My daughter is getting married this month. I have been the pastor conducting the wedding ceremony lots of times. This is the first time for me to be the mother of the bride.
When I am the pastor invited to conduct a ceremony I meet personally with the couple.
We talk about how they met, how their love has grown, and what brought them to the decision to marry. We reflect on the qualities and traits that each person brings to the relationship. We discuss backgrounds and practical strategies related to communication, finances, work/life balance, household management, and maintaining good health.
We bring to light goals and aspirations regarding career development, social lives, dwelling place, raising of children, support of parents or siblings.
Some of the conversation is meant to help the couple clarify their strengths, gifts, and challenges.
Some is meant to help me incorporate the couple’s relationship history and the particulars of their shared joy into the wedding ceremony.
As the mother of the bride, I am glad for the knowledge that a respected colleague has been having these conversations with my daughter and her fiancé.
Couples benefit from listening ears and thoughtful questions, well-considered perspectives on relationships and marriage, insights that take into account their uniquenesses, and support that comes from the heart and represents a wider community.
The clergy person who will conduct my daughter’s wedding will do so on the basis of having known her since childhood, led the youth groups and mission trips she participated in as a teenager, and taken the time to get to understand the the adult she has become as well as the person she is marrying.
Confident that a capable pastor is working collaboratively to refine the details of the wedding ceremony, I am free to be relaxed and cheerful in my support, offering suggestions or guidance when asked, and otherwise trusting that the event will reflect the faith, the personality, and the priorities of my daughter and her fiancé.
For me, being the mother of the bride has meant immersion in aspects of preparation that usually do not involve the pastor conducting the ceremony. I, along with other family members, was witness to the proposal. I have been aware of both moments of elation and periods of doubt along the way between saying “yes” and saying “I do.”
I have had opportunity to offer my perspectives and opportunity to release my own expectations in favor of my daughter’s best judgement. I accompanied my daughter to meetings at the reception venue.
I toured hotels and sent photos when she needed information and could not personally be present.
I was with her when she found her dress; I got to be the one to buy it for her.
The job of a mother seems a little more multi-faceted and certainly is sustained over a longer period of time than the work of the pastor at the time of a wedding.
My appreciation for all the planning and all the family dynamics that swirl around weddings is being renewed.
I am encouraged every time someone shares with me a happy stories about the wonder and beauty of a child or grandchild’s wedding.
My daughter lives in Brazil and is marrying a Brazilian. As recommended for mixed nationality couples, legal aspects of entering into marriage have been handled in the country where they reside. The wedding ceremony to be held in San Diego this month will be an opportunity the celebrate the grace of God, the blessings of friendship and family, the power of love, and the promise of a future filled with hope.
When I am the pastor for such a ceremony, I feel honored to represent the resources of the Christian tradition and to be with the couple at a time of great significance in their lives. As the mother of the bride, I am eager for my daughter and her new spouse to know how much they are cherished and appreciated by those who have gathered.
I look forward to a ceremony that will articulate the depth to which the steadfast faithfulness of God is always with them.
The food and festivities related to the wedding week will be fun, but what matters most to me is to honor the growing level of trust and commitment represented by the decision to marry.
Maybe being the mother of the bride is not so different from being the pastor after all!
By Rev. Dr. April Herron is associate pastor at Rolling Hills United Methodist Church