Question and Answer

Attending a Wayward Child’s Wedding

Question:

My daughter has been dating someone for two years and they are contemplating marriage. I am not sure I can attend another wedding where vows are not taken seriously. These include marriages where I knew [a certain party] wasn't serious about vows. These have left big scars on my heart. Can you advise about attending my daughter's wedding?

Answer:

You wrote a lengthy introduction to your question, and space considerations make it necessary to omit much of that text. Suffice it to say that you have had heartbreaking disappointments in your marriage and family relationships over the years. And now your daughter has become somewhat estranged and has adopted permissive views concerning marriage, views that don’t align with those forged in your thirty years as a believer in Christ.

I respect those who will not attend even family weddings for conscience’ sake or for the grief such events may foster. Nevertheless, I almost always recommend to Christian parents that they attend the first weddings of their children—saved or unsaved—in order to indicate that a parent’s love and concern in Christ are stronger than the world’s attempts to break them. “Love is patient and kind.… Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4, 8). There are exceptions to this approach, because each case must be considered on its own merits. But overall, I believe it is best to be there. (I am assuming you speak of a union between a man and woman, as the Bible defines marriage, and that you mean a Christian or civil ceremony, not a pagan rite.)

At the same time I recommend that a Christian parent, if she (or he) is offended by the marriage for biblical reasons, make clear to her loved one the spiritual conflict that exists (“… speaking the truth in love,” Eph. 4:15). The adult child must be made to know that one’s attendance at a wedding is not necessarily a sign of approval, but only an indication of a parent’s love and the desire to remain close, if that is at all possible. Closeness (or at least mutual respect) will help when future interaction and understanding are needed. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17) A mother, I guess, is born for adversity also.

One of the exceptions of which I wrote is when one’s offspring is being purposely rebellious and vindictive. I see no point in going where you are not wanted. Vindictiveness would apply also to the parent who is determined to spoil the wedding in some fashion. If one cannot be civil and restrained, then stay away.

I would further say that I sense in your case a great deal of emotional upheaval due to recent events. It is easy to project your own hurt and anger onto those you see as inevitably entering into a relationship you think will only end in sorrow, because this is what happened to you. You should not attend if you cannot control your strained emotions. You should not attend if by going you will place yourself in a psychologically unstable condition. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1). “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). The question of what to do in a complicated situation needs lots of prayer! If you have a pastor, you should seek his counsel.

As I understand your letter, your daughter is not yet engaged. If that is true, then it is premature to let something that has not yet happened upset you. The devil would have us worry about all sorts of things that exist only in our minds as “what if” situations. Again, pray for the peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7), and let the Lord work. Things may turn out completely different than you expect. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34).

God bless you. May the Lord give you strength and understanding.


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