Friday, July 24, 2009

Things They Don't Teach You In Seminary

So I'm wondering, all you clergy folks out there, would you preside at a wedding that began like this?

If it was inside your church?

If it was on a beach or in some other setting?

We Episcopalians tend to be a bit more conservative than most, and I know I'm an old poop, but it seems this joyful and sexy dance belongs at the reception, not at the ceremony. My fear is that now this video has gone viral, every couple who wants to get married will want to do this down the aisle of the church.

Or maybe I just need to lighten up?


Cheesehead said...

I don't think I'd get much past the pre-recorded music in church.

But. The dancing certainly is joyful and exuberant! I think a beach wedding would be a better place for it, but on the other hand, why do we have to be stodgy in church?

So I guess I have mixed feelings. It certainly made me happy to watch it!

Rev Dr Mom said...

Nope, not at the wedding. As one of my much younger seminary classmates said on FB--this belongs at the reception.

Sacred music and a solemn procession does not have to be stodgy.

But hey, I wouldn't allow a unity candle either.

Mary Beth said...

I was wondering are going to see requests for it! :)

I don't think my church would allow it either. Which is a heck of a shame...

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I was thinking the same thing the other day... about how this was going to be the popular thing to do now.... or that others will try to top it to get recognized on national tv!

The church I just left has a pretty tight wedding policy on "secular" music. I'm hoping the wedding coordinator would be tough enough to say no way.

Don't get me wrong. It's cute. I laughed and danced along. However, I think it would be more appropriate at the reception!!

Gannet Girl said...

After I expressed my views (entirely negative except for the bridersmaids' dresses) and discovered how alone I was in them, I asked my 21yo dd. She assurred (sp?) me that I was wrong, expressed her dismay upon learning that churches often refuse to host weddings for nonmembers or nonreligious people (groups to which she belongs), and then responded with horror to the revelation that the music was Chris Brown's.

Pastor Joelle said...

I'm sorry but what is so holy and special about walking slowly down the aisle as opposed to dancing?

Teri said...

I actually kind of like it--it was clearly an expression of this particular couple's personality and experience and their friends and family with them. If something similar were to come up, and the dancing were going to be not inappropriately sexy (I didn't think this was, personally), and it seemed like something that reflected who they are and how their life together will be, I think it has every right to be included in a service that both recognizes and prays for God's presence in that life.

I'd rather they had real music, obv, but it wouldn't be the first wedding I've done with recorded music, nor the first with secular music (I did a wedding for an older couple--in their 70's--and their music was all popular music from "their era" (whatever that means!), mostly the 50s.).

Would I allow other couples to copy this? no. Because then that's not an expression of who they are, it's appropriating who someone else is just to be cool.

Reverend Ref + said...

Well, I didn't think the dancing style was out of line; my issue would be with the music. Using "popular" music in a church setting does not happen when I officiate.

That said, there are a number of hymns with catchy tunes that can certainly be danced to (Ode to Joy or, for you Episcopalians, Hymns 507 and 610 for instance), or a number of instrumentals.

But the dancing certainly reflected the overall joy of the occasion; besides, David danced in front of the ark. So, a big MAYBE to whether or not I'd allow it.

All that being said, they do score serious points based on my observation that there was no unity candle present!!

Jane Ellen+ said...

Actually, the biggest problem I had with it was the song chosen. That's the key thing which made it "reception and not wedding" for me.

I don't have a problem, actually, with the concept of "dancing before the Lord." At least they were dressed better than King David!

Nor was the dancing suggestive, or crude. And it surely showed and shared the joy of such an occasion...

So my fundamental objection comes back to the selection of the music. But if they had used an instrumental version, perhaps, or a Christian equivalent (yes, there are such!)... I think I could have been okay with it.

But I'm still not inclined toward the unity candle.

Deb said...

I too enjoyed it... however, I would note that unlike many wedding parties, there wasn't the "odd person" who couldn't have danced if their life depended on it. Chris Brown I don't have a great affinity for, either, but the song ("Forever") certainly suggests that this was a couple who wanted to make a lifetime commitment, and for that I applaud them.

It would depend completely on the church and the wedding coordinator and officiator as to what they would/would not be allowed to do. I think there is more to this than just "it's not sedate and serious" -- it's a question of what the demeanor and the protocol is for the particular church. For instance, in some churches the attendants could not have bare shoulders.

For this couple and their friends, it was exuberance and joy. And they invited others to celebrate this with them. And for that, I celebrate with them!


Bethany said...

I have to admit, when I first saw it I thought, "Oh no!" One more thing to distract the wedding couple from what I hope they are focused on in preparation for their marriage.

I could work with it if need be, but would rather not.

Backwoods Rev said...

I must admit my first thought was:
A couple who actually put a lot of thought into the service!

We often have pre-recorded music in our rural church for weddings. And I've often relaxed my music policy for the processional and recession, because technically, it is before the invocation or after the benediction.

The decision can only be made with each individual couple. If the rest of the service is spiritual and thoughtful, a little craziness would be welcome.

Great discussion- thanks!

mibi52 said...

Oh, I love all this conversation!

For me, the fact that it was Chris Brown's music was problematic; then again, we play Wagner all the time and he was Adolf Hitler's favorite composer..

The dancing part, in itself, didn't bother me too much. My concern would be that it would be tough to get folks settled down and focused on the religious moment, two people who love each other asking God to bless their relationship. I can get my head around folks recessing in dance a little easier than for the processional.

Re David dancing before the ark, we all know how happy that made HIS wife! The good news here is that the whole group was on the same page.

Recorded music: my husband once presided over a service in a historical site and they played a recording by "Zamfir, master of the pan flute." Is that better than Chris Brown or worse? I'm a musical snob, so I'm the last one to ask, but I really prefer live music. Then again, I can't really imagine Chris Brown (or for that matter, Zamfir) ever playing in one of my churches, so there you go.

No unity candle. Ever.

Jane Ellen+ said...

Fortunately, I do not have the same twitch about music that is not "live," as two of my churches have nary a single resident musician. In those places we generally make do with "Miss Emily," a digital "organist" with a boatload of hymnody inside her microchips. Certainly, live is preferable; but recorded or programmed is better than nothing at all.

Unless, of course, the choice was between Zamfir and Chris Brown-- in which case a meditative, "said" service might well be the order of the day.

Diane said...

@RevDrMom and @Jane Ellen --

I never realized that unity candles were controversial!

Could you enlighten me, please?
I'm very curious.

Thanks :-)

Reverend Ref + said...

Diane: Besides personally finding unity candles tacky, it seems that they were invented to instill some sense of symbolism in an otherwise unsymbolic ceremony.

The Wedding Guide that I give to all prospective couples reflects the theology and symbolism in the Episcopal Church, and states in part:

Unity candles are not used at St. Paul's. The sacramental acts of giving to each other by solemn vows, the joining of hands, the giving and receiving of rings and the blessing by the priest are the symbols of Holy Matrimony in this church.

Oh . . . and to correct my previous post about music . . . for anyone with an Episcopal Hymnal out there who might be wondering why I thought hymn 507 was a good one . . . Um . . . it was a typo . . . should have said "Hymn 527."

Sarah said...

I have a feeling I'm going to end up getting myself in a lot of trouble over the course of my career because things like this just don't bother me at all. I'm not a fan of a choir singing to "canned" music because I grew up with a musical background, but that's more a matter of taste, not anything with a theological reason.

I actually got goosebumps when the bride came in because she looked so happy, and it all just seemed so joyous.

From an ecclesiastical/theological perspective, I feel like anything "secular" can be holy, and maybe we sometimes do a disservice if we say only certain things can be part of whatever happens within the sanctuary? If we can help people see how the things they encounter "in the world" in their daily lives can be viewed through the lens of holiness/Godliness, I think that helps.

Also, when I traveled to Ghana, they dance practically CONSTANTLY in worship, and I really felt God's presence through the opportunity to move my body while worshiping!

Diane said...

Thanks for the unity candle explanation, Rev Ref! I'm not sure why we can't continually create new symbolic rituals (particularly ones that explicitly incorporate families), but then again, I'm not Episcopalian :-)

I have a lot of beef about *other* wedding rituals [e.g., "Who gives this woman?"], and would like to see a re-creation of US wedding tradition as a whole, but that's a rant for another day...

Reverend Ref + said...

Diane: Actually, if I had it my way, EVERY wedding would first be legalized at the courthouse before anyone even came to the church. That would get the church out of doing state business, as well as give us another reason to pursue the "why do you want to solemnize this marriage in a church?" angle.

I tried that once . . . It didn't work out as well as I had imagined.