Wedding scriptures have always carried weight in my family. So much so, that I have come to think of them as anchors for marriage and for life; verses to return to as a reminder of your purpose and path, together with your spouse.
My Oma and Opa were married in Murmerwoude, now called Damwoude, in Friesland – a farming province in the north of Holland with its own customs, language and history (if you’re Canadian, think the Quebec of Holland). They were married just before immigrating to Canada, leaving their families behind indefinitely, with no idea if or when they would see them again. They took their wedding scripture with them on the boat, and have carried it on their hearts through 61 years of marriage:
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. (Psalm 32:8)
Reformed Church in Damwoude, Friesland, where my Oma and Opa married in 1956.
My parents married in the Dutch Reformed Church in 1984. The same one in which Andrew and I married 33 years later. They met with the Reverend before their wedding and he gave them their wedding scripture. It’s carved into the cornerstone of their home in Kingsville. And it’s carved into my memory, they have quoted it so often throughout their marriage, at every change, challenge or new joy:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Reformed Church in Kingsville, Ontario, where my parents married in 1984 (and where we married in 2017!).
These verses have stayed with me, like heirlooms, passed down. Their blessing has always seemed to have a hereditary quality. As anchors, these verses strengthened the marriages of my parents and grandparents, of which I am the product, and so, conferred to me, they will strengthen my marriage, too.
Choosing our wedding scripture
When it came to picking our own wedding scripture, I was confounded. Andrew and I did the routine of itemizing verses that might be meaningful for a wedding. We thought of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle, and 1 John 4:16. We looked online for “wedding scriptures” but none resonated. So we prayed about it.
The Wedding Feast at Cana, Paolo Veronese, 1562 – 1593.
Soon, it came to us. Only a few months before our wedding, Andrew led a bible study at St. Matthew’s Riverdale. It was the first bible study I had attended as an adult. But more importantly for our relationship, it was the first time that we read the bible together; the first time that we opened up, in a deeper way, to each other about our faith. Once a week for five weeks, we studied Philippians.
That bible study changed our relationship and our lives. As Paul writes in Philippians, the Lord was near, helping us to “work out our own salvation” (2:12), strengthening our understanding of Christ and our relationship to him and to each other.
What stood out for me was the meaning of Christian humility. In the hymn in Chapter 2, Paul describes how Christ “emptied himself” (kenosis), giving up his divine form and humbling himself to take on the form of a slave – human form. In this, I understood something that I have long known but never quite grasped its meaning for me: If there is a God, then creation is subject to it. Since I believe in God, I know that it is our nature to be in His service. Therefore, humility is a right understanding of our human nature.
Paul really drove this home for me in Chapter 3, where he writes, so eloquently, what is probably one of my favourite verses of all time:
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. (Philippians 3: 4-8)
Like Christ, Paul empties himself of earthly merits that count for nothing and, in doing so, enters into a right relationship with Christ – one of humility and service.
A new understanding of my human nature changed my relationship to this world and to Christ. And because marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church, of course, this also changed my relationship with Andrew. I wrote more about that in an earlier post, The celebration and blessing of a marriage.
Not bad for our first bible study together.
We agreed that a passage from Philippians would be the right choice for our wedding day. As our anchor, we chose some of the final verses to remind us of what we had come to understand, and guide us in whatever new challenges we may face together in our shared vocation.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
If you are trying to decide on a wedding scripture for your own big day, I would encourage you to pray about it, separately and with your partner, and reflect on your shared experiences in faith.