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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tossing the Bouquet and the Garter – My Two Cents

'26 Pegs wedding throwing the bouquet' photo (c) 2009, Ed - license:

Thanks to all who participated in the survey on the bouquet and garter tosses. The results were actually really close between all three options, so obviously there are lots of opinions out there on this topic.

I am just going to be honest here and say the bouquet and garter toss are probably my least favorite things about weddings. I know, sometimes they can be really fun, but sometimes they can also be awkward for all parties involved.

The Bouquet

First, let’s look at the bouquet toss. It used to be somewhat customary for overly enthusiastic guests to rush at the bride in order to grab parts of her dress and accessories, including the herbs or flowers she might carry. So in order to preempt this, she would throw her flowers to the crowd to keep them at bay.

Now the bride throws her bouquet behind her back to a group of single ladies who are supposed to clamor for the honor of catching it, and the superstition that goes along with it—that the recipient will be the next to marry. In talking with several of my single friends, many of them have said the bouquet toss is the hardest thing about attending weddings. Once the emcee announces the bride will be throwing the bouquet, often a single woman is pushed and prodded by well-meaning friends and family out to the center of the floor, where she is expected to make a spectacle of herself in desperation for future marriage.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, lighten up, Parks. It’s just a bouquet toss.” True, and in your circumstances this may not be a problem, but I would encourage brides to ask their single friends and family members how they feel about it. It is difficult enough to attend a wedding when you are wondering if you will one day be celebrating your own marriage or when you have perhaps had a previous marriage that failed.

This is one area where I believe it is best to err on the side of caution out of respect for others. Singleness is not something that makes a person less-than, but rather a reflection of a sovereign God’s plan for someone’s life. The Church would benefit from honoring and celebrating the single believers in our lives who are actively serving and loving Him, rather than suggesting they should be sitting on the sidelines waiting for something else—something “better.”

The Garter

The garter toss comes from an old tradition called “bedding.” In this custom a crowd of people would follow the bride and groom from the wedding to the bridal chamber and would then remove the couple’s shoes, stockings and outer garments and tuck them into bed. After giving the bride and groom a cup of spiced wine and cheering loudly as they drank, the crowd would leave. Tradition has it the bride would choose to remove her garters before someone else could get to them and would then throw them to keep the crowd from getting too close. While (thankfully) the bedding custom died out in the eighteenth century, we now have the garter toss as a souvenir of the horrors of this old tradition.

In modern times the garter toss is an opportunity for grown men to fight over another man’s wife’s undergarment. I knew a guy who went to several weddings and made it his goal to collect the garter at each. He then hung them on his rearview mirror (classy), driving around with married women’s lacy underthings hanging in his car. Seeing that made me feel even more strongly about this subject.

Grooms, do not subject your wife to this, please. Whether you engage in some sensual de-gartering dance at the reception or just throw a garter your new wife hands you, you are, in essence, giving another man a piece of your wife’s intimate clothing. No honoring of tradition should mandate this.

Often it isn’t the grooms who care about it, but rather the brides who think it is traditional and should therefore be part of the reception program. My friend Amy said her husband did not want to do the garter toss, but since their photographer was encouraging it they went ahead. Her husband was, in Amy’s words, “mortified” when a toddler caught her garter. Of course the wedding guests laughed about it, but personally I think a picture of a groom and a toddler holding the bride’s lingerie is a little uncomfortable, and in retrospect she wished they had not done it.

So what do you think? Am I being overly critical of harmless traditions? 

Next week I will share some alternative ideas to the bouquet and garter tosses. If you have any to share, please let me know! I’ve really enjoyed the comments so far on this topic.

Book Survey – Throwing the Bouquet and Garter

'Bouquet toss' photo (c) 2008, John Mayer - license:
As I write this book I continue to realize how tempting it is to just fill it with my opinions. But that is not the point of the book, and I pray and strive to make it not about me or what I think. At the same time, I cannot just shrug off my own thoughts without examining them to see why I think a certain way.

The beauty is I’m learning this applies to all areas of life–generally I think a certain way for one of two reasons: 1. It happens to be what I believe fits with a gospel-centered perspective and goal, or 2. It’s just my personal preference based on my own tastes (much of the time from selfishness).

I want my motivation in writing this book to always be Reason #1.

Over the next week or two I will be posting a bit about the bouquet and garter toss traditions, but first I would like to do a quick survey to see what YOU think–did you do one? Do you think they’re a good idea? Do they have any negative connotations for you?

I would be so grateful if you would take a quick minute to answer the question below.

AND, please leave comment or shoot me an email (catherinestrodeparks(at)gmail(dot)com) if you have more thoughts! Thanks so much.

Tim Keller on The Wedding at Cana

'The Wedding Feast at Cana in the Musee de Louvre' photo (c) 2004, edwin.11 - license:
If you are in the process of planning a wedding I would like to commend to you this sermon by Tim Keller, titled “Lord of the Wine.” Keller looks at the passage from John 2 that describes Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana and shows how the work and words of Christ in this event foreshadow both His death and the wedding feast of the Lamb to come.

Keller states in this event that “Jesus is thinking about his wedding day…the consummation of all consummations. The ultimate union, the ultimate embrace, the wedding feast to end all wedding feasts.” Yet he is also thinking of what it will require to bring His Bride to Himself–He must drink the cup of the curse so we might drink the cup of blessing.

As I’m writing about wedding receptions I am continually drawn to imagine and rejoice in our forthcoming wedding feast with our true Bridegroom, the Lamb Who was slain. Our earthly receptions are a picture, however dim, of this future feast. Yet we can rejoice now because Christ did drink the cup. Whereas in Egypt the water turned to blood was a curse, in Christ His blood is a blessing.

The beauty of the gospel is this: Because of Christ,  “You are not invited to obey a set of rules, you are invited to a feast. You are invited not just to know, but to experience it.”

An Open Letter to My Engaged Friends

'Engagement Ring' photo (c) 2009, Tela Chhe - license:

Back in the winter of 2004 I thought Christmas or New Year’s Eve would be the perfect time for a proposal. However, my now husband, then boyfriend, did not pick up on all my not-subtle-at-all hints, or, more likely, did not care about them because he had another plan. He did, obviously, propose eventually and completely surprised me. But in my mind the holidays seemed so right for it. It would seem I’m not alone because my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the past few weeks have been full of engagement announcements.

So lately I’ve been thinking, “What do I wish someone had told me the morning after I became engaged?” What is it I really needed to hear, but didn’t? Many things could be said here, but I will just write a few in the hopes that they will encourage and aid those currently planning a wedding. Note: I’ve talked before and will continue to stress the importance of planning for marriage over planning your wedding. There is no substitute for good pre-marital counseling with a local pastor who loves Christ and will ask you the tough questions to help you prepare for life together. This blog post does not delve into the subject, but rather addresses wedding-planning specifically.

1. Pinterest and wedding websites are your Frenemies

I am so thankful Pinterest wasn’t around when I was planning my wedding. Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of benefits to the site and I use it frequently. Yet the amount of pressure that brides put on themselves (and on others) to have the most creative, DIY-infused, original wedding due to what they see on this and other sites is just crushing. Ironically, all that work for originality ends up looking like another “Pinteresting” (one of my hubby’s favorite terms) wedding. In the end it’s very hard to live up to the expectations brides create based on what they see on Pinterest and other sites, so many either fight disappointment or just increase the budget to try to achieve perfection. In reality, many of the things seen on Pinterest are actually “style shoots”–images taken from fake weddings designed to inspire brides to incorporate aspects of the shoot into their weddings. But what we actually see is a kind of perfection we hope to recreate.

So you just got engaged. Take a Pinterest hiatus for a few days or weeks. Sit down with your fiance and pray about your wedding. Ask what he wants, and how much involvement he wants. Talk about the purpose of your wedding. Is it your chance to try for perfection? Is it a day to show off? Is it about you? Or is there more? Do you want big or small, day or night, indoor or outdoor, ring bearer dog or flower cat (please no. never.)?  Pray you will be able to filter out what is not helpful or realistic in the planning process. And pray for the right motives and focus during the process.

2. Whose wedding is it anyway?

Conventional wisdom is that the wedding is for the bride and groom (let’s be honest…the bride) and thus decisions should be made around what they want. It doesn’t take too many wedding planning reality show viewings to realize weddings are a hotbed of familial strife. They truly bring out the worst in just about everyone involved. I have seen typically calm, mild-mannered women turn into something scary over dresses or arguments about who will be the maid of honor. How many times do we hear, “Well it’s my wedding–this only happens once so I want it to be perfect,” or “It’s all about you”? In fact, this is the marketing message of the wedding industry.

People, do not believe this lie. I Corinthians 6:19,20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” While this passage is mainly talking about sexual immorality, the principle applies pretty much everywhere. “You are not your own.” If you have trusted Christ, you have been bought with a price. Yes, your wedding is a day for you and your fiance. But just as every day is a chance to glorify God, how much more is your wedding day?

May your wedding be a chance to proclaim His glory–to one another, to friends and family, believers and nonbelievers. Your wedding can be just about you, or it can be about God’s amazing grace in your lives–the grace that will sustain you throughout your marriage. It can be an opportunity for friends and family to worship you and your awesome DIY centerpieces, or a chance to lead others to the cross, where true worship happens.

3. In light of eternity…

Now don’t think I’m saying you shouldn’t spend time and money on your wedding. Every couple will have a different budget, so I’m not even touching that subject, but there is a certain filter to which we can subject some of these decisions. A friend told me someone had given her a great perspective on wedding planning. Our tendency is to go to extremes–either tons of money and time spent on planning, or we think this is wrong so we should therefore do very little. Yet this friend said it’s an opportunity to plan a worship service–a time to celebrate God for His grace, provision and amazing love. This kind of celebration deserves some time and money, and it’s right to spend what we can budget. This is a good thing.Yet all things come back to the motives of our hearts. I wish I could go back and ask myself, “Am I doing this in humble worship of God, or so others will THINK I’m doing it in humble worship?” Sadly many of my decisions came down to the latter.

So how do you decide how much is too much, or what to spend money and time on? I think the answer is the same no matter what stage of life you’re in. In light of eternity, does this matter? An eternal mindset changes everything. And don’t mistake this for some super-serious, no-fun kind of event. Christians should be having the most fun as we have the most to rejoice in. But if it comes down to deciding between hand-rolling 500 paper flowers or hand-writing letters of encouragement to your attendants, in light of eternity the decision seems much simpler.

4. Don’t force people to make excuses for you

Many times when people close to us get engaged, they go through this weird transformation. Maybe they aren’t exactly Bridezilla, but they are no longer the people we thought we knew. Girls previously devoted to building friendships and making disciples and growing in their faith are now consumed by wedding planning and can talk of nothing else. We quickly say, “Well after the wedding she’ll be back to normal,” or, “Well this is a very stressful time for her.” Because of the increase in commitments and responsibility, other things take a back seat–church involvement, friendships, service opportunities.

I love what my friend Janaye had to say about this: “Doesn’t it seem like when one is preparing for the most mysterious and fantastic picture God has given of our relationship with Him, we should spend more time with Christ, more time with the Church, more time in the Word?” Let this time be characterized by a deepening of relationships, rather than a focus on self. Ask those closest to you to hold you accountable and gently confront you if you start going wedding-crazy, and pray together for the right focus. May God be glorified in and through you!

These are just a few tips–things I wish someone would have told me, (although in truth I’m not sure at the the time that I would have listened). What would you add to this list?

A Little Personal Publishing Insight

'notebook' photo (c) 2012, waferboard - license:

Lately I’ve been getting some great questions about writing from friends so I thought I’d spend a few blogging days writing about writing. When I was just starting out in my pursuit of a publishing deal I Googled all manner of things to find out about the process. It’s a different world and I’m still just in the early stages of publishing, but since I was helped so much by those who shared their stories on their blogs, I would like to do the same today.

First, people ask if I always knew I wanted to write a book. The answer to that is a resounding “no.” I mean, I was a writing minor in college, so I’ve always enjoyed writing, but more along the lines of research papers and less of the gross, awkward journaling I attempted to do in the past (am I the only one who hates journaling?). In fact, I feel like I’m just impersonating a writer most of the time. I’m insecure about the fact that I have no platform, no real experience and no idea what I’m doing. Yet there are much better writers out there who have labored for years without quantifiable success. And this is the best introduction I can give to the publishing industry–it doesn’t always make sense to me. And yet God is sovereign even over book deals.

So the process began a little over a year ago as my mom and I sat down for coffee one night when she was in town for a few days. We somehow got on the subject of weddings and the need for a resource applying the gospel to wedding planning. We joked about how we could write a blog or a book on the subject, and then suddenly it didn’t seem like a joke. The next thing I knew I was Googling “How to write a book” and asking advice from writer friends. I met with my pastor, Byron, for some guidance–both on publishing and on weddings–and worked on a proposal. I have done some proofreading in the past for a writer friend so I was familiar with the format of book proposals, but I checked out a couple of library books and read some online resources as well to make sure I was doing it semi-correctly. I sent the first two chapters to my pastor, who talked to his agent (also a member in our church), who in turn called me to discuss representation.

Now, this is the way it worked for me. However this is extremely rare. Most people don’t have literary agents in their churches who are looking for new authors. In most situations authors must query agents for representation by sending query letters and/or proposals. My mom and I are totally blessed by our agent, Patti. She has been in the industry for years, has worked on both the writing and the publishing sides of the business, and as an incredible bonus she totally loves the Lord. From the very beginning Patti understood the book, knew the audience, and pinpointed the best publisher for our work. She sent the proposal to seven publishers, we were rejected by the first four or five, then her top pick asked for another chapter (which, naturally, I had not yet written and had to rush to complete within 48 hours, leading to a dentist appointment because I had been grinding my teeth so hard at night I had done some kind of nerve damage…not advisable).

Anyway, the book was picked up by B&H Publishing, which is actually right here in Nashville. Our editor said this is not usually the type of book published under their Christian Living division, but at the time she was pitching the proposal she had just finished helping with a niece’s wedding and another member of the team had a granddaughter getting married. They saw the need, understood the concept and went for it.

Now, let me also say, I know. It’s a niche book. In fact, because the idea is unique I have a lot of doubts about my writing ability. Rather than knowing the book was picked up on the strength of my writing, I know it was picked up on the originality of and need for the idea. On one hand, this is a huge blessing. I can struggle and write and labor over the words, knowing they must not just come from my own strength, thus limiting my over-abundant pride. On the other hand, though, I sometimes think, “How on earth did this happen?” and “What do I think I’m doing?”

Both reactions cause me to run to the cross, trusting the work Christ has done, believing He has given me this work to do and striving to do it to His glory alone. I would appreciate prayers during the process for both me and my mom. It’s a lot more difficult than I thought, especially for someone who never proofread a paper I turned in during college. My “writing process” included all-nighters, Dr. Pepper, lots of notecards, an uncanny ability to write fluff and the speed to sprint from the printer to the classroom in less than 30 seconds.

If you are writing, or want to write a book, I would just say two things by way of advice. First, know your subject and have a great understanding of the main message of your book before you ever start even the proposal. Time thinking on the front end will save lots of time on the back end. Second, and most important–pray. The process of looking for a publisher or agent can be a crazy roller coaster of emotions, pride, being humbled and generally just learning you aren’t in control. I have to pray repeatedly that God would protect my heart from both pride and depression. Ultimately it’s His glory that matters, not my own. There is something about praying this that refocuses me and comforts me, and I hope it will do the same for you.

If you are a writer trying to figure things out, I’d love to share my limited wisdom and experience with you and help in any way I can! Shoot me an email or leave a note in the comments and maybe we can have coffee (or virtual coffee).

If you’re interested in writing resources, here are some that helped (and continue to help) me:

Rachelle Gardner – this agent’s blog is a great resource for anyone from a newbie to a seasoned veteran

Michael Hyatt – this former CEO of Thomas Nelson gives great insight into the publishing world, although his site is not just dedicated to writing so you might have to filter through some of the non-relevant stuff

Rachel Held Evans – Evans has several posts on writing/publishing, but this one telling her “Publishing Story” was particularly helpful for me.

Nathan Bransford – another great site detailing the whole process

How to Write a Book Proposal – this book by Michael Larsen is what I used from the library

Tony Reinke – Reinke’s blog category list earns the blog its title: “Miscellanies.” He has great thoughts on all sorts of things, but in particular I appreciate his writing tips and book reviews. Just a few days ago he posted a list of helpful books on writing, which is what I will link to here.

My Must-Reads in 2013


I am looking forward to several new books, many from first-time authors, to be published in 2013. Many of these authors are friends, either from “real life” or “blog life,” and they have all encouraged me in their writing this past year. I’ll attempt to list these in order of anticipated release:

Gospel Amnesia – blogger Luma Simms’ first book comes out in just a couple of weeks (Jan. 15). I will post more on this later, no doubt, but be on the lookout for this writer’s account of the powerful effects of grace in her life.

Super(free)Woman: From Fundamentalist to Failure to Faith (Volume 1) – my friend Marci Preheim has written this excellent book, subtitled “From Fundamentalist to Failure to Faith.” Based on two Bible studies she has taught the women in our local church family, this message has freed myself and so many women to serve God not out of our own efforts based on guilt, but instead as a natural outflow from our position of abiding in Christ. I will be posting a longer review of this book in a few weeks when it is available for purchase on Amazon.

Suburbianity: What Have We Done to the Gospel? Can We Find Our Way Back to Biblical Christianity? – this book by my pastor, Byron Yawn, asks the questions, “What have we done to the gospel?” and “Can we find our way back to biblical Christianity?” I always enjoy Byron’s writing, but even more love his heart to shepherd and love his flock to something beyond ourselves and our rampant narcissism. This one is due out on April 1st.

Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home – blogger and author Gloria Furman has been such a huge encouragement to me as I’ve labored in my writing, but even more importantly I have been greatly encouraged and challenged by her reflections on the “mundane” aspects of life on her blog, Domestic Kingdom. This book encourages us to treasure the gospel in our homes, and I am so excited to read it when it comes out at the end of May.

There are many other great titles due out in 2013, but these are just a few on my radar so I wanted to share them with you. Please join with me in praying for these authors–for trust in the Lord’s sovereign control over who will read the books, and for faith that He will use the message as He wills.

What books are you looking forward to in 2013?