The Failed Wedding

It was the wedding of the year!

But when the couple split up five years later it was obvious that something must have gone wrong on the day. So, let’s see if we can find out what caused the failed wedding.


Harriett was sure the problem was money. Her daddy had promised her a hundred million dollar wedding, but the media analysts calculate that the whole show only came to eighty million. So she felt cheated by him not giving her what she wanted.

That could have been the problem, right there. Not enough money was spent on the wedding, so it could hardly be expected to last.
What do you think?

Now, you might protest that even one million dollars is a fortune to expend on a wedding. And you would probably point to many successful weddings with very modest budgets, much less than this extravaganza, so maybe money wasn’t the real problem.


Brandon wondered if it was the wedding program. He wanted the festivities to run for three weeks, like in the old country, but they cut short the festivities by two days, to fly off on their six month world honeymoon in time for the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.

Maybe that was the problem. If they had stuck strictly to old village traditions they could have succeeded as a couple.

Yet, I hear you protest that hardly anyone follows old village traditions any more, but the marriages work out fine. So surely there is no demand for old village ways.

The Weather

Everyone remembers how the main ceremony was disrupted by rain. Cavalry and carriages were held up by storms then intermittent showers doused the crowds lining the streets. The bad weather may have spoiled the marriage.

But how could anyone argue such a thing? Many people are wed on rainy miserable days, with storms and windy interruptions. Yet the marriages survive and thrive.

The Gowns

There was much talk about the bride’s outfits. Harriett wore seven gowns during the various festivities: all hand crafted designer outfits from the world’s leading creators. Were they too ostentatious? Should she have stuck with one designer? Were the colour choices wrong? Were the wrong materials chosen?

Could a mistake in choice of wedding dress account for the failure of the marriage?
No. People have been wed in royal robes and others in rags, without any impact on the outcome. New dresses don’t have a better result than borrowed ones.

A Bad Hair Day

We shouldn’t forget the bride’s hair. On two occasions, dramatised by photos in the papers, Harriett had trouble with her hair. It repeatedly blew in her face at one point and her annoyance was ably captured by the paparazzi. Another time her hair looked like a loaf of bread from some well published angles, and it looked a silly sight.

A woman’s hair is her glory so maybe hair issues caused the breakdown of the marriage.
But, once again, we have multitudes of other marriages to compare. Hair disasters, bad hair-dressing, wind-blown hair and many similar troubles have occurred, without the slightest impact on the long-term relationship.

The Groomsmen

Brandon had insisted on only eight groomsmen, even though Harriett had a dozen bridesmaids. So maybe that caused a problem. More likely it was Brandon’s choice of Darnsworth. Brandon insisted on his inclusion, as an old friend. Many people, however, had never forgiven his father’s business failures. And his behaviour during the festivities was at times deplorable.
Surely these issues brought clouds over this otherwise blissful wedding.

But then again, history is replete with diverse bridal parties and infamous groomsmen, where no lasting effect was seen in the marriage.

Other Things

What about the fly-past by those military jets? Was it right to leave by helicopter? Did the venerable Holy Man preach the wrong sermon? Did they pick the wrong day? How about their age difference? What about his ethnic background? Was the motorcade too long? Did they choose the right hymns? Should they have flown-in a different choir? Were their vows deficient in some way?

And what about the various receptions? Who made those menu choices? Is it bad to have six separate fireworks displays? Should the orchestras have been string quartets, and should so many different international stars be included in the one gala performance?

Wedding or Marriage

Millions of people watched the wedding around the world. It was a lesson in event management. The glitz, the hype, the spectacle and the international appeal made this one of the most talked about weddings in dec   ades.

However, the wedding is not the “marriage”. The wedding is a ceremony. The marriage is a living, life-long reality. You can use money to tizz-up a wedding ceremony, but you can’t use money to tizz-up a marriage. Weddings can be made of money. Marriages are built by two people.

The Failed Wedding

When a marriage fails it has next to nothing to do with the ‘wedding’. A failed wedding is a silly idea, unless the event simply failed to happen.
What will fail is the relationship, commitment and life-long union of the couple as man and wife. It is the ‘marriage’ that will fail.

The Wedding is Irrelevant

Sadly, no amount of money spent on the wedding can make a successful marriage. The viewing audience, fireworks display, gowns, choirs, rituals and traditions can’t make the marriage work. The extravagant honeymoon and the multi-million dollar estate for their first home can’t make the marriage work.

Nothing that happens on the wedding day, or that can be bought with daddy’s money, is going to make the marriage work. It is the couple themselves who will make the marriage work. Or the couple will make the marriage fail!

It’s Up to You

As you plan your big day, don’t think you have to get it perfect to be happy. The day can be a disaster yet your marriage be wonderfully blessed. You don’t need a perfect wedding. You are much better off with a blessed marriage!

Note then, that a successful marriage needs much more planning than the wedding day does.

All the dizzy notions of how this or that colour will look wonderful, and all those other arrangements for the day will be just memories and photos. What you must face, day after day, for the rest of your life, is the marriage you create on that day.

Enjoy the Day

I have no problem with a perfect wedding. That’s wonderful. Plan it as best you can. Enjoy it even when things go wrong. Get photographed laughing at the rain and the wind, and the flat tyre and the menu disaster. Make a real go of the day.
But don’t be distracted by the day. There are 364 more days ahead just to make it to your first anniversary. There are years and decades of married life awaiting you.

Make the Choice

If you had the choice of one glorious day, following by a life of misery and disappointment, or a completely mangled wedding day, followed by a life of unparalleled happiness, which would you choose?

If you go for the big wedding then I leave you to it. I have failed to prompt your thinking. And when your life turns out pear-shaped and all your hopes lie trampled on the ground, don’t blame the wedding day. It’s not a failed ‘wedding’ – it’s a failed Marriage!

What to Do

Decide right now to prepare yourself for “marriage”. There are many good courses and books to help you. If you are already married, then do a course, such as Married for Life, Marriage Alpha, or others.

Chris Field has written “Marriage Horizons” and “Mending Marriages” to help marriages succeed. Check them out at

Marriage Poems

Poetry has the power to capture and express things that might otherwise be hard to say or even define. That’s why I love writing poetry and sharing with you.

I have written several poems and jottings which speak of marriage, including: I Do; A Fresh “I Love You”; Ode to a Wife; Pride Versus Humility; Moral Miracle of Marriage; The Garden Song; The Wedding; Two Streams Converge; and When We Were Wed.

These verses include Wedding Poems, poetry about marriage, poems that speak of the pain of relationships and verses that celebrate the uniqueness of the marriage relationship.

Each of these poems can be found at the Family Horizons website, by clicking the link:

World Youth Day 2008

My Filipino Catholic friend Bobby shared an interesting insight last week – prompted to him by the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That occasion proved to be a significant meeting of Catholic and Protestant youth. He watched the broadcast of the Pope’s mass at Randwick Racecourse, where huge crowds gathered on Sunday July 20.

What he came out with surprised me and tied in with a revelation I had back in 1978.

He noted that Protestants place the emphasis for salvation on faith alone. Catholics, he pointed out, believe that faith must be accompanied by works, as is indicated in several places in the Bible.

But, he added, the Bible suggests that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics are right.

Hmmmm ?

He took me to the teaching of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

The faith profession of calling Jesus “Lord” is what many Protestants consider to be all that is needed to be saved. They are sure that no works are needed, only faith.

The Catholic position involves both faith, expressed by these people who say “Lord, Lord”, and works. Jesus points out that these people who come to Him have both! They have faith (Lord, Lord) and works (done many wonderful works).

Yet what would suit both the Protestant and the Catholic positions proves to be less than Jesus is looking for. “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”


Bobby saw in this text the fact that God looks on the heart. What God is looking for is not a faith confession, nor appropriate works to affirm the faith. But God is looking at our hearts and looking to see that we have a right heart toward Him.

Way back in 1978 I was standing in the foyer of a small church, during the opening songs, desperate for God to give me a message to preach. I was on a travelling ministry tour, as a Bible College student in New Zealand. The Apostolic church which I was about to preach to included many learned and experienced people. I wanted to bring them a message which would be more than just a rehash of my college lectures.

As I prayed, desperately, for a message, three quick images flicked in my mind. One was of the huge brass laver used in the Tabernacle. That spoke to me of my evangelical roots and the emphasis of being washed clean of our sins. The second image was of the golden lampstand from the Tabernacle. This spoke to me of the filling of the Holy Spirit and all that goes with the Pentecostal experience. To my way of thinking at that time, Pentecost built on all that evangelicalism gave us, thus giving greater power to the gospel and Biblical faith I already had.

The third image, however, completely challenged my respect for both the Evangelical gospel and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I saw a beautiful young bride, dressed in white, ready for her beloved’s embrace.

The impact of that quick sequence of images, which became the basis of my message that night, was that Christianity is all about ‘Relationship’. The end of our life is not a celebration of our faithfulness to the old time gospel, or our exploits in the power of the Holy Spirit. The culmination is a wedding, not a show and tell session. It’s all about Relationship.

When Bobby shared his insights I saw in Jesus’ words the subtext of relationship again. “I never knew you”.

Christianity is not about fulfilling the religious expectations of our brand of Christendom, but it is all about being in wonderful intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ, through our faith in the finished work of the Cross and through God’s salvation in our lives.

The Un-Charming Prince – “I Kissed the Frog”

Someone who I discussed these recent posts with identified with what I have written and she had a cute way of describing the situation. She said, “I kissed the frog, and he’s STILL a frog!” This is the disappointment many young wives and husbands have about their spouse.

Someone else put it this way. When a man marries a woman he doesn’t want her to change, but she does. When a woman marries a man she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Either way, both husband and wife find themselves living with a reality that is not their ideal.

One of the traps in the process of marriage is that both the guy and the gal are transformed from one status to another. As boyfriend and girlfriend they live in the reality of being single and full of hope. However, when they become ‘man and wife’ they are both brought through from single-hood to a new personal status of husband or wife. It is almost as if in internal switch is then triggered to readjust them to this new status. Whatever their factory settings are for ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is what they now being to operate by. So the sweet little ‘girl’ is a ‘girl’ no more. The hopeful boy is a boy no longer. They both switch into the settings which they have been programming since their child-hood, most strongly from the example of their parents and their own responses to that example.

It should never be a surprise that both the bride and groom will change their behaviour once married. So this demands two effective processes at work, for ideal results. Firstly, we should each be aware of our humanity and need to become better people. The most ideal role-model for us all is Jesus Christ and we all need to become more like him, no matter what our religious persuasion. There is no-one in all of human history who is a more worthy example to us all. Each of us should be committed to changing to be more like Jesus all the time. So, when we discover that our internal, automatic settings cause us to behave less like him we should be quick to address that.

The other effective process is for the people affected, especially the spouse, to offer grace and forgiveness to the person who proves to be less lovely than was hoped. An important reason for this grace response is that God will treat us the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving and if we despise our spouse for not being what we want, we are inviting God to refuse to forgive us and to despise who we are. Since we are all imperfect it is very dangerous to engage in despisement of others who are also imperfect.

I counsel couples who are planning to wed, to realise that they may both change in the months following the wedding – if not even in the first week. They both need to be sensitive to this process and to see that they bring themselves to God so that God can teach and heal them, perfecting who they are. They both need to be ready to love and forgive each other, even when the frog stays a frog, or the princess proves to be unworthy of that role.

For those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their role model there should be no Un-Charming Princes and no tainted Cinderella’s. That is, of course, unless they are still a ‘work in progress’. And I guess, we are all works in progress, eh?

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

‘This Holy Estate’ – Real Marriage

There is much fudgy thinking today and marriage is one of the areas where Christians can be as confused as anyone else. Considering that God invented marriage and it finds its greatest fulfilment as a representation of Christ and the Church (see Ephesians 5:32) Christians should be the first to have a good understanding of ‘Real Marriage’. My fourth son’s recent marriage brought to mind this subject yet again and my mind journeyed even further down some tracks it has trudged before. And I think I’m onto something that has fairly sweeping implications.

Before I get to my latest ‘rev’ on marriage I should let you know that my fourth son, Jonathan, married the lovely Katie Gunn a week ago. He, like his father and three of his brothers before him found a ‘treasure’ and made a ‘field’ out of her (which is a pretty lame pun on the man who found a treasure in a field and bought the field to have the treasure – it wasn’t any funnier when I said it at my own wedding over 30 years ago).

Now to the matter at hand. I have met many couples who have lined up with their personally created vows, ready to pledge their troth to one another, as if they are the architect of the relationship they are about to enter into. In the past few generations western culture has shifted from the idea that marriage is an historical reality which each new generation gets to enter into, to the notion that marriage is now malleable, able to be what the couple wants it to be. Since the 1970’s in particular, there have been notable examples of couples having a ‘tricky’ wedding – such as being wed underwater, while bunji-jumping, etc. This trend brought with it the notion that marriage is what ever the couple make it to be. The Australian government, under its previous Prime Minister, John Howard, sought to rein in this self-directed notion and to restore marriage as an institution which it expects its citizens to take seriously.

The idea that marriage is in the mind of the betrothed is strong, at least at a subliminal level. Couples want to have their dream wedding, with their choice of guests, their own vows and even their own idea of what the marriage will be. One couple told me they want a 50:50 marriage. We hear tell of the ‘open marriage’, the ‘trial marriage’ and other evidences that marriage is seen as adjustable, to suit the wishes of the couple.

Ah but here’s the rub ….. Marriage was not created by man. Marriage is not a social invention, nor a relationship of convenience, nor a reflection of past economic realities. Real Marriage, which is the only true marriage, is a ‘holy estate’ created by God. That is why the traditional western wedding ceremony starts with a description of what marriage is and then announces that “into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined” (quoted from the Book of Common Prayer 1928). However this modern wording is simply an updating of ancient lyrics. The wedding ceremony text recorded in the 1549 Prayer Book of King Edward VI states the same theme in ancient verbage and spelling: “Into the whiche holy estate these two presones present come noew to be ioyned.”

Western marriage has always been understood as something instituted by God, not by man. It is ‘This Holy Estate’ – a relationship which man is privileged to access, but which man has no power to dictate. The 1892 Anglican Prayer Book accounts for marriage as Holy Matrimony which is “an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church”. Because of the supreme quality and divine nature of This Holy Estate – Real Marriage, the Prayer Book goes on to warn that it “is not by any to he entered into unadvisedly or lightly ; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”

The eager young couple fronting up with their carefully re-worded vows and their desire for a wedding that has the stamp of their own individuality all over it, may well fail to realise the awesome significance of what they are about to do. Their notion of having some control over what the wedding is, may tempt them to think they have some control over what marriage. They may think they can excuse their own actions and thoughts, just as readily as they can modify their own wedding program. This is not so.

Whatever vows a couple come up with and whatever personal agreement they make in the form of their own wedding commitment – that couple has no power to alter, by one iota, what they are getting themsevles into. If, for instance, they agree to have an ‘open marriage’ where infidelity is allowed, God will ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church. If the couple choose, as I know of some that have, that their marriage is not subject to the cultural mores of their family, and they will enter into a secret and peculiar arrangement of their own, including pre-marital sex, God will completely ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church.

A godly wedding, such as Jonathan and Katie exemplified this past week, is a joy to all who see it. Marriage is a blessed relationship and I encourage all who have opportunity to enjoy it to do so in the fear of God. I am not down on marriage or young people. I am simply recognising one evidence of man’s tendency to become his own Lord and Master, where God does not give him leave to do so.

And, in closing, let me broaden the sweep of my brush. Most westerners live as if their own life were their ‘own’. They act as lords and masters of their own destiny. This is exactly the same disease that afflicts western marriage. The implications of what I am pointing out here sweep across all those places where we disband God’s reality and make up our own. Such behaviour is vile – yet ever so culturally acceptable, in the same way that tinkering with marriage is now seen as the expected thing. Hmmmmm… Methinks this goeth a long way – and methinks I will wax lyrical about it yet again in due course.