This post's title needs a bit of explaining. I've only been married once, and I plan to keep it that way. The first wedding that I'm referring to is one that I officiated. Ken Marz and Sarah Heckathorn tied the knot today and I was privileged to be the one to be a part of it. Truth be told, I only did the vows, ring ceremony, and pronouncement (the easy stuff). Another minister did the message. I just basically had to find some vows to use and a traditional ring ceremony. No problem. The biggest concern I had was just not messing it up during the ceremony. All in all, it was a pretty cool experience, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. Thanks to Ken and Sarah for having me be a part of their wedding.
After the wedding I stopped at a local gas station to get some stuff I needed for my Sunday School class. The clerk noticed that I was dressed up, and actually asked if I was going to a wedding. I told him that I already had been. He asked if I was then on my way to the reception (it was about 5:30 PM). I told him that was already over too. He was in disbelief. He couldn't believe that the reception was already over at such an early time. But I guess that's what happens when you have a pretty "tame" ceremony. One without booze or dancing (not that there's anything wrong with those things; I just think it was a neat testament to the convictions of the couple - so kudos to Ken and Sarah for that).
My systematic theology prof at Sioux Falls told a neat story about a minister he knew who began each wedding ceremony he conducted by having the bride and groom sign the marriage certificate, hand it to him, and then he threw it on the floor and said, "Now that we've rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, we will render unto God that which is God's." He did this to underscore the fact that a marriage is first and foremost a covenantal relationship that finds its meaning in the eyes of God, and not in the eyes of the state. His point was, yes, the state says you are married, but what does God say? The spiritual significance of marriage is much more important than the legal significance.
That little story stuck with me, and I've thought about it quite a bit. I really like it. I told Ken and Sarah that I was going to make a similar distinction when I did their vows. I wasn't as dramatic as to throw the marriage certificate on the floor, but I did make sure to mention that the important business was about to take place (making a covenant with and before God), and that the unimportant business (signing the marriage certificate) was just that - unimportant. I don't think the significance can be overstated.
All in all, it was a good experience, and I'm looking forward to repeating it many times in the future.