Preaching at Weddings
I’ve preached a fair number of wedding sermons (I’ll be at #29 by the time this is published). I’ve heard many wedding sermons as well. Can I just say that it’s a really really difficult thing to speak to a bunch of people who:
- are not that interested in the Bible
- are only there this precious day off because they want to hear from the wedding couple, not some monologue from a stuffy/preachy pastor
- have heard the same Ephesians 5/1 Corinthian 13/Revelation 21 sermon fifty times before
- are hungry for lunch
How do you preach at weddings in a way that respects the occasion (it’s a wedding, not a Sunday service!), doesn’t bore people to death with the usual passages, gets them to the lunch reception in time and also stays true to the Scriptures.
Six tips for sermon
- Speak to the couple about their marriage relationship. That’s what makes a wedding sermon different from any other sermon. Two people are getting married and therefore, the sermon should address them and their marriage relationship in some way. The couple are the primary hearers of the sermon with their wedding guests as secondary hearers listening in.
- Don’t limit yourself to passages which speak about marriage. You don’t have to stick to passages like Ephesians 5 which speak explicitly about marriage. A Christian marriage is the closest relationship between 2 Christians. Therefore, any passage which speaks about how Christians relate to each other is suitable for a wedding sermon.
- Be faithful to the big idea (main point, purpose and situation) of the passage. A wedding sermon should be an exercise in expository preaching. Expository preaching teaches the author’s main point in order to achieve the author’s purpose in a current day situation similar to the situation of the original hearers. We want to be faithful to big idea of the passage so that the passage can have the same effect on our hearers as it did to its original hearers.
- All wedding sermons are evangelistic. All wedding sermons are evangelistic in the sense that it has the gospel at its motivational heart. Here’s what I mean: the sermon’s application (driven by the author’s purpose) is primarily about how the couple should relate to each other in marriage (see Point 1 above). This application is almost always driven by a gospel engine. So, preach the gospel in a wedding sermon! That’s the secret sauce!
- Personalize the sermon with details about the couple. This is a great tip I picked up from an Australian pastor. Because the wedding sermon is primarily about the couple’s relationship, it makes the sermon much more interesting if the sermon has stories/anecdotes/insights about the couple. These could be stories about their courtship days, what they love about each other, challenges they faced in the courtship days, what they think marriage will be like etc..
- Make it short and winsome. Everyone is there to celebrate a happy day. They’re there to hear about the couple. Bring in the gospel and show how it makes a difference to their marriage relationship. But don’t go on for 45 min exegeting passages in minute detail, showing everyone the theological significance of every other word. Keep it short (15 minutes is about right. 20 minutes is stretching it). Keep the manner winsome. “I wish he could have expounded more forcefully and at greater length from the text.” #saidnooneever
19 Possible passages
|1||Isaiah 54:1-8||God’s compassion and love for his wife|
|2||Isaiah 62:1-5||God’s delight/joy over his wife|
|3||Hosea 2:14-23||God’s faithfulness towards his wayward wife|
|4||Psalm 45||Royal wedding psalm|
|5||Ecclesiastes 3:1-15||God works all things to reveal his beautiful plan in Jesus|
|6||1 John 3:14-23||Believing in Jesus and loving one another|
|7||Song of Songs 1:15-2:6||God celebrates love that is enchanting, exclusive and that satisfies/protects. God in Jesus shows this kind of love to us|
|8||Ephesians 5:22-32||Human marriage is a model of the marriage between Jesus and the Church. Submit & Love.|
|9||Genesis 2:15-25||Garden life ruined. New life through Jesus.|
|10||1 John 4:10-11||We love one another in the God-sending-Jesus-to-die-to-be-the-propitiation-for-our-sins way|
|11||Colossians 3:12-14||God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved put on new clothes|
|12||1 Corinthians 13:1-7||Love VS Corinthian divisions/infighting|
|13||Numbers 23:27-24:19||Show grace to each other the way God shows grace to his pesky people|
|14||Proverbs 5:15-23||Faithfulness satisfies. Unfaithfulness kills.|
|15||Philippians 2:1-8||Consider the other person more significant than yourself the way God does in Jesus|
|16||Song of Songs 8:6-7||Married couples relate to each other in a exclusive, all-in, full commitment way because love that can be expressed sexually is really powerful (srong as death, fierce as fire, cannot be bought). This is a picture of Jesus’ strong love for the church.|
|17||Romans 5:1-2||In Christ, we have peace with God, we stand in grace and we have the hope of glory. Let Jesus be the centre of the marriage|
|18||Revelation 21:1-8||The ultimate wedding is between God, the ultimate husband and the church. Everyone has an ultimate choice to make: Take the FOC water of life and become God’s bride OR reject God and be banished from his presence forever|
|19||Matthew 18:21-35||Show unlimited forgiveness because in Jesus God showed you unlimited forgiveness.|
(Source) These questions are sent to the couple in advance. Each will send the answers back separately. The answers can then be used in the sermon in the introduction, in the body of sermon to illustrate ideas and also in the application (to give concrete examples of how to apply).
- How did you meet and what were your first impressions?
- When and how did you ‘fall’ for the other person?
- How did the proposal happen? Details please!
- What are some lessons you’ve learnt along the way in your courtship?
- What does ‘grace’ mean to you in light of your courtship and marriage? [Question can be changed depending on the big idea of the sermon]
- What’s something amusing or funny about the other person that most people don’t know about?
- What’s one thing about the other person you’ll have to work hard to get used to/accept?
- What’s the most memorable time you’ve shared so far?
- What’s the funniest moment you’ve shared so far?
- What special message would you like your wedding guests to take away from taking part in your special day?