Members of a St. Bonifacious church gave five couples a Valentine’s Day gift they won’t forget — a free wedding worth at least $1,500.
The Rev. John Braland of the Freshwater Community Church came up with the idea after realizing couples want to get married but can’t afford the expense of the wedding ceremony.
So, Braland, his staff and volunteers removed all the cost barriers by providing at no charge the wedding license, space, photographer, music, printed program, reception and even the wedding cake.
Over the “Wedding Weekend” of Friday through Sunday, Braland married one couple Friday night and four brides and grooms Saturday in separate ceremonies to the delight of many guests. The five couples were selected out of those who responded to an appeal on Facebook.
On Sunday of Valentine’s week, 14 couples renewed their wedding vows and Braland’s church supplied 19 sheet cakes for all the couples.
Braland explains the reason for offering the free weddings. Marriage is the bedrock of society, he said. Married couples build better families and better families make better communities.
So you are wondering — what’s the catch? There is none. The couples did not have to be church members. In fact, they didn’t even have to be Christians.
They did have to attend premarital counseling as part of a “Happily Ever After Marriage” series to ensure they were ready for marriage.
“We said, ‘If you say I do; we say we do’,” Braland said.
Braland figures including receptions, the church saved each couple up to $2,000. The 900 members of the church are paying the bills because they believe this is one way to build better families and a better community.
Braland is getting positive reaction to the free weddings, since the story by Todd Moen broke in the “Waconia Patriot” newspaper. Braland said his church probably would offer free weddings again on a smaller scale.
This is an idea other churches should try. Braland agrees.
What about those who make a living selling wedding services to married couples? Braland figures there are enough weddings to go around, saying these won’t make a dent in the wedding market.
Vanessa Martinson, the church’s office manager who coordinated the wedding weekend, said, “We want to be a church that gives something and reaches out and helps the community.”
With all the sad news lately, Martinson said, it’s nice to have a good-news story that helps people.
Come to think about it, that’s the real message of Valentine’s Day.
Don Heinzman is a columnist and editorial writer for ECM Publishers, Inc. Contact him at [email protected]