- Faith & Family
Here comes the bride, here comes the bride.
As the bride is walking down the aisle, a few seconds later there comes another one and then another.
Pastor Rich Wilkerson married about 20 couples at the same time at Trinity Church on Feb. 17.
“Instead of doing 40 different weddings, we did them all at one time,” Pastor Marcus Gonzalez said.
The couples who participated in the Big Wedding ceremonies that were held this year and last year did so because of several different reasons, including the ceremony being free and the church taking care of most of the arrangements.
“The only thing the bride and the groom have to do is get their license, bring their clothes and their ring,” Gonzalez said.
The church bought flowers, cakes and other refreshments. They gave the attendees enough tickets to invite 25 of their loved ones to share their special day. Church members decorated, videotaped and photographed the experience.
Some of the couples who decided to get married at one of the two ceremonies had gotten married in court but never had a church wedding, and some couples knew they wanted to get married, but they just couldn’t afford it. While some of the couples had been living together for years, just started going to church, got saved and then decided to get married, according to Gonzalez.
He said he came up with the idea to do the group wedding because often times the culture and TV makes it seem that marriage isn’t important and sometimes churches forget to promote the importance of it.
“People really supporting each other can go a long way and we teach that married people live longer, married people have better sex, married people make more money and are healthier,” Gonzalez said.
The repetitive ceremony
The members had a dress rehearsal the Saturday before the wedding. Then the next day, it was showtime. The couples were separated into two different rooms in the church before the wedding.
When the ceremony started, there was a video shown to the guests that captured the love of the brides and grooms.
Attendees screamed as they saw their loved ones on the screens. Next, the brides individually walked down the aisle to their groom, who all stood in the front of the church.
The pastor then performed the wedding and the couples — standing on the stage — exchanged vows.
“Do you understand what these vows mean — for better or for worse, for richer for poorer?” Gonzalez asked.
“That means you’re willing to say: ‘if she gets sick I’m not leaving her.’ ‘If he loses his job and maybe is going through a rough time, I’m going to support him.’”
Before getting married, couples attended counseling sessions and marriage seminars that prepared and helped them decide if they were truly ready to get married.
In counseling the church leaders asks the couples tough questions and painted a realistic picture of being married.
The leaders also discussed healthy relationships and taught about the spiritual component of marriage.
Out of the 40 couples, who signed up to be a part of the group wedding last year, only 23 actually got married.
Gonzalez said it was a good thing.
“We’re not interested in putting people together for the sake of putting people together,” he said. “We want people to have a relationship that’s going to last forever.”
—Photos courtesy of Trinity Church
By Malika A. Wright