… that is, the Regulative Principle of Weddings, and the Necessity of Reforming Filipino Weddings
Your wedding can be simple and solemn, not elaborate, but yet beautiful, dignified, and most of all, God-honoring.
In recent weeks, I’ve been asked a few times, “Pastor, how are Reformed weddings done?” “Are there ninongs and ninangs (godparents or sponsors)?” These are hard questions, since I don’t differentiate between “Reformed” and “non-Reformed” weddings, but between Christian and secular weddings.
But after being asked to be a ninong in a few recent weddings in Manila, I’ve come to the same conclusion that a Balikbayan made after attending a birthday party for a little girl, “Dito sa Pilipinas, maraming pautot!” (pardon the language) There are so many useless embellishments that people have added to weddings, funerals, birthday parties, and baptisms, many of them because of superstitions.
The regulative principle of worship is clearly and concisely summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 96 regarding the Second Commandment: “That we in no way make any image of God, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word.” In other words, in worship, we must do only what God has prescribed and approved in the Holy Scripture. If not, we fall into all kinds of innovations, creativity and gimmicks, which in turn result in idolatry, because our minds are “idol factories” (Rom 1:21-23). Your wedding can be simple and solemn, not elaborate, but yet beautiful, dignified, and most of all, God-honoring.
So we can apply the same regulative principle to Christian weddings. Here are some reasons why:
1. Time is precious. Many weddings last over an hour. In the heat and humidity, this is torture for everyone. With the horrible traffic, and “Filipino time,” attending a wedding is often a whole day affair.
2. Traditionalism is often unbiblical. Remember, RPWorship says do only what Scripture commands. In contrast, most of the ceremonies in the Philippines are not rooted in the Bible, but in Roman Catholicism. The 16th century Reformed weddings had no veil, cord, coin, Bible, or even candle ceremonies, much less the “money dance” during the reception. See the 1637 Scottish Book of Common Prayer’s “Form of Solemnization of Matrimony.”
3. Tedious ceremonies are stressful to the bride. With all the planning, even up to a year before the wedding, long wedding ceremonies will turn her into a nervous wreck. Will her wedding be the most stressful, instead of the most beautiful, day of her life?
If you’re thinking about or planning your wedding, may I suggest a few things to conform to RPW, and to simplify your life:
1. Have the photo session before the wedding. The whole entourage can go to a nice garden or park for this. Then go to the church for photos, as if they were taken after the ceremony. Photos with the rest of the attendees can be taken during the reception, table by table.
2. If you have witnesses (or sponsors), have them sign the marriage contract before or after the wedding. The officiating pastor may also sign before or after the wedding. I’ve asked others why this is done during the ceremony, and no one has an answer. In one wedding, there were 16 pairs! How long did it take all 32 to sign the marriage contract?
3. If there are sponsors, get as few as possible. We had one ninong and one ninang in 1977. Again, as in children’s baptisms, often this is for financial reasons only. Another recent innovation I’ve noticed is the kissing of the hands of the sponsors. Can you imagine how much time is added to the wedding when the bride and groom have to kiss the hands of 32 people? The reasons why we prefer not to have godparents are in another article I wrote regarding children’s baptisms.
4. As a maximum, have candle, veil, cord and ring ceremonies only. I don’t see any point in the coin and Bible ceremony. The whole ceremony already has Bible readings and a Christian charge to the couple, sponsors and congregation.
5. Limit the songs to just 2 or 3. Many weddings are so long because every little ceremony has a song after it. The songs should be sung during, not after, these little rituals. And please, get good singers, and turn the volume down! (I’ve been to weddings where they were even out of tune.)
7. Limit the entourage to one each. Except, usually, bridesmaids and groomsmen. For example, one flower girl and one ringbearer. And please, don’t get your two-year-old nieces and nephews. So many of these flower girls and ringbearers are carried by their Moms crying during the processional! If they can’t even march on their own, what’s the point?
8. Have wedding rehearsals. Most weddings I’ve attended are so chaotic and noisy because there was no rehearsal. If your wedding is on a Saturday afternoon, you can have the rehearsal in the morning (because very few people are available on Friday night). All the entourage must be present, even ninongs and ninangs (if there are any). A lunch together after the rehearsal would be a great time of acquaintance, fellowship, and reminiscing good times. After lunch, then the photo sessions.
9. To have a quiet and solemn ceremony, consider excluding small children. You can even have your friends as the flower girl and the ringbearer.