Churches: Offer a Free Wedding Day!
ago two couples who were living together met with Pastor Craig Gorc of Cedar
Park Assembly of God in suburban Seattle, and said they wanted to get
married, but could not afford a wedding. So he married one in a home, and
the other in a park.
prompted him to think, “Why not have the church offer a Free Wedding Day,
with all the trimmings? It is a way to reach into the culture.”
In a paper
he wrote for a doctoral course, Pastor Gorc (pronounced like quartz, but
with a G), wrote, “The goal was to influence cohabiting Christians and reach
into the non-Christian community.”
costs of getting married have been a real barrier. On average, couples that
live in or travel to Seattle for their wedding, will spend between $21,101
noted that “Many may feel the guilt associated with living with someone they
are not married to. `Living in sin’ and other catch phrases are all too
common to those in this living arrangement.” However he found that if given
the chance, most people want to do the right thing – marry.
disapprove of cohabitation, and these convictions “are presented in a
disapproving and condemning fashion. Attitudes of this sort have driven
people away from the church, who are the very people the church needs to be
reaching out to.”
indeed be the reason fewer are getting married, but I don’t think so.
First, a recent federal report indicated that from 1997-2001 that 68% of
those who married were cohabiting. Since churches perform three-quarters of
all weddings, it appears most pastors have closed their eyes to the
what few realize is that most cohabitation results in non-marriage. Last
year 7.6 million couples were cohabiting. That’s more than three times the
2.2 million who married. If two-thirds were cohabiting, that is only 1.5
happened to the other 6.1 million couples who were living together – four
out of five? They experienced what my wife and I call “premarital divorce,”
in our book, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers. This
experience is so painful that the number of never-married Americans tripled
from 21 million in 1970 to 63 million in 2010.
major reason marriages have plunged 54% since 1970, not the disapproval of
Cedar Park has pioneered a very important answer: a Free Wedding Day once a
year. The Christian Broadcasting Network put a spotlight on this remarkable
story this week. Here is a link to it:
On the day it was broadcast, a dozen
couples had asked for a Free Wedding Day. Undoubtedly, that number will
grow. But no other churches have followed Cedar Park’s example.
As Pastor Groc puts it, “It is
appropriate for a church to provide a service such as a Free Wedding Day to
the larger community. It not only remedies a real problem for couples; it
establishes a vital link for the importance of marriage back to the church
where it belongs.”
He also created an experience that
“would honor the Lord, bring joy to the participants, and be highly
memorable to all.” The church provided the facility, a minister,
photographer, live music, multimedia, flowers, a wedding coordinator, and
snacks for the wedding party before the ceremony. They could choose from 75
songs to be performed live. The costs could be as much as $8,000.
Yet the church only asked two things of
the couples. First they had to provide a valid marriage license and attend
four weeks of biblically-based counseling conducted by one of the pastoral
staff in a group setting. One part of preparation included taking a
One couple in their thirties had been
living together for five years. Another was James and Shelly who cohabiting
for four years. The couple in their 50s were headed toward marriage three
years ago when she found she had breast cancer. She had a double
mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and chemo which drained their wallets and
energy. “We cannot believe what they gave us. It is amazing,” she told CBN.
“We want to give something back.”
A third couple, Greg and Michelle,
wanted the wedding before she gave birth a few weeks later. Soon the whole
family was in church and heard a sermon, “Let God write your story.”
They went home to “to write in their
Bible that it was on this day that they were going to let God write their
life story.” They are now active members.
Free weddings are a way to evangelize.
Copyright © 2012 Michael J. McManus, President of
Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.