What Should a Wedding Be?
About the Guest
Wedding planning is big business. But a wedding itself is so much more than that. Catherine Strode Parks and her mother, Linda Strode, talk about the Christ-centered wedding - a wedding that reflects the gospel to all in attendance.
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.
Catherine Strode Parks and her mother, Linda Strode, talk about the Christ-centered wedding – a wedding that reflects the gospel to all in attendance.
What Should a Wedding Be?
Bob: A wedding is a significant event; right? I mean—it ought to be. Catherine Parks says, “There is a difference between something being significant and something being extravagant.”
Catherine: You know, some people say: “We just need to simplify our weddings. We don’t need to spend money on them. Let’s just tone everything down.” I understand that, but I think that’s a reaction that maybe denies the importance of the wedding itself. I think we still need to focus on the wedding as being important but for the right reason.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how to make a wedding a worship service. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Did you cheat on my notes, Bob, and see how much a wedding costs today? Did you see it?
Bob: I did not cheat. I did not look at your notes.
Dennis: So, you remember a few years ago.
We did a number of broadcasts around weddings—
Dennis: —and having a Christian wedding—and what it costs to put on a wedding. Do you remember? It was about $18,000. That may have been what?—a decade ago?—maybe 15 years ago?
Bob: The last number I saw—because I did look at this a while back—and it was $24,000, at that point.
Dennis: Okay, what do you think it is today?
Bob: I—it cannot have gone much beyond that because nobody has that kind of money anymore! [Laughter] How much—what are they spending?
Dennis: Bob, this is not about how much money you have. This is about a dream—
Bob: Okay, alright.
Dennis: —that young lady and her mother have been thinking about for centuries.
Bob: So, how much is the average wedding?
Dennis: Well, let’s see if our guests on today’s program know because they’ve written a book called A Christ-Centered Wedding. Catherine Strode Parks and her mom, Linda Strode, join us on FamilyLife Today. How about it, ladies?
Catherine: Well, the most recent statistic I heard was right around $29,000.
Linda: That’s what I heard also.
Dennis: Yes, that’s about right.
Bob: Twenty-nine grand.
Bob: Did you spend 29 grand on your wedding?
Dennis: Oh, yes! [Mocking answer and laughter]
Bob: How many people were at your wedding?
Dennis: A couple hundred. It was a modest—it was very modest.
Bob: Well, I’m surprised you could gather a couple hundred because you planned it in like six weeks; didn’t you? [Laughter]—from engagement to wedding—how long?
Dennis: We—it was six weeks.
Bob: And I’m just surprised you get 200 friends who could clear the weekend.
Dennis: You know, the ones who mattered got there [Laughter]—my mom and dad, and my best man, and some other good friends of ours.
Bob: And a big church wedding—was it?
Dennis: No, it was a small church wedding—very simple. We really got married before weddings really got on a jet sled and became this production.
I’m going to ask you ladies to comment on it, but let me just tell our listeners who they are. Linda is the mom, and she is a pastor’s wife. You’ve been married to your husband—how many years now?
Linda: Almost 36.
Dennis: That’s Tom. You guys live in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
And I love what she writes about herself: “She survived the bridesmaid fashion horrors of the 70s and 80s and has quite a few photo souvenirs to prove it.”
Linda: Do you remember the big wide-brimmed hats and—
Dennis: And the big hair too.
Linda: —big hair—all kinds of things.
Dennis: Then, her daughter, Catherine, joins us. She lives in Nashville, along with Eric and her two young children. And here is what—how she describes herself: “She has sung some terribly cheesy songs in weddings over the years”—were you paid for it?—
Catherine: No. [Laughter]
Dennis: —“and gave one of the worst rehearsal dinner speeches, in history, to her college roommate.”
Bob: What went wrong with the speech? What was the deal?
Catherine: Oh, it was one of those on-the-fly—they didn’t tell anybody ahead of time to prepare something.
Bob: You’re supposed to know this!
Catherine: Well, I didn’t know! [Laughter]
Catherine: But I thought I was prepared. So, I’m sitting there, writing down some notes—little inside jokes and things that I thought would get a few laughs.
I got up there, and I started talking. I talked about how our roommate movie was Runaway Bride. I made a comment about how “Surely, that wouldn’t happen. You know, people didn’t have to worry about it.” It wasn’t a great joke; but I thought maybe people would chuckle, and no one really did. I went back and sat down. My friend said: “Aren’t you sad about what you said? Do you regret that?” And I said, “What?!” She pointed, and I forgot the groom’s brother had been left at the altar—
Bob: Oh my!
Catherine: —three weeks before that. [Laughter] His fiancée and I felt so bad. So, it’s like the elephant in the room—everyone was aware of—and I just thought, “Oh, I’m hilarious!”
Dennis: Well, I’ve got to tell you—and I may get into trouble for telling this story, but I’ve got a feeling it’s a public story—that is in the range of what Dr. Al Mohler did—
Catherine: Oh no.
Dennis: —at a wedding.
He had done some pre-marriage counseling for this young lady and a young man whom she didn’t marry. At the wedding—during the ceremony / throughout the ceremony—
Bob: Yes. Yes.
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Bob: He referred to the groom by the ex-boyfriend’s name the entire ceremony. [Laughter]
Dennis: And he said—he said he wondered why the wedding party kind of gathered in the back and was just kind of staring at him with this look. He sat down next to his wife—wasn’t it?
Bob: We should—yes, it was his wife who was the one who nudged him and finally set him straight of the whole thing.
Dennis: Where do you go after something like that?
Bob: You go far, far away. [Laughter] That’s where you go. We should—at some point, we should just do wedding horror stories—
Catherine: Oh, yes.
Bob: —and just have a whole FamilyLife Today series on that.
Dennis: Well, I want both of our guests to share the most memorable wedding story you can recall—not now but before the broadcast is over—we’ll come back to that.
But let’s talk about weddings. You guys write in your book that there are two events that we think are great times to talk about what counts. One is weddings and the other is?
Linda: You have a captive audience. You have family members that come that you may—they may never give you the opportunity to sit down and share the gospel with them. At your wedding / at your funeral—those people come—they are there and they are a captive audience. It’s a great opportunity to share with them what’s most important to you.
Dennis: Yes, so, people who never come to church—you have a chance—
Dennis: —to turn them into a captive audience. Did you do that, Catherine?
Catherine: I think maybe, by God’s grace, without me intentionally doing that; but I don’t think I really had the big, full picture of what I was doing or the opportunity itself.
Really, the book is less of a “Do as we did,” and more of a “This is maybe what we wish we had known when we were planning.”
Bob: I think it’s interesting because I think most young Christian couples, who are getting married—they would all say: “We want to make sure the gospel is preached in our wedding. We want to make sure that God’s glorified in our wedding.”
Dennis: Well, now, wait a second, Bob. I think there are a number who just want to get to the event of the wedding. I don’t know that they are intentional about those matters.
Bob: That they’ve got a Christ-centered view to things?
Dennis: Well, they think they may want some Scriptures in there.
Dennis: But you are really talking about something different here than how a lot of people are getting married today.
Linda: When I got married—which was almost 36 years ago—you planned your wedding—and it was more about the wedding and less about the reception. In the last 30 years, that has reversed. People really don’t—you know, use to—you worried about how were you going to decorate the church, and the flowers, and all the candelabras. It was all very—that’s where the focus was.
It was like a simple cake and punch reception if you lived in the South. Now, the concentration seems to be less on the ceremony—more on the party afterwards.
Bob: So, the worship service is secondary—
Bob: —to the party that takes place afterwards.
Linda: Yes. So, that’s where I think it’s really reversed—
Bob: I guess I’m—
Linda: —how we do.
Bob: —thinking back to when Mary Ann and I got married. I remember us being conscious—in fact, I remember us having this conversation as we were going through all of the elaborate planning that goes into a wedding. We kind of came to the point—there were so many decisions to make: “What kind of flowers do you want?” “What kind of mints do you want?” “What kind of this and what kind of…?” It’s like: “Let’s figure out what really matters, to us, at the ceremony and let’s be firm on that—the stuff that doesn’t really matter—let’s just let that go. If it matters to your mom, let her be the one who decides it.”
I remember us having conversations about “Yes, we do want the gospel to be preached in our ceremony.
“We do want people pointed to God in our wedding ceremony.” That was a general sentiment, but we didn’t have any real concrete ideas about—
Bob: —how should that get carried out other than “Preacher, we hope you’ll say a few good things about Jesus while we are doing this.”
In your book, you are trying to open folks up to some new ways of thinking about how this wedding ceremony really can be a proclamation of the gospel, from start to finish.
Catherine: Right. I think people, who have seen something like that, want that. I think, if you’ve never seen what a wedding could be, you don’t know how to think creatively. I saw a few weddings—years after I was married / a few years—and I realized, “There’s so much more to it than to what I knew before.” I thought, “If only everyone could just see one of these weddings—then, they would know.”
But really, I think what you are saying about coming together and saying: “This is our vision for what the wedding needs to be. This is the most foundational thing,”—that’s what needs to happen before you start with any of the details. You sit down, as a couple and say: “This is our vision. Everything needs to be submissive to what we want to convey about our lives.” If Christ is at the center of your life, then, some of those things will just happen naturally.
Dennis: I really agree with you. There are really three events, around a wedding, that I think really make a complete package and can be a great statement to other people. The first is rehearsal dinner. The second is, of course, the wedding. And the third is the reception afterwards.
Let’s go back to the rehearsal dinner because, frankly, I think some of the highlights of weddings that I’ve been to have been the privilege of allowing to peer into the intimacy of the caliber of the young people who are tying the knot with each other—
—where the ones who know them best stand up and talk about who they are—the bride and the groom—and talk about their values, their commitment to Christ, what they’ve done for Him, how they followed Him, and how other people admire them.
Would you all say that’s true for you as well?
Linda: Oh, absolutely.
Catherine: I think it’s—there’s an intimacy there and a lack of pretense—maybe, that you have on the wedding day itself—there is a lot more pressure to it.
I had a friend who—a lot of the people that were coming to the wedding were not believers. They decided to make—instead of a rehearsal, at the church, they did a quick run through. Then, they had a lake day, where they just invited all their family and friends to have dinner and to do lake stuff. They let everyone give their toasts and their speeches there.
Bob: This is the day before the wedding?
Catherine: The day before the wedding—
Bob: Lake Day?
Catherine: —they just wanted it to be very relaxed / very laid-back. What they loved about it was it created this camaraderie and this fellowship, then, leading into the wedding itself—
—the families were brought together / the friends. You kind of become this unit, then, leading into the wedding. You’re ready to worship with people that you now consider brothers and sisters or friends.
I thought that was a really beautiful idea. It’s not for everybody. Some of us would be going crazy if we were doing that the day before our wedding, but—
Bob: What do you do with your hair after Lake Day? That’s all I’m thinking. [Laughter] You better have an appointment the next morning; you know?
Dennis: Bob, you’re not thinking about what you’d do with your hair. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, not my hair! [Laughter] I’m not thinking about my hair. There’s not enough of it left to think about. [Laughter]
Linda: And I thought it was great when Catherine got married. When she and Eric—Eric’s mother planned the rehearsal dinner and gave them a chance to go around and introduce every person that was at the rehearsal dinner and tell about their relationship with them and why they were special in their lives. It was such an opportunity to honor those people who have poured into you—for your life. So, it takes the focus off of you and puts it on someone else.
Bob: Well, stop and think about who is at the rehearsal dinner—your family from both sides—
Linda: Both sides.
Bob: —and your best friends—
Dennis: That’s the wedding party.
Bob: —that’s who you’ve got lined up as the groomsmen and the bridesmaids—are the people who are closest to you. It’s really: “These are the people who have been the most important people in my life, for a lifetime; and we’re getting together.” In part, it’s a statement that we’re not getting married in a vacuum. We’re getting married in a context of family and community. That needs to be acknowledged, and celebrated, and enjoyed. That’s a big part—we think of the rehearsal dinner, again, as kind of a celebration. It is a celebration—but it can be more than just a nice dinner with a few toasts; right?
Linda: And at the end of that, they had them sit in the center. Everybody gathered around them and had a prayer time around them—you know, just for their—not just for the wedding day—but for their lives and for their marriage. So, again, it’s bringing that focus back to the gospel.
Dennis: And I’m listening to us here; and I’m going, “You know, this is what a wedding ought to be about.” It should be less about the program and the pomp and more about the relationships and about two families that are contributing one human being, each, to this new entity—and then, surrounding them—as they make the most sacred pledge and promise two human beings ever make with one another.
Where do you think we went wrong on this? Where do we get off on the look / the feel and more the formality of a wedding?
Catherine: That’s a really good question. I think it’s just been a gradual change. I mean, you think about weddings during my grandparents’ day. A lot of them were very quick—justice of the peace—someone is going off to war or—there was far less of the formality to a lot of those marriages. And then, I think a lot of it has to do with economics—has to do with society at large.
Today, everything is public.
Catherine: There is this pressure to keep up with—
Catherine: —what you are seeing on Instagram, or Pinterest, or the wedding shows. You know, there are whole series of shows dedicated to just finding your wedding dress; but I think, along with that, we’ve lost the commonality of what marriage is. We’re defining it ourselves—and in doing that—we are losing kind of this sense of what it is all about in the first place.
Bob: When we were putting together our Art of Marriage® DVD series, I had the opportunity to interview couples who had been married 50-plus years and talk to them about, not just their marriage, but I asked them about their weddings. You are absolutely right. Fifty-plus years ago, it was not the ornate deal.
My mom and dad got married at the base chapel in Abilene, Texas. Mom had come on a train from Michigan—met Dad there.
Her parents weren’t at the wedding. It was World War II. I’ve got the picture of them out in front of the base chapel, with the crossed rifles as they are coming out. I don’t think Mom has on an elaborate white dress as she’s coming out. Dad is in his uniform, and that was about all there was to it.
Dennis: And I’m thinking of my mom and dad.
Dennis: And I don’t know if we have any pictures because my dad and my mom both grew up in big families. They both just kind of snuck off—
Linda: That’s what mine did.
Dennis: —they eloped.
Dennis: Their honeymoon was a weekend honeymoon because they both worked. My mom was a nurse. My dad pumped gasoline, back when service stations weren’t like they are today.
Dennis: And they went to the Kentucky Derby.
Catherine: Oh, nice.
Dennis: And that was their honeymoon. They were back at work on Monday morning.
Bob: Linda, there has got to be some happy medium between having the social event of the season, that’s in the newspaper, and sneaking off to the justice of the peace.
We really—I mean, if we think about this from a biblical context, we really do want to have a solemnization of this vow—that this couple are making with one another—and do that in the presence of God and witnesses; don’t we?
Linda: We do want to do that. And you know, there is a lot about the bride and the bridegroom—and Christ coming for His bride—and it’s such a picture that it should be a reflection of that. It just should be an absolute worship service and a picture.
Catherine: Yes, I agree. And I think you start with 1 John 4—I think it is verse 13 that says, “We love because God loved us.”
Bob: I have to correct you. It is 1 John 4:19. I know that because it was on our wedding invitations—
Bob: —and it’s inscribed on Mary Ann’s ring—so, there you go. [Laughter]
Catherine: Well done! Alright, so, 1 John 4:19 says then that—“We love because God first loved us.”
And I think that’s the picture that we take into our weddings. This is a celebration of human love, and it should be. We shouldn’t tone that down because that’s a gift from God, and it’s an example of common grace. It’s for everyone; you know? And every wedding and every marriage, between a man and a woman, reflects that reality—whether the bride and groom understand that or not.
And so, I think it is right. You know, some people say: “We just need to simplify our weddings. We don’t need to spend money on them. Let’s just tone everything down.” I understand that. But I think that’s a reaction that, maybe, denies the importance of the wedding itself. I think we still need to focus on the wedding as being important but for the right reason.
Dennis: And you mentioned that a wedding is the coming together of two very imperfect people. If they don’t know it yet, they are about to find out—
Dennis: —on the honeymoon, if not long thereafter.
I think there are events that occur, either in the wedding or around the wedding, that remind us of the humanity. In fact, I think it’s some of these events that occur in a wedding that make it memorable.
Earlier, I asked you ladies to think about something funny or a memorable event at a wedding that either you participated in or maybe it was your own, Linda. You’ve been married—how long to Tom?
Linda: Well, almost 36 years.
Dennis: Thirty-six years. So, can either of you recall an event?
Bob: And you guys save your thoughts for a minute, and let me tell listeners how they can get a copy of your book. It’s called A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. We have the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Listeners can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Click at the top of the page where it says, “GO DEEPER.” That’ll take you right to where you can find information about Catherine and Linda’s book.
You can order it from us, online, if you’d like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information—order by phone. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com—look for the information on the book, A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. Or call to order—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Let me also mention that, for those who are engaged, Dennis and Barbara Rainey have written a devotional for couples—a pre-married devotional—42 devotions you can go through together, as you’re preparing for your marriage. There is information about the Preparing for Marriage Devotions for Couples on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. Or you can order that book by phone at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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Dennis: Well, it’s been our treat today to talk to Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode, her mom. I’ve now given you ladies enough time to think about a funny moment—
Bob: They are looking at each other like, “You got anything?”
Dennis: I don’t know that they’ve got anything.
Linda: I will have to say Catherine was in her cousin’s wedding two years ago.
Our granddaughter was also in the wedding. She was the flower girl, and she was four at the time. They decided to leave her up on the stage the whole time. At some point, as she’s hanging onto Catherine’s shoes, [Laughter] and looking up under her dress, and she’s laying down, and then she kind of crawls across the front to see what her papa is saying and what he’s doing. It’s definitely kind of a grandmother moment, but I’m not sure it was a mother moment. [Laughter]
Bob: Anything stand out for you, Catherine?
Catherine: Well, one of the stories that we tell in the book—that we were not present for—but it’s a friend’s story. She was not aware that her dress was maybe immodest. No one had really mentioned the idea of modesty to her at the time—she was not a believer. She walks down the aisle, and the pastor performed the marriage.
Afterwards, they looked at their wedding certificate. Instead of the name, Rachel McCleaver—which was her maiden name—
Bob: Okay, I think we got where that’s going to end up—okay! [Laughter]
Catherine: So, that’s a cautionary tale, okay—if that’s your last name. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we’re going to talk more about how to have a Christ-centered wedding.
Dennis: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is real family life. [Laughter]
Bob: We’ll do that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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