Tomorrow, Jeff will officiate a wedding yet again. Weddings are just the finest events on earth if you ask me. Going back to the time God presented Eve to Adam, how lovely could it have been? That’s the scene that repeats itself in my head even as I witness weddings that I have planned and coordinated, some of which I was just one of the many guests. No matter how many details are entailed for the organizers, weddings never cease to make me giddy all over again. Need I say more? I love weddings! That’s why I truly take pride in the weddings that I deliver and help coordinate, because I only give my best, no less.
Marriage is not a uniquely Christian institution. In fact, it has been around long before the biblical times, so to precisely define a wedding ceremony to be “Christian” isn’t easy. Let me start off by describing a typical church wedding in the west, then the various parts in details. The ceremonial symbols: Ring, Veil, Cord, Coins/Arrhae.
Now even as another wedding is coming up, I am yet again fascinated just how Jeff explained to the couple some days back during their pre-marital counseling what the symbols in our traditional wedding ceremony signify. These elements may have just started as tradition, some even came about for “luck.” Here we hope to share the biblical meanings behind these symbols in Jeff’s own words:
The rings symbolize God’s unending love, just as the shape of a ring has no beginning and no end. These symbols stand as the model of love for the husband and the wife who have both pledged their commitment to each other; and as they wear the rings, they are reminded of each other’s love.
The veil is placed on the groom’s shoulders and on the bride’s head. This symbolizes the roles given in Ephesians 6 – to the husband – to love his wife as Christ loved and gave His life for the Church; to the wife – to submit to the husband’s leadership as Christ is recognized as the head of the Church. Responsibility for leadership resting on the man’s shoulders and the symbol of submission of the woman is shown perfectly through this symbol.
This binds the man and the woman, as seen at the first wedding in Genesis 2:27, “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be UNITED to his wife, and they will become ONE flesh.” The union that is displayed also has a practical application for the couple. The husband must not pull his part of the cord towards himself so as not to displace the wife’s uniqueness. Similarly, the wife must not pull her part of the cord towards herself so as not to displace the husband’s uniqueness.
In weddings, coins are used to symbolize prosperity and blessing for the couple. But taking the Biblical perspective and design, in the Christian wedding, the coins are given to the husband and his acceptance of these symbolizes his taking on of the responsibility to be the provider as God is to His children. One of the names of God in the Bible is Jehovah Jireh which means ‘the Lord will provide.’
Traditional ceremonies often don’t have this element. In the Christian wedding, the Bible, which is God’s manual for life, is given to the husband. His acceptance of the Bible is symbolic to his acceptance of the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. It is interesting to see in the first seven chapters of Proverbs that they all (except chapter one where it is mentioned in the 8th verse) begin with ‘My son’ or a father’s words to his son. It is implied that fathers (the husband) should lead the family spiritually – in teaching the Bible, going to church, serving in the church, etc. This symbol is very important in the Christian wedding ceremony.
The Unity Candle
Matthew Chapter 5 gives Christians the title, “light of the world.” As the groom and the bride have professed that they are followers of Christ, this then implies that each one’s life serves as a light to the people around them. But, as a married couple, and as their lives are united, their marriage and their Christian home will now serve as the light, the example, for the people and families they get in touch with. The ideal is that their marriage would be a great testimony of God’s faithfulness, love and mercy.