There is a long list of big events that have already been postponed or cancelled because of the social distancing required by the COVID 19 pandemic: Sporting events (including the Olympics), film festivals, concerts. But what about weddings? Spring and Summer is a popular time for nuptials, so couples and ministers will have some difficult choices to make. But with some frank conversations and perhaps a little creative use of technology, we can minister well in this crazy time.
I have had to confront this issue this week. Our church’s Media Director had asked me to do his wedding in late May. His brother is also on our staff as Associate Worship Minister. The Media Director was engaged to marry the sister of our Associate Worship Minister’s wife. I’m not sure about this, but I think that would make him his own brother-in-law! More importantly, it would be a joyous weekend for two wonderful families and our church staff. But late Sunday night, our Media Director told me that he and his fiancé—after much debate—had decided to just get married…the next day. It was just too stressful (and possibly expensive) to plan a wedding in late May that might not even happen.
So it was that Monday afternoon, I opened our church sanctuary at 4 in the afternoon. Bride and Groom were there, dressed nicely if not formally. Our Associate Worship Minister and his family were there as well, sitting a safe distance away. A laptop was setup on the front pew, with its webcam capturing the entire brief ceremony. Members of both families watched on Zoom from all across the country, while we recorded the entire event using the same site. We skipped the processional and recessional. Bride and Groom simply stood in front of the webcam, and I stood a few feet away from them. I read Scripture, then led them through the statement of intentions, vows, and exchange of rings. I prayed for them, then pronounced them husband and wife. And yes, he kissed his bride. Zoom enabled the “audience” to cheer and extend well-wishes. Afterward, we took a few pictures. They plan to schedule a bigger ceremony later, when the quarantine is truly over. But regardless, I thought Monday’s wedding was special. All things considered, it was one of the sweeter things I have ever experienced in ministry.
Ministers, take a look at your calendars. If you have weddings scheduled in the next six months, I recommend you contact the couples this week and see what they are thinking. See if they have an accurate understanding of how long this quarantine is likely to last. Make them aware that, even after we are allowed to go back to work, enter restaurants, etc, there may still be a limit on large gatherings. Help them to make a wise decision. Offer to do a small ceremony now, and the big wedding at an unspecified later date (If you do not live close by, they may want to find another minister locally to do this for them). For goodness sakes, DON’T ASK FOR AN HONORARIUM FOR DOING THIS. This is our opportunity to help them out in a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
Ironically, on Monday night, after the wedding, I heard from another couple in our church. They were hoping to do a small wedding, just something in my office, with someone there to record it. They asked for a date in late May…the same date our Media Director had chosen earlier. Only now, I was free to say yes.