We had been engaged for less than a month when I made the first joke about eloping. Nailing down even the basics of wedding planning was proving difficult: we didn’t know exactly where, or when to get married, or how our guest list should look. What we did know, however, was that we wanted to get married. “So why don’t we just elope?” I half-joked one afternoon.
Soon, the joking turned into a conversation.
And weeks later, when the cost of even a simple wedding was looming large and threatening, eloping almost seemed the responsible thing to do. “Why spend all that money on a wedding?”, we reasoned. “Wouldn’t it be better to make a down payment on a house? Or even give the money away for the sake of the gospel?”
I developed a fairly acute case of the Wedding Heebie-Jeebies, and the high gloss of the bridal industry had us ready to pack our bags and find a willing Elvis-impersonator to witness our vows.
But we didn’t. And in hindsight, we are so grateful, because there are a couple of great reasons to opt for the good ole’ wedding ceremony rather than the whirlwind elopement.
- Weddings Change Your Public Status
As much as we like to say that marriages are private events, and that what happens between a couple is their personal business – the fact is that while marriage happens between two private people, it is a very public thing. Marriage officially changes your status: it makes you family, a new building block in the community. It changes your legal status, your name, your financial affairs and your next-of-kin. It reshuffles your place in society, and changes you from being a fiancé(e) to a husband or wife. And, as author Elizabeth Gilbert astutely observed, if you skip the ceremony, sometimes its difficult to safely process the transformation.
- Weddings have Witnesses
There is a reason that solemn vows need witnesses: they are people who testify to the truth of what we have promised so that we can be held accountable. Witnesses at a wedding shouldn’t be the strangers hastily grabbed in a foyer to attest to our signature. Rather, they should be people who know us and who will continue to know us, so that they can remind us of what we promised before God and them.
Marriage is a real union of real sinners: the times of “for poorer”, “for worse” and “in sickness” come just as surely as the richer, better and healthy times. In those seasons, it is a great help to have people who were there when you made your vows, and who remind you to keep your oath, even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4).
- Weddings have Biblical Significance
Marriage is afforded the highest dignity because it mirrors the highest of relationships: that between Christ and the church. It is significant that God Himself chooses to celebrate this with a feast: Revelation 19 describes the great rejoicing at that most sumptuous of celebrations – the marriage supper of the Lamb. If our marriages are a mirror of the heavenly reality, our wedding celebrations should be a mirror too: joyful, and celebrated by many guests. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper,” says Revelation 19:9.
Apart from the fact that eloping would probably leave your family and friends hurting and feeling dishonored, eloping robs a marriage of its sacramental kick-off celebration. A wedding doesn’t have to be big (not every friend you’ve ever loved has to be in the wedding), or expensive (trust me, no one will care if you don’t have wedding favors). But a wedding should have people: witnesses, celebrants, community.
If you’ve found the one and you’re reading to get married, do yourself a favor and do it surrounded by people who will celebrate the creation of your new family with you. There’s more blessing in it than you might realize.
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