Pregnancy and Marriage
Q: I’m 26 years old and have been with my boyfriend for 3 years. We’re in love and often talk about marriage. Yet we’ve been sidetracked. My mother died 2 years ago and my father was in an accident a year ago, is now disabled, and I’ve been caring for him. I am now 9 weeks pregnant and we know the time is here to get married. My boyfriend’s parents feel we should wed before the baby is born; they are ashamed and will not speak to either one of us if we don’t. I would like to wait until after. I want to have a wedding where I can wear a gown and have everyone I know there. Is there anything wrong with waiting until after the baby is born, especially since this child was conceived out of our love for each other.
A: There are several things to consider in making a final decision. First of all, God wants men and women to have sex and children within the bounds of marriage. He desires that each child conceived be raised by married (Christian) parents. Second, if you have come together and “acted” like husband and wife, with the intention of always being together, you have already “married” each other. Ceremonies, whether religious or civil, are only ratifications of what the two have already promised to each other.
As for specifically religious ceremonies, in many countries, they take place after the couple is already married. Even under “normal” circumstances, the man and woman may go to judge, magistrate, or the like with their witnesses to be legally married. After the civil marriage ceremony, they go God’s house to receive the blessings of the Lord and His Church. For while a sermon and prayers don’t make the wedding, they are important parts of the Christian marriage.
There’s also the matter of care for the child. If you are married before the baby is born, then there is extra legal protection for all three of you, as well as insurance benefits and the like. This is not an unimportant consideration. Nor is the “legitimacy” of the baby a matter of little importance; it may make a difference both in how people talk about you and how life is later for your child.
I understand your desire for the big wedding with all the trimmings. If you want to wait, that decision is one that the two of you must live with. Neither the bride nor her attire are supposed to “star” in a church wedding — this should be a religious service with Jesus Christ as its center. You should ask yourself, “Is wearing a certain gown more important than being totally honest with God and the world?” You either are married or you aren’t; delaying is a false compromise.
If you want the big ceremony, I suggest following what I noted above: Get married in a small civil ceremony, set up housekeeping as husband and wife, not secretly, but openly and honestly. Ask for the prayers of your church and then, when you and all possible guests have time (and you can fit into the gown of your dreams), schedule the big ceremony with all the special music, the prayers, the sermon, and the rest. Just because you began by putting the “cart” of sex and procreation before the “horse” of marriage doesn’t mean that you must continue in this manner. Instead, put God’s first things (including marriage) first, and you will enjoy and prosper even more in the things that follow (such as bearing children and raising a family).
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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