Bring Back the Weddings / Bring Back the Funerals

According to The Knot’s 2019 survey of the wedding industry, only 22% of couples held their wedding at a church (religious institution). This is the same percentage as 2016, suggesting that only about 1 out of every 5 weddings are held at a church. Perhaps we should not be surprised as many in the “marrying age” (the average age of a person getting married in 2019 was 32) are no longer as invested in religion in general. Nevertheless, my anecdotal evidence is that faithful believers are more often opting to take their vows at venues or destinations. While I have not found (nor – to be honest -dug real deep) into the percentage of funerals that are held at churches, I assume it is potentially even lower than weddings.

blue and white wooden church during daytime

So my plea is for Christians to bring weddings and funerals back to the church. For those who know me, this may seem hypocritical since I had a destination wedding. Fair enough. Nevertheless, I’m still going to make the case. I am aware that a church is a people, and not a building. I am also aware that there is no biblical mandate for what I am proposing, so it falls into the category of wisdom and sentiment, both of which should be biblically informed.

Fighting Cultural Marginalization

We are living in an age when Christianity has been privatized. This is to say that it is only deemed acceptable in uber-private aspects of life. Liberal/progressive types have managed to convince a large portion of the population that separation of church and state – a phrase that does not actually appear in our constitution – is designed to keep God out of every aspect of public life, when in reality the Establishment Clause was probably designed to keep the government from interfering with the church. Add to this the hyper-atomization of society to the level of the individual and you all of a sudden have a culture that intentionally sidelines the role of the Church in society.

Nevertheless, marriage and death are trans-cultural realities of life that even the government has a hard time denying. They are also subjects over which the Church is uniquely authoritative. Marriage is depicted in the first two chapters of Genesis while death makes its appearance in chapter three. Marriage was instituted by God and thus, God is the unique authority over it. Death is God’s curse upon man for sin, and the final act of a soul before he must face God in judgement. Nevertheless, death has been defeated by Christ and therefore is not meaningless nor hopeless.

As we observe these definitive moments among ourselves, it makes sense to center them around that which is authoritative over them. It reminds us that modern, secular man cannot escape our Creator. It serves to remind those who may deny the Creator that they are made in His image. While it would take a series of outlandish exegetical maneuvers to declare it a sin to get married by a justice of the peace at a local courthouse (and no doubt many believers have done so for good reasons), it certainly paints a different picture than a wedding at one’s local church.

Contextualizing our Celebrations

This one became more noticeable to me at a recent funeral, but I think it applies to weddings as well. The only thing that takes place at funeral homes is funerals. Nobody rents the place out to have a baby shower. The whole place is set up for this one specific purpose, from the casket sales gallery to the family grieving room. But when you have a funeral at your local church building, you’ll be back in a few days for something that isn’t a funeral. You’ll be having a Bible study in the same room where you sat with your grieving family. You’ll be singing praises to your Savior in the same sanctuary where you committed the body of a loved one to the Lord. And I think there is something very healthy in this. It is good to remember that in the same place where tears are shed, marriages will be sealed with a kiss. Where man and woman are declared to be husband and wife, precious saints will be sent into the realm where marriage blossoms into something even greater.

Death and marriage both have a strong center of gravity. It is easy to get lost in their orbit. There is nothing wrong with new love and there is nothing wrong with grief, but both can become idols to which we bow. They need to be set in the context of a greater body of truth. Grief can be tempered with joy and marital tunnel vision can be enlarged and enriched.


Another reason I would encourage the return to church for weddings and funerals is to provide an easy way for fellow believers to follow the biblical admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. This attitude of sharing in the joys and pains of one another does not have to be limited to a specific day, but can happen across seasons of life within the context of a local church. Again, it is perfectly possible for this to happen regardless of where the specific events take place, but there is something bonding about these events taking place within a shared space. It allows others a natural entry point into our joys and struggles. To be standing in the place where we stood when it happened makes mutuality natural.

Personal Preferences and Practical Considerations

Of course, there are practical considerations regarding family locations, number of attendees, appropriateness of church property (ie are you meeting in a local mechanic shop? Actually, that could be kinda cool…) that will always come into play. Additionally, there may be financial considerations that may affect the decision making. So file all of this under wisdom and sentiment.

A few years ago I had to bury a young man. He was pretty important to me as I had picked him up for Sunday School when he was a boy, led him to the Lord, and counseled him through various phases of life. Coming from an un-churched background and having gone through various struggles in life, his funeral – held at our church – was well attended by people that you would not normally see at church. As I conducted that service, I couldn’t help but think how different it was to invite these grieving friends and family here, to this place, where their loved one had heard the gospel and found grace and acceptance, than it would have been to go to a funeral home. Regardless of whether or not any of those folks come back (and some have!), it encourages my heart to know that when they drive by, they will remember that those who meet in that building every week loved their loved one.

I will simply conclude that my years of pastoral ministry lead me to say that when I die, I would like my funeral to happen in a church, where the gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached the following Sunday. When my children marry, I would like – circumstances permitting – to see it witnessed by the congregation among whom they were raised. Let’s bring back the weddings. Let’s bring back the funerals.

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