A wedding is not a marriage…


My neighbor’s daughter got married a few weeks ago, yet it seems like just yesterday that she, her brother and my sons waited at the corner for the school bus.

But daddy’s little girl was all grown up, beaming and beautiful on her big day.


Her gracious family, when asked earlier in the week if I could wait in their driveway to see the bride as she left the house for church, insisted I come on in.

And a recent Saturday morning found me delighting in the middle of a wedding with all the girls getting dressed, and last minute make-up touches and the photographer snapping and a sweet little flower girl patient and shy.


There was plenty of white lace.

With promises to be made at the altar as two became one and began their happily ever after.

Later as I reflected on the day I recalled another young bride from long ago and how she had planned her wedding day for four years since the summer after high school ended.

This bride then had her head in the clouds as she counted down the days. Stardust filled her eyes and too many romance novels coupled with a broken childhood gave her all the wrong notions.

Her focus was on the big day and making sure it was picture perfect. And the candles and calla lilys and Handel’s Water Music filled the church as her daddy offered his arm.

She didn’t have a clue.

The full weight and meaning of for better and for worse till death do us part drifted away on bubbles of champagne because the big party was next with dancing till dawn and then a jet to an island where palm trees swayed in balmy trade winds and pretty pink umbrellas floated in rum-laced drinks.

Her big day floated by like a dream without a second thought for all the days and nights which were to come.

And when a young bride is riding a cloud and gossamer veils her heart, and she didn’t have a good marriage model growing up, she’s not thinking down the road when life and marriage gets hard and bills go unpaid, and sleep is lost holding babies teething or her husband works long hours to provide and both of them get tired and cranky and the fussing starts and it never stops until it’s too late to make anything better.

No, she doesn’t think of all that.

Just waves lapping in the moonlight and sites to see and things to buy and which dress to wear to dinner and banana daiquiris high on a mountaintop overlooking glorious tropical views.

The plane makes it safely back to the mainland and soon the walls come crashing down because she built her house on sand.

And life seems boring after all the pomp and circumstance. And the big day planning that helped fill the big hole in her heart is over and the emptiness craves another hit to feel better.

Anger hot spews destruction and it’s all about self and that bride years gone by was a brat.


Sitting on the throne instead of serving a husband.

Stress mounting a high horse, and he said and she said turns up the volume but what about we said?

The happily ever after that was supposed to be kicks sand in her face and she can’t keep her mouth shut some days and she wonders in moments when she’s sane how it ever got this awful.

Yelling and tears and control out of control because anger holds hands with fear and they skip to my lou until she’s lost her partner now what will she do.

Sin having run its course results in death.

He tells her he’s leaving. He wants a divorce. He can’t take the fighting anymore.

But what about fighting for the family?

Locking arms against the enemy and going to battle to save the marriage?

There’s always hope in Christ.

No, he’s done. He just wants out.

And the babies they made are minus a parent and little hearts breaking are learning all wrong like she did. And that was the last thing she wanted to give them but the sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation.

Lesson learned late.

It’s not about the wedding day but about all the days of all the years in all the decades that together make up a marriage. The good, the bad, the mundane and the marvelous. The easy and the hard. The silly and the sad.

No one ever told her to plan for a life side by side in the trenches while she was cake tasting.

No one warned her that sometimes her toes would get stepped on yet she could still keep dancing.

She was too naive and self-centered to understand that marriage means putting your mate before yourself. And stooping low to serve. And holding your tongue instead of lashing out critical.

Marriage means saying I’m sorry, I’ll do better next time, and keeping your word.

Marriage means forever, and surrendering to God the immature grow up.

Marriage is one man, one woman, for life.

Life shared with God at the center. And as each partner seeks to know and serve Him they will learn to love each other better and the little molehills that grow into mountains won’t.

But sometimes it can take a lot of hard knocks to knock sense into hard-hearted knuckleheads.

Especially if Christ isn’t in the heart and the heart beats cold and lonely, so full of itself that there’s no room for another, and always taking instead of giving to stop the hurt that won’t be satisfied no matter how much it gets, and not knowing that living an outward life expands you deep inside and fills you full, bringing joy.

Never realizing that in all the hassle what the heart is truly seeking is Him.

But when a heart gives up and asks Him in and begs Him to pick up the broken pieces of life fragile, He will. Putting it back together takes time and tears and it may never again look like it once did.

But grace.

And she wondered what would have been if only she had abdicated her princess white for a day role to become queen of his heart for life.

Humility and serving and growing and loving better would have happened with Jesus the cornerstone foundation of a three-strand marriage.


Standing on the rock would have kept her and hers from cracking apart and words that wounded like a bully flinging rocks never would have hit the mark of another wounded heart that just wanted and needed to be loved.

Like she did.

Only it got all infected and so messed up that the gap between one flesh partners grew wide as Goliath.

And it hurt so bad from being so sick with sin that it died.

A part of her died too. The worst part. The black hole, selfish, no man’s land of leave me alone I’m all wrapped up in me part.

But grow up she did and wiser she grew. God blessed her in multiple ways she never thought possible, but not without a catch in her heart from time to time that she had failed God, spouse and children.

She is fond of telling young couples {and older ones, too} to choose wisely and do it right from the start. Plan your marriage with the end in sight, the outcome desired. And right is God’s way and Him sitting at the right hand of the Father.

A slow, steady path of obedience and sacrifice and loving till it hurts your pride and causes that bad boy to die.

And once that’s out of your system then keeping the vows until death becomes easier and life, while full of challenges, gets sweeter day by day…


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14 thoughts on “A wedding is not a marriage…

  1. How true it is that a wedding is not a marriage. I have really begun to take to heart that marriage is designed not so much to make us happy as to make us grow up. Happiness can be the fruit if maturity is the root. Steve

  2. Ah, yes, I was like you, Sheila. All starry-eyed and floating on a cloud down the aisle until I bumped into my new husband’s cold front and lightning struck us both! ha! But it’s such a common story. Young brides who take so much time picking out the right dress and the right cake and the right honeymoon, only to miss out on becoming the “right” partner–the loving, selfless bride, not just to our husbands, but to Christ. I’m so glad you’re breaking through those illusions, my friend. It’s something I’m praying young men and women are paying attention to!

    • By the time I eloped with my Michael two and half years ago, all those starry-eyed bride notions were gone. This time it was all about a marriage in Christ. That was one of the reasons we eloped…to keep it simple and real with the focus on Him and the new “us in Him.” And neither one of us has ever had a marriage this blessed or this healing. But it was a long, hard road to get here with a wake of brokenness in our pasts. I wrote this story to help men and women of all ages to realize what a solemn undertaking a marriage is…a lifetime shared by two learning-to-be-LESS-selfish-day-by-day individuals who want to glorify Christ in their one flesh partnership. Although we needed five decades of hard won experience, Michael and I count it all blessed to have arrived at our covenant partnership. Truly, God in His grace, saved the best for last…

  3. So true, Sheila! Just because you have a great wedding doesn’t mean a great marriage… But as you said, if you involve Christ in BOTH your odds are much better (and Waaaayy more fulfilling.) Glad I found you over at Grace Simplicity link up. Blessings!

  4. What a wonderful piece, Sheila. This is such an important message. Our second daughter married early this year (our 3rd child to marry). It is such a faith-builder to watch our little girls take the big step and to wonder if I’ve done all I could to prepare her and to trust her to surrender her heart to her Lord and her husband.

    So far so good, praise God!

  5. Thanks so much for your honesty, Sheila. I was a naive bride, in love and imagining that life would be wonderful. Yet, sixteen years down the line I now know that the blessing of marriage isn’t just about the romance and the wedding, but the sticking together through the hard times and knowing that you are loved even when you have shown your worst.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

    • I share honestly from my heart in the hopes someone will see themselves in the words about the former me and then change, saving them and their families great heartache. And the best of marriages do indeed allow one to know they are loved even at one’s worst. Just like Jesus loves us. And then taking both those gifts and allowing it to transform your heart to love others better. Merry Christmas…

  6. I’m so grateful that even though I married young, I was taught good principles of service growing up–I’m thankful for a good start in marriage but I know it’s very important not to grow lazy.

    • Rachel…what a blessing that you learned important lessons early on. And yes, you are correct, marriage is not for the lazy…or the selfish…or the rude…but for servants that can bend low, putting their mate’s before themselves. Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas…