Eddie proposed to me last summer. With all the craziness from the days leading up to the proposal, I was eager to get to the courthouse and make this thing legal! As I’ve never been keen on being the center of attention, I thought that was the most practical option. I have watched the parents of acquaintances and friends spend tens of thousands of dollars on weddings and then divorce within two years. To me, I cared more about the marriage than the wedding.
Eddie didn’t like my courthouse idea at all. He cited all the fun we had had at his cousin’s and sister’s wedding the year before, and talked about wanting to invite all the little kids from the family so that no one would be left at home. He mentioned how he had gone to Catholic school his entire life and how important my church was to me. We decided to move toward a more traditional route.
Pre-Requisites for Your Church Wedding
Many churches require a single day or weekend class or meeting with a pastor before your church wedding. These classes serve to prepare you for conflicts that may arise in marriage. Some churches require that you get to know the pastor more personally before your big day. This deeper relationship with your pastor serves you better as he or she is able to tailor a wedding sermon that is less formulaic and more personal for your church wedding.
My church had a more time consuming process. We didn’t mind because we thought this meant we’d be more prepared for our marriage. We paid a fee and enrolled in the pre-marital classes required for our church wedding. The first thing we needed to do was complete a nearly one hundred question self-survey. Then, over seven weeks, we took ninety minute classes to prepare for a life together. The classes were about finances, intimacy, conflict, communication, and the role of religion in our life. We had different married couples counsel and teach us each week, from a couple that talked about the stuffed animals they sleep with on their bed to two corporate executives who find balance with work and family life.
Final Steps for Your Church Wedding
The last steps for a church wedding typically involve meeting with the pastor to tailor a marriage sermon to your big event. At this time, you’ll also be asked to finalize the date and pay the fee required for staffing your church wedding. These fees may be used for security at the church, an organist, the pastor, and other behind the scenes employees necessary to make the service run smoothly.
After our classes were finished, we met with our church’s marriage and family counselor. We spent 75 minutes discussing with him the things that were important to us. Discussions included what we envisioned for our life together in the future and hardships we had already faced. We talked about the role faith had in our lives. Eddie and I both mentioned that we came to Christ as children growing up in Christian homes. Our pastor was kind and relatable and talked about his faith journey, stating that he became a Christian after college.
“We Cannot Bless this Marriage”
As we thought we were getting to the point where we wrote a check and worked on the logistics for our upcoming wedding, the pastor stopped us. He stated that there were two issues that prohibited the church from marrying us. He first mentioned that since we were two adults in an intimate relationship, the church could not bless this marriage. As our church is strictly biblical, this didn’t necessarily surprise Eddie or myself. We hoped our wedding would be in about three months so we the idea of abstinence for 90 days did not seem overwhelming. We had been living separately as I took care of my mom, so this wasn’t particularly daunting.
I asked the pastor, “If we are all sinners and the church welcomes everyone, why is the ultimatum ‘either don’t sin or you have to get out of here?'”
He laughed. He said, “We’re not saying get out of here, we’re saying you can’t get married here.”
I pressed him further.
“If we are acknowledging our sin and trying to make things right in the eyes of God, why are you telling us that we can’t do that?”
I can’t remember his exact words, but he stated something along the lines of, because of our sin, “we cannot bless this marriage.”
He moved on. They also could not marry us because there was grave concern since Eddie and I were “unequally yolked in our faith.” Eddie is nominally Roman Catholic but questions the tenants of our religion. I am unwaveringly Christian. Eddie would accompany me at church once or twice a month and was listening to biblical podcasts. This pastor, the representative of our church, did not think Eddie was Christian enough for us to have a successful relationship.
Faith is not a Linear Journey
This boiled my blood. I can’t speak for Eddie, but the pastor who had told us just an hour earlier that he wasn’t a Christian 15 years ago passed a judgement on Eddie’s faith journey that I can’t wrap my head around. Eddie and I both had believed in Christ since our childhood; our pastor would not have been able to speak intelligently about the Bible had we met him in high school. I mentioned that after my dad died, I was turned off by religion for about three years, but made my way back to the church. By all accounts, Eddie, me, and this pastor all had personal experiences that did not reflect a linear faith journey. When we pressed the pastor about this, he simply rose from his chair and indicated that our meeting was finished.
What to Do When Your Church Wedding Gets Canceled
We were told on a Sunday that our church wedding would not be happening. That Wednesday, we purchased a $60 marriage license. Four days later, we waited in line at City Hall and paid $10 to be married by a Catholic judge. We did not have witnesses. Eddie wore a suit, I wore an Abercrombie sweater and white leather pants. We surprised our families with the news. The featured photo of this post is the only picture we had taken of our marriage. We held a party this past weekend to celebrate our marriage with friends and family, but privately we have celebrated our marriage for months.
Seeking a New Church Home in Chicago
I am disappointed in the church I called home for five years. We have not been back since we were told that they could not bless our marriage. To me, this is just a navigable obstacle in our faith journey. We haven’t sworn off religion or vowed to ruin the church. While our God is perfect, churches are run by imperfect people. Maybe this pastor made his own decision and not everyone at the church would agree with it. Maybe all the pastors at this church would agree that they could not bless us. Either way, we are happy with the decision we made and look forward to finding a new church. We are confident that God will bless our marriage and hopeful that we will find a new church soon!