To promote the covenant of marriage, a church in Dallas, Texas offers a complete wedding that includes rings and a wedding cake. Since 2009, nearly 60 couples have accepted the offer and have joined hands in marriage.
In a recent interview with the Christian Post, the senior pastor of Concord Church, Bryan Carter, explained: “As a pastor, my heart is for marriage and family, and one of the biggest threats to the stability of those things is the issue of cohabitation. Our passion is to lift up and value and honor marriage. We want couples to understand the importance of a covenant relationship, which leads to strong marriages and families.”
The church offers this service to cohabitating couples every three years. They agree to pay for pre-marriage counseling, wedding dresses, tuxedos, rings, and wedding cakes. The church will even pay the couple’s rent for one month until they can find suitable living arrangements. Carter told the Christian Post that since they began the program, the response has been overwhelming.
The weddings cost about $8,000 each, but church members often donate such things as decorations, food, flowers, and even financial gifts. Some members even offer to mentor the newlyweds.
Not only does the church offer weddings to stop cohabitation, Carter also preaches against it. His message: Cohabitating couples have three biblically based options: (1) Begin the process of marriage, (2) move to separate locations and begin to date, or (3) break up.
The statistics behind cohabitation show that nearly 70 percent of married couples live together before marriage. Of those cohabitating, only 49 percent marry. Carter points out that, “cohabiting is a rising approach to how to do to [sic] marriage and family,” but “statistics indicate it’s not serving us that well.
Furthermore, cohabitation reduces the level of commitment that couples are willing to give toward the relationship. It sabotages the long-term relationship. In what is known as the cohabitation effect, cohabitants who marry, report “lower marital satisfaction, poorer quality communication, lower levels of interpersonal commitment, and greater marital instability than those who did not cohabit premaritally”.
Carter believes that churches need to do more than just preach against cohabitation, they need to provide “pathways, help, and resources” to help people. He expressed that the ultimate desire of Concord Church is to see other churches offer this program. If so, more churches can begin to recover the covenant of marriage.