They say they’ll cover dresses, tuxes, rings, cake, and even a month’s rent after the wedding. They’ve offered this program three separate times before, and 60 couples have gone through the process at a cost of about $8,000 per wedding.
But there is a catch. (At least one.) You have to go through the church’s premarital counseling program beforehand.
Pastor Bryan Carter explained in a recent sermon how this was all part of a plan to get co-habitating couples to make a decision: either get more serious (i.e. married), stop living together in sin, or break up.
You can hear the relevant portion around the 31:31 mark below:
The whole situation may sound extremely generous for people within the church, though it also raises a lot of questions.
- Does this only apply to straight couples? (I think we can answer that one already.)
- Do the couples have to sign a faith statement? If so, what’s on it? What if there’s disagreement on certain theological issues?
- Under what conditions will the church tell couples they’re not ready to get married?
- What happens if the couple decides to leave the church one day?
- Are there any circumstances in which the wedding costs must be paid back?
- If the couple has children, will they have to be raised in the church?
- Will the catering have to be done by Chick-fil-A? (We can only assume.)
Good luck finding the answers on the church’s website. You won’t get details unless you go in person, apparently. They didn’t respond to our request for comment. And if you watch the video included in the sermon, you’ll also learn that all the weddings happen as part of the same mass event, one after another. It’s not exactly the dream wedding people envision, but it may be a trade-off some people are willing to make.
By the way, contrary to what the pastor says, there’s no good evidence linking co-habitation to divorce. In many ways, this church is just using this promotion as a way to get people to stop having premarital sex… by pressuring them into a marriage some people may not be ready for. That creates a whole different set of problems.
It would be fascinating to see data on the 60 couples who have gone through the program so far and how their marriages are coming along now and in the future.