Do We Need a Wedding?
Q. My boyfriend and I are very much in love and we plan to spend the rest of our lives together. Although we have not gone through a marriage ceremony in a church or a courtroom, we have made our vows before the Lord. We've made a commitment to always love, honor and respect each other, no matter what. We have sex and we believe it's OK because we've made our vows before God and ourselves. So my question is: Where in the Bible does it say you have to have a wedding to be considered married?
A. While there are plenty of marriages in the Bible, there's really no detailed description of weddings or marriage ceremonies. Most Bible scholars would say that in those days people got married by making a public commitment. The family, the church and the synagogue were the "guarantee" that a couple's commitment was genuine and that they would live up to it.
Modern life is different. People aren't as attached to their families or churches. They don't depend on their parents for their livelihood. They move often, and they don't establish the same roots in their communities. So, to reinforce the loving commitment couples make, people invented the wedding. It's a great idea: a worship service, a legal contract, and a big party all rolled into one. The basic idea is that you stand in front of reliable witnesses, and before God himself, making a commitment to love each other as long as you live.
You might say that what matters isn't the audience—it's the intention of the two people making the pledge before God. You'd be right about that, to a point. However, people who make private promises don't always keep them. Somehow when things change and they don't feel "in love" any more, they find it more convenient to remember those promises differently. Then they split. The love they once felt isn't strong enough to hold them together, nor are their private vows.
People break the vows they make at weddings, too, but not nearly so often or so easily. Commitments made in a church full of people who care about the bride and groom are a lot stronger than those made in private. If you and your boyfriend want to make your love more lasting and solid, it's to your benefit to get legally married.
But that addresses only part of your letter. You also say that since you and your boyfriend have made vows before God, you feel like you're free to have sex. I disagree and strongly urge you to stop having sex until you are truly married.
Maybe that sounds unrealistic to you. But if you want to, you can get married and have sex as husband and wife tomorrow. If you want a big church wedding, you probably can't pull it off in a day. But if that's important to you, people would probably understand if you had a civil wedding tomorrow and a church ceremony a month or two later. If you love each other the way you say you do, there's really no reason you can't get married right away.
But maybe you do have reasons for not getting married right now. Are you too young? Are you not ready to live together? Do you need to finish school first? Do you not have enough money? Whatever your reason, you need to realize that sex is the joyful communion of two married people who have put each other ahead of everything else, forever.