Lord God Almighty, we have gathered in this place, this park, outside, miles from a respectable church sanctuary, to join these two people in what we hope is holy matrimony. We pray that every wedding will be sacred — even those that take place in settings more fitting for a folk arts festival.

Lord God Almighty, forgive me if I should have given this assignment to a younger, hipper minister. Several people wish I had said “No,” but Ashley was so cute when she was four years old and insisted on sitting on my lap during the children’s sermon.

I know that she has not been to church for a while — by “a while” I mean at least 10 years — but when she asked me to perform this wedding, I thought we would be at the church with pews and the cross. She neglected to mention that we would be here at the Heaven on Earth Spa and Wedding Arboretum.

We pray, nonetheless, that you will look mercifully upon Ashley, in her ankle bells, flower crown and not-quite-white dress, and Evan in his Urban Outfitters formal wear.

Lord God Almighty, I feel like an airline stewardess leading passengers through the safety speech. No one is listening, but it is important, so I am going through with it.

I know that some would like for me to hurry up so they can get to the gluten-free, farm-to-table, locally-sourced, chipotle-flavored, artisanal cake. They are eager to drink too much organic beer and dance suggestively, but they can just hold their horses, because now that I mention it, a horse would not be out of place at this wedding. The butterflies that the groom feels may be actual butterflies. Bambi might walk up and nibble the bridal bouquet. Birds could flutter around the bride’s head.

Lord God Almighty, we wish it was 20 degrees warmer. Scheduling an outdoor wedding in March is rolling the dice. Perhaps if we had known it would be 50 degrees, the bridesmaids’ tiny turquoise dresses would cover more and my dear wife Barbara would not be using a tablecloth for a blanket. Lesson learned.

And if it is not too much trouble, it would be helpful if you could stop with the wind already. We have given up on any candles staying lit, but a lot of expensive hairdos are blowing away and the pages in my Bible are not staying put.

Help us pay attention to the reading of 1 Corinthians 13. We feel free, however, to ignore the Apache blessing that the bride’s sister is about to read — as no Apache would recognize it. And let me make it clear that I do not approve of the lewd song the one female groomsman will be singing.

I wish we had an organ or a piano, but I confess that I liked the guitarist’s prelude. It sounded like something Taylor Swift might have sung before she started singing too loud.

Lord God Almighty, please remind those who are only now arriving and are at this moment shuffling people around so they can have a spot on a bench or a hay bale, that while others’ eyes are closed, you are watching them. You might also jog the memory of the fancy photographer who agreed not to move around during the ceremony; that includes the prayer.

As we think about the generations that preceded this couple, we cannot help but wonder what those couples who were married in church buildings in weddings that cost $25 including the license and a haircut would think. But we also know that we are here by your grace, as well as that of match.com.

Things change, but couples keep making this brave attempt to love one another. In a few minutes when they read the vows they wrote and promise to “dream big dreams, feel the wind of hope, laugh every day, and discover myself on this crazy journey we call life,” know that they are promising “for better, worse, richer, poorer, joy, sorrow, sickness, health, to love and cherish, as long as we both shall live.”

We pray this in the name of Jesus, who went to a wedding and provided refreshments of which I would not partake. Amen. NFJ

younger_brett2_optBy Brett Younger

Brett Younger is associate professor of preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.