(Last year I married Mark & Mandie. This year I led their baby dedication.)
Below is a response to the most recent request. If you or someone you know is considering marriage, take time to read the following before you simply hire a pastor the way you may hire a baker or florist. If you carry the title of pastor and you make a side income by blessing the unions of strangers, please reconsider.
Congratulations on your engagement. Since you’re a year out and starting to make important decisions related to your marriage, I’d love to take a moment to share my answer and then possibly encourage you as you consider which direction you’d like to go when it comes to an officiant or having a pastor.
Preparing for a wedding day and preparing for a marriage are two different things. Most people prepare for an event, a celebration, a day. Marriage is 99.9% what happens after that one day. Please do not make the mistake of placing all of your energy into one day and overlook planning for a lifetime.
The shorter answer to your question is that I limit the weddings I do to people I know (usually attendees of the church) so that our church can invest in the couple in the months leading up to the wedding and usually long after the wedding day.
So far, I’m not aware of anyone I’ve married having a divorce in the 14 years I’ve done weddings. I don’t know if that will always hold true but I do know that I want to serve people well by helping them avoid pain if possible. That is important to me. I never want to give my blessing to a union that could be harmful to either party. The scripture indicates that I’ll be held accountable by God (Hebrews 13:17) for how I care for and lead people. As a pastor, my role at a wedding is more than to serve as an actor. My role is to serve God by affirming that two people are united together in Him. I can’t honestly say that I’ve done you a healthy service if I simply show up and have you repeat vows.
The wedding itself is a spiritual service about a spiritual union as much as it is a celebration. When I work with an engaged couple, I make a serious investment into their lives. If you were to become part of our church in the months ahead, we’d consider doing the wedding.
My encouragement to you is to seek out a pastor and not simply a hired contractor.
With divorce rates so high and the costs of a divorce taking such an emotional toll, no one I respect would do weddings for people they do not know. The pastor’s care for you should be deeper than that of a DJ or Photographer. You will hire a lot of people to help you celebrate, the pastor should be there because they know you and have helped you prepare for a lifetime after that day.
Pastors who want God’s best for you will want to get to know you and guide you toward God’s plan for marriage. In most cases that involves personality surveys, one-on-one counseling, couples counseling, discussion of your childhood home life, future budgeting, marriage expectations, etc. Often there will also be a service such as “Prepare/Enrich” prepare-enrich.com. There may even be a study guide. All the while, the goal is to enhance, not disrupt the union you’ve already formed. A pastor who makes that kind of investment for you will be praying for you, helping answer questions and serve as an outside sounding board to help you resolve conflict. It’s a much more meaningful relationship than the alternative.
My encouragement for you is to find a person you trust who will take time to invest in you. Local church pastors who take this kind of approach do not cost more than the officiant you may find online. They simply take the role more seriously and seek to enhance your life before you say ‘I do’. It costs nothing to sit down with your fiancé and talk with a local church pastor. There are plenty of great churches and pastors in Baltimore. You won’t click with all of them but I’m sure there are one or two whom you’d find that you really relate to and whom would really invest into your life as you approach this incredibly important day. Remember, it’s not about the wedding day. You want to prepare for a lifetime.
I do wish you well and if I can ever assist you in the future, I’m glad to help.