A Long Beach, California, pastor challenged couples in his congregation who were living together to get married. Four did.
Mike Goldsworthy of Parkcrest Christian Church led the weddings in October, along with his associate pastors. They took turns administering the vows to the couples in a big, four-way ceremony. It was his effort to show that marriage is essential for Christian couples, and still viable. He told the couples that a wedding is not simply a formality.
"We believe that God's plan for a couple is not to be living together, but marriage," Goldsworthy told the couples, most of whom had been cohabitating for years and were raising children.
The church's intention was not to make people feel guilty, he said. "We as a church are supporting these four families, encouraging them to succeed in their life-long commitments. It took a lot of courage and desire to make this public declaration of marriage, and we are thankful to be a part of their lives."
The free wedding—which included a reception and individual wedding cakes provided by church members—was incentive enough for one groom, who had proposed to his long-time significant other at their son's first birthday party.
"I was just excited," one bride told the LA Times. "I've been wanting to marry this man now for 13 years."
Parkcrest's wedding bonanza comes as marriage rates drop and cohabitation rises, even among church attenders. Goldsworthy said the church might offer more free weddings in the future. "I already have one other couple who is ready to marry if we do this again," he said.
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