By Martha Williamson
Random House, 192 pp.
As executive producer and head writer of the hit television show "Touched by an Angel," Martha Williamson is no stranger to issues of spirituality and religion. Her own strong Christian faith is the inspiration for the show's profound messages about God delivered to millions of households every week. But, when it came to her own personal relationship with God and how to incorporate it into a wedding and a relationship -- Williamson needed help.
After getting engaged to co-worker Jon Anderson, Williamson headed right to the bookstore. She found etiquette guides, coffee-table books full of glossy wedding photos, dozens of magazines, and planning workbooks. But she couldn't find what she was looking for--a book to lead her spiritually to the altar --so she wrote it herself.
"Inviting God to Your Wedding" is part wedding guidebook and part diary of Williamson's own personal journey to create a sacred wedding before God. In fact, the book begins with a chapter on Williamson's own wedding, revealing her private struggles revelations. She describes herself and Anderson as "two damaged souls" when they met: He was burdened by a failed marriage and she was wounded from a demoralizing relationship. They both agreed there was much healing and soul searching to do before they could truly be united in a sacred bond.
The rest of the book focuses on the nuts and bolts of planning a grand fete, tackling everything from abstinence (how to make your wedding night special when you've been sleeping together for years) to budget planning ("God's not impressed my material wealth; He's interested in spiritual wealth"). Williamson has also created an effective structure by including related ideas to ponder, scriptures and prayers to read aloud, and blank space to write thoughts down at the end of every chapter. For example, at the end of the chapter about resolving old relationships, Williamson includes the following passage from Philippians 3:13: "Forgetting those things that lie behind, I reach forward to all that lies ahead."
Williamson has creatively managed to find spiritual approaches to even the most mundane aspects of wedding planning, such as making a guest list, choosing bridesmaids and groomsmen, and finding a dress. She offers several excellent bridal shower themes, such as one where each guest shares a favorite scripture. She even includes examples brought to her own shower: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5).
Williamson also responds to the weight loss obsession many couples feel before their big day by advising that unrealistic diet goals endanger the couple's health and add to an already elevated stress level. She believes God will understand if you cannot handle a diet at the same time you are working so hard on spiritual issues and suggests promising to seek God's help after the wedding to get healthy.
One of the most challenging chapters in the book addresses the issue of ex-spouses and ex-lovers. Williamson herself felt the need to cleanse her heart of old soul-ties, as she calls them, before walking down the aisle. "You can't be a virgin again," she says, "but you can get rid of a lot of baggage before heading for the altar to meet the one man you've been looking for all along." Williamson offers readers several constructive exercises she and her husband used to help break those old ties and begin their marriage with a clean heart.
Most of the book is addressed to the bride, except for one chapter written by Williamson's husband, aptly titled "A Few Words to the Men From Jon." Anderson is very frank about his own confusion and endeavors to understand manhood and his responsibilities as a husband. Anderson is candid about his lifelong search for faith and the mistakes he made along the way. He discusses a near-death experience and the peace he discovered when an Anglican priest read him the 23rd Psalm: "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me." Anderson shares a story about a troubled relationship with his mother, urging his male readers to search their own pasts and heal themselves before heading to the altar.
Fans of "Touched by an Angel" will be pleased to find numerous references to the show and its stars. Throughout the book, Williamson includes experiences that became inspirations for episodes and shares wisdom given to her by co-stars Della Reese and Roma Downey. As an example of an inspirational couple, she describes a guest appearance by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, who have been married for over 50 years: "When they stood together it was as though the lights of two individuals combined to create an even brighter flame. This is love that has taken years to perfect. This is real beauty."
This book is definitely not for the God-shy. It is not for couples seeking to add a little generic spirituality to their wedding. The book is grounded in Williamson's powerful and unapologetic belief in God. Williamson recognizes that not everyone shares her faith, and addresses readers who feel shy or uncomfortable about religion in the second chapter, inviting them to read despite their awkwardness.
As you might guess from the title, Williamson is not shy about discussing God in metaphors and plain language. Take for instance: "God is not a party pooper," in reference to deciding how big a bash to throw; or "Imagine a pie in which the slices are various aspects of who you are ... God is not one of those slices of your pie. He is the whole pie plate." For some, this kind of usage may feel a bit jarring, even offensive at times.
Williamson's personality dominates the book. It can be distracting and a bit uncomfortable at times, similar to someone unfamiliar telling you intimate details about her life. But her voice is genuine, and her words are honest. Once you get to know Williamson a little better, and stop rolling your eyes at her corny jokes, you'll find a generous amount of heartfelt advice and sincere wisdom.