Q. You and Hank had such a unique wedding. What advice do you have for someone who is planning to be married?
A. This is the question that no one has ever asked me in 25 years of ministry. I don't even hear about most weddings until all the planning mistakes are already made. Here is a short list of do's and dont's that no one will ever read and few will ever heed:
1. Do talk with your fiancé about your shared values and make sure that the ceremony you are planning reflects those values. (Keep checking in with those values because planning a wedding is like remodeling your kitchen. It just keeps getting bigger and more expensive.)
2. Do decide early on if you want to have a religious service or a secular one. If you and your fiancé are serious about your spiritual life together, then choose a spiritual leader whom you trust to advise you about the service. But please don't fake it. Don't engage the services of a clergyperson just to please mom and dad or to add a "veneer" of spirituality to the marriage ceremony. (Clergy hate that!)
3. Contact the person you want to perform the ceremony BEFORE you lock in the date or pay any deposits to make sure that he or she is available. He or she may require you to go to premarital counseling. If not, go anyway. You will learn something you didn't know about yourself and your partner, and a counselor can help you deal with the stress of planning a wedding.
4. The wedding service is more important than the party afterward. Don't let your reception plans dictate every other decision you make.
5. Don't spend a fortune. Your "destination" should not be debtor's prison. Can you really justify spending your down payment for a house on a party? You're not going to impress God and you don't need to impress anyone else. Ask yourself: what would Jesus do in this situation? (And don't say, "He would turn water into wine and save us money on the bar tab!") Seriously, this is a spiritual question. As old John Wesley would say, "Why spend your money in a way that God may possibly forgive instead of in a way that God will certainly reward?" Hank and I had just the wedding we wanted for very little money. Authenticity doesn't cost a dime.
6. Do write your vows yourself. It will spark a lot of important conversation about what you are willing to give to the marriage.
7. Do feel free to break every rule in the book! Take it from me. I didn't wear white. I didn't parade down the aisle (Hank and I processed behind the choir). I didn't ask my sisters to buy matching dresses they would never wear again. We didn't hire a professional photographer. We didn't serve alcohol at the reception, and everyone had a good time anyway. We wanted a church service with a wedding in the middle of it, rather than a wedding with a little God in it. We had the most multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-clerical wedding you can imagine, and I assure you that no one will ever forget it!