By Brittney Horner
Unique wedding venues are becoming a norm.
This trend is growing even among Christians, which may surprise those who grew up in a church where it was tradition to have a church wedding ceremony.
Clad in a Maggie Sottero lace dress with cap sleeves and a corset back, her mother’s garter on underneath, Gainesville senior Elizabeth Puckett walked down the aisle to become Mrs. Newman. It was not a traditional wedding, though. There was no chapel or pastor ordaining the ceremony.
The Newman wedding was at the State Theater, in the couple’s hometown of Gainesville. The couple’s friend Casey Fain was ordained just to officiate the wedding. With heirloom decorations, a potluck and a cupcake wood-tiered stand crafted by the bride’s father, the wedding was informal, unstructured and family-friendly. The bride even let the groom see her before the ceremony, rebelling against the superstition of not allowing the groom to see the bride in her dress before she walks down the aisle.
“I could not imagine it anywhere else,” newlywed Newman said.
According to a survey by the XO Group Inc., creator of wedding websites, TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, in 2012 only 35 percent of brides held their wedding in a house of worship, which is down from 41 percent in 2009. One in three couples chose a friend or family member to officiate.
Dr. Jonathan Tran, associate professor of religion, said he attended a Christian wedding in a barn outside Austin. Tran said he has noticed deep-seated Christians marrying outside churches.
“This trend suggests a larger cultural phenomenon for Protestant Christians,” Tran said. “Many people believe that God is everywhere and what matters is in your heart. Theologically, is that right? Absolutely.”
Tran said God is interested in the group of people meeting, not the walls of the building.
“Church does not name a space; it names a set of relationships,” he said.
Although Tran said he believes God can be present at secular wedding venues, he also emphasized the sacredness of a church.
“The reason people get married in a church is because the church holds people accountable,” Tran said. “The covenant is with God.”
Tran said he would want his own daughter to marry in a church.
“You can have a baby in a barn, but save marriage for a church,” he said. Tran said he does not think that church ceremonies will be common in the future.
“In 25 years, this will not be an issue,” he said.
There could be various reasons why more couples are choosing secular venues such as different religious beliefs between the bride and groom.
Jessica McAdoo, the public relations and facilities supervisor at Armstrong Browning Library, one of Baylor’s wedding venues, said she got married at the library last March because she and her spouse had been raised in different denominations.
“I grew up Catholic, he grew up Baptist and we wanted a neutral ground for our ceremony,” McAdoo said.
She said many students are told the library is booked years in advance, but the library only has about five or six weddings a year and dates are reserved only nine months in advance.
“Freshmen do not need to reserve their date,” she said. Although Baylor affiliation is required to have a wedding in the library, it is not mandatory for the ceremony to be ordained by a pastor.
“Judge Ken Starr has even officiated a ceremony here,” McAdoo said.
Many Christian couples that do not have a home church, for various reasons such as relocating for a job or changing denominations, do not desire or are unable to find a suitable church venue.
El Paso junior Jessica Bedwell is engaged and said she plans to marry after graduation.
“People who have weddings in a church are deeply rooted in a specific church,” she said.
Bedwell does not consider herself deeply rooted in a specific church, and for her, a church wedding would be impersonal.
“I will not be getting married in a church,” she said.
The Bible, Tran said, does not outline specific rules for where a wedding should take place or who should officiate it.
Tran said he believes Christian marriage ceremonies are a public promise to one’s spouse and to God.
He said it is imperative for Christians to demonstrate that God is a part of their union with another person.
“Separating spiritual theology and material reality is deadly,” he said.