Do I sin by getting married without Wedding?

A wedding is one of the most commonly celebrated ceremonies in the world. And its celebrated across all social, religious and political divides. Most, if not all the religions of the world, Christianity included, regard weddings to be ‘central and key’ to the consummation of a marriage. But recently so many young people have been questioning the importance and the role of a wedding ceremony in the actual marriage. And following our previous focus on Bride Price & The Bible, I saw it fit to try and explore the relationship between these two: marriage and wedding. And this I will do with the ultimate aim of providing a Biblical answer to some of the questions mostly being raised by our generation. These questions include: Is getting married without wedding unbiblical? Is wedding a biblical mandate? How should we go about it as African Christians? But there is one major question I have come across that brings everything together: As Christians, does getting married without a wedding biblically wrong?

What is Marriage? and What is Wedding?
But before we consider anything else, its worthy for us to explore what these two: marriage and wedding mean. Keller defines marriage as “a lifelong, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman.[1]” And this relationship was instituted and established by God. So God as the author of marriage is the one who defines the terms and conditions of marriage (Genesis 2:18-25Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

According to the Webster Dictionary[2], a wedding is “a marriage ceremony usually with its accompanying festivities”. In other words, a wedding is a celebration that is done in honor of the union between a man and a woman. These ceremonies or celebration differ from culture to culture and from religion to religion. But over the years we have witnessed the rise and dominance of ‘white weddings’ and in our Zimbabwean Christian context these have resoundingly been accepted as central and key to Christian marriages. Proper and God honoring marriage has been defined in light of two things, thus payment of Lobola and a White wedding celebration. This has led many to question whether these two, thus marriage and wedding are inseparable? Hence the question Do I sin by getting married without wedding?

Are marriage and Weddings inseparable?
The definitions of these two terms which we saw above prove that indeed, wedding and marriage are separable. A wedding is a celebration of an established union, it’s not the actual union. The union is the marriage. People can’t wed without marrying but they can marry without wedding. When we look at African tradition marriage processes, which were good, weddings become additional ceremonies, it’s like you are getting married twice. So I believe white weddings do not need to be normative or prescriptive, they should be a luxury for those who want and can afford. Traditional method (thus blessing from parents mainly after lobola payments) and a blessing by a Pastor is enough for marriage ceremonies.

Marriages and Weddings in the Bible
The Bible in a way hardly speaks of weddings as a normative thing for marriage. The most common example we have in the Bible is of the wedding at Cana in John 2. Jesus is the outstanding guest at that wedding. Merriment that involves eating and drinking is part of the ceremony. In John 2, Jesus is not portrayed as someone endorsing the ceremony but the ceremony was mentioned to highlight one of the many miracles he performed. Jesus does not comment on the wedding but on the request brought to him about need for more wine as they celebrated the newly wedded couple. Weddings mentioned in the Bible that I personally remember are narrated and not mandated.

Is marrying without wedding unbiblical?
But the big question that most people have is this: Where did this concept of white wedding come from? Let me take you down the history lane. White weddings can be traced back to an elite Roman class. The noble class would have a garland ceremony, where the bride would wear a white robe, a ring and at times a wreath. A cake was part of the program. Friends and relatives of both the bride and groom would celebrate the union. We see that [3]“Prayers were made to jupitor as the third finger of the left hand was cut and ringed” (Adams,).The understanding being that a vein connected straight from that finger to the heart. This is where the concept of white wedding we now have, came from. It was the Catholic church that Christianized the wedding process. But it also important to note that there were also other forms of wedding celebration in different cultures like Jewish culture which were different from the white wedding celebration. For us here in Africa we had our own African cultural ceremonies which were not accepted as right by many missionaries. So for African Christians white weddings were added to bride price as if a couple is getting married twice.

It is not a sin getting married without a grand ceremony. Marriage is a God ordained institution but wedding is a culturally formed event to celebrate the marriage. Marriage is lifelong but a wedding is a few hours show. This is not to trash and demonize weddings but to let us know that wedding is not a biblical prescribed ceremony that is mandatory for every Christian.

How then should I go about it as a Christian?
Here are some few biblical pointers, that I would like to suggest, to help us in the marriage process:

Find the one you love. Genesis 25:15-28Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)
Seek and get consent of the woman Genesis 25:58Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and from parents and or guardians of your bride Genesis 25:50-53Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)

Get married with a blessing from parents Genesis 25:59-60Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and from marriage officer (Pastor) with or without a crowd(wedding).

Feel very pleased and confident in the Lord that you have gotten married in a manner God still bless. Take your wife and be independent. Not all cultural practices are wrong Genesis 25:61Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) and Genesis 2:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).

Note that God is the author and blesses marriage. He can bless yours too as you marry in the Lord. The legalization of marriage by the government using state official papers is about legality and security, but God does not endorse and bless marriage because it is accepted by the government or state. Some governments endorse and accept gay marriages and lavish wedding ceremonies done, security provided but God does not bless them. So it is not about the wedding – it is about God’s standard and his standard is not this or that culture. It is all that is in line with his word. So marriage starts when God says it is.

You don’t sin, as shocking as this might be, by not wedding your partner. You sin by not respecting and taking marriage the way God say it is. God wants marriage to be a picture of his love to the church. This mean it is permanent, sacrificial, expression of sacrificial love. Love mutually and perpetually expressed in all humility. Find the bride, the groom (of opposite sex), seek parent consent, get married, let your Pastor pray for you(if you want wed).Here comes a couple, wow!

[1] Timothy Keller .The Meaning of Marriage.London.Hoder,2011.100pp.

[2] Webster Dictionary

[3] Jay Adams. Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980. 99 pp.

Wonder Satiya

Wonder Satiya serves as Fellowship Of Christian Union of Students (FOCUS Zimbabwe) staff worker in Harare. He is passionate about assisting students keep and grow their faith in lecturing halls and believers think as well as live out their faith in the market place. He is keen on exposing the nexus between Christian faith and leadership, economics, law, science, the arts and the academia. Wonder also assist as pastor at United Baptist Church of Zimbabwe in Harare.

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