At this wedding I just finished working, the minister told the bride that she must “submit to her husband” and stand by his side because just as Jesus is the head of the church, her husband is the head of the marriage. Like, what the actual hell?
The passage is likely excerpted from the full passage, a common, but trite truncation used to reinforce traditional gender roles rather than uphold Paul’s actual intention in the passage which is to highlight the mutual nature of a loving bond between spouses.
Literally the verse before what you heard the Bible says: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Though Paul follows that with how wives specifically should be subordinate to their husbands, this would have been a common use of the parlance and gender roles of the times and thus a default position for the audience of his missive.
What is more important to note near the truncation is that following the verse on wives being subordinate to their husbands — in emulation of the Church’s obedience to Christ — Paul states that husbands should love their wives in emulation of how Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her. Thus while wives should respect and honor their husbands, husbands should be willing to love their wives so much as to possibly make the ultimate sacrifice of their own life if necessary in the honoring of this love.
Despite the variations in the manner and expression of devotion which Paul uses in this passage — a function of writing to this specific audience at this specific time — St. Paul intends very specifically to play down any claims of gender dominance and play up the ultimate objective of mutual love and respect in the bonded spousal relationship.
Read Ephesians 5:21-27 for the full verses.