Of Weddings and Baptisms

I’m now at the age where the frequency of friend’s weddings has dropped from a frantic frenzy to a steady stream. Recently, I was talking to one of my friends who is engaged about his wedding plans, and for the first time I started to actually think critically about weddings, which I’d never gave a whole lot of thought to before. I’ve come to the conclusion that the way we usually do weddings is wrong.

My friend told me how much money his wedding was going to cost, and I was flabbergasted. Far more than I have ever paid for an automobile for a celebration that lasts only hours? It certainly seemed wiser to me to spend the money on a down payment for a house than on a wedding. After all, it is the marriage, and not the wedding, that is the point, isn’t it?

As I thought more about it, I came to see that the modern extravagant wedding is not only ill-advised, but also wrong. Think about this. What is a wedding? Webster’s defines wedding as “a marriage ceremony usually with its accompanying festivities.” Allow me to posit my own definition. A wedding is a public ceremony in which two people publicly commit to give up their individuality and join their lives together as “one flesh” for the remainder of their lives.

Fair enough?

What does that definition remind you of? I’ll tell you what it reminds me of: baptism. Yep, baptism. Why? Well, baptism is a public ceremony in which a person publicly commits to give up their individuality and become one with Christ for the remainder of his or her life. There are other parallels too: when two people get married, the woman takes the name of her husband (i.e. Mrs. Jones). Likewise, when a person is baptized they take on Christ’s name (i.e. Christian). Both weddings and baptisms are cause for celebration, but both are just ceremonies. More important than either ceremony are the commitments they represent.

With me so far?

Once I came to the conclusion that baptisms and weddings are closely related ceremonies, I started to think about how much more money we spend on one than the other. I couldn’t find any statistics for the average cost of a baptism in the US, but I’d be willing to bet it is under $100. The cost of the average wedding in the US was easy to find. According to CNN.com, it was $28,427 in 2012. When I first saw that number, I thought that for sure it included honeymoons, and so I scrolled down to the financial breakdown to see what it was without the honeymoon. I was shocked to see that the 28.5 grand figure was for wedding only, excluding honeymoon.

The disparity is amazing, especially considering that both ceremonies are usually performed by pastors in a church for free or a nominal fee. It reminds me of a passage from the book of Haggai:

Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” —Haggai 1:3-11

Now, this passage is talking about how God withheld blessings from Israel because they prioritized their own homes over the house of God. In principle though, is our elevation of our commitments to fellow humans far above our commitment to God any different? I think not. It speaks to our priorities.

Spending extravagant sums on a wedding doesn’t ensure the marriage will last. If you can publicly commit to the all-powerful Creator of the universe who gave His only begotten son to save you from your sin and remake you in His image as part of a regular church service without spending thousands of dollars, you can publicly commit to a fellow fallible human being in the same way. After all, which commitment is more important?