Over the course of a little more than six years of New Life history, I have officiated nine weddings and also have been involved in about a half-dozen other weddings. The usual wedding ceremony lasts for about 30 to 40 minutes, and on the outside, it does not seem to be that difficult to prepare and conduct. What takes place before each wedding ceremony, however, is actually time-consuming and requires quite a bit of my thought and energy.
For example, when a couple approaches me with the intention of getting married, I usually invite them over to my house at two different occasions to provide them with informal pre-marital counseling sessions together with my wife. As the wedding date gets closer, I think and pray for the couple more intensely and begin preparing the word of admonition that I will give to them during the ceremony. And I always find this very difficult because public speaking, first of all, is one of the most stressful things that people experience in their life, and second, it does not come natural for me. Moreover, a day or two prior to the wedding, there is a rehearsal during which the wedding party and I go over the whole ceremony at least two, if not three times. And then finally, there is the wedding itself.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes on before each wedding ceremony that I conduct. Nevertheless, I have never approached the weddings that took place in New Life begrudgingly or reluctantly. Every one of them was a great joy and privilege for me, and I put my heart into the whole process before, during and after the ceremony.
I approach weddings this way because it is a part of my job as pastor of New Life. God has called me to serve the church by preaching and teaching, praying for the congregation, equipping the servant-leaders and just doing life together with the body of Christ here at New Life! And it truly has been a great source of blessing for me and my family to be able to do this. Weddings are an integral part of our life, and preparing for and conducting wedding ceremonies are an essential part of what it means to do life together in the body of Christ. So, I do this gladly and joyfully, even though it takes a lot of energy out of me. That is just part of my job description.
Due to my conviction that conducting wedding ceremonies is a part of my responsibility and privilege as a pastor, I find it odd when couples give me honorariums after their ceremonies. I often find myself not knowing what to do with it. I think, “I have just done what I am supposed to do as a pastor. Then, why do people have to give me this honorarium?” Hence, to clarify and explain my thoughts on this, I have decided to write this letter to all of you.
I understand that those of you who ask me to officiate your wedding want to give me an honorarium to express your gratitude, and I appreciate that. But it will make me even happier if you could do that by just giving me a $30 gift card at Starbuck’s or something similar. As you begin a new chapter in your life as husband and wife, you will be the one who need money more than I do. Besides, New Life compensates me enough for the work that I do here. However, if money is not an issue for you because God has blessed you financially and you feel strongly that you must express your gratitude through a monetary gift, then please consider giving a thank offering to God for your wedding instead of giving me an honorarium. This truly will make my joy complete.
I haven’t said anything about funerals because all six funerals that I conducted over the past few years had to do with the Korean congregation. And I hope and pray that I do not have to conduct a funeral service for a member of New Life for a long time. But when it does happen, please remember what I have written in this letter in regards to honorariums. There will be more important things to be concerned about than giving an honorarium to the pastor.
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