Wedding v. Marriage

Just before the wedding begins, Arthur tells Susan he can’t marry her (“Arthur” 1981).

Many years ago, in a prominent church, the bride walked into the chancel just before her wedding was to begin. The organist stopped playing. She announced: “There will be no wedding today. Last night the groom slept with my maid of honor. If you brought presents, you may  take them home. I will return the rest as soon as possible.”


Despite her obvious heartbreak, the not-to-be-bride that day was courageous. How many other brides and grooms looking back have wished they had been as courageous as she? Far better to call the wedding off before vows are broken and a failed marriage and subsequent pain are suffered needlessly!


It’s not about the wedding. It’s about the marriage! A man and a woman who love God and have prayed for a godly mate discover they share a common culture in which the Triune God is the center. They have been prepared for the day of their wedding at which they make vows of lifelong faithfulness, because their parents have modeled for them what it is to be godly men and women and godly spouses.


Yes, it is wonderful to have family and friends around you as you promise before God and in the presence of the assembly to be faithful until death parts you. Yes, it is exciting to dream about a life together in which you are able to be fruitful and multiply as you become one flesh. Yes, a big party like the wedding feast at Cana is great fun and infinitely memorable. But it’s about the life together, growing old together, shaping the future together as you raise children to be godly men and women.


Too many people, young and (sadly) old, cohabit today because they say they fear failure. But how many more fear making vows of lifelong commitment to another? How many know how to be sexually intimate repeatedly but simply are incapable of spiritual and emotional intimacy?


Yes, there is forgiveness for those who have failed. Yet many seek to place a cheap grace bandaid over a gaping infected wound. As Augustine famously observed: our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. Thousands of dollars in psychotherapy and thousands of dollars on a destination wedding won’t fill the God-shaped hole in the soul that prevents a woman and a man from making and keeping a lifelong vow of faithfulness to one another before God and a congregation.


Be wise. Be care-full. And, if you must, be courageous enough to call it off before the heartbreak is greater. If you have prepared for years to be a godly spouse, you will be able to find a godly mate with God’s help…in church, of course.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt


The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 47 years and in May 2023 celebrated the 42nd anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity ( In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.