in the late 2000s (or naughties, or oh’s or around abouts oh 7) I took my love of cameras and people to a business level and started taking photos of people getting married for money.
Before then I had grown up with a wedding celebrant for a father and parents who have now been married for over thirty years. So I have been around weddings and marriages more than the average guy.
I have stood in a crowd of strangers wearing my favourite knitted vest whilst my dad said nice words about two other strangers. I’ve photographed new friends, old friends, people I hadn’t met yet and a bridal party that shared a bottle of scotch with me on the way to said wedding. I have watched my sister get married to a British hunk, I saw the aftermath of my brothers first wedding and will stand in the crowd as he gets married the second half in Australia. Later this year I will stand next to my best friend as he marries another of my friends.
After all that and more, just recently I sat at the end of an aisle as a beautiful bride walked towards me and I thought
“I know a lot more about weddings than most brides on the planet.”
And then I took some photos.
Weddings at their essence. The reason we have them at all.
Outside of the expensive one use only dresses, the flowers, the hired venues, the feeding loads of people you don’t even like, the (let’s face it) ridiculously overpriced photographers and DJ’s and expected free booze. (more on that later)
The reason we get married is because (come closer to the screen)
GOD MADE US COMMUNALLY RELATIONAL BEINGS.
Go back arguably anywhere from 72.1 billion years to 6000 (depending on who you have been trained by) and you find Father Son and Holy Spirit.
So vulnerable and real with each other. So knowledgeable to each others strengths and roles in amongst the family of the trinity, that they are:
ONE – UNO – Yi – Ondu – atausiq etc
(check this for fun – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_numbers_in_various_languages)
Somehow separate entities but whole as one. (like water ice mist?)
They wouldn’t work if they weren’t one. And out of that perfect united communal triune being they created:
MAN and WOMAN.
Long story short – when man and woman “become one” i.e when they “do it” God designed it to be an echo of what the trinity is. Complete vulnerability. Complete abandon to be completely with someone else.
And because humans decided to be complete and utter skanks/sluts/prostitutes with each other. – Instead of being “ONE” with one person they decided to be one with everyone they saw. God called for an agreement to be made. One that wasn’t just made haphazardly in the dark just before or whilst the clothes came off.
But one to be made communally. In the midst of a community. In the midst of life. For the rest of life. A commitment even when each party got old and fat. Or strangely moody etc etc.
The two would stand up in front of their households and families and extended life groups and say “we want to be one. We want to enter into trust and love and service of this other person. we two and God are now one.”
And in my dream land the community would unequivocally yell back “we agree and we will hold you to this. Because if either of you break this union we will cut your head off” – because they were serious about it.
It was real it was gritty and it was serious. But it was also a celebration. YAAAY two more people have decided to be like the trinity in physicality, as well as in commitment. These two are great. We love them etc.
The celebration was communal but also a handing over of “this is my daughter take her and love her.” The setting up of their lives from then on were communal (wedding gifts). The wedding night and the start of their lives was set apart from normal life for a bit. But then they continued communally as one. Including all the weird ironing out of kinks to what that has to mean when you become one.
In weddings I’ve been a part of I have seen these types of things done amazingly well and amazingly badly – in my opinion, of course. One day I feel like writing weddings 101 – a book on how to do weddings good from a photographers perspective. But not now.
I think weddings are a cool look at how we could do church.
Like weddings, churches take people from different backgrounds, different upbringings and family histories and lump them all in together to another family. Another “one”. A unit that needs to function to go forwards, that needs to craft and shape and change for the good of each other. Through love. Churches have different ways of doing the initiation. (or none)
Like weddings, everyone is not the same. There is not technical better or worse. (or is there?) There is different. For example – I can’t stand when the celebrant says a sermon in the middle of the ceremony, but I understand why some like it.
The question then arises – how do you get into the church? (which could be a book unto itself, in fact, read Hebrews or Romans. It’s a start) and lets instead take a more specific example.
Gary the giraffe grew up a missional kid who moved around the world a lot and has decided that God wants him to settle somewhere for 15 years and to find a community to be a part of.
Do we need a wedding ceremony?
Does Gary just sit at the back one day. And then move forward rows every week. One week he gets connected to a small group.
Or do we drag Gary up the front and intro him to the whole church and put him in a small group right then and there and ask Jesus what his role in our midst is for the time he is with us?
Then do we as a congregation pray over him and get words from God for him as his new family? Do we commit to being his brothers and sisters as best we can? Do we give him gifts that will help him live with us easier? Do we then take him on holidays for two weeks in the Bahamas where we sip awesome iced teas and do it? (play chess right?)
Maybe. Why not? How good would that be? How much more committed and included would Gary the Giraffe feel?
The church of my generation is mainly growing through people getting tired of preachers telling them uncomfy truths so they seek out an easier speaker or a nicer youth group or closer to home or the timing with my job is better. (hence church grow and others shrink)
We don’t ask God (where do I go?). We don’t think “how can I serve this church?” we more ask “what can I get out of it” We don’t go if its inconvenient or if it stops being fun.
And that pervading attitude permeates our attitude to when people come to our churches. We care less?
And of course it could be quoted that divorce rates are almost 40 per cent and so even if the church did start marrying people we would just divorce as quickly. But like a marriage we work on our “marriage” to the church every time we awake next to our “spouse”. We ring when we are away, we serve, love and want them to succeed.
Do we need a wedding ceremony?
And how do we do the wedding ceremony well?