What to expect during a church wedding ceremony.

church interior

church tower
One of the first decisions to be made after you have decided to get married is about the ceremony. Is it going to be in a church or a civil ceremony?
This article is based around a typical Church of England ceremony but other dominations have similarities.
You do not have to be a regular at church to get married there and your first port of call should be the local vicar or priest. He, or she will advise you on any legal formalities such as licences or reading of the banns. It is likely you will be asked to attend preparation for marriage meetings.
The ceremony follows a semi fixed format of an introduction, preface, declaration, readings, sermon, marriage, vows, giving of rings, proclamation, blessing, registration, prayers and dismissal. Sometimes there is no sermon and the reading or readings can be by family members, friends or the vicar. The number of hymns is variable. Signing the marriage register usually takes place at the end of the ceremony but can be after the proclamation or before the final prayers.

church alterIt is important to remember that the vicar or priest is in charge and has final say on what happens during the ceremony. This is particularly relevent to your photographer and videographer. There may be set rules on what they can and can’t do and where they must be during the ceremony. It may be that no photography is allowed or only from the back if the minister has suffered a bad experience during a previous wedding. It is best to check beforehand to avoid a problem on the day.

The Declarations

{minister}
First, I am required to ask anyone present who knows a reason why these persons may not lawfully marry, to declare it now.

{minister to the couple}
The vows you are about to take are to be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts; therefore if either of you knows a reason why you may not lawfully marry, you must declare it now.

{minister to the groom}
{groom’s name}, will you take N to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

{groom}
I will.

{minister to the bride}
{brides’s name}, will you take N to be your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

{bride}
I will.

{minister to the congregation}
Will you, the families and friends of {groom’s name} and {brides’s name}, support and uphold them in their marriage now and in the years to come?

{congregation}
We will.

The Collect

{minister}
God our Father, from the beginning you have blessed creation with abundant life.
Pour out your blessings upon {groom’s name} and {brides’s name}, that they may be joined in mutual love and companionship, in holiness and commitment to each other.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The Vows

{minister}
{groom’s name} and {brides’s name}, I now invite you to join hands and make your vows,
in the presence of God and his people.

The bride and bridegroom face each other.
The bridegroom takes the bride’s right hand in his and says

I, {groom’s name} , take you, {brides’s name} , to be my 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 us do part; according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.

They loose hands.
The bride takes the bridegroom’s right hand in hers, and says

I, {brides’s name} , take you, {groom’s name}, to be my 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 and to cherish, till death us do part; according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.

They loose hands.

The Giving of Rings

The minister receives the ring(s), and says this prayer

Heavenly Father, by your blessing let these rings be to {groom’s name} and {brides’s name} a symbol of unending love and faithfulness, to remind them of the vow and covenant which they have made this day through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The bridegroom places the ring on the fourth finger of the bride’s left hand and, holding it there, says

{brides’s name}, I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If rings are exchanged, they loose hands and the bride places a ring on the fourth finger of the bridegroom’s left hand and, holding it there, says

{groom’s name}, I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If only one ring is used, before they loose hands the bride says

{groom’s name}, I receive this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Proclamation

{minister}
In the presence of God, and before this congregation, {groom’s name} and {brides’s name} have given their consent and made their marriage vows to each other. They have declared their marriage by the joining of hands and by the giving and receiving of rings. I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife.

The minister joins their right hands together and says

Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.

The Blessing of the Marriage

The husband and wife kneel. The minister says

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have created joy and gladness, pleasure and delight, love, peace and fellowship. Pour out the abundance of your blessing upon N and N in their new life together. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts and a crown upon their heads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; awake and asleep, in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death. Finally, in your mercy, bring them to that banquet where your saints feast for ever in your heavenly home. We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

pew cushions

Choosing the music.

Traditionally music is played by the church organ and classical pieces and religous hymns are chosen but it is possible to have a singer or group playing more modern music. Be sure to check with the minister what is allowed.

Popular hymns

church Ailse
Abide with Me
All Creatures of Our God and King
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Amazing Grace
Be Thou My Vision
Bind us together
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Father Hear the Prayer We Offer
For the Beauty of the Earth
Give Me Joy In My Heart
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Guide me, o thou great Redeemer
How Great Though Art
I vow to thee my country
Jerusalem
Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us
Lord Of All Hopefullness
Lord of the dance
Love Divine, All Love Excelling
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
Morning Has Broken
Now Thank We All Our God
O Jesus I Have Promised
O Perfect Love
O Praise Ye The Lord
One More Step Along The World I Go
Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
The Lord’s My Shepherd
We Plough The Fields And Scatter

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Processional as the bride arrives

A Trumpet Minuet
Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba
Bridal March from Lohengrin-Wagner
Trumpet Voluntary
Wedding March by Mendelssohn

During the signing of the register

Ave Maria
Gaelic Blessing
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring-Bach
The Lord Bless You and Keep You

Recessional as the couple leave

March from Scipio
Imperial March-Elgar
Festival Toccata
Laus Deo from Messe de Mariage-Dubois
Prelude in a Classic Style-Gordon Young
Toccata from Symphony No.5

Readings

Again tradition dictates a biblical reading but if the minister agrees a favourite poem or something from a play or book can be used as well.

Popular Bible passages

Genesis 1.26-28
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’

Song of Solomon 2.10-13; 8.6,7
My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

1 John 4.7-12
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

John 2.1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

More information can be obtained from the Church of England website