Marriage as Death

The following was a wedding homily, which I’ve adapted here for written and public format.

“Marriage is…(fill in the blank?)” I wonder how we would finish that sentence, using just one word. “Marriage is (what?).” If we had the time, it’d be interesting to survey a range of people and hear all the different ways folks would answer that question.

Maybe some would say, especially at a wedding, “Marriage is… beautiful.” Or maybe others would say, “Marriage is a gift.”

And both of those are true. But what if I told you that we could also finish that sentence this way, “Marriage is death”?

Now if marriage is something of a death, I suppose that means a wedding is in fact a funeral. And if you’re the ones getting married, that means on your wedding day you’re actually attending your own funerals!

That’s what I would like us to consider: marriage as a death.

1. Leaving & Cleaving

First, marriage involves the death of two independent lives, as husband and wife come together to form “one flesh.”

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Wedding Elements and Wording

The following are standard elements and language for use in officiating weddings. I’ve compiled the following from a variety of traditional protestant Wedding services. Feel free to take or adapt any of the following for your own use.

Giving of the Bride

Officiant: “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”

Father: “Her mother and I.”

Call to Worship

Our Lord Jesus said: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8).

Let us worship God as we now witness the marriage of (Groom) and (Bride – full names). May God be glorified this day in the lives of this couple and in the years to come.

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A Wedding Prayer

Our Heavenly Father,

We want to express our thanks to you on this special occasion. We thank you for the gift of love, the gift of marriage—that _____ and _____ get to experience that starting today, and the rest of us here have the privilege of celebrating your gift with them.

You tell us in your scriptures that you yourself are love: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Before anything else existed for you to love, you already possessed the perfect, quintessential form of love within yourself, between Father, Son, and Spirit.

But your love is so overflowing that it poured forth. You did not keep it to yourself, but you created a world on which to pour out your love, to experience and share in that love. You have made us creatures capable of loving, and capable of experiencing love—first and foremost with you, but also with others.

All love ultimately derives from you as its source, the fountainhead and origin of all true love. “Love is from God,” 1 John says (4:7). And as believers, “We love because you first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). We have come to know your love in this, that you laid down your life for us (1 Jn 3:16). You manifested your love for us by sending your Son to become the payment for our sin and reconcile us to yourself (1 Jn 4:9-10). Our love is the overflow of yours (1 Jn 4:7, 19).

Marriage isn’t the only place where we experience this love. But it is a special relationship you’ve given us where we experience it. What a gift marriage is! Marriage wasn’t our idea, something we invented. You created marriage. And when you created it, your Word describes it as your blessing to us. Genesis 1, “And God blessed them” (Gen 1:28).

We pray then that _____ and _____ would experience the rich blessing of all that you desire marriage to be. Guard them from their own sin that would make their marriage anything less than you intend it to be. Give them unity. Protect them from unfaithfulness. Provide them forgiving hearts, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven them (Eph 4:23). Help them to put the interests of the other first (1 Cor 13:4-7; Phil 2:4-11). Empower them to bear with one another, viewing the other as your blood-bought children (cf. Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11). Let them not merely love in word or talk, but in deed (1 Jn 3:18).

God, you made marriage to serve as a pointer for us, to show us a picture of Christ’s love for the church (Eph 5:22-33). You are the origin of love (1 Jn 4:7); and all love points back to you. Make _____ and _____’s marriage a beautiful mirror of that love, so that you might be preeminent in all things, including their marriage (Col 1:15-20).

You created all things; you hold all things together; and everything that you create and hold together exist for you  (Col 1:15-20). So too, you create this marriage; you hold it together; and it ultimately exists for your glory. Use _____ and _____’s marriage as one more piece of your grand plan of directing all things to your own glory. Because we know that their marriage will be most healthy and satisfying when it exists not for its own sake, but for yours.

We pray these things on account of our savior, Jesus Christ,