My daughter got married on Saturday, and I’ve been thinking a bit about how a wedding can help a couple start well.
I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming on the blog soon, but I’ve got a lot of jumbled thoughts in my head still after last weekend, and I want to share them with you.
A little over a month ago we had a lovely bridal shower for Katie, mostly with the women from the local church. (I shared all about it in one of my Friday emails to my subscribers; if you’re not subscribed yet, you should be!) Katie was blown away by how many gifts she got, many from women she barely knew. But that’s what a church does–it supports the people in the church who are going through big events in their lives.
I’ve gone to plenty of wedding showers for young women I didn’t know very well, or contributed for a gift for a baby shower if I wasn’t able to make it. There’s a sense in a church community that we’re all in this together, and we want families to do well.
Sunday, after the wedding, David and Katie dropped by briefly, as did David’s parents, so they could open the gifts that were left at the reception. Keith and I are driving them up to the kids in a few weeks, but it’s easier to drive them when they’re not in all the wrappings and we can stuff the car more efficiently.
They were blown away and just so humbled by how generous everyone was. And really not prepared for it.
We had the same experience at Rebecca’s wedding. People really rallied around to support them.
And the gifts were awesome! David comes from a really strong family, as does Katie, so they both had a lot of support for this marriage. My assistant Tammy that I mention a lot gave them her go-to wedding gift: three awesome board games you can play as a couple and a popcorn maker. (Plus she threw in some chocolate body paint as a joke. Katie picks it up and can’t figure out what it was, and I piped up right away, “Oh, that’s chocolate body paint!”. Everyone thought it was funny that I knew but Katie didn’t. Tammy and Katie have a great relationship, and Tammy’s husband actually officiated the wedding. And Tammy and Steeve did their pre-marital counselling. So it was all in the family, so to speak). Opening the gifts really was so much fun.
I know not every new couple has this kind of community support, and I know that we’re really blessed. (And that’s one reason why I really do try to be generous when young people around me get married!). And last night I drove an hour away with dinner in hand for a young couple who had a baby on Tuesday. We need to support people!
I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books when I was younger, and learning how they had hope chests for when they moved out, and how Ma would be adding to it over the years with things that Laura could take with her. The idea was to help the couple start well, so that they would have a leg up.
At big family weddings today there’s still an element of that–let’s help the couple get set up, so that they don’t have to worry about little things and so that they can go ahead and maybe buy a house a bit sooner or work on establishing the family. We want people to start well because we care about them.
That’s the definition of community, really. Just as the Amish will all get together to build the new couple a house or a barn, so the whole community comes together to help the new couple start off well. In fact, I remember reading an article Shaunti Feldhahn wrote a while back about how the number of people at your wedding is inversely correlated with your chance of divorce (in other words, the bigger your wedding, the lower your chances of divorce). But it’s not really about how much people spend on the wedding. It’s about the size of your community. The more people you have supporting your marriage, the less likely you are to break up. Community matters.
So all of this made me think two things:
1. People really miss out when they don’t prioritize marriage
We had a whole lot of people at the wedding from all walks of life. And I found myself wondering what some of them must have made of this whole thing. Katie and Rebecca have been to so many weddings that were quite similar to theirs I can’t even count them all–people in our community get married. It’s a big deal, but it’s also one so natural to them that it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.
But when Connor (Rebecca’s husband) started dating Rebecca, he was blown away by weddings. He had never been to any like ours before, (or to any weddings period) because he doesn’t come from the same kind of church culture or family culture of weddings that we do. Their first spring together the whole family went to two weddings.
And then I remember the look on his face when he saw all the gifts that they got when they got married. He was just so, so humbled. It was quite lovely, actually.
Over the years as marriage has become less important culturally, and as more people live together before marriage, we’ve lost some of this opportunity of community support for a couple.
We’re really dividing into different cultures when it comes to marriage. There are those like my family (and maybe yours) where weddings are natural and people know what to do and the whole community supports it. And then there are people who can go through their whole lives and maybe only go to one or two weddings, because it just doesn’t happen much in their social circles.
I know lots of young couples in my wider social circle that are living together, but I’ve never bought them a gift or celebrated them or given them any kind of advice. When there aren’t those natural moments to do so, it doesn’t get done. And so these couples lose out on the opportunity for community support. We talk about marriage like it’s just a personal decision, and that it doesn’t affect the wider community, but we seem to forget the benefits of involving the wider community. I wish more people could experience the love and support that Katie and David did last week.
2. How do we help celebrate single people?
Then I had another thought, this one not about weddings per se. Both my girls were treated very generously when they married, and they were on a much more solid financial footing for the first few years of marriage than they otherwise would have been. Rebecca and Connor didn’t pay for groceries for a year because of all the gift cards they got! And they were able to pay Connor’s tuition that year.
What about people who never get married? Or what about young people who are called more into the ministry? How do we celebrate them?
One of the big things I felt after the wedding, and likely why I wasn’t sleeping as well as I could have the last few days, is that feeling that “I’m done” with parenting now. Certainly I’ll still give advice (hopefully only when asked!), and I’ll still talk to the girls all the time. But there’s a sense that I don’t need to worry in the same way anymore.
I’m not sure there’s as much of a sense of moving on when your children don’t get married. It likely sneaks up more gradually. And so there’s not that natural moment to celebrate. Yet that makes me sad. If someone doesn’t get married, don’t they still deserve the community rallying around them and supporting them?
I know that one of the reasons we give all these gifts and celebrate couples at weddings is also because of future children. We want the family to be set up well so that children will thrive there.
But don’t we want single people to still do well?
I don’t know what I’m asking for, but it just struck me as sad that if there were a single young person who decided to risk a lot for Jesus that there isn’t a similar life event where people would come alongside and give gifts and advice and support. They have to muddle through on their own much more. I don’t know how to fix that, but I hope that in the future I will be more cognizant of the fact that single young people need community support, too.
So let me leave you with two thoughts: When people in your community have a baby or get married, do something for them, even if it doesn’t cost much. Make a big deal out of it, even more than we do about birthdays or something. Let’s support people at these family milestones.
But at the same time, remember that single people don’t tend to get these moments when the community rallies around them. Let’s figure out how to confer blessing on singles as well, because we all need a leg up and we all need people encouraging us!
What do you think? Do people miss out when they don’t celebrate marriage? Let’s talk in the comments!