There are a few things you can expect to see at most weddings: the flower girl endearingly throwing all the petals in one spot, eager single bridesmaids vying for the bouquet, the (exhausted and) happy couple kissing each time a glass is clinked.
And then there are things that happen at Christian weddings — a different kind of nuptial celebration. There are certainly more than 10 characteristics of your average Christian wedding, but we had to stop somewhere.
(Disclaimer: It’s totally cool if you didn’t have any of these at your very Christ-centered wedding. This article is in no way calling you disobedient.)
1. Photo of the bridesmaids praying for the bride.
Pics or it didn’t happen? This image is a staple of today’s heavily photographed Christian weddings. The bridesmaids gather around the bride, usually placing hands on her, to pray together before she walks down the aisle. To be sure, there’s usually a similar shot of the groom’s buddies praying over him.
These photographs show people that you’re praying Christians . . . not just twice-a-year churchgoers. They scream, “We didn’t pick 1 Corinthians 13 for the scripture reading, because it isn’t the only verse we know.” We actually read the Bible, thanks.
2. So much singing.
Christians love to sing — we’re commanded to, even (Colossians 3:16). That means a Christian wedding is always full of people willing and ready to sing, play an instrument or two, dance . . . all of it.
Maybe each member of your church’s worship team sings a hymn at some point during the wedding. Maybe part of your ceremony is even a mini worship service, complete with more contemporary worship music. Maybe your bridesmaids serenade you with a tune dedicated to your marriage. There will be no shortage of song at a Christ-centered wedding.
3. Foot washing ceremony.
This one is no joke. Foot washing is only for those Christian couples who seriously want to imitate Jesus at their wedding ceremony. And aren’t afraid of a few potentially awkward moments. Or raised eyebrows.
Sure, some guests will think it’s weird that you would kneel down in your wedding dress/suit, take off your shoes, and pour water on each other’s feet. But it’s also humble, shows your commitment to serve, and points to Jesus. After all, it models his display of service in washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (John 13:1-17).
4. The ceremony is a sermon.
Some wedding ceremonies last 15 minutes . . . and some involve the pastor giving a 40-minute sermon. You know you’re at a Christian wedding when you get a full presentation of the Gospel that doesn’t explicitly mention marriage until the tail end when it’s time for the vows.
So you got invited to a wedding and end up at a church service? The ol’ bait-and-switch sermon is often part of Christian weddings. Hopefully you love the couple. Or Jesus. One of the two should sustain you through it.
5. Tying of the threefold cord.
Don’t want to be like everyone else these days with their unity candles or unity sand or unity paintings? You can get biblical with it and show that your marriage is about more than just the two of you by incorporating a threefold cord tying ceremony.
The idea comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12 which notes that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” One strand for the bride, one for the groom, and one for God. It’s definitely harder to break than a unity candle is to blow out.
6. A wedding party that could outfit a church.
You know you’re at a Christian wedding when a lead pastor, youth pastor, and worship leader are your groomsmen and a children’s ministry leader, pastor’s kid and community life director are your bridesmaids.
You could fill in a church with your wedding party. Heck, you’re in seminary and your bride sings on the worship team. And if the officiant is your pastor dad . . . even better. If you have two officiants — the bride’s dad and the groom’s dad — the best.
7. Bible verses everywhere.
Expect centerpieces made from slabs of wood that have been painted with Ruth 1:16 (“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay”) or Song of Solomon 3:4 (“I found him whom my soul loves”) or Matthew 19:6 (“they are no longer two, but one flesh”).
Also count on a Bible for guests to highlight their favorite passages about life and love instead of a guestbook. Maybe even an aisle runner inscribed with Ephesians 5:31 (“and the two shall become one flesh”). Lucky for you, the New Testament alone mentions love more than 200 times. So. Many. Verses.
8. Uncomfortable sex jokes.
Prepare yourself for a handful of sex jokes during the ceremony, courtesy of the pastor — who may also be (and this is even better) your dad. Since it’s often assumed that Christian weddings bring together couples who haven’t had sex yet, there’s a tendency to point out more than a few times what everyone knows will be going down later that night. Wink.
Whether inspired by the Song of Solomon or maybe just the classic Genesis 4 “Now Adam knew Eve,” you can count on enough sex jokes to have mothers-in-law blushing, girlfriends giggling, and . . . that one guy winking.
The same Christian couple who is down for a foot washing ceremony is likely going to serve communion at their wedding. This couple wants their first act as husband and wife to be one that calls them to acknowledge their sins, worship, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus together — now as one.
Communion might be offered to all guests, which can create division between those who are believers and those who aren’t — but that also offers the couple the opportunity to share with nonbelievers why they’re doing this in the first place. It can really be a win-win.
10. That one friend who lets (too) loose.
It wouldn’t be a wedding without one friend drinking too much, eating too little, and dancing his way into the venue’s fountain. The difference with this scenario in a Christian wedding is that guy is probably from your Bible college or she’s current seminary student or he’s one of your church’s youth leaders.
It might be because this person usually doesn’t drink or is just being a little too “of the world” right now. Of course, this is assuming your Christian wedding has alcohol . . . or friends with flasks.
The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock