Preaching Articles

I have an unusually heavy schedule of weddings to perform this year—three in the next 10 months. It doesn’t sound heavy until you consider that’s just within my own immediate family!

There are 8.5 years between these kids. What are the odds that we would experience a sudden stampede to the altar? It’s almost as if there were a conspiracy going on here.

As you would expect, the subject of wedding sermons has been heavy on my mind lately. Preaching at weddings has always presented special challenges. For example, how does a pastor preach a hundred different homilies on the same subject, about half of which use the same 1 Corinthians 13 text?

There is no way around it—there is, of necessity, a great deal of overlap in wedding homilies. The challenge is to make the wedding couple feel that the homily is not just a canned one, pulled out of the file and dusted off for the 35th time, but that it is for them. The same is true for members of the congregation who have attended multiple weddings at our church.

In cases where I don’t really know the couple or their families, an increasing phenomenon for pastors, it can be difficult to tailor a wedding homily to them. In many cases, the best one can do is tailor a portion of the homily to them.

The greater and more exciting challenge in wedding sermons is the demographic. Weddings are about the only time we experience the pleasantly disorienting sight of church pews filled with more young people than old.

Increasingly, many of these younger folks have no dealings with a church or how it works. I officiated at a very beautiful wedding, for example, where the ushers did not know that they were to hand out the programs. An understanding of, or love for, the Christian message is often lacking as well.

These are the very people who need to hear the Gospel; this is one of the few opportunities we have to share it with them. The last thing they need to hear is what they expect to hear—pious moralizing, sappy generalities, credulous witness or Christian boilerplate.

They need to hear a message they may never have heard before, a message of new life, hope for the future and the true grace of God. In order to cut through the overwhelming pageantry and all the noise of the celebration and to get past their preconceptions, they need to hear it this message in the clearest, freshest, most dynamic, most innovative form possible.

I owe it to my kids to try very hard to preach a wedding homily at their ceremony that speaks the Christian experience of love to them. I also want it to be a message that will not embarrass them, will not cause their un-churched friends and coworkers to, at best, glaze over and, at worst, roll their eyes. I desperately want this rare experience with organized religion to be one that presents the Gospel to them in a way that invites and heals and inspires.

Don’t we owe that to everyone for whom we perform a church wedding?

Nathan Aaseng serves as pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI. He has had more than 170 books published, sacred and secular, for readers from 8 to adult. His latest work is The Five Realms, an epic fantasy based on 1 Corinthians 1:27.

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Clay Gentry

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Friend, I do not envy you at all. Honestly, I've never enjoyed officiating over weddings, I like funerals instead. The challenge of cutting "through the overwhelming pageantry and all the noise of the celebration" of a wedding to present the gospel is a tall task. Perhaps that's why Solomon said, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart."

P Gowr Shankar

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Yes brother, it is true. I have seen some Pastors who are doing only funeral ministry.

Pastor Dave Delaney

commented on Oct 16, 2013

There is no doubt ... a new sermon for every single wedding. The message should include some things that you have discovered about the couple during counseling (positive/fun things that can be shared haha). I have heard far too many dusted off messages that show me the pastor could care less about the moment ... if you don't like doing weddings find a pastor who will celebrate the day. This is truly one opportunity that you can get people who may never again enter a church to at least think that there is a reason because a pastor cared to give some time to his/her message of the day.

John Powers

commented on Oct 16, 2013

I have made it my practice for the last several years that I do not perform wedding ceremonies for those couples that do not undergo at least minimal marriage preparation counseling. This eliminates doing weddings for those that you do not know.

Joe Mckeever

commented on Oct 16, 2013

35 weddings? ha. How about 735? In over a half century of ministry, the number is probably around a thousand. After a while, you have the basics of the ceremony in hand, and using a few thought and scriptures chosen just for this occasion, improvise. After all, you keep reminding yourself, when it comes to the events of this wonderful day, I am only a bit player.

Terry Sapp

commented on Oct 16, 2013

I was at a meeting where Bob Russell told of a wedding message that he used where he goes through the vows and tells them what he feels they mean. It has some humor mixed in. I probably use it for 9 of 10 weddings that I use and I always have people come up to me afterwards and say that was one of the nicest messages they have heard. I see it as a way to remind the couple of the promise they are making and a reminder to those in the audience of the vows they took.

Kevin Bell

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Hi Terry, would it be possible to have a copy of Bob's message on vows - Thanks - Kevin (

Marco Monroy

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Hi Terry, if you don't mind, I would also like a copy of your sermon. Thanks!

Alastair White

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Hi Terry, I'm with Kevin and Marco on this one. Could you also send me a copy of the sermon by Bob. Many thanks. Alastair. (

Richard Bremner

commented on Oct 17, 2013

Hi Terry, I would love to access a copy of the message that you refer to as well as Bob Russell's if possible. I have weddings coming up out of state, which I've been asked to do. One couple are un-churched and I understand that this will be an opportunity to witness to them and also show grace.

Richard Bremner

commented on Oct 17, 2013

Hi Terry, I neglected to include my email address: With thanks.

Bert Mulder

commented on Oct 17, 2013

Hi Terry, I would also like a copy of your sermon. Thanks!

Dave Foshee

commented on Oct 17, 2013

I too would love to have this! ( Thank you!!!

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 17, 2013

Just a friendly word of caution to those providing their email addresses...I was a victim of identity theft some time ago, and I was told afterwards that one of the ways one can prevent it is by not posting your email address in public. Email addresses often serve as "usernames," or to prove one's identity. If nothing else, people can use those addresses to send you spam. So I'd be careful. If you really do want to post your email, at the very lest spell everything out, such as the "@" and the "." (e.g. "joe underscore smith twelve at email dot com"), so that it does not stand out as an email address. Also keep in mind, Terry Sapp may not even be checking responses to his comments. Just some things to think about. Blessings to you all!

Jp Wilson

commented on Oct 17, 2013

Hey terry I too would love a copy of bobs sermon. Thanks.

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Oct 24, 2013

I would also like to take a look at that sermon if I could. Thanks.

Pastor Mrs. Agboju

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Yes, we do. Everything about that day is tailored to the couple, why should the message not be also?? Fewer people would join the marital exodus if they spent more time talking with the Pastor before walking down the aisle. I don't see any good reason we [Pastors] have to not make some kind of pre-marital discussions necessary in order to marry in our parishes. Don't want to hear the Gospel?? Well, that's what we do in church, no matter the occasion; we talk about holiness, the God kind of love, intimacy, forgiveness, patience, and sacrifice etc.,any other day, why not a wedding? Also, meeting the bridal party and knowing the person who is helping coordinate the ceremony allows opportunity to make sure everyone knows their part and lets them know the Pastor cares enough to do more than just show up to read their lines.

Clay Gentry

commented on Oct 16, 2013

The last wedding I preached was for my youngest sister and her husband. For the life of me, every time I meant to say wedding I said funeral. Even when they asked to do their wedding I said, "Sure I would love to perform you funeral ceremony."

Dr. Thomas Mohler

commented on Oct 16, 2013

I too would like a copy of the Bob Russell wedding sermon if you would be willingto share. I perform a number of military personnel weddinds and this would be a good way to share these truths!

Douglas Hallman

commented on Oct 17, 2013

The Word of God is bountiful with sermon material for newly married people. Preach the Word and you won't mind working on new sermons for weddings.

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