A Wedding You Won’t Read About in People Magazine

These days, weddings have taken on a life of their own. One only has to open People magazine to see the extravagance of the latest Kardashian wedding: horse-drawn carriages, private jets, lavish gowns and jewelry—all totaling over $28 million! As a missionary who regularly witnesses the devastation of poverty, I can’t help but think what good a fraction of that money could have done if given to a charity or non-profit organization…but I digress. Of course, we know celebrity weddings tend to be over-the-top affairs. However, the average American wedding is quickly following suit. According to some stats, the average American wedding costs between 20 and 29 thousand dollars!

All of this was lodged in the back of my mind as my husband Daren and I made our way to Hutchinson Correctional Facility to attend a very different kind of wedding. Daren was about to officiate his first ceremony in a prison. The groom is a TUMI (The Urban Ministry Institute) student with a genuine desire to grow in his knowledge of the Lord. The bride is a Christian woman who also loves the Lord and is raising a teenage son. Daren was honored do their premarital counseling, where he saw both were excited and eager to serve the Lord together.

We followed the wedding party (a few family members and the bride) into the prison. Getting in was a long and complicated process of removing shoes, jewelry and getting visitors' passes—imagine going through security at the airport. Amidst all this, I couldn't help but notice the glowing bride. Despite all the hassles and restrictions of having her wedding in a prison—no digital cameras, having to change into her gown in the bathroom—she could barely contain her excitement. She was minutes away from marrying the love of her life.

We proceeded through several gates, the prison common area and up a narrow flight of stairs to a row of classrooms. We arrived at the classroom where the ceremony would take place. There was no air conditioning and the only items in the room were a few mismatched plastic chairs, a folding table and an old wooden podium. There were no decorated pews, no beautiful candelabras or organ music. The only photographer was me and all I had was one disposable camera. Despite all this, the wedding was beautiful because it was centered on the love of two people who had dedicated themselves to God and each other. The bride was glowing and the groom was elated. During the ceremony, both bride and groom read aloud the stories of how God had drawn them together and to Himself. Many tears were shed as they recalled the broken road that led them together and ultimately to Christ.

As Daren pronounced them husband and wife, the small gathering of family let out a cheer. Both the bride and groom had looks of utter joy on their faces even though they would soon be separated. They only had 30 minutes following the ceremony before the groom had to be back in his cell. 

During the ceremony, I couldn’t help but compare this simple wedding to so many others I had witnessed. While it may have lacked some of the niceties we typically take for granted, like special music, candles or wedding cake, it had something so much more valuable: a wedding centered on Christ. The focus of the ceremony was so clear. It wasn’t a photo op or something that would make a cute Facebook post—it was about two people committed to one another and Jesus Christ. To me, that’s a wedding I want to read about in People magazine.

Tina Busenitz is a World Impact missionary in Wichita, Kansas.