Over the course of 36 years of ministry I’ve performed a lot of wedding ceremonies. Scores of them. The first one I did was for a high school friend at the mature age of 21. Since then I’ve seen a lot, from traditional ceremonies in churches with white dresses and black tuxedos to cowboy themed betrothals and even a Scarborough Fair themed event in a city park where the groom led the bride in on horseback.
My favorite wedding, however, was the one I just performed last weekend for my son and daughter in law. It was a destination wedding held at Lake San Marcos, California, and in my highly biased opinion was absolutely perfect. When my son announced the wedding date and location it was assumed that I would be present, but I didn’t assume I would be asked to serve as the officiant. When my son asked if I wanted to perform the wedding, I told him I would be honored to do it, but equally honored to be the father of the groom seated beside my wife. Which brings me to the first tip I would offer anyone in ministry whose child is getting married: Be a servant to your child first and foremost. There are two kinds of ministers at this point. One is the minister who is the parent of a child getting married. The other is the parent of a child getting married who happens to also be a minister. I chose the second scenario. I approached the wedding as a parent first, not a professional. This approach, by the way, creates a different set of values and expectations which more more aligned with serving my son and daughter in law, versus a set of values and expectations that expected them to align their vision for their special day with my vision and expectations.
The second tip I offer is to be flexible. Weddings should be about serving the bride and groom and the wedding party. My responsibility was not to be in charge, but to help them achieve what they wanted the way they wanted it. For example, if they want brevity, give them brevity.
Number three is to be inclusive. Before I had the chance to meet my daughter in law’s parents in person, I Face Timed them and asked for input. I had the opportunity to have the microphone, whereas they did not. I interviewed them, asking them what they would wish to say if given the opportunity. I heard anecdotal stories at the rehearsal from members of the wedding party. I tried to incorporate their insights into the ceremony so that the ceremony felt whole room and not center stage.
Fourth, make it personal. This is the only wedding ceremony I’ve written from scratch, start to finish. I felt my kid deserved more than the traditional, canned ceremonies that are generally heard on such occasions. I spoke from the heart, with the heart and to the heart. Making the wedding personalized allowed me to connect with the happy couple in a way that engaged them instead of them spacing off the tired, hum drum routine.
Finally, and most importantly, relax. It’s not about you. There is no need to upstage the couple, as if that is even possible. As tempting as it may be to draw attention to yourself, don’t. Just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act professionally. But you and your child get one chance to do this together. Make it count.