Everything you hear about wedding planning really is true; obviously there’s a continuum and everyone’s mileage will inevitably vary, but you’ll more than likely run into some person or another airing their dirty laundry.
It sucks. It sucks that the wedding can’t stay focused on its reason for being: the celebration of two individuals publicly declaring and celebrating their love for each other with the people they love most. It sucks that other people see this as an opportunity to settle scores, satisfy personal vendettas, or otherwise siphon attention away from the happy couple. It sucks, but it’s also reality. Likely most, if not all, of us have family members that cause us to inwardly brace ourselves when considering putting them in marital circumstances.
Exhibit A: I received an email yesterday that I’d been expecting for some time. The only edits I made below are in brackets and were to remove names.
We received your wedding invitation the other day. Thanks for including us on your big day.
We’ve been thinking and wrestling with what to do regarding your wedding for months now.
Let us put our thoughts for you in proper context so there won’t be any misunderstanding.
Our thoughts and concerns are in the category of a Christian marrying a non-Christian.
Let us start by saying we have nothing against [The Lady]. This is not about her personally or individually at all. We know that you believe differently than we do regarding things from a Christian doctrine standpoint, but it’s very clear from what God says in the Bible that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian.
We’re certainly not trying to tell you what to do, and don’t want to offend you or start any debates, but feel we would be sidelining our true beliefs if we were to attend your wedding.
When someone calls themself a Christian, they are to believe the claims of Jesus. We want this for you. We also want this for [The Lady].
Not only does God tell Christians to not marry non-Christians, (2 Corinthians 6:14), but He says why….it’s because marriage is suppose to be a convenant that represents Christ’s love for His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
We hope this doesn’t hurt you and hope you can find a way to understand.
We do appreciate you inviting us, but wanted to let you know we won’t be coming, and why.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please ask.
We’re completely open to discuss this further if you desire to, but just wanted to explain our decision.
Thank you Shannon!
As you might expect, I have a couple comments on this. But they might not be exactly what you’re expecting.
1: This was completely and fully expected.
My immediate reaction upon receiving this email was “That sounds about right.” An hour later, my delayed reaction was “Yep, that sounds about right.” And it has continued to be such ever since.
I’ve known for awhile that there are elements of my extended family who have very different perspectives on life–religion and politics in particular. I’ve engaged some of them in debate, to no effect. It’s become the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge anymore, because we all know what happens when someone does.
Of course, avoiding talking about our beliefs is one thing. They have no problem acting on those beliefs when the time comes, and this was one such time. I was fully expecting someone to bow out.
In retrospect, I probably could’ve made some money on that. Blast.
2: This was the best possible outcome.
In keeping with item #1, I’m actually glad this happened. The alternative would be relatives bringing their antagonistic beliefs to an event of celebration, inclusion, and love. Those ingredients don’t exactly mix. They had the foresight to contact me ahead of time, explain their reasoning–however much I may disagree with it–and remove themselves voluntarily.
It sucks when your entire family can’t be present for reasons you personally find less than lucid. But I would rather be surrounded by a handful of people who really want to celebrate with us than hundreds who are just going to hang out in their respective corners and murmur to each other.
Although, the best possible outcome, as The Lady pointed out last night, would’ve been to simply send the RSVP back with a “no” and no reasoning attached to it. It’s very, very difficult not to take something like faith personally–it is, by its very definition, deeply personal–and while I understand wanting to explain one’s reasoning, there is also absolutely zero obligation to do so in almost any case (seriously: you don’t have to explain to your boss why you’re taking PTO or taking a sick day). Which leads us to my third and final point…
3: I don’t understand the reasoning.
This goes beyond simply having a different perspective on faith. This delves into the specific evidence cited for God disallowing marriage between Christians and non-Christians.
First, they cited 2 Corinthians 6:14, which states
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
In and around this verse, there is exactly zero mention of marriage. There is, however, a glaring implication that “unbeliever” is used to mean “non-Christian,” which I not only vehemently disagree with in principle, but which I’ll also contradict later at face value. Remember this one.
Second, they mentioned Ephesians 5:22-33, which says
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
So I feel I should mention: I really, really despise this bit, in particular the difference in marital duties between husband and wife. But that aside, there is no mention whatsoever of faith. An analogy is drawn that a couple should love each other as Christ loves the Church, but no mention is made of what faith both partners should be.
Third, I found this gem in my own research in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14, stating
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but does this not directly contradict–and in no uncertain terms this time, no need to infer certain relationships–the earlier 2 Corinthians passage?
This is not to say I agree with everything the Bible has to say to the literal word. After all, I would think God’s chosen people are believers by default; I’m pretty sure belief in God makes one a believer by definition. This is “merely” to point out that not only does the Bible contradict itself and by interpreting it literally you are in actuality cherry-picking what to obey and what to ignore, but that this argument doesn’t even interpret the Bible literally. Assumptions were made to justify a preconceived notion.
The third section was mainly my inner scientist, logician, and Catholic scholar run amok. If someone on our invite list doesn’t want to attend our wedding, for whatever reason, they are more than within their rights not to attend. I have no intention of dragging people to the event against their will. Of course I’d prefer people be happy for us and show their support, but I will take an abstention over willful drama any day.
Plus, that’s fewer mouths to feed at the reception. MORE FOR ME.
I suppose the moral of the story is this: weddings really do bring out the best and worst in people. But by focusing on the best, you minimize and potentially drown out the worst. We’re going to have some pretty spectacular folks at the event, and that’s going to eclipse everything else. A good philosophy for almost any part of life, I suppose.
Speaking of which, I hope you like the tuxedos I picked out for my groomsmen and me: