Last Thursday we got a call in the church office from a desperate wedding planner. She told us that the officiant the couple had hired had called the previous night and cancelled on them. The wedding was Saturday. Two days away.
I wasn’t available, but I offered the wedding planner several options, including encouraging the couple to have one of their friends or family members get ordained online and conduct the wedding. For various reasons, none of my suggestions worked.
As we talked, the wedding planner shared other details about the wedding….Ordinarily, she said, she would have scheduled the officiant herself, but when the couple started planning, she was undergoing treatments for advanced stage cancer and wasn’t available. She stepped in later, though, because the couple was having a really difficult time taking care of everything themselves, plus the bride was the wedding planner’s daughter’s best friend. Plus the bride’s father didn’t approve of the wedding and refused to walk his daughter down the aisle. Plus the groom was angry at the bride’s father for his refusal, and the groom’s anger was making all family interactions especially difficult. Plus the groom was a woman, too….who uses male pronouns. Thus the bride’s father’s refusal.
I’ve seen too many couples, on what should be a joyous day, have their joy clouded by “disapproving” family members, some of them present but cold and distant and others strangely present in their absence.
“I’ll do it,” I said, and we arranged a time for me to meet with the couple.
“Ordinarily I wouldn’t marry a couple who doesn’t specifically want a pastor to offer prayers, ask for God’s blessings, and talk about marriage as a holy covenant,” I said when we talked on Friday. “But I know that you hired a secular officiant, so because you’re in a tough spot, I’ll do the wedding without those things. We can just do a standard, legal ceremony.”
“Oh!” the bride said. Clearly something about what I said had struck a chord with her, but I didn’t know what. She clarified it for me. “We want God in our wedding!”
“Yes!” the groom agreed.
And then, almost in unison: “But we just didn’t think any church would marry us.”
It’s 2019. Marriage equality has been the law for federal and state governments for over 4 years. But many “people of faith” and many churches continue to interpret “the greatest of these is love” in a way that excludes and shames and harms LGBTQ couples.
We’ve got more work to do.
I’ve never handed out so many business cards at a wedding! I invited everybody to our church— guests, caterers, security guards, even a woman who was lost and pulled into the venue parking lot to turn around as I was leaving. (She had a marriage equality sticker on the back window of her F150.)
Even one couple not knowing that our church exists and that we will welcome and celebrate them for exactly who they are is one couple too many. Even one person is too many. Invite, invite, invite.
Always in Hope,