Weddings

Notes on Ministerial Conduct at Weddings

  1. The wedding ceremony should be neither too long nor yet too short. Many couples will ask for a short ceremony. On the other hand, frequently the minister is called upon to perform marriage ceremonies at formal home weddings or church weddings; in these, a longer and more stately ceremony is desired. Hence, every pastor or minister should have at least two marriage ceremonies, one brief and one longer and more stately in its makeup.
  2. The marriage ceremony is among the most solemn of the ceremonies of life. The minister will do well to remember this. Many of them will be tempted to make use of poetic, florid, and high-sounding sentences in their ceremonies. They should be careful to avoid an extreme in this respect. They should remember that things can be both beautiful and stately, and that in seeking to string together a lot of beautiful words, composing beautiful sentences, stateliness and dignity can be sacrificed to the practical ruin of the impressiveness of the ceremony.
  3. Most ministers prepare their own ceremonies, but the same line of thought runs through them all, the only material difference consisting in the terms and expressions used. Many ministers memorize their ceremonies and use them without the aid of a book. It is the opinion of this writer that fewer mistakes are made and a more general impressiveness is added to the whole occasion where the ceremony is read from some book or from the typewritten page.
  4. The demand today for the ring ceremony is almost universal, and very often the modern minister is requested to use the double ring ceremony. Every minister should prepare himself for using the ring ceremonies so that he may perform them with grace. The model ceremonies given in this book were prepared by men who have had long experience in pastoral work and who have been very popular with couples desiring to be married.
  5. The minister should be very careful of his dress at weddings, especially if they are formal affairs, either in the church or in the home. He is not required to wear approved evening dress clothes at full dress weddings, but he should wear the approved full dress for the pulpit. Twenty years ago this consisted in a Prince Albert suit, as it was commonly called. Now a neat cut-away is all that is necessary, but the pastor or minister should by no means wear a sack suit or other informal or business clothes at a formal wedding. He is at perfect liberty to do so, however, in the case of weddings where the parties on short notice go either to his home or to his study for the ceremony. On all other occasions it is better for the pastor to wear formal pulpit dress. Where a minister is in doubt about his attire, he should consult a first-class clothier, who can always give correct information.
  6. Very often the pastor is consulted in making arrangements for the church wedding and is asked to take part in the rehearsal. In many cases he will be asked to suggest to the young people just how the whole thing may be carried out properly. Therefore, it is well for the young minister to familiarize himself with the very best customs in order that he may be thoroughly prepared to advise his young people when necessity requires.
  7. A formal church wedding is usually, though not always, celebrated in the evening. Sometimes it is celebrated at another hour of the day such as high noon. But the standard custom favors the evening hour. It is a full-dress affair. Fashions in full-dress change as do other fashions. Usually the young people are familiar with the fashions of the time. On such occasions the following parties are necessary to the proper observance of the affair: two or more bridesmaids, two or more ushers or groomsmen, the maid or matron of honor, the best man, the ringbearer, the flower girl, in addition to the bride and groom. Sometimes also the father or other male relative of the bride may be included to give the bride away. Usually there are musicians who sing appropriate selections immediately preceding the ceremony, or else give instrumental numbers. The ushers or groomsmen are present when the doors are opened and are charged with the responsibility of seating the people in proper order. After the special music has been rendered the organist begins the wedding march. Then the following procedure is observed. The minister enters the church from a side door or steps from some obscure corner and proceeds with deliberate step to the altar. At the same time one of the groomsmen and one of the bridesmaids start from the heads of the aisles of the church and proceed to the altar with measured step, the groomsman going down the aisle to the right of the minister and the bridesmaid going down the opposite aisle. Upon their arrival at the altar they meet and pass each other, taking their stands, the groomsman to the extreme left of the minister and the bridesmaid to his extreme right. These are followed by the other groomsmen and bridesmaids in proper order, who also meet and pass each other at the altar and take their stand, the groomsmen to the left and the bridesmaids to the right of the minister. Then follow the ringbearer, going down the left aisle, and the flower girl, going down the right aisle. Upon their arrival at the altar the ringbearer stands on the immediate left of the minister and the flower girl on his right. Then the bride with her maid or matron of honor proceeds down the right aisle, while the groom with his best man proceeds down the left aisle. When they meet at the altar the maid or matron of honor releases the bride who takes the arm of the groom as the two stand immediately in front of the minister. The maid or matron of honor remains at the side of the bride but a step away, while the best man stands at the side of the groom but a step away. If the father gives the bride away, then the maid or matron of honor precedes the bride and her father down the aisle and stands a little to one side until the father has escorted the bride to the side of the groom. Then the maid or matron of honor stands at the side of the bride but a step away. The father after escorting the bride to the groom either joins his family in the second pew or steps back to one side of the altar. When the ceremony is completed the ringbearer and flower girl lead the procession out the right aisle. As they go the flower girl scatters flowers. They are followed by the bride and groom, who in turn are followed by the maid or matron of honor and best man, and these in turn are followed by the several couples of bridesmaids and groomsmen. This order is varied to suit the whims of the contracting parities or to conform to the different architectural types in church buildings. But this is the standard custom. In most instances there are always present those who are familiar with the best customs and who can give the necessary information. These instructions are included for the benefit of young ministers who wish to familiarize themselves with the best customs before they have actual opportunity to observe or practice them.
  8. Marriage is both a civil and a divine contract. Consequently it is not lawful without a license issued by the authorized authorities. A minister cannot perform the marriage ceremony unless the license is in his possession. Therefore, he should take care to see that somebody, the groom or best man, turns the license over to him before the time set for the wedding. This custom will obviate embarrassment very often. The minister should remember that the contracting parties are usually excited and are therefore liable to overlook even so important a matter. Then it may be that they are not informed and do not really know that the license must be in the hands of the minister. Let the minister himself look after this detail.
  9. Year by year the legal requirements of marriage become more strict. These requirements differ in the several states. The minister should seek to know the requirements immediately after he takes up his residence in a new state in order that he may fulfill them and be ready to perform the marriage ceremony according to the law of that state. In one state the minister must give bond, in another he must have his credentials recorded in the circuit clerk's office, and in another state he must give his title and position as his authority for performing the marriage ceremony. Because of these varying requirements ministers have found themselves embarrassed. This can be avoided by inquiry at the court house as soon as the minister enters upon a new work in a new state.

Marriage Ceremonies

Marriage Ceremony By James Randolph Hobbs, D.D., LL.D.

Holy and happy is the sacred hour when two devoted hearts are bound by the enchanting ties of matrimony. And these precious evidences of purity of heart and contentment of mind, for all their future, are made more sure, when the contracting parties enter this glad time, clad in the comely robes of reverence, humility, and faith, that they may then be blessed of our Heavenly Father, Maker of us all—the One who has ordained marriage as the cornerstone of family life and the guarantee of honorable human society.

First and noblest of human contracts, marriage was divinely instituted when Jehovah God spoke the nuptial words to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Jesus of Nazareth honored its celebration by his presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, and chose its beautiful relations as the figure of that benign union between himself and his Church. Paul, militant missionary Apostle, commends it as a worthy institution, alike essential to social order, human efficiency, and well-being while the race inhabits the earth, and tells the husband to love his wife as Christ loved his Church and gave himself for it, and the wife to be faithful to her husband, even as the Church is obedient to Christ in everything. Thus the two, husband and wife, forsaking all others become one flesh, one in thought, intent, and hope in all the concerns of the present life.

You __________, and You __________, having come to me signifying your desire to be formally united in marriage, and being assured that no legal, moral, or religious barriers hinder this proper union, I command you to join your right hands and give heed to the questions now asked you.

__________ In taking the woman whom you hold by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded wife, I require you to promise to love and cherish her, to honor and sustain her, in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in the bad that may darken your days, in the good that may light your ways, and to be true to her in all things until death alone shall part you.

Do you so promise?

__________ In taking the man who holds you by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded husband, I require you to promise to love and cherish him, to honor and sustain him, in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in the bad that may darken your days, in the good that may light your ways, and to be true to him in all things until death alone shall part you.

Do you so promise?

Then are you devoted to each other until death parts you.

(If the ring ceremony is desired, the minister will take the ring from the receptacle of the ringbearer, or from the groomsman, and read the following):

From time immemorial, the ring has been used to seal important covenants. When the race was young and parliaments unknown, the great seal of State was fixed upon a ring worn by the reigning monarch, and its stamp was the sole sign of imperial authority. Friends often exchanged the simple band of gold as enduring evidence of good will, while many a hero and heroine of immortal song and thrilling tale threaded winding paths of intrigue and adventure, safe and unhurt, bearing as a magic talisman the signet of some great benefactor. From such impressive precedents the golden circlet, most prized of jewels, has come to its loftiest prestige in the symbolic significance it vouches at the hymeneal altar. Here untarnishable material and unique form become the precious tokens of the pure and abiding qualities of the ideal marital state.

(The minister hands the ring to the groom, instructing him to place it upon the third finger of the bride's left hand and to hold it while the minister propounds the following questions):

Do you ________________ give this ring to _____________ as a token of your love for her?


The man shall answer, I do.

Will you __________ take this ring as a token of __________'s love for you and will you wear it as a token of your love for him?


The woman shall answer, I will.

(Where the double ring ceremony is desired, the minister will take the other ring from the receptacle of the ringbearer or from the groomsman and hand it to the bride, instructing her to place it upon the third finger of the groom's left hand and to hold it in place while the minister propounds the following questions):

Do you _______________ give this ring to ____________ as a token of your love for him?


The woman shall ansewr, I do.

Will you __________ take this ring as a token of ___________'s love for you, and will you wear it as a token of your love for her?


The man shall answer, I will.

(The minister will now instruct the couple to rejoin their right hands, after which he will repeat the following):

Having pledged your faith in, and love to, each other, and having sealed your solemn marital vows by giving and receiving the ring (or rings), acting in the authority vested in me by the laws of this State, and looking to Heaven for divine sanction, I pronounce you husband and wife in the presence of God and these assembled witnesses. Therefore, let all men take care in the sight of God this holy covenant shall ever remain sacred.

Prayer:

Holy, Righteous, and Merciful Father, alike Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of mankind, fill these thy servants with a deep sense of the solemn obligations which they have just assumed. Guide them to look to thee for grace in their efforts to discharge these obligations with honor to themselves, in thy sight and in the sight of men. Ordain that their love now mutually plighted, may never falter whatever course life may take with them. Crown their lives with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and provide for their protection while they travel the uneven way that leads from now to the end. Give them a rich measure of material prosperity, and lead them into the fulness of spiritual understanding and holy living, that they may have an abundant entrance into the joys everlasting. So we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lord bless and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Marriage Ceremony By From the Alabama Book of Legal Forms

Marriage is an institution of divine appointment and is commended as honorable among all men. It is the most important step in life and should not therefore be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but discreetly and soberly.

In this estate these two persons come now to be joined. If any person present can show cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter forever hold his peace.

(Addressing the couple the one performing ceremony continues):

I solemnly require and charge you both, as you hope for joy and peace in the marriage state, if either of you know any just cause why you may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, you do now confess it.

It is then your will to proceed?

(The parties must now join right hands):

To the man: Do you, sir, take this woman to be your lawful wife and do you promise before God and these witnesses, to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her so long as you both shall live?


The man shall answer, I do.

To the woman: Do you take this man to be your lawful husband; and do you solemnly promise before God and these witnesses that you will love, honor and keep him in sickness and in health, forsaking all others keep thee only unto him so long as you both shall live?


The woman shall answer, I do.

(If the parties wish to use the ring, the minister shall instruct the man to place the ring on the third finger of the woman's left hand and hold as he repeats after the minister):

"With this ring I thee wed and with all my worldy goods I thee endow, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." (Or according to the creed of the parties contracting.)

Inasmuch as this man and this woman have in the presence of God and these witnesses consented together to be joined in the lawful bonds of matrimony and thereto have given and pledged their troth each to the other (and if a ring is used: have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring), I now according to the ordinances of God and in the name of the State of Alabama, pronounce them husband and wife. "What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder."

And now may the God of peace prosper and bless you in this new relation, and may the grace of Jesus Christ abound unto you now and always. Amen.

Marriage Ceremony By J. J. Taylor, D.D., LL.D.

Invocation (in words like these):

We desire, our Father, to acknowledge thee in all our ways, that thou mayest direct our steps. Especially do we need thee in the epochs of life. Graciously regard thy servants who come before thee to assume the mutual obligations involved in marriage. May they walk not heedlessly, but in thy fear, in the solemn step which they are about to take. Assure them and us of thy presence; and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us in the rite we celebrate. We humbly ask it for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Address:

Marriage is God's first institution for the welfare of the race. In the quiet bowers of Eden before the forbidden tree had yielded its fateful fruit or the tempter had touched the world, God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone. He made an help suitable for him, and established the rite of marriage, while heavenly hosts witnessed the wonderful scene.

Originated in divine wisdom and goodness, designed to promote human happiness and holiness, this rite is the foundation of home life and social order, and must so remain till the end of time. It was sanctioned and honored by the presence and power of Jesus at the marriage in Cana, of Galilee, and marked the beginning of his wondrous works. It is declared by the apostle to be honorable in all. So it is ordained that a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh, united in hopes and aims and sentiments in all the interests of this present time.


The Test:

If ye, then, __________ and __________ have freely and deliberately chosen each other as partners in this holy estate, and know of no just cause why ye should not be so united, in token thereof ye will please join your right hands.


Groom's Vow:

__________, in taking the woman you hold by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded wife, before God and the witnesses present you must promise to love her, to honor and cherish her in that relation, and leaving all others cleave only unto her, and be to her in all things a true and faithful husband so long as you both shall live. Do you so promise?


Answer:

I do.


Bride's Vow:

__________, in taking the man you hold by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded husband, before God and the witnesses present you must promise to love him, to honor and cherish him in that relation, and leaving all others, cleave only unto him, and to be to him in all things a true and faithful wife so long as you both shall live. Do you so promise?


Answer:

I do.


Minister's Response:

Then are ye each given to the other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death shall part you.


The Token:

And as a ceaseless reminder of this hour and of the vows you have taken, place this ring on the hand of your bride and repeat after me: "With this ring I thee wed, with loyal love I thee endow, and all my worldly goods with thee I share, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, blessed forever more. Amen."


Prayer (in words like these):

We thank thee, O God, for the providence which brings human hearts into the bonds of human love, so like the love divine. Accept in heaven, thy dwelling place, the union of hearts which has here been confessed before thee, and let thy blessing rest thereon.

Grant that the ties which bind these thy servants may grow stronger with the passing years. May they trust each other with perfect confidence, and together trust in thee for guidance and help in all the way that lies before them. Prosper them in temporal things according to thy purposes in grace. Especially do thou admit them to the bounty of thy spiritual favors; and in the end may they triumph through faith and find an abundant entrance into thine everlasting kingdom. And to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost shall be praises ever more. Amen.


Declaration:

For as much, then, as __________ and __________ have covenanted together according to the teachings of the Scriptures and laws of the state, I as an officer of the law and a minister of the gospel declare that they are husband and wife. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."


Benediction:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, abide with you for ever more. Amen.

The Episcopal Marriage Service

(At the day and time appointed for the solemnization of matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the church, or shall be ready in some proper house, with their friends and neighbors: and there standing together, the man on the right hand, and the woman on the left, the minister shall say):

Dearly beloved: We are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony; which is commended of St. Paul to be honorable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate, these two persons come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.


And, also, speaking unto the persons who are to be married he shall say:

I require and charge you both, as ye will answer in the dreadful Day of Judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you knows any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful.


If no impediment shall be alleged, the minister shall say to the man:

M., Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?


The man shall answer, I will. Then shall the minister say to the woman:

N., Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?


The woman shall answer, I will. Then shall the minister say:

Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?


Then shall they give their troth to each other in this manner: The minister, receiving the woman at her father's or friend's hand, shall cause the man with his right hand to take the woman by her right hand, and to say after him as follows:

I, M., take thee, N., to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.


Then shall they loose their hands; and the woman with her right hand taking the man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the minister:

I, N., take thee, M., to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to cherish and to obey, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.


Then shall they again loose their hands; and the man shall give unto the woman a ring. And the minister taking the ring shall deliver it unto the man, to put it upon the third finger of the woman's left hand. And the man, holding the ring there, and taught by the minister, shall say:

With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


Then the man leaving the ring upon the woman's left hand, the minister shall say:

Let us pray:

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven; Give us this day our daily bread: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. Amen.

O eternal God, creator and preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace, the author of everlasting life; send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, whereof this ring given and received is a token and pledge, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Then shall the minister join their right hands together and say:

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."


Then shall the minister speak unto the company:

Forasmuch as M., and N., have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and hereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are man and wife, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


And the minister shall add this blessing, the candidates kneeling, and the minister putting his hands upon their heads:

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you: The Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you, and fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.