Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 26, 2017
The day the groom turned and ran
Using the traditional marriage service, I have conducted more than a thousand weddings. In each wedding I opened with the words, “Dearly beloved,” and followed that with a brief reminder of the sacred nature of the wedding about to take place “in the sight of God and in the presence of these witnesses.”
Then, after reminding the bride and the groom that with their solemn vows to each other they were entering into a holy covenant with God, I looked into the eyes of the groom and asked him this question:
“Will you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all other keep thee only unto her so long as you both shall live?”
The groom is instructed to answer “I will.” In every wedding I have performed the groom always responded with those two words, “I will,” except on one occasion. That afternoon the wedding abruptly ended as I was asking the groom the above question.
As I began asking the groom if he would “take this woman,” he began shaking his head from side to side, looking down instead of at me. And before I concluded with the somber words, “so long as you both shall live,” the groom turned away from the bride and walked briskly out of the chapel.
I was as stunned as everyone else in the room. Some 75 people were looking at me, breathlessly wondering what I would say next. I had no idea what to say or do, but the bride spoke before I did. She looked at me and with tears staining her cheeks, said hesitantly, “Do you think I should go after him?”
It took me only a few seconds to come up with this answer to the embarrassed young woman, “Honey, I don’t think I would if I were you.” Seconds later, ignoring my advice, she quickly left the room in pursuit of the groom.
None of this, of course, was in the marriage ritual and my years of seminary training had not prepared me to deal with such an awkward situation. I stood in silence for two or three minutes, looking at the door through which the bride and groom had departed.
Then I turned to the astonished congregation and said, “Good friends, I believe the bride and the groom have decided not to get married today, so I think the best thing we can do is to go on our way and do our best to enjoy the rest of this day. God bless you. Amen.”
The marriage service gives a man and woman the opportunity to make a public vow of faithfulness to each other and allow a minister to pronounce them “husband and wife together in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
But that can only be done after both have willingly agreed to “take” each other as husband and wife and solemnly promised to “live together in the holy estate of matrimony.”
Oh, by the way, on that strange Saturday as I was walking to my car, I saw the bride pleading with the groom in the parking lot. He was in his car; the engine was running. He had his hands on the steering wheel.
Did they ever reconcile and get married? I don’t know. But I have an idea that if she did manage to get him to tie the knot, she lived to be sorry she ran after him.
The lesson in this story? Be sure you are ready to say “I will” before you dress up and stand before the preacher. + + +