NO bride, however much in love, would think of running down the aisle at the wedding ceremony. No maiden, however much in love, should think of becoming engaged too hastily. Engagement is not a means of ‘securing’ a companion who might otherwise get away. When we become engaged we have given a positive answer to the question, ‘Will you go with this man?’, or, ‘Is this the woman I am totally committed to loving and to keeping, and the one I would like to be the mother of any children we may have?’

From Engagement to Marriage

What is the point of being engaged? Why not go straight into marriage? Why ‘waste time’ by months of waiting? Twenty per cent of the present generation has answered these questions in its own way. They simply cut out all formalities, all waiting, and even marriage itself by cohabiting with the person who at present has their affection. In other countries this is known as common law marriage, though there is probably more commitment and permanence in common law marriage than in ‘living together’ in western countries.

Cohabiting and its consequences provide us with an answer to the question, ‘why be engaged?’ There is no certainty about merely living together. No promise not to be promiscuous, no commitment to permanence in such an arrangement. If someone more attractive comes along or one or the other gets tired of the present partner or life takes a down-turn or there is a serious quarrel, it is easy to break up the alliance.

Christ and his Bride are altogether different: he died for her and she wishes to live for him alone. Engagement is the preparation time for such a life. Any former ‘flames’ and attractions are to be dowsed in one’s mind because they are now alien to our commitment.

We are no longer free to ‘chat up’ a member of the opposite sex or to spend intimate time with them. Like the regular soldier who is committed with his life to country, regiment, unit and comrades, so by engagement we have committed all we have in this life to the one whom we have promised to marry.

Mutual Adjustments

From the time of our engagement our minds centre on preparing for marriage. We talk over the purposes and details of married life: the day to day arrangements, any changes that must be made to our habits and ways of living, and the implications of following our respective careers or of deciding that only the husband will go out to work. All of this must run in harness and harmony with our life in the truth. Our engagement must be subservient to our allegiance to Christ. We are his before, beyond and above how we belong to each other.

As we prepare for making a home together, we are also making a home for him. Indeed, if we prayerfully bring all our arrangements to God, seeking His guidance and blessing, He will help us to make a true home. The old-fashioned motto is still good:

“Christ is the Head of this House;

The Unseen Guest at every meal;

The Silent Listener to every

conversation.”

If we make these principles our way of life during our engagement we shall be richly blessed.

By far the greater proportion of people who get married these days have already had sexual experiences with one or more persons. In other words, when they get married there is no unique and joyful consummation; instead there is always the lurking unexpressed fear that promiscuity will continue beyond the wedding day. Even when we are engaged, we are not free to indulge ourselves sexually. Marriage takes us into a covenant relationship within which physical union is an expression of total love within permanent bonds and, in due time, children may be begotten by a man and his wife. If we remember these things we shall not endanger this perfect happiness by allowing our love for one another and our expression of physical endearments to take us into marriage territory, the land we have not yet entered.

In the world around us, where promiscuity is taken for granted, every marriage is increasingly under threat that somewhere down the line one of the partners will have been in contact with AIDS. There is no way, except by chastity both before and after marriage, that one partner can guarantee immunity to the other. How wise then is the course of the true disciple who lives aright and chooses a partner within the bonds of the truth!

Arrangements for the Wedding

In choosing who might take the wedding service, you will find it a great help to choose someone who is willing to spend a lot of time beforehand talking over the whole of what married life is about—each other, our parents, our home, our work, how we handle money, how we deal with problems and disagreements, ecclesial life, hospitality, making Christ the centre of the home, the use of leisure time, making time for each other, having and bringing up children, and many other things. Choose a married couple who are reliable, will talk sincerely and directly, and will treat everything confidentially.

Wise choices for the wedding day are made when we imagine Christ making our arrangements for us. The service will then be an act of worship, and not only an outward display; with him as principal Guest, and nothing to make him ‘uncomfortable’.

Every bride is decked for the day and every groom likes to see her at her best. But modest beauty and adorning outshine mere worldly finery. How should we dress if Christ were the bridegroom? It is not uncommon these days for the cost of weddings to run into four, even five figure sums. Nor is it uncommon to run into debt. There is surely a point when extravagance takes over from joyful moderation, a point beyond which we should not go or want to go. Weddings are not cemented by an excess of ephemeral materialism or the abundance of presents, any more than a home consists of its furnishings.

There should also be prime place for Christ at the reception. Would Christ want a disco? Or a bar? Or intemperance? Here again the wisdom of choosing one’s partner in the truth makes the Day one for Jesus as well as for ourselves.