Look to God, not elaborate ceremony, for enduring love in marriage

Even the simplest Christian weddings can be profoundly meaningful, as Jade Barker discovered.

Even the simplest Christian weddings can be profoundly meaningful.

When Jade Barker and her husband Michael got married, they created a wedding that was simple, meaningful and addressed their respective desires and Christian values.

By Jade Barker

September 14 2015Before my husband and I were married, we turned up to our normal church worship service one Sunday and were overawed by the time we left. What was so special about this day? A couple from the parish community had arranged with the minister to be married as part of the Sunday service. The man and woman were dressed modestly and had a very small congregation. I had been to several flashy weddings in the past, and this ceremony was the most beautiful wedding I had ever been to. With the average Australian wedding costing $36,200 in 2014, it showed that even the simplest Christian weddings, those without all the bells and whistles of materialism, can be profoundly meaningful.

Last year, when Michael and I decided to get married, I knew I wanted the ultimate simplicity of the wedding I witnessed that Sunday. Being a practical, private person and woman of faith, this style of wedding appealed to me deeply. Michael and I later labelled it the Brave Heart wedding, after the secluded ceremony shown in the movie. I did not want the excess and stress of a big wedding and going into debt to pay for it, especially when I thought I might miss the point, which was lasting love, not spectacle. The bible has a lot to say about taking care to live in moderation and within one’s means. Colossians 3:2 tells us to “set your minds on things that are above, not on the earth”. 1 John 2:15-17 is also a powerful reminder. We needed to look to God for enduring love in our marriage, not an elaborate ceremony. But Michael wanted the celebration of the bigger-style wedding to say “thank you” for all of the support he’s had from his family and friends over the years. How did we reconcile this? What transpired was more enjoyable than I probably would have found the Brave Heart wedding to be. It was simple, meaningful, debt-free and addressed our respective desires and Christian values. Here’s how we did it.

We worked out the essentials that we each wanted. Michael’s needs were straight-forward: for all of his family and friends to attend our church and for them to eat together with us afterwards. I wanted a traditional Christian framework so that it was meaningful and relatively short and I did not want the wedding budget to exceed $4000. I wanted a family-member to take a few simple photos of us. I also needed an outfit that I could be comfortable in so that I could present myself as an equal to my husband-to-be, and yet still be a bit wedding-y. Taking into account our needs, we began planning. In a word document, we created some headings that included all the elements of the wedding that we wanted.

We began by writing down a description of the style and feel of the wedding. We decided to drive to the ceremony together in our own car. We also chose to have the reception straight after the church service in the adjoining church hall, which omitted the cost of hiring a venue, made it easy for everyone to get there, and allowed the whole event to take place within a three-hour period. As our own church St Marks Anglican at Balnarring was planning renovations, we decided to have the wedding at the “sister” church, St Johns at Flinders. We discussed the plans with our deacon, Christine Barren and our priest, Jennifer Furphy and decided on a suitable wedding date. This was not an easy task, as Michael’s job as a high school teacher and my job as a Navy musician meant that we could not take leave during the school term. Even though it was still Lent, we decided on the Labour Day weekend in March, as we did not want to leave it until the school holidays when the weather had turned cold. We were delighted when Christine and Jennifer told us that they both wanted to be involved in the ceremony. Jennifer told us that the intimate style of wedding we were planning was ideal, simple, caring and meaningful.

We soon realised that the major expenditure for the wedding was going to be the catering. We chose to limit our guest list to 65 people and used social media, of all things, to invite them. Catered platters of “cold” food were the cheapest option and they worked really well. We also decided not to have a wedding cake. We purchased our own drinks and had the wait staff serve it in glasses they provided. The church flowers were beautifully arranged by parish members from St Johns Anglican Church in Flinders and my parents kindly decorated the hall on the day before the wedding. They did a fabulous job while keeping it simple. This gave our wedding a home-made feeling that was really beautiful, intimate and genuine.

We shopped for our outfits together, so I got a sneak preview of how handsome Michael looked in his suit! Hiring his suit was easy and less expensive than purchasing one. We purchased an ivory suit for me, as hire options for easy-to-wear women’s outfits were limited. A netted fascinator gave the hint of a veil and it also rounded off the outfit so I could wear plain, black court shoes with my dress. The fascinator also took the emphasis off my hair, so I could wear my hair in a plain French twist. I got some make-up books from the library and chose a very simple look. Then I practised. Not being someone given to such in the past it was quite an experience. It went really well and ended up only taking me about 30 minutes to do my hair and make-up on my wedding day. What a relief - I had other things to look forward to and less to worry about.

We had a traditional Anglican service, which was easy because the structure of the service was already set and the parish provided an exceptional organist for the hymns. A friend of mine from university who plays the cello beautifully, played in the hall for us during the reception, creating a warm, intimate atmosphere. This was so much better than having too many strangers there on our special day. There were a few heartfelt speeches, and naturally some embarrassing ones, in between the eating, drinking and cello music.

When it was time for us to leave, we had huge smiles on our faces, ready to traverse into the world as a married couple - without debt, and a relatively low carbon footprint for those concerned about such things. Everyone cheered, threw dried flower petals above us and filled the air with bubbles.

We had a wonderful wedding. It sounds like a cliché, but it may well have been the best day of our lives, even though it only went for three hours. It was a perfect period of time to enjoy the Christian celebration and meaning of the occasion and we did not have to go into debt to pay for our wedding. While the event still took a lot of discussion and planning — and generous support from our parish and family — we managed to avoid the consumerism, excess and debt that can snowball when two people announce that they’re getting married. After all, what is a Christian marriage truly about?