The pastors reading this site probably know this, but for those of you who are not clergy, here’s a secret: Most ministers don’t really like weddings. It may be the most important and special day in the whole wide world for the bride and the groom, but it isn’t for the pastor.
I like them. I’m fascinated by the dresses and the flowers. I love watching the congregation gasp when they catch a glimpse of the bride, looking incredible. I love that energy that flies between the couple. There’s exhaustion, and excitement, and fury, and love, all wrapped up in one day.
I love the relationship that forms between the couple and me. I have even gotten thank you cards after the service that have said, “We came to you because we needed someone to conduct our ceremony. And, now we have a pastor.”
I love being a welcome intruder in some of the most intimate times of people’s lives: funerals, baptisms, and weddings. Pastors have a space in all of those times, and I’m always aware of what a sacred position that is.
But, weddings can be difficult. I imagined that funerals would be hard, but weddings are much more complicated. There is often–I don’t know–a lack of respect in all of it. I don’t mean to sound like a prima donna. I don’t expect an air-conditioned trailer or anything, but I can’t help feeling that sometimes I’m there more as a prop for the photos than for the service.
I think what makes weddings a challenge is the peripheral position that some wedding planners (WPs–including, the bride, groom, mother of the bride, or an actual professional wedding planner) give to the minister. I have been called, two weeks before a ceremony, and asked to preside. It’s happened more than once. And the frustrating thing…when I showed up, the flowers, the reception hall, the caterer, the photographer, the everything, was planned a year in advance. When I asked about it, the WPs answered incredulously, “Well, we had to ask them early. Do you know how hard it is to get a good florist?”
Pastors have to charge for weddings–I mean, for people who are not members of our congregation. This is something else many people don’t understand. But, you know, it takes a long, long time to prepare for them. Counseling the couple, planning the service, writing the homily, conducting the rehearsal, and preparing the paperwork. And it’s usually premium time we give up–Friday and Saturday night. These hours are golden. It’s our precious moments with our families or our preparation time for Sunday worship, and it’s just extremely difficult to give up.
I used to feel bad about asking for money. Well, I still feel bad about asking for money… but, you know, I found out that beginning photographer friends are making 7k per wedding. They’re using digital cameras, so they can delete the bad photos without the cost of developing. And experienced photographers are getting a full five digits before the decimal.
We know now that people are spending as much for weddings as they once did for homes. And like I said, I love the flowers and the dresses. I had a really nice wedding. And I’m not one of those dour pastors who think that people are spending more time and energy on the day than the commitment that they’re making for a lifetime…. It’s just…things seem to be a bit out of whack right now. What do you think?
photo’s by Tomek Wawezyczek