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Category Archives: Tradition

Watching and Waiting: Jewish Wedding Traditions in the New Testament

'Wedding Photos' photo (c) 2011, Katsu Nojiri - license:

When I was researching wedding traditions for the book, I discovered wedding imagery is used throughout the New Testament. Because I was previously unfamiliar with Jewish wedding customs, I had no idea all these references were present. Seeing them, though, stirred my heart to love my Savior more and to long to be with Him in a new way. So today I’d like to share these things on the blog.

So here are some of the ancient Jewish wedding customs:

First, the groom’s father would choose a bride for his son, either on his own or through a servant or messenger. If the bride’s father agreed on the marriage, they would come to terms on payment. The groom’s father was required to pay a “bride price” to the bride’s father—basically buying her for his son.

Once the terms were agreed upon, all parties would come together for the betrothal ceremony. At this point the bride price would be paid, and the bride and groom would sign a contract or covenant, called a “ketubah,” signifying their agreement to marry. They would then drink wine as a symbolic sealing of the marriage.

At this point they were betrothed. But unlike our modern engagements, being betrothed during this time basically meant you were married, only you had not yet consummated the marriage. Only death or a decision on the part of the groom’s father could dissolve the betrothal.

So after they drank the wine and signed the Ketubah, the groom would return to his father’s house and would work to build an addition onto it, preparing a home for his bride. He would continue to work, sometimes for over a year, until the day when his father approved the work and gave him permission to go and bring back his bride.

So the bridegroom would go for the bride, who was waiting expectantly, not knowing when he would arrive. He would bring her back to his father’s house where they would enjoy a feast lasting up to seven days. We get a glimpse of such a feast in John 2 at the wedding at Cana, where Jesus provides wine after it has run out too soon.

I’m sure you’re picking up on these things. The idea of Christ as bridegroom is all over the place in the NT. First, the Father chooses a bride for his Beloved Son. The love of the Father for the Son now spills out in the love of the Son for His chosen bride.

But there is a bride price. And the price is inestimably high. For the bride price the Father pays IS the Son. How much must He love the bride to pay such a price? And the value of the bride comes from the degree of love with which she is loved by the Father and the Son.

As Jesus eats the Last Supper with His disciples, He drinks the Passover wine with them and says, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” This is the betrothal wine. He must go to prepare a place. In his Father’s house are many mansions, so He is now preparing a place for His bride. And one day—a day even the Son doesn’t know—the Father will give Him the go-ahead to return and bring home His bride.

On that day we will feast—the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be prepared for us. We will drink the cup and the marriage will be consummated and the union will be complete. And we say together, “Even so, COME LORD JESUS.”

When the groom would go home to prepare a house for his bride, the bride would remain to prepare herself. And when she went out around others, they all knew she was spoken for. She wasn’t looking around for a better offer. She was saving herself for her bridegroom. This was part of the betrothal agreement. She had been bought at a great price, and therefore she had to remain pure for her groom.

So it is in our case. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul tells the Corinthians he feels a divine jealousy for them because he betrothed them to one husband, to present them as a pure virgin for Christ. And why on earth would we look around and let our eyes wander when we have CHRIST? After all, we have been bought with a price—the blood of Christ—and are no longer our own. It is Christ who lives in us. And through the Holy Spirit, as we look on Christ and His beauty and glory is revealed more and more to our hearts, our desires and affections for Him increase. It’s like receiving a letter from your fiancé—you can’t be with him in person, but as you long for that day your heart is drawn closer to Him through His words to you.

I pray these truths encourage your heart as they have mine. What a precious gift to find in His Word. What love and joy is ours in Him! May we live each day encouraged and strengthened by that love, as we work and wait and rest in Him.

Christian Compartments, or Why We “Spiritualize” Things

'Mail slots' photo (c) 2009, Valerie Everett - license:

Since writing my post on bouquets and garters I have been thinking a lot on the idea of the sacred/secular split. Basically this is the idea that certain aspects of life are “sacred”–attending church, reading the Bible, prayer, evangelism–while other things are “secular”–sports, movies, non-Christian music, etc. This dichotomy presents itself in weddings as well. As Christians we easily say, “I want the ceremony to be sacred,” but assume the reception falls into the category of “secular.”

One of the things for which I am most grateful in life is my liberal arts education. At my college I was taught that all truth is God’s Truth, therefore we can apply a Christian worldview to all areas of life. It was something I began to take for granted, with “worldview” being the Sunday School answer to every college test question. But when I graduated and was no longer surrounded by believers who had been taught in the same way, I realized how rarely this line of thinking is taught in the Church.

It is so easy to see life as a series of compartments: the church compartment, the entertainment compartment, the exercise compartment, the friend compartment, the work compartment, etc. 

Francis Schaeffer wrote a good deal on this subject and in his writing he questioned how we as Christians view the Lordship of Christ. In essence, is He only Lord over our souls and the religious aspects of our life? Or is He Lord over all–our bodies, our minds and our souls? This kind of submission requires thought and prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, though, which is really much harder than just making a list of “secular” activities that are, or are not, permissible for Christians.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a film guy. He loves movies, particularly redemptive dramas, including classic and foreign films. In the past several months he has begun hosting occasional “Manly Movie Nights,” in which he invites a few guys over, they watch a movie and then discuss it. At first this was a somewhat awkward thing, I think, as we are not really taught to think of movies as more than just entertainment. Yet as Erik began pointing out Christ-figures and redemptive elements in the movies, they became obvious to the guys viewing them as well.

At the same time I often hear people give Erik a hard time for “spiritualizing everything.” 

At the beginning of January my pastor preached a sermon in which he called us to look at our identity as Christians. He said we should be thinking every moment in every action that we belong to Christ and should therefore be living for Him. I was extremely convicted, knowing I could not look at 2012 and say, “This year belonged to Christ.”

The problem is we take this and say, “I am Christ’s so I shouldn’t watch R-rated movies or listen to non-Christian music.” But instead of taking every thought captive, we’re choosing not to think at all. Rather than watching Schindler’s List and examining it for truth and fallacy, we watch a “safe” Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that espouses “family values” with some watered-down picture of perfection for us to idolize. Rather than listening to and examining the lyrics and musicality of a Mumford and Sons album, we choose a romanticized, watered-down gospel in contemporary “Christian music.”

Or we feel free to watch and listen to whatever we want, but neglect to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. We don’t examine what we take in, but turn a movie on, turn off our brains and take it in without thinking.

I guess what I’m saying in this rant, which is more for me to get my thoughts out than for anyone else to read, is that we’ve been bought with a price. I don’t think I was bought by Christ’s precious blood so I could turn off my brain and choose to not think about art and culture and society. I wasn’t bought by Christ to look like the world, but I also wasn’t bought to sit at home and avoid the world.

I was bought to participate in the Kingdom work of redeeming culture through motherhood, writing, neighboring, reading, listening, examining. I was bought to worship God with every part of me. 

And you, you were bought for Kingdom work also. Therefore glorify God in your body, and heart, and mind and soul.

So in weddings, there really shouldn’t be this secular/sacred divide, as if somethings are “spiritual” and others are not. A wedding itself is a picture of a future reality–it is a hopeful portrait of our marriage with Christ. You are a spiritual being, you have been bought with a price, you are not your own. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

Your worship is your whole self, presented to God through His mercy and the work of His Son. You are an ambassador for Him, the aroma of Christ.

And when it comes to choosing whether or not to throw the bouquet or the garter or dance or drink or whatever, know you’re free. You’re free to do it, and you’re free not to. I shouldn’t tell you, because much depends on your particular circumstances. But know this–you have a new identity. You aren’t a slave to tradition or to other people’s expectations or opinions of you. You are a slave to Christ. And that is true freedom, leading to true JOY.

What do you think? Am I off-base? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I think through how to write about the big picture of weddings.

What is a Bridesmaids Luncheon?

'85/365 - Bridesmaid's Luncheon' photo (c) 2007, Lauren Nelson - license: couple of days ago I posted a question on Facebook about Bridesmaids Luncheons. So many of you participated and were super helpful in providing info. Apparently this is not as common a tradition as I previously thought. I still can’t tell if it’s a regional thing or not. One respondent said maybe it’s a holdover from a previous generation that is still honored mostly in the South.

I am a product of the South. My parents were living in Little Rock when they met and were married, so many of the traditions they took part in were southern traditions. Thus, when it was time for my wedding, my planning was very much influenced by southern customs. My bridesmaids, however, were from all over the place—from Atlanta to the Philippines. My Matron of Honor and her mother hosted a Bridesmaids Luncheon for me the day before the wedding and I think it was an unfamiliar tradition to some of the members of my bridal party, and I don’t think they’re alone. What seemed common to me is, in fact, just an optional event for the wedding week.

It might have its origin in the South, or it could just be a holdover from a previous generation. Whatever the source of the Bridesmaids (or Bridal) Luncheon, it is certainly not a required event. However, if you elect to have one, or are just curious as to what it is, here are some thoughts on planning an uplifting, meaningful time for the bride and her attendants.

In general terms, the Bridesmaids Luncheon is a small party given by the bride in honor of her bridesmaids. It is a chance for the bride to thank them and spend special time with them in the midst of the wedding rush. It can also be hosted by a family member or friend on the bride’s behalf. It is commonly held the day before the wedding as a precursor to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The guest list includes the female members of the bridal party as well as both the bride’s and groom’s mothers and any other close female family members. You can also invite other close friends associated with the wedding—a soloist, flower girls and their mothers, etc.

I personally love this tradition because it’s a chance for the bride to give back to those who have sacrificed to serve her. It is one moment in which the focus is on others, and it’s just a great time to relax and be with close friends and family members. It can also be a special time to focus on the Lord, surrounded by those who know and love the bride best.

On Facebook my friend Winnie shared what made her luncheon special:

A very close family friend hosted my bridesmaids luncheon and also invited women who had influenced me and pointed me to Christ. We ate and I gave my gals some gifts. These precious women asked me about my fears/concerns/hopes and then spent time praying for me. I am so thankful for that time.

Another benefit to this event is that it gives members of the bridal party a chance to get to know one another if they have never met. My college roommate had a bridal tea the day before the wedding and everyone was asked to wear a hat. Now, understand she lives in Knoxville, TN and this was a very southern event. We had a great time sipping tea, modeling our hats and getting to know each other, mostly by telling stories about the bride. She was the common denominator and telling these stories—some embarrassing, some heart-warming—was a fun shared experience for all of us.

Have you been to a Bridesmaids Luncheon that was particularly special or meaningful? What made it great?

Wedding Registries: Tradition or Trend?

'Vera Wang Embossed Zinnia Wedding Invitation' photo (c) 2010, William Arthur Fine Stationery - license: yesterday’s survey results were really helpful. Out of close to 50 respondents, the highest number of votes came from those who think including the registry information in the wedding invitation is in poor taste. However, the number who think it’s a good idea to help guests, or those who are indifferent, were almost as high as the first group. So I have a couple of thoughts, and now know how to tackle the issue in the book.

First, I think sometimes we just accept what those before us have done as tradition. I think one of Emily Post’s wedding books gives an explanation for the little tissue paper sheets that you see sometimes in with your wedding invitation. Apparently they are used to separate the invitations as they’re moved from the printer to the customer, and are really just necessary with engraved invitations so that the text doesn’t run from one to the next. However, somewhere along the lines someone must have put the tissue in when they mailed their invitations, and now it has become a tradition. I know I included it in mine and thought you were supposed to. But it served no purpose at all.

I think if we looked at some of what we do in weddings we would see this idea more and more. And sometimes there are good reasons behind what we do, but we may have no idea what they are. For instance let’s take the wedding veil. Where did that come from? I just assumed it was a symbol of purity, but never thought about the history of it. There are a couple of theories on this. Some say it’s from ancient Greek and Roman culture and was used as a means of warding off evil spirits. Others, though, believe it dates back before that to the culture of arranged marriages. It was thought that a groom might not marry the bride if she was unattractive, so she would be heavily veiled. We see this in the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah.

This is just one example of a situation where we know it’s “tradition” to do a specific thing, but we don’t give thought to why. I know I didn’t think, “Hmm…but why should I wear a veil? What is the symbolism of this?” I just tried to find a pretty, inexpensive one that looked good with my dress. I certainly wasn’t looking for one thick enough to trick Erik into marrying me before he discovered what I really looked like. Although that would make for a dramatic “unveiling” during the ceremony.

I think this invitation thing is a good example of this idea. Somewhere along the lines a bride thought, “Hey, I’ll include my registry info with the wedding invitation to make things easier on people.” Then maybe a friend received it and decided to do the same for her wedding. And then the idea just spread like wildfire because how many people actually consult Emily Post when planning a wedding? We just do what other people have done–that must be right.

And now it IS the new “right” to include that information. And yet there is a generation that did not include it and thinks it’s rude and tacky. And obviously no one is going to battle over this, or at least I hope not. It’s hard to imagine a sweet grandmother and a young bride getting in a brawl in a post office over this, although a hilarious image none-the-less.

So if you’re getting married, what should you do? Do you include the info with the invitation or not?

Well I think, once again, it just comes down to our hearts. Are you including the information because you want gifts, and you want to make sure the gifts are from your registry? Or are you not including it because you think it’s rude when people do that and you don’t want to be like them? On the one hand the decision is characterized by greed, while on the other it’s motivated by pride. And these are two huge temptations during wedding planning.

I think those who commented on the last post made great points, and represent a sampling of opinions on the subject. The truth is in many cases you won’t be able to help offending someone along the way. The question is are they offended because you are choosing to do something you believe honors the Lord, or are they offended because you have done something they perceive as rude or greedy, even thought that might not be your intention? You can’t control someone else’s perception, but our desire should be for God to be glorified. Things that get in the way of that should be avoided at all costs. Remember Paul’s words to the Colossians:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

I plan to do one more post on registry, and then next week I’ll begin a regular series of Real Wedding posts. I’m super excited to share Becky and George’s beautiful, Christ-centered wedding with you!

Weddings Around the World

Yesterday The Big Picture featured captivating pictures of weddings from all over the world. I found it fascinating to  see how these weddings are similar or different from those commonly witnessed in the U.S.

It’s worth taking a look at the rest of the pictures on the site. Sometimes I think we get so self-focused on our own traditions that we ignore the fact that there are cultures around the world who do weddings differently. Some aspects seem to be Western exports (think western hemisphere, not cowboy boots…although that’s popular these days too), while others are unique to one particular culture.

Seeing this variety also helps us stop and think about why weddings are the way they are in our culture. What particular symbolism or traditions do we include, and what are the meanings behind them?

From the website: “They happen as mass ceremonies or from the back of a van all over the world in many different traditions. In the United States alone more than 2 million weddings take place a year at a average cost of $30,000, according to the Bridal Association of America. Here’s a look at some brides and grooms and the events surrounding their big day.” — Lloyd Young

(Special thanks to Gloria for the link)

Newlyweds dressed in Han-dynasty costumes bow to each other during a traditional group wedding ceremony in Xi’an, Shaanxi province on May 1. A total of 130 couples from all over China attended the group wedding ceremony following the nuptial rites of the Han Dynasty. (Reuters) #

I was particularly intrigued by the mass wedding ceremonies, such as these two. Whether the motivation is to keep costs down, or to have a unique wedding, there are many pictures that show these larger ceremonies.

Brides speak to their grooms during a mass wedding ceremony in Amman, Jordan, on July 6. An Islamic charity organized a mass wedding for 46 Jordanian and Syrian couples who are unable to afford expensive ceremonies. (Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

See the rest of the photos here.

What unique traditions or elements have you seen or heard about from different countries? How do these traditions change your perspective on weddings in Western culture?