Having been raised in the church, I am quite familiar with the custom of washing feet. From what I’ve been taught and what I’ve read about it in my alone time, it’s a gesture that is popular within the Christian faith that signifies humility and service. At my home church, the custom has been reserved for special occasions like Good Friday and New Year’s Eve service. In fact, my mom is usually one of the missionaries who serves on the foot-washing and communion committees at our church during these occasions. However, I recently learned that foot-washing ceremonies are also performed at some weddings as well.
On Saturday evening, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a photo shared by one of my old classmates from graduate school. The image depicted a bride on her knees washing the feet of her groom along with a caption, which read: “Ladies, at your wedding, would you wash your man’s feet as a symbol of submission to your husband?” No context was provided and initially, I felt sick to my stomach at the sight of the image. I questioned why any groom would want his bride in her wedding dress, on her knees, washing his crusty feet (not that dude’s feet were crusty or anything) in a room full of their family and friends. I questioned why so many people love beating women upside the head with the submission conversation without ever encouraging men to do the same — you know, since the Bible urges both husbands and wives to submit to one another. And then, I paused. I reminded myself that this was actually someone’s wedding photo and that there was a good chance that there was a story behind the photo — a real story and not one that came from the mind of some person on social media with time on their hands and an active imagination. No offense to the original poster, by the way. I definitely don’t believe that he intended any harm. But often times, photos that show up on our Facebook and Instagram feeds are snatched from peoples’ personal pages and posted in a manner that takes the images completely out of context, for example, the story of Tameka the surgeon and Keith the sneaker store manager, which turned out to be the wedding photo of Essence editor Charli Penn and her husband. I figured that it would be wise to do a little research before completely jumping to conclusions about the foot-washing photo, and what I found was quite refreshing.
For one, I found that foot-washing at weddings — something that is performed by brides and grooms alike — is actually a pretty popular wedding custom and similar to foot-washing ceremonies that go down in church services, they represent humility and service, which are obviously two very important components to healthy marriages. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told by some of the elders in the faith that “Marriage will you be your greatest ministry.” And since service is what ministry is all about, clearly, this foot-washing custom really isn’t a bad idea at all.
As I continued my search, I came across beautiful images upon beautiful images of both soon-to-be-husbands and wives humbling themselves and washing the feet of their future spouses. And then, I found this video from the wedding ceremony of a couple who incoporated foot-washing into their big day. I was surprised by the emotions I felt when I watched the groom smile as he washed his bride’s feet and I felt the same emotions as I watched them switch positions as she proceeded to do the same. Really, it was nothing short of beautiful.
Ladies, would you be willing to wash your groom’s feet at your wedding? And men, would you be willing to do the same?