An advice column contained the following:
"Dear Family: I am asking for your cooperation and understanding. My wedding will be very costly, and this has caused me to make some unpleasant decisions.
"I hope you will see this as a request for a donation and not a charge for you to attend my wedding. I cannot figure out any way other than to ask each guest to contribute to the cost. If anyone is insulted by my request, I am sincerely sorry.
"Your $330 contribution must be received on or before June 30. Only postal money orders will be accepted. Thank you for your contribution."
My question is, how should this "invitation" be handled? Should we tell the bride-to-be what bad manners this is? -- APPALLED IN OHIO
DEAR APPALLED: No. Please allow me to do it for you. What you received is not an invitation. It is a solicitation. Not only is it tacky; it is unbelievably insulting. When a couple marries, all monetary contributions should be voluntary. To specify that the "gift" be paid via money order implies that there might be insufficient funds to cash the check. If I received such an "invitation," I would not send a money order. I would send my regrets. I recommend that you do the same. Readers, I challenge you to top this!
Appalling and tacky weddings are the rage now -- immortalized on television with shows such as “Bridezillas,” “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding,” “Platinum Weddings ,” and the more refined “Say Yes to the Dress.” Just last night at Mulcahy’s in Wantaugh was the “My Big Fat Fake Wedding” a comedy take off where you can come dressed as the minister, the wedding crasher and as a anonymous crowd, create the wacky wedding of your dreams. Practically gone are the days with a simple, no-frills wedding in church or in the living room, followed by a pot-luck reception. Weddings are a hefty 72-billion-dollar industry in the US. The average wedding costs close to 26 thousand – not including the honeymoon. In Manhattan, that figure jumps up to 66 thousand. My big fat Manhattan wedding -- whose 14th anniversary we’re celebrating February 1- -- was characterized by everyone pitching in – cousin Bee made a superb wedding cake; other friends did flower arrangements for the tables, others pitched in the Champaign, someone sang during the ceremony, friends in a Appalachian folk band played for the service, and another brought his fiddle and friends and offered some bluegrass tunes. Yes, my dress came off a rack at Macy’s, as well as Forrest’s suit, both paid with gift cards!
Weddings and commitment ceremonies are major, stressful events in the life cycle. Traditionally weddings signified more than a couple uniting. It symbolized the forging of alliances between families, clans and villages that may be hard for us to appreciate. Weddings were a serious business matter in the ancient world. The festivities went on for up to a week. The entire village would be invited. It was a welcomed, joyful respite from the hard, monotonous village life. As a result, the wedding families were burdened with significant expense – often debt -- not only bride prices but the cost of the wedding itself; especially paying to entertain, food and drink, for a sizable crowd.
According to the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle, or sign, was at a wedding – the wedding at Cana, which wasn’t far from Nazareth.
It’s a fascinating picture. According to John, Jesus’ first miracle isn’t forgiving someone of their sin. Nor is it healing someone of a bodily ailment. Or casting out a demon. Nor is it a conversation, teaching or parable to lead someone to spiritual enlightenment. Jesus’ glory is first revealed at a simple village wedding. Jesus brings the extra wine.
The wedding is going well until the third day. To the chief steward’s horror, he discovered seven days’ worth of wine were drunk in half the expected time. This wedding was headed for disaster. What’s a village wedding without its wine? This was a crisis for the wedding family. For this family, hospitality is everything. If you invite people to a wedding, hospitality demands that everyone have enough. Enough to eat. Enough to drink. To not have enough wine or food was a humiliation, a disgrace, they would never be able to live down. It was a bad omen for the marriage.
Jesus’ mother recognizes the problem and goes to her son. Jesus responds in a non-committal way. He doesn’t think it’s his hour. But the dire need of the moment necessitates action. We plan, but then life has other plans. Mary has faith and instructs the servants to just do what Jesus commands: which is to fill up six empty large stone jars with water. The servants were ordered to draw out some of the water now wine and take it to the chief steward. The Steward tasted the wine – and proclaimed it far superior to anything they had consumed so far. They had saved the best for last. So, Jesus produced 180 gallons of first-class wine for his first miracle.
This passage reveals some important insights into Jesus. He is present to us in our daily walk and especially in life’s transitions. He understood the problem of not having enough wine. So, in his generous act he spared the wedding family probable humiliation. He helped them saved face. It reminds us of what his foster-father, Joseph did for his mother Mary—Joseph refused to expose Mary to the humiliation of the law when he discovered she was with child. So, Jesus, like his foster-father, is sensitive to the feelings of others caught in a social quandary. Jesus cares about maintaining human dignity. Not only does he turn water into wine - he turns it into the best wine. He didn’t have to do this. It could’ve been a Gallo Burgundy instead of a Rothschild’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Jesus gave the very best.
It is no accident that Jesus performs this sign at a wedding. Because a wedding, a wedding feast, is a very appropriate image to use when talking about the new reality that Jesus brings about. The Bible uses this image of a wedding banquet many, many times, both in the Old Testament and in the New, to describe what God promises to his people and what Jesus then brings about. Wine, the ancient symbol of joy, is our gift from Jesus in our new alliance with him.
Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us: “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I'm speaking of that force which all the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 'Let us love one another. For God is love.'
Jesus today is revealed as our Divine Bridegroom, who claims us and make us channels of this sacred wine of love. Our water is turned into wine to serve the world in joy. Our empty jars are overflowing. Jesus has given us the very best. Therefore, as Paul declares: “Let us keep the feast!” (1 Cor. 5:8) Amen