Bridegrooms & Brides & Christian Wedding Metaphors

Photo by C. David Tobie

On the day of her wedding, the heat finally breaks, and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. We are out of the Heavy 100s and back into the roomy warmth of the 80s.

For us in the bridal party, with our fancy dresses and our pinned up hair, with gray suits and vests, we feel it like a gift. I am very aware of the fact that my carefully applied makeup is not melting in the sun as we smile, as the photographer snap, snap, snaps. Smile. Now, be silly. Now with flowers held out like an offering, the orange petals of the lilies pressed together in our hands. Snap, snap, snap.

The bride is my baby sister. When she puts on her wedding gown, and our mom’s old veil falls soft over her red hair, all I can think about is that Christmas that we got wedding stuff for our dress-up bin. How old was I then? Seven? How old was she? Three?

I can see us as clearly as if I’m watching a home video. We are in our matching, plaid Christmas dresses and our brand new veils. We are walking up and down the hallway, me in the lead, her dutifully following my orders.

Now, she is tall, regal. She is doing a practice walk across the room, and we are all crying, dabbing-not-wiping at our making, tipping our heads up and blinking at the ceiling.

*

My wedding day was two weeks after my 20th birthday, and I was young. Captivated, still, by fairy tales and love stories and Disney. The book, The Sacred Romance had recently debuted in evangelical circles, and I’d filled my copy with underlines and stars and puffy hearts. I loved the metaphor as faith as Romance. I spelled romance with a capital “R.”

It seemed to me that there was no truer metaphor for God than a wedding. Than Groom and Bride and a great Wedding Feast. Happily ever after in a castle in the clouds, and I commissioned our baker to make our wedding cake into a castle. (She didn’t really catch my vision, and it looked like the cake was covered in giant mushrooms instead of turrets.)

I carried roses; I wore a big dress; I felt, all day, like a princess. I remember it chaotic and wonderful and pink tulle and music.

I remember the people, so many of them from such far-away places. They were standing with big, wide smiles as I walked down the aisle; they were blowing bubbles into the air, and the sky was filled with them: wishes, and hopes and all that pure, translucent love.

*

My little sister is organized, and calm, and her big wedding binder has a tab and a paper for every detail. She’s remembered all the things that I forgot at my own wedding: a button-down shirt for the hair salon, an emergency kit for the Getting Ready Room. Bobby pins and Band-Aids and an unopened box of Kleenex.

When she says her vows, she doesn’t get the giggles like I did. She makes her promises quiet and strong. She looks straight into her groom’s eyes.

The day is a hundred beautiful details, thought out and pinned together, Pinterest-style. It is her and it is him, their personalities shining into that traditional church wedding like so much sunlight.

I will remember her wedding day as beautiful, remember myself laughing, remember the dancing and the love and the cake made out of donuts. I will remember the way my sister looked coming down the aisle on our dad’s arm; I will remember the way her hair looked curled under the veil.

I will remember buttoning the back of her dress, all those tiny, delicate pearls. I will remember thinking everything is metaphor.

*

These days when I think about God, I don’t think much about Brides and Grooms and Wedding Feasts. I have been married nine years now; it has been a long time since I’ve felt like a bride. Almost a decade since I walked down the aisle in my white ballet slippers and laugh-cried through my vows.

And this is as it should be, I think. The world is full of metaphors, different ones for different times. I am raising boys now, teaching the messy lessons of potty training and of kindness. I am doing the dishes and vacuuming, and I am leaning into the liturgy of it. I am filling up the baby pool and thinking about love. I am casting my net into the pond, catching my son a frog.

I think of God in earthy, home-grown metaphors. In water and dirt and worms pulled up from the ground. In the smallness of my daily tasks; in the bigness of all this long, difficult mama-love.

But they leave the church hand-in-hand, and we are lined up along the sidewalk. We are pressed against the trees and the flowers, spilling over into the parking lot where their little red rental is strung with pop cans.

Photo by Abby Iselborn (via Facebook)

And suddenly, there seems no better picture of faith, no better metaphor for Christian community: they are walking into something new; we are surrounding them on every side. Our breath is blown into a thousand tiny bubbles, and it is hovering over them, under them, around them.

We are banded together in this moment, all of us thinking of nothing but the girl in the white dress, the boy in the gray suit. We are their cloud of witnesses, and we are watching them glow.

The line between “wedding guest” and “believer” seems thin as thread. In this moment, the work is so similar, almost exactly the same: we are making way for love; we are cheering and clapping.

We are watching and believing as Love forges bravely on into the world.

24 thoughts on “Bridegrooms & Brides & Christian Wedding Metaphors

  1. Addie,
    I loved reading this about your little sis’s wedding. I have a new perspective today on weddings of true believers and it truly is a metaphor of the Church and Christ. Over the weekend we attended a nephew’s wedding that was only a metaphor of the world and how Satan has stolen the so many away from Him. It was sad to be in a church and at a wedding where there is no representation of Christ and promises are made to the stars instead of vows to each other and to God. So thankful for you and your family that you can truly celebrate in the marriage of your little sister.

  2. I giggled through my vows too…glad I’m not the only one. I was embarrassed. But when my daughter was one, she went through a phase of ‘lets throw everything away’ and threw away our wedding tape…..so now I can’t be embarrassed too much, lol. It’s actually kind of a bummer, but the whole day was disappointing, so whatever. I wasn’t a virgin when I got married so we were punished by having a super small wedding and…blah. It wasn’t that fun to plan or anything. But whatever. We’re going on 10 years so I guess it wasn’t that important. I have to avoid pinterest wedding stuff b/c it makes me regret not standing up for myself and having a wedding I wanted. Oh well. Beautiful post! I had that same book, but could never get more than halfway through it, and then I was sad when I realized one of the authors had died, so then I never read it again.

    1. I love that you giggled too. And I’m sorry you didn’t have the ceremony that you would have wanted. Maybe for your 10 year, you can do a re-do! 🙂

      1. That was the plan, and then we realized how expensive it would be, just to even do a cake and punch ceremony…even though I’d rather have done something nicer. So we went to the Smoky Mountains for a week instead…..which, now, with kids, I’d rather have! But it still would be nice to say our vows in front of people again, and have amazing photography taken. Maybe for 20, LOL.

  3. The idea… “The world is full of metaphors, different ones for different times.” How can this be such a struggle when I know it’s so completely true? I’m glad the wedding was a success and beautiful. Ours was… well, it was more us than maybe I would have admitted at the time. LOL Thank you for the wedding guest metaphor. That will live with me for a while.

    1. Ours was “US” too. But US at 20 and 23 is a little different than US at 29 and 31. Ahhh all that pink tulle… 🙂

  4. I love that feeling of believe in the new love that we celebrate at weddings. We are up North for my Cousin’s wedding Friday and I will reflect on it with new eyes.

    Mama love feels worlds away from the giddy newlywed season, but I am so glad that everything IS in fact Metaphor.

    1. Yes. It’s a good reminder. And even though that bride/groom metaphor is no longer as meaningful to me as it once was, I found that surrounding the couple and blowing bubbles felt fresh and newly true. I think it’s because I crave that community now, where in the first-getting-married days, it felt like a given. Something that would always be there.

      1. Just wait until its YOUR child walking down that aisle, Addie. That turns the world for you… we are still struggling to comprehend it. But it was wonderful, and you captured it beautifully. Thank you. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to read this page dry-eyed… or not.

  5. I can still remember you as a bride, maybe because it’s the last time I saw you. I’m sorry to have missed the latest wedding, but your description helped me feel a bit like I was there. Thank you!

  6. “We are watching and believing as Love forges bravely on into the world.”

    We believe so full, there, at the altar, and when the hopeful couple is driving off with their aching jaws for smiling so much do we also wonder how much of their future will be entirely unexpected, and therefore challenging to their collective core? All is so much complication and commitment. So mysterious, yet so familiar. In its essence so beautiful: the life, love, and legacy it all represents for the human race. I’m a believer, through and through, or I wouldn’t play the role I do in making marriage happen. But I have a healthy fear for the brokenness of every bride and groom, something my wife is still suffering after these 35 years.

  7. Addie, everything you write is beauty. I think we outgrow our metaphors, not necessarily because they were too small or too something or too young, but because they served us for our season, then led us into the new.

    1. Thanks Preston. I’m so glad someone else experiences these shift in metaphors. I love how you wrote it: “they served us for our season, then led us into the new.”

  8. Interesting. I never quite loved the bride/bridegroom metaphor, because marriage always seemed so sticky and hard, and fairy tales are not real. Still, I can understand the appeal. And the beauty of those small moments. Seventeen years, so any small moments strung together make the tensil strength of our vows invisibly stronger.

    1. Yes. It used to be much more meaningful to me…before I was actually married. Ha! 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for this post! My 1 year wedding anniversary is on Monday 🙂 It was fun to also reflect on my wedding as I read about yours. As I planned the wedding, I learned the many intricate metaphors of marriage. It all comes down to reflecting the perfect love of our Lord though. Thank you!

  10. Sounds like such a beautiful wedding – and I loved how you likened the wedding guests to the great cloud of witnesses. I guess another similarity is that no matter how much the witnesses want us to do well in our Christian walk, and no matter how much we want the relationship to succeed of each wedding we attend, it’s the person/couple walking who have to do the work, the witnesses can’t do it for them.
    I used to wonder why I always cried when I watched the runners entering the stadium at a marathon, or kids running cross-country races. And then one day I realised it’s because of all the metaphors Paul uses of runners in races, the cloud of witnesses cheering us on, finishing our race well, etc… and unknowingly my heart was aching at what I was watching played out in front of me. It still happens, and I know it’s going to happen again when I watch the Olympics in a few days time!

    1. Yes, I’ve never been much of a runner. Or athlete. At all. So it was nice to get an image of the “cloud of witnesses” as something other than an athletic metaphor. But I’m with you — I will be thinking of it too as we watch the Olympics. Beautiful.

  11. You had to know that I would say *this*, right?

    If bride/bridegroom/marriage is a metaphor for Christian faith, then what of…when the one you were going to marry dies before you could, before he could officially ask you, even? What is that a metaphor for? Wait, don’t answer that.

    You don’t have to answer any of this. Because…it just is. No words change it.

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