Jehovah's Witnesses attend weddings and funerals except under certain circumstances. The Witnesses have nothing against weddings or funerals, but they do have strict religious beliefs that impel them to avoid certain activities and celebrations which, they believe, violate moral principles found in the Bible.
Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate some events, including birthdays and Christmas, that they say resemble paganism more than Christian belief. So some may conclude that the Witnesses are against weddings and funerals. But actually, the Witnesses attend weddings and funerals for essentially the same reasons that others do -- to pay respects to and support the family of the deceased, in the case of funerals; and to celebrate a couple's new life together as husband and wife, in the case of weddings.
The Witnesses base their reasons for attending weddings and funerals, as they do in other matters, on biblical principles and examples. They note that Jesus and his early disciples mourned the death of people, such as the famous Bible character Lazarus, at gatherings that essentially amounted to "funerals." And, Jesus and his followers also attended, according to the scriptural record, a wedding, at which Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine.
Crises of Conscience
A Witness might not attend a wedding or a funeral if, for whatever reason, any ritual or service that the Witnesses consider "pagan" would take place. A pagan service or ritual, according to the Witnesses, would be anything that promotes ideas which go contrary to scriptural truth, such as the doctrine about people having immortal souls. A Jehovah's Witness is not forbidden, however, from attending a wedding or a funeral that occurs at a non-Witness service, such as at a Catholic cathedral, as long as he doesn't participate directly in the ceremony.
When Jehovah's Witnesses attend funerals or weddings, they typically do so also out of respect for a higher power, whom they believe is the God who inspired the biblical writings -- Jehovah. They view a marriage as a union not only between a man and a woman, but a union also with God. A marriage for them, then, is viewed as a "threefold cord" -- a devotion that involves man, woman and God. At funerals, Witnesses always have in mind their belief in a future resurrection. The resurrection, they believe, will be a time when God resurrects the dead to life on earth. Those who've been resurrected on the earth will have to choose either to obey God or to do things their own way. Those who choose the former will receive everlasting life on a paradise earth, and those who choose the latter will receive eternal death -- they will never live again.
- JW.org Online Library: Joyful Weddings That Honor Jehovah
- JW.org Online Library: Weddings That Are Honorable in the Sight of God and Man
- JW.org Online LIbrary: Christian Funerals - Dignified, Modest and Pleasing to God
- JW.org Online Library: Frequently Asked Questions - How Are Jehovah's Witnesses Financed?
- JW.org Online Library: The Resurrection - A Teaching that Affects You
- YouVersion Bible: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
- JW.org: Who Was Your Founder?
- JW.org Online Library: Celebrations That Displease God?
- "Watchtwer" Magazine: May Dedicated Christians Attend Church Funerals of other Religious Organizations?; March 1970
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images