Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode. A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. (Nashville: B&H Books, 2014). 256 pp. $12.51
One of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life is the preparation for one of the most joyful experiences in a person’s life. Marriage is an amazing gift of God’s grace in which we have a unique opportunity to tell the story of God’s covenant-keeping love for his people in the sacrificial love of his Son. Weddings are a snapshot of what should be played out over years of marriage. In general, weddings are beautiful. In one sense, it’s kind of hard to mess them up. But, we’ve all seen our fair share of weddings that just leave you shaking your head.
Nothing deflates a wedding service like that moment when you realize the couple planned their wedding to exalt themselves instead of God. However, nothing brings tears to your eyes like that moment when you realize the couple planned their wedding to put the gospel of Jesus Christ on display and exalt the glory of God’s grace and love for his people, the reality to which marriage points.
Wedding preparation is foreign ground for nearly everyone who embarks on the treacherous journey. Most women who plan their wedding only learn about how expensive they are when they are standing in the flower or dress shop. There are a few societal wedding prep laws that guide the whole wedding prep process for many couples, even Christian couples. First, the wedding day belongs to the bride. It’s her day. Family, friends, photographers, caterers, planners, and the random guy at Starbucks had better cater to the bride’s every whim without complaint because, well, it’s her day!
The second wedding prep law, which flows from the first, is that parents of the bride must spare no expense. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are spent on a 30-minute ceremony and a reception. Many parents go for broke for a few hours of eating, drinking, and dancing.
So, where does the Christian couple begin in the process of planning a wedding that doesn’t follow these wedding prep laws, but instead seeks to put Christ at the center of the wedding? Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Stode seek to answer this question in A Christ-Centered Wedding.
Serving as a helpful guide on the entire wedding prep process, A Christ-Centered Wedding shows couples, particularly brides, how to navigate the treacherous waters of dress shopping, registries, parties, ceremony planning, rehearsal, and reception. From the perspective of a mother-daughter, the authors give their own experiences in wedding planning. But, the ultimate goal of A Christ-Centered Wedding isn’t to provide a litany of tips, but instead to promote a vision of putting Christ at the center of both wedding and marriage. And they desire for the wedding prep process to be joyful and God-honoring, not miserable and God-awful. They write,
Marriage is one of God’s good gifts. It is a blessing to all of creation, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Before you can experience the joy of this gift, though, you need to get through the wedding, and the wedding planning. This can be either an uplifting, encouraging experience or a frustrating exercise in trying to please everyone and failing. Many times it’s a combination of the two.
There are many books dedicating to helping couples exalt Christ in their marriage, but Parks and Strode seek to help couples exalt Christ on the wedding day itself. The greatest aspect of A Christ-Centered Wedding is the dual impact of theology and practice. Their theological explanation of the gospel and marriage is satisfying. The first three chapters are biblical meditations on the definition and purpose of marriage, which provides a biblical basis from which to make practical applications. Their basic argument is that since Christ is the center of marriage, he should be the center of the wedding.
But this book isn’t just filled with theological truth. It is also filled with rich practical instruction. When I was helping my sister and her husband plan their wedding, the goal was to plan their wedding to be as God-centered as possible. My goal as the officiant of their wedding was to honor God and honor them while exalting Christ as the center of their wedding. We used many specific practical instructions from A Christ-Centered Wedding in the process of planning their wedding.
The authors provide a plethora of creative and helpful ideas for every aspect of wedding prep from engagement all the way to the end of the reception. In each step of the wedding planning process, the ultimate question the authors ask and answer is, “How does this decision honor Christ and show him to be central to our wedding and marriage?”
I highly commend A Christ-Centered Wedding to any engaged couple in the wedding planning process. It’s also a helpful resource for pastors to use in a premarital counseling setting. Readers will leave with a higher view of marriage, the gospel, and the rightful place of Christ in a wedding–front and center.
I received this book from B&H Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.