Young People Ask . . .
Must We Have a Formal Wedding?
“It was my fiancée, Cindy, who first mentioned the possibility of slipping away and getting married in a private ceremony, without telling all our friends and relatives. After discussing it, we both felt that this option would take less time and energy and be less stressful.”—Allen. *
IF YOU are old enough to marry and are romantically involved with someone, the option of quietly slipping away to get married might seem attractive. In some circumstances a couple may be tempted to run away and get married without even telling their parents. * What principles can help you to decide what to do?
Is Tradition Paramount?
While marriage is common to most cultures, the customs surrounding the ceremony vary greatly. For a Christian couple, the primary concern is not whether their wedding will fulfill all the expectations of local custom. (Romans 12:2) Rather, their paramount desire is to conduct their courtship and marriage in a way that brings honor to Jehovah God.—1 Corinthians 10:31.
Since marriage is an honorable arrangement, it is not something most couples would want to keep secret. In many Western lands, couples among Jehovah’s Witnesses commonly arrange to be married in a ceremony at their local Kingdom Hall. * Afterward, they may choose to hold a reception where they share a meal and possibly some entertainment with family and friends. Such occasions need not be elaborate. It must be admitted, though, that organizing a wedding and a reception is stressful and may entail considerable expense. For example, in the United States, wedding receptions often cost thousands of dollars.
In an attempt to minimize stress and expense, some couples have chosen a more simple option. “We told our parents that we were not going to have a traditional wedding,” says Cindy, “because we wanted the occasion to be simple and inexpensive. My parents assured us that they understood our situation and sympathized with our concerns. They were very supportive.” On the other hand, when Cindy’s fiancé, Allen, mentioned earlier, told his parents their wedding plans, they found the decision difficult to understand. “They thought it was their fault,” says Allen, “that we made the decision because of something they had done. But that was definitely not the case.”
Your parents too might be disappointed if you decide to have a very simple wedding, since they may want as many people as possible to share the joy of this special day. What, though, if you are thinking of getting married without even telling your parents because you know that your family would oppose the very idea of your getting married?
Consider Your Family’s Feelings
It may be that your parents would object because they feel that you are too young to make such an important decision. They may fear that your tastes will change as you mature and that you will soon regret your choice of marriage mate. Alternatively, they might consider you old enough to marry, but they see what they perceive as flaws in your loved one’s character. Or they may even forbid you to marry because your chosen partner does not share the same religious convictions as you.
If your parents are true Christians, they likely have Bible-based reasons for their concerns. It is only right that they would express any misgivings they might have. Indeed, Jehovah would view them as negligent and unloving if they failed to do so. And it is in your interest to hear their point of view.—Proverbs 13:1, 24.
To illustrate: When you buy an article of clothing, you likely seek someone else’s opinion as to whether the item suits you. You may not always agree with their opinion, but you would still expect close friends to tell you if they thought the garment was the wrong fit or style for you. You appreciate their comments, since they may help save you from wasting money. How much more so, then, should you appreciate hearing your family’s opinion about your choice of marriage mate. Although you can exchange or discard a garment, Jehovah expects you to keep your spouse for life. (Matthew 19:5, 6) If you choose a mate who is not really a complement of your personality and spirituality, the union will make you infinitely more uncomfortable than would wearing an ill-fitting garment. (Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 21:9) And as a result, you may miss out on a chance to find true happiness.—Proverbs 5:18; 18:22.
True, some parents might have selfish reasons for objecting to a marriage—for example, to maintain control over their child. However, before you dismiss your parents’ concerns as selfish and slip away to be married, why not analyze their objections?
Reasons for Caution
It is a fact that your tastes will change as you mature. “When I was a babe,” writes the apostle Paul, “I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Likewise, the traits in another person that appeal to you as a teenager will likely be quite different from those that will appeal to you when you are older. Thus, the Bible recommends that you wait until you are “past the bloom of youth”—the years when your sexual desire is at its peak—before you take the serious step of choosing a marriage mate.—1 Corinthians 7:36.
What if your parents find fault with your companion? Because of their experience in life, your parents’ perceptive powers may be better trained to discern right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) So they may see serious flaws in your intended mate’s personality, whereas you do not. Consider in principle what the wise man Solomon wrote: “The one first in his legal case is righteous; his fellow comes in and certainly searches him through.” (Proverbs 18:17) Similarly, your loved one may have convinced you that he or she is the right person for you. However, after your parents have ‘searched him through,’ they may highlight certain facts that are worth considering.
For instance, they may firmly remind you that the Bible directs true Christians to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) You may object that you know of others who married someone who did not share their Christian faith, yet now they are both happily serving Jehovah. Granted, this does happen. However, such instances are by far in the minority. If you marry someone who does not share your faith, you not only disregard Jehovah’s standards but also put yourself in grave spiritual danger.—2 Corinthians 6:14. *
An Unwise Reason to Marry
Some youths have run away and married because they engaged in immoral conduct and felt that marrying their partner would ease their conscience. Or they may have hoped to cover the consequences of their sin, such as an unintended pregnancy.
If you were to marry to cover a sin, you could well be compounding one mistake with another. “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed,” warned Solomon, “but he that is confessing and leaving [them] will be shown mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) Solomon’s father and mother, David and Bath-sheba, learned the folly of trying to hide their immoral conduct. (2 Samuel 11:2–12:25) Rather than hide your sin, talk to your parents and to the congregation elders. This will require courage on your part, but you can be certain Jehovah will forgive you if you are repentant. (Isaiah 1:18) Once you have regained a clean conscience, you will be in a better position to make a balanced decision about marriage.
Looking back on his wedding, Allen says: “Our decision to have a simple wedding did result in the occasion being relatively stress free. My only regret is that I did not help my family understand better the reasons for our decision.”
Really, whether a mature couple has a traditional wedding or not is a personal decision. However, when making any decisions about marriage, take your time, communicate with your family, and ‘consider your steps.’ You will minimize your reasons for regret.—Proverbs 14:15.
^ par. 3 Names have been changed.
^ par. 4 This practice is sometimes referred to as eloping.
^ par. 7 These places of worship make an ideal setting for weddings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ceremony is simple and features a brief discussion of the Bible principles that serve as the foundation of a good marriage. Of course, there is no charge for their use of a Kingdom Hall.
^ par. 18 For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see the Watchtower issues of July 1, 2004, pages 30-1, and November 1, 1989, pages 18-22.
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When making any decisions about getting married, communicate with your family