Why I’m Not Thrilled About that Awesome Wedding Dance Video

It is awesome.  

When I first saw the "JK Wedding Entrance Dance" on YouTube my jaw dropped and I was in awe of this couple's audacity, joy, and ability to dance.  What fun, what creativity, what a celebration.  Though very different than my wedding procession, I saw a joy and happiness in this procession that I felt in my own.

But I'm a pastor, and I couldn't help but ask myself if I would permit a couple and their wedding party to process into the church in this manner, with this music.

No, I wouldn't.

I love the joy and the energy and the dancing.  Indeed, I know that the God who gifted this couple with such love and flair is the same God who blesses their relationship, and that their creative celebration of these divine gifts is itself a manner of praising God (thanks to Rachel, who commented on my Facebook page, for that insight).

But still, my answer is no.

It's not that I think such exuberence is unwarranted in church. In fact, I think we can use a litte more exuberence in our churches (Ryan Howard hits a home run and we cheer. The pastor declares that Christ died for our sins, and we offer a solemn/somber "Amen." Huh?). I believe that our faith is a living faith, our God is a living God, and our community a living witness to the God of new life … and as such energy, enthusiasm, joy and yes, dancing, have a place in our church's (worship) life.

But still, my answer is no.

There are many things that give us joy – baseball games, board games, fireworks, and yes, good dance tunes – but I'm sure that the generation of joy is not reason enough to include any these things in our church's worship life. The joy we experience when we dance or sing or cheer at a baseball game is truly a gift of God, but that doesn't necessarily make it the stuff of the church's worship.

Every element of our church's worship is designed to help the worshipper hear the Word of God and offer her praises to God. From the music to the prayers, to the readings and the various movements and gestures, all aspects of the worship service should explicitly point to the God we praise, the God who comes to us in Word and Sacrament.

And so, I'm not sure that this song – Forever, by Chris Brown (lyrics here) – can be construed as proclamation of God's Word or as praise of God. It might have a great beat, and sweet words of romance, but … but is it the stuff of Christian worship? Perhaps the pastor did a great job of connecting the joy and love of this wedding dance with the joy and love of God … perhaps.

I think this dance would be a great way to enter a wedding reception or a civil wedding ceremony. I think the dance could be a great way to enter a church service, given that the accompanying music is one of Christian praise in the Black Gospel or Christian Rock tradition. Yes, I'm fine with the form – with the dancing – but I do think that words matter … because we're a people who worship a Living Word, a Savior who is the Word Made Flesh. A wedding service in a church, after all, is a church service, a gathering of people around the Word of God.

I am sure that this dance made the wedding day meaningful and joyful for the couple and for those in attendence … but is that the purpose of a Christian wedding liturgy, to make the experience of declaring marriage vows meaningful and joyful?  No. Wedding liturgies – or funeral liturgies or any liturgies, for that matter – are not meant to be "Christmas Trees" onto which we hang every sentiment-inspiring reading, ritual, or performance. There are many things that inspire emotion and sentiment, but they don't all belong in a service of Christian worship. (I addressed this issue in relation to Christian worship and patriotism in a post entitled Praising God, Honoring Country, three years ago).

Truly this couple has been richly blessed by God with joy, talent, and a knack for celebrating their love. I was truly moved by their dance … yet as a pastor I would only suggest that they move their dance moves to the reception hall.

Peace.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Faith & the Church, Liturgy, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Why I’m Not Thrilled About that Awesome Wedding Dance Video

  1. Ivy says:

    I’m curious if you’ve seen this post: http://tinyurl.com/mhx33o. I’m ambivalent myself about it. In the past I would’ve appreciated it much more.

  2. Robb says:

    I like what you have to say here. My first thought was, “This is kind of cool,” quickly followed by, “I would never allow it.”
    At what point is the dance a praise of God and at what point is it, “look at me! look at me!”?
    Oh well, looked like a fun wedding. If they danced like that in procession, I would have loved to gone to that reception!

  3. Chris says:

    Via my friend Kara, here’s a Minnesota Public Radio interview with the bride’s mother and the congregation’s pastoral intern:
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/07/24/wedding-dance/

  4. Chris says:

    Many more comments over on my facebook page, where I posted this blogpost …. http://www.facebook.com/chrisduckworth

  5. At what point is the dance a praise of God and at what point is it, “look at me! look at me!”?
    And at what point is it your job to judge whether or not someone is talking with God or being an attention whore? ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the gift to see into people’s souls.

  6. Scott says:

    I’m with you, Chris – it seems a bit much for the wedding service, but absolutely appropriate for the beginning of a reception.
    Mary Sue: that point would be where Chris, or I, or any other pastor entrusted with the ministerial office is personally involved in the thing. As such, perhaps our commentary on this video isn’t warranted – but it certainly has its place in our consideration of weddings where we may be officiating ourselves. We may not have the gift to see into people’s souls, but we have the responsibility to help them do it for themselves.

  7. Chris says:

    Mary Sue,
    It’s not about having “the gift to see into people’s souls,” for if the whole experience of church were just about what’s in people’s souls, we wouldn’t need traditions, churches, a Bible, a prayerbook, or anything else that is corporate and shared, since it would just be about our souls, our hearts, our feelings. But the church’s gathering at the foot of the cross is a shared experience of receiving, growing into, and proclaiming new life in Christ, not a “what’s in my soul” thing.
    Again, this dance is a beautiful and creative expression of love and joy … God-given love and joy! However, not everything that is God-given, not everything that is imbued with love and joy is part of our worship – and that’s ok! God blesses many things that are outside of our worship life, but not everything need be part of our worship life! Worship is not a variety show that needs to contain everything in our lives … but it should speak to and give expression to the joy and faith we live into in our daily lives.
    Again, enter the church dancing and giving praise to God for the gift of love most clearly seen on the cross … Praise God with dance as did Miriam and the women after crossing the Red Sea on dry land … But groovin’ to a pop tune to enter a service of Christian worship? Not for me.
    I wouldn’t enter worship singing the Star Spangled Banner and carrying an American flag. The flag and patriotic music are good and wonderful things, for sure, but they are not appropriate for Christian worship. So too with a popular dance tune. It’s a good and wonderful thing, but it doesn’t direct us toward the proclamation of the Word … which is why we gather in churches for worship in the first place.

  8. PS says:

    Rambling reaction: As a person who usually likes things to be traditional, my first reaction was to think that this was way too casual and just plain inappropriate. But then, how is it so different from the times we ask the congregation to move and dance and clap with a specific hymn, or when the pianist plays some of the hymns from our ELW or WOV with a swing-type rhythm (ie played the way they are meant to be played) and the people spontaneously start to sway or clap along. [This took place yesterday during our sending hymn.] Or when someone get up and starts playing the conga drums during a hymn? Lest you come to the conclusion that we are a praise-band type of congregation with only simplistic music, we are not. The services are very traditional, but we aren’t stuck on just one type of music, AND we have a very talented pianist.
    I just got home from VBS. Usually we have lively, meaningful songs for the kids, to express our thankfulness and praise for God’s grace. When a little kid receives a present, he might clap his hands and jump up and down. Perhaps we should encourage adults to show gratefulness with their whole being. Certainly there could be a place for this during a wedding. As you said, maybe it should be at the reception, but why do we segregate our places to express this type of joy? At the reception, the movement might be alcohol induced.
    One memory of contrast sticks in my mind: I had the strong impression that when I took my first communion, at about the age of 14, that I was supposed to be a solemn as can be as I walked back to my seat. Deeply meaningful events don’t have to be solemn.

  9. Robb says:

    The Original Mary Sue -
    When I asked the question it was just that: a question. No need for hostility.
    It is a question that worship planners and pastors ask each and every week when considering any element of worship, including dance, music, additional rituals, drama etc.

  10. LutheranChik says:

    Chris, I had the same sense of ambivalence. Yes, it was a great entrance. It reminded me of the story of David dancing buck nekkid before the Ark of the Covenant. And since we’ve evolved as a society beyond marriages being solemn goods-and-services transactions between clans — since our marriages are ideally grounded in the idea of mates choosing one another out of mutual love, respect and desire to enter into a life partnership — maybe it’s right to be more celebratory and less tradition-bound in our marriage ceremonies, particularly when many of our traditions have their roots in oppressive systems of human interaction. On the other hand, when I think about my partner and me, and if we would have thought of pairing a public blessing on our commitment with these sorts of shenanigans…no. We may be two of the laughingest couples anyone has ever met, but our relationship itself is a serious matter. And I guess that because it is so difficult for us to get large segments of the dominant society to take the validity of our relationship seriously, I would not diminish the import and significance of asking God’s blessing on our union by cutting up in the context of the actual ceremony. A reception — different story. (Although I, like Elaine in “Seinfeld,” have a dancing style that can be described as a full-body dry heave;-)…so probably not so much there either.)

  11. Jennifer Osheim-Owen says:

    The interesting part of course, for us Lutherans and expecially us Lutheran pastors, is that this was done at a Lutheran Church in the Twin Cities (where, “who isn’t Lutheran?” might be the question to ask). I don’t know the pastoral staff there personally, but I do know that as with all pastors, they would’ve been involved, especially with something like this — I’m sure the couple didn’t wait until the rehearsal to spring it upon the unsuspecting pastor, just the unsuspecting congregation.

  12. Eric says:

    Like many others, my first impression was “this is cool”. But also like many others may next thought was “I would never allow this”. My thought for something like this is “does this glorify God”?. As fun as this dance was to watch it just goes to remind me how sinful we really are and how much we want all the attention to be on us. We want to be the center of attention. So my question/concern is this: what are people going to remember about this worship service? People won’t remember anything the pastor said during the sermon. The people there probably don’t even remember what the scripture texts were. The only thing people will take away is the entrance dance. Nothing about God.
    I appreciate the joy and enthusiasm but there is a place for everything. This kind of attention stealing? Nope.
    Thanks Chris, for the post.

  13. Diane says:

    I had the same two thoughts as a pastor “This was cool” and “I wouldn’t have allowed it, at least not in a church.” I had an outdoor wedding once where there was kind of a recessional “dance” like that one, the music didn’t have words with it, though. But if it was in a church, and a secular song with secular words, I would have said “no.”
    Which is why some people don’t want to have their weddings in a church.

  14. Eric says:

    I agree with you Diane. I have never had an issue with wedding music (knock on wood). When couples ask me about music I tell them that a generally good rule of thumb is that if you feel it would be appropriate for a Sunday morning worship service then it’s probably fine for your wedding. But I know the day will come when I will have to deal with this issue. And when it comes it will provide a great teaching opportunity.

  15. Kim says:

    This brings up a lot of questions for me. Do we really want worship to be a safe and predictable experience? What makes the church space more holy than other spaces? Who gets to decide what’s appropriate for Sunday morning? What’s so scary about secular songs with secular words in church? What makes some people think some words or songs are more holy than others?
    BTW – I love video and the way they express their “crazy” love and bring their community together. Interesting how it has become a viral sensation – why aren’t we talking about what that means?

  16. I wonder about the necessity of elaborate processions in the first place. As I understand it, the elaborate procession that has become the norm has come about mainly through the wedding ceremony of Queen Elizabeth… and that evolved out of vast amounts of royal politics, where marriages were often seals of treaties and such.
    But since the processions have become the norm, they seem to highlight the couple lending ever more credence to the belief that the wedding is the bride’s (and maybe the groom’s day)…
    I don’t think it’s about judging at this point, but calling us to practices that witness to the truth that “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT.” While the couple does act as the presiders with the pastor as witness for the state.
    Processions are simply way to get everyone up front. Do it faithfully. Practice the procession so that it brings glory to God.

  17. Toonz says:

    You do realize the paradox of Mary Sue asking who is being an attention whore right?
    Chris, I physically slammed the computer desk and screamed “FINALLY! some on gets it!” Then read Mary Sue’s comment and asked myself if she was a lesbian troll. No offense, just my first thought. Problem with that Mary Sue? Think I’m acting holier than though? Last time I remembered, I was sinner as the rest of you, I didn’t realize my sin was worse than yours. Perhaps I should have cleared it with you before speaking huh? That said, again Chris, this was spot on. It was nothing more than a publicity stunt and nothing to do with being in God’s house. NOW if they played a jump out of your soul screaming Christian tune. That would have been absolutely appropriate. But then again, this is a viral youtube junk right? So unless they were dry humping in the aisle like a bunch of rejects with Christian music playing, this would never get over 200 hits. Secular music attention whore in the church, sure everyone loves an exploit. Hated it, wish they thought about it, recession would’ve made me watch it, saw it for a second then shut it off. Oh well, thats my rant and my opinion, God forgive me if this gives someone a bad day, even Mary Sue, Amen.
    Chris, my apologies if this causes any issues, just ranting an opinion and sick of gaytheists jumping in to just be against anything about God.

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