Crafting Better Wedding Sermons

We’ve all been there. A gorgeous wedding. Perfect day. Bride and groom look sparkling and splendid. Guests are enthusiastic. Wedding service goes off without a hitch. Then… the wedding sermon ruins everything.

It’s too long. It’s too preachy. It’s too generic. It’s too vague. It’s too specific. It’s too cringe-inducing. It’s frankly just soooo boring.

Now it is a wedding so out of politeness, people will put up with it. But chances are there are a large number of unchurched in the congregation as well. And their impressions of the church, your church, and especially the preached Word can be seriously damaged by that one bad wedding sermon.

So what do we do as preachers?

Well, I don’t have all the solutions. But I did have an excellent mentor when it came to teaching me how to craft better wedding sermons. My MTS trainer Dominic Steele of Village Church Annandale and Christians in the Media preached at our wedding in 2000, and since my very first wedding sermon in 2005 (I’m now up to sermon #24 this weekend), I’ve been rigorously applying his ‘formula’.

So maybe it’s time to share what I’ve learnt in the hope that it would improve this very important public ministry of our churches.

  1. Keep it short. A wedding sermon should be no more than 15 mins (Dominic went for under 10 mins at my wedding!). No matter how accommodating the bride and groom are (or even if they request a full 30 min sermon), resist the temptation to go for more than 15 mins. No matter what you tell yourself, no one’s interested in anything longer.
  2. Be realistic about your aims. Your aim is not to exegete a passage or lay-out Two Ways To Live. A more realistic aim would be to plant a gospel-seed in the hearts of unbelievers there, or perhaps give a glimpse of God’s wonderful blueprint for marriage, or maybe even both. But whatever it is, be modest in your aims.
  3. Be winsome, humorous, and don’t be preachy. Treat it like an evangelistic sermon that you’ve been invited to speak at. Don’t take audience interest for granted. Help them ‘get aboard’ the train before you go on your sermonic journey.
  4. Try and steer clear of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 Biblical submission passages. It’s not that we don’t believe them or are shy about standing up for male-headship in the home. However with a 15 min wedding sermon with lots of unbelievers and believers from all walks of life present, you have to cover a lot of ground to make sure people see these passages as God intends. You are fighting a defensive battle from the get-go from the moment these passages are read aloud. I’ve preached wedding sermons on them, but I strongly prefer not to.
  5. Choose instead a passage that highlights marriage themes such as love, grace, commitment etc. It’ll also be easy to then take that nugget of an idea and relate it to the gospel. And of course it means that we must…
  6. Preach the gospel. Regardless of what your other aims are, the wedding is an excellent opportunity to speak about Jesus and plant that ‘gospel-seed’ in people’s hearts.
  7. Personalise the wedding sermon around the couple’s courtship and relationship. This is the most important thing I learnt from Dominic. I find out as much about the couple’s courtship as I can, especially details like first impressions, how they first starting dating, funny stories, engagement stories, how they’re different etc. Then I weave their story into the main idea of the Bible passage and use their story as an extended introduction to the idea of the passage. This is quite a lot of work, especially initially. I do it via email. I ask the couple the same set of questions and get them to email me back detailed answers separately (it’s more fun if they don’t show one another). Then I do the hard work of integrating the relevant bits into the sermon. Sure it’s more time and effort, but I see it as my personalised gift to the newlyweds. Also be assured that you’ll have all of the congregation still with you when you bring their attention to how this story (of the couple) relates to a bigger story (of the gospel).
  8. Did I mention, keep it short?

Happy preaching!

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About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on November 18, 2011, in Church, Ministry, Preachng and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hey Pete,
    Thanks for this post! I was wondering if you would be willing to share the questions you pose to your wedding couples? I really would like to personalise my wedding sermons more!
    Thanks!
    Liam Shannon

    • Hi Liam, the couple whose wedding I’ll be speaking at this weekend were asked these questions:

      1. How did you meet and what were your first impressions?

      2. When and how did you ‘fall’ for the other person?

      3. How did the proposal happen? Details please!

      4. What are some lessons you’ve learnt along the way in your courtship?

      5. What does ‘grace’ mean to you in light of your courtship and marriage?

      6. What’s something amusing or funny about the other person that most people don’t know about?

      7. What’s one thing about the other person you’ll have to work hard to get used to/accept?

      8. What’s the most memorable time you’ve shared so far?

      9. What’s the funniest moment you’ve shared so far?

      10. What special message would you like your wedding guests to take away from taking part in your special day?

      As you can probably tell, some are generic questions I ask all couples, but others like (4-5) are related to the passage they chose (Ephesians 2:8-9). Hope that helps!

  2. Hey Peter

    thanks for those tips and I can see you applying them pretty well when you preach. The only thing I would take issue, or maybe qualify is point 5. I wonder if the marriage brings out “everything about relationships” or else intensifies every aspect of relationship. My big beef with preaching at Weddings is everyone wants to preach the predicable passages, but when you think about it all these passages have nothing and everything to do with marriage. they have nothing to do with marriage because they were written to address fundamental relationship issues. yet at the same time they have everything to do with marriage because they address foundational relationship issues of which marriage is probably the most intense and foundational.

    Now if that is the case then really we can preach on any passage of scripture because most passages of scriptures will deal with relationship and godliness issues either directly or indirectly.

    I remember preaching on 1 Tim 6:17-19 at a wedding some 15 yrs ago. I chose this, not only because that is what I was thinking through for the sunday sermon at the time and I didn’t want to have to write two messages, but also because I wanted to do something different. Anyway it was a great message (I’m sure the Lord will tell me what he really thinks on the judgement day). But my key point was that what we are like with money is what we will be like with each other.

    Anyway just a thought. Besides this some great tips.

  3. thanks so much for posting this peter! really helped me out, i’m preaching at a wedding today! god bless!

  4. Thanks for the list of questions. Stealing.

    🙂 Cheers.

  5. Thank you so much Pete. Right when I was beginning to panic about my first wedding address tomorrow (I’m not a pastor, I have been asked by my friends who are getting married to deliver the address!) I found this and it has helped calm me down :o) I want my address to be meaningful and to share Jesus in a simple way that is accessible to all present and your comment about not getting heavy and going for the ‘awkward’ passages is great. Must admit I also have avoided 1 Cor 13 simply because it gets churned out at almost every wedding I go to! Oh well, whatever I say my prayer is they’ll hear God and not me :o)

  1. Pingback: 8 Steps to Crafting a Killer Wedding Sermon | dave miers dot com

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