—not thinking so much about “What’s the one-hour ceremony going to be?” but thinking about “What’s the 50-year marriage going to be?” because that’s really the big issue.
But Linda, I’ve got to turn to you and say—you’re sitting down with a young couple—they are saying: “We want to get married. We do want to make sure our ceremony honors Christ.” Apart from the whole issue of vows—and I loved what you were saying, Catherine, about you don’t just make declarations of love / you make some promises to one another. Apart from that, what needs to be a part of that day / that ceremony?
Linda: If I was counseling a couple today, I would say, “First of all—the two of you—sit down and talk about that day and pray, pray, pray about that day. Make sure that you’re united in what you want about this.
Even before you sit down and talk to your parents, and you get other sides of the family, pray about what is most important to the two of you and make sure it’s not about you.
We are so performance-based, as a society. We want to wow people. You have this desire to make it “all about us.” Young Christian couples can be pulled into that so quickly—the very same thing—but just “How can we make it not about us?” You know, we taught our children the acrostic when they were young about J-O-Y: “Jesus, Others, Yourself.” You know, it’s about Jesus—and then, it’s about serving those guests that come: “How are you going to serve them? How are you going to treat them?”
Bob: Now, what do you mean? That just sounds weird—a wedding is about the bride. It’s about—it’s her day.
Bob: Serving the guests who come—what do you mean?
Dennis: Well, I want to just put in a plug for what she’s saying.
I think weddings are a great thing for married people to attend because it does give you a moment to reflect—
Dennis: —upon what you promised because, when you got married, you were—your brainwaves were flat, at that point. You were numbed over by all the activity and all of what was taking place. So, it takes going to somebody else’s wedding—you’re nodding your head, Catherine, because—
Bob: You kind of re-up every time you go; don’t you?
Dennis: You really do.
Dennis: And you’re reminded of what two people pledge and promise one another—and it’s more than just staying married.
Catherine: Absolutely, I mean, I think so many people said to me, “You won’t remember anything about your wedding.” That was one thing I specifically prayed for, leading up to it—is that I could really be present / remember what was being said, and take it all in. But there is a limit to that. I think that’s the joy of attending a wedding and being a witness to it. I think it’s for married couples.
I think, also, part of what Mom is saying in serving others—one group that we do a really poor job of serving is single people in our weddings.
I have friends that hate going to weddings because it’s either difficult—just to watch someone getting married—or it’s difficult—someone is going to throw the bouquet. The bride throws the bouquet, and everyone pushes you out there in the middle. I think people are well-meaning in that, but it’s a very uncomfortable thing.
Dennis: Because, as a single person, this may be your 43rd wedding—
Dennis: —you’ve attended from all of your acquaintances and friends.
Catherine: Yes. And you are happy for those people, but you don’t want to be shoved out there, as an example—as if you are not whole—you need something / you’re lacking something.
Bob: So, how can we serve our single friends who are coming to a wedding? What would you suggest?
Catherine: Yes, I think there are some practical ways. First of all, I would toss out the bouquet toss, honestly—I would get rid of that. I don’t think it serves anyone, and there are some really creative ideas.
One person did the bouquet toss, but they invited everyone—married/single, men/women—to all come out.
They had done a bouquet that had movie gift cards, and candy, and different—you know, Starbucks gift cards—something like that. They wanted it just to be a way of thanking the people that came in a really fun thing. They said their photographer actually said that was the best bouquet picture he’s ever gotten because everyone actually wanted to be out there—and they were all very excited about it. [Laughter]
I think some of it is just—when you look at your wedding as the body of Christ coming around you—you look at it as mutual service / mutual dedication to the work that the Lord is doing. So, just being intentional—I mean, that may just be the bride talking to her friends or making sure that every conversation she has with her friends, leading up to the wedding, is not about the wedding. No one wants their relationship to completely change and just be so wedding-centric. I think it’s just—you can think creatively, but you can also just pray for ways to serve that person.
I think the Lord is faithful to do that.
Dennis: Let’s talk about mother/daughter relationships in the days that lead up to the wedding—maybe the months.
Bob: What’s there to talk about there? [Laughter] It’s all smooth, sweet—
Dennis: You know—yes, for a dad—
Dennis: —in case he has a Geiger counter and can detect the radioactive fallout from the atomic bombs that go off. Linda, talk about what’s the best counsel you can give a young lady who is getting ready to get married as she relates to her mom in planning the wedding. And then, I’m coming back to you, Catherine. I’m going to let you—
Catherine: Oh, boy.
Dennis: —coach the moms.
Linda: That’s a really good question. Catherine and I did not have problems in the wedding process—the planning.
Catherine: —which is a miracle.
Linda: It really is. We have problems over giving directions when we drive!
Dennis: You’re stubborn. Who did you get that from?—your dad? [Laughter]
Catherine: It’s this one, right here!
Linda: It’s probably this one.
Bob: At least, you were stubborn about the same things. You were stubborn in the same direction when you were getting married.
Linda: I would like to give advice to the mothers, actually—first, it’s not your wedding. I think a mother has to remember it is not her wedding—it’s her daughter’s wedding. So, I think—I’ll say that first to mothers.
To daughters, I think just being open to their mother’s counsel, asking their mothers for prayer. Asking your mother to be your prayer warrior would be huge. You know, to me, as a mother, that’s a delight when my children ask me to pray for them specifically for things. But just being willing to listen to your mother’s counsel, I think, is so important because older women have been there—we’ve seen things—we kind of know what works and what doesn’t work. And so, those are just kind of basic.
Dennis: Could I add one in there?
Dennis: I’d encourage daughters to say to their mom, “You know, Mom, when it gets tough, let’s develop the ability to laugh,” because there is something about a wedding that exhausts you. Small things become big things, and big things get blown into gargantuan things. Then, before long, you’re irritated, or angry, or bitter, or resentful about something that doesn’t matter—it’s not going to matter ten years from today.
Linda: It’s really interesting you saying that. We felt like we had done everything that we were supposed to do for the wedding—all the checklists were done. So, we get to the church the day of the wedding. Everything is in place, and the bakery comes in with the wedding cake. It was—wedding cake is huge. If you ever saw Father of the Bride—
Bob: Oh, yes.
Linda: —you know it’s all about the cake.
Linda: So, they—it was supposed to be this white cake with white scroll lacework on it. It was supposed to be on a small board so it could sit on this silver piece. Well, it comes in—it’s white, but it has chocolate scroll work all over it.
Dennis: That’s perfect—that’s perfect.
Bob: I think it sounds perfect to me too! [Laughter] Somebody vetoed you—made the right call, I would say.
Linda: And it’s on this huge wooden board. I’m like: “Okay. That’s all right. God has a plan for this too.” The florist happened to have enough flowers to put around the base of it—it all worked.
Dennis: And Catherine, what did you think?
Catherine: You know what? I had—one of my bridesmaids was a missionary kid. She was standing next to me when they brought the cake in. There’s just a little bit of perspective for you—she grew up in the Philippians—and if I complained about that cake, she would have been all over me because—
Bob: Yes, that is what we call a first-world problem; right?
Bob: Your mom gave advice both to the mother of the bride and to the bride.
Linda: Sorry. [Laughter]
Bob: So, you get an opportunity—
Catherine: You know what I’m dealing with here, now! [Laughter]
Bob: I’ll tell you what—you’ll get an opportunity to do the same thing. You can both coach the mother of the bride and the bride.
Before you do that, though, let me tell our listeners how they can get a copy of the book the two of you have written. It’s called A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” That’ll take you right to where you can find information about how to order a copy of the book from us. Or you can call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY. Once again, the title of the book is A Christ-Centered Wedding. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
While we’re talking about saying, “I do,” we should mention that tomorrow, in Washington, DC, and in a couple hundred churches, all around the world, we’re going to have a lot of couples standing up and saying, “I still do,” as we host our third I Still Do™ one-day event for couples—
—this time at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC—and, as I mentioned, in hundreds of churches, around the country and around the world.
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Dennis: Well, we’ve had a good time. You ladies had a good time joining us on the broadcast?
Linda: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: This has been fun.
Dennis: It’s been fun. Catherine Strode Parks has joined us, along with her mom, Linda.
Before Bob explained how they could get a copy of your book, which I really want to commend to listeners as well—A Christ-Centered Wedding—Bob had asked you, Catherine, to do what your mom did—which is not answer my question which is—but go ahead and speak to both groups—both to the bride, who is getting married, and to the mother of the bride. Just give them some coaching as they move forward.
Catherine: I think—to both, I would really commend reading through parts of the book of Colossians.
I think the idea of our unity and our identity in Christ is so key there—and knowing the things that we’ve put off and the things that we’re putting on. And some of those things—humility, and kindness, and love—and if both the mother and the daughter are believers, then, those are the things that should characterize our interactions.
So, I think to the bride, I would say: “Focus on what’s really important and be willing to let things go that aren’t. And then, give some things to your mom and ask her: ‘I respect you. I love your vision for these things. Could you take care of this?’ Giving her some responsibility shows that you love her, and you trust her, and you value that relationship.”
Bob: That’s good advice.
Dennis: It is.
Bob: And Linda, for you, you only had one daughter to have one wedding with; right?
Bob: And for a lot of moms, that’s a big deal—it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Linda: It is.
Bob: But the mom’s got to recognize it’s not your day. It’s not even her day; is it?
Linda: No, it is not her day either. That’s—when I go back and look at planning Catherine’s wedding—it was a beautiful Christ-centered wedding—but I feel like I missed an opportunity, as a mom, to be more intentional in the time with my daughter and more time that we could have spent praying together.
And really there are some things—we would go back / she and Eric would go back—and change in their wedding to make it, not so much just a ceremony, but go back to make it a worship service—and to involve the people there more in the worship, whether it’s a congregational singing—
Dennis: I’ll jump in here. I attended a wedding here recently—a good friend of mine, Michael and Cindy Easley—their daughter got married in Nashville.
At the end of the wedding, they called the family members—all the family members up to gather around the couple. As there were some songs being sung, they laid hands and gathered around that couple and prayed for them. It was powerful because it symbolized two families coming together, around this couple starting out—and, again, forging that marriage covenant—but doing it under the authority of God and asking Him to bless that couple. It was a powerful statement.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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