Saturday, February 09, 2008

Preaching at Weddings

My second job in full-time ministry was a busy north-eastern church where there were four or five of us on the staff team who could take weddings and we had many weddings - as many as five on a Saturday between April and September. We did wedding duty. You took one weekend a month and did all the weddings on that day. You could be very lucky and have none or very unlucky and have five (I did once), or have a bank holiday weekend with a Friday wedding, a few Saturday ones and a Monday one too.

The choir got to know my standard wedding sermons for non-church-going families pretty well. There was:

John 2: 1-11 - the wedding at Cana. Basic mesage - Jesus makes parties go better.

1 Corinthians 13 - the hymn to love. Basic message - imagine a church where things had gone so wrong they had to be told off for not loving each other.

Psalm 145 - good to acknowledge God in the middle of special occasions.

Colossians 3:12-17 - love binds all things together (similar sermon to 1 Corinthians 13 but more able to do justice to the passage).

I tried to do a different one for each wedding on the same day. Sometimes I'd let the choir choose.

If I knew a couple well I would encourage them to pick a different passage and then use a one-off sermon just for them.

My attitude in preaching was, and is always, that I was speaking to the couple and inviting the witnesses to overhear.

There are some good wedding illustrations, quotes and jokes. Many get over-used. If I hear a new one I tend to us it for a bit then discard it. I often tell a story about my own grandmother because I know nobody else will use it, or tell it quite as well.

There is a good Grove booklet on preaching at weddings (Grove Worship 74) by Ian Bunting who was the rector of that same north-eastern church before I got there.

These days I know my four wedding sermons off by heart so don't use notes at all. I try and judge the atmosphere. Most guests will expect you to be dull and long-winded. Being interesting, spiritual and punchy will surprise them.

There is no point in having more than one point.

I sometimes print off the sermon I used and send it to the couple with a card after the event with a note that I am there if they need me. Then I leave them alone.


Kathryn said...

I love your "after care" - and will adopt it forthwith, if I may...
Very excited, too, to hear that somewhere out there is a church where weddings can take place without 1 Cor 13...Of my 2 dozen weddings to date, only one has ever asked for anything else (the cord of 3 strings is not easily broken...)
Perhaps things will be different when I move

Cosmo said...

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Mike Peatman said...

Once did a 5 wedding Saturday (last one at another church) but only ever peaked at 4 on other days.

Likewise had 3 or 4 standard sermons.

John 2: Jesus turns the ordinary into something special. We may feel ordinary but... [finish the sermon, it's not difficult]

1 Cor 13: Love is essential, practical and eternal.

Also used rooted and grounded in love from Ephesians.

Like the idea of sending a card / address / contact option.

If and when I go back to parish ministry, I'll pinch that idea.