We gather in the presence of God to give thanks for the gift of marriage, to witness the joining together of N. and N., to surround them with our prayers, and to ask God’s blessing upon them, so that they may be strengthened for their life together and nurtured in their love for God.
God created us male and female, and gave us marriage so that husband and wife may help and comfort each other, living faithfully together in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, throughout all their days.
God gave us marriage for the full expression of the love between a man and a woman. In marriage a woman and a man belong to each other, and with affection and tenderness freely give themselves to each other.
God gave us marriage for the well-being of human society, for the ordering of family life, and for the birth and nurture of children.
God gave us marriage as a holy mystery in which a man and a woman are joined together, and become one, just as Christ is one with the church.
In marriage, husband and wife are called to a new way of life, created, ordered, and blessed by God. This way of life must not be entered into carelessly, or from selfish motives, but responsibly, and prayerfully.
We rejoice that marriage is given by God, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and sustained by the Holy Spirit. `Therefore, let marriage be held in honor by all.’
#2 – Old Order Traditional
Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God, to join this Man and this Woman in holy marriage; which is instituted of God, regulated by God’s commandments, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be held in honor among all people. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage, for the welfare and happiness of humankind.
Our Savior has declared that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. By His apostles, He has instructed those who enter into this relation to cherish a mutual esteem and love; to bear with each other’s infirmities and weaknesses; to comfort each other in sickness, trouble, and sorrow; in honesty and industry to provide for each other, and for their household, in temporal things; to pray for and encourage each other in the things which pertain to God and to live together as the heirs of the grace of life.
Dear Friends, we are gathered here in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving for the purpose of uniting N. and N. in marriage. Theirs is to be a Christian marriage, which means that the purpose and expectations of God serve as the foundation of this union. That being true, it is therefore appropriate that we remind ourselves of the biblical concept of marriage. When the Bible says, “What therefore God has joined together,” it implies that there is divine participation in this relationship. Let us then acknowledge our need for God’s presence and acknowledge as well God’s gracious participation in this wonderful occasion.
The biblical ideal is a commitment for life. Through this expression of their love one for the other, N. and N. are committing themselves to this ideal. While this calls for the deepest kind of commitment, they have God’s promise to help them be faithful to it. Scripture says, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,” the same being true for the wife as well. This means that N. and N. are giving themselves to one another with a seriousness that will be stronger than any other human ties.
We come then to declare that N. and N. are building a new home, making this new relationship primary, and as they do so, I call upon all here present to prayerfully affirm them in this Christian concept of marriage. N. and N., I call upon you to demonstrate intimacy, openness, tenderness, respect, appreciation, self-giving and at times self-sacrifice for each other’s happiness. This is love shared at its best. Now as we share in these moments before God, family and friends, let us acknowledge that what you are about to enter into is not simply a human contract. Rather, you are entering into a relationship that is sanctioned by the Bible and that is a fulfillment of the deepest desires of the human heart.
Friends, we meet together as a community aware of God’s presence, to celebrate and consecrate the marriage of N. and N. We rejoice in the beauty and meaning of this event. We recognize that this moment represents a commitment to love and life, symbolized by their meeting here. We join with them in supporting their intent, accepting the significance of their decision to share life with each other in marriage.
Marriage is an act of love; and love is many things. Love is listening; it is sharing joy, pain, activity, silence; but most of all, love is sharing of oneself. Love is the little things, the kind word, the helping hand, the concerned departure, the joyous return, the unexpected gift, the quick apology, the renewed devotion.
Marriage is a privilege. It is not an arrangement of convenience, either physical or financial, to be entered into or dissolved at whim. It is a holy covenant between two people pledged to love each other, trust each other and face all of life together. It is built of imponderable things of the spirit: loyal ties, memories, imagination, sacrifices, joy, laughter and tears. Reverence for God and each other sustains it.
There is no relationship which is stronger, yet more delicate, than this union to which you, N. and N., have now come to commit yourselves. In the highest, happiest and best moments of your lives, you are beginning to discover a greater love for each other. In mutual forgiveness for all that has marred the past and in the renewed faith in each other for the future, let us remember these words as part of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Love is patiently accepting. It does not seek to mold its object according to some personally satisfying blueprint, but rather explores the patterns that are there. It does not attempt to demand from the other attention, or affection, or duty, but rather receives with joy all that it gives.
Love is kindly giving. It does not reach for its own pleasure, except as pleasure gives pleasure. It does not strive for its own way, but for what it knows to be best. It is neither jealous nor arrogant, neither resentful nor rude. It gives of itself willingly, freely, happily.
Love is generously understanding. It does not make unfounded judgments, but rather searches for reasons. It reaches for the feelings, thoughts and desires of the other and understands their changes.
Love is gently sharing. It does not hold onto itself, its joys nor its sorrows, but allows another to experience them with it. It does not seek to escape nor to hide, but rather invites participation.
Love is steadfastly responsible. It fulfills its own purpose. It reaches beyond the lines, which have been written to create its own story. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
We affirm that marriage is sustained not only by the love which these two individuals have for one another, but by the love and concern of family and friends. In a very real sense, the health of their relationship will be dependent upon the support and encouragement you provide to this couple as they seek to shape their lives together. My charge to you, therefore, as family and friends, is to promise to undergird N. and N. with active caring and prayer.
Friends, we are here to celebrate with N. and N. this public declaration of their love and commitment. They stand here before us not with any giddy notion that confines love to a feeling, nor with the delusion that a wedding and a marriage are one in the same. Rather, they come before you with a wisdom born out of life’s experiences and a love that has matured in the soil of caring relationships.
They also stand before you as people of faith, deeply committed to Christ and his church. They recognize that unless God is the architect of their ever-growing relationship, their work at building a home is little more than vanity. They acknowledge that more important than the expectations each has for the other, are the expectations God has for both of them. They affirm that it is God’s intention that the commitments made here today be held and cherished for as long as God graces them with life.
It is with these understandings and affirmations that N. and N. now pledge their faithfulness to each other through the vows they will make to one another.
#6 An Older Couple (the women guests are given a carnation as they enter the service)
We, the friends and family of N. and N., have come together this afternoon to celebrate with them the opening of a new chapter in their lives. It is fitting that we are here, for the journey that has brought them to this place is one which has intersected our journeys at significant moments and places. As we reflect on our individual life maps, we notice special places of joy, of comfort, of illumination. And at many of these places, carved deeply into the mile markers signifying that special moment are the words, “N. was here”-“N. was here.” So it is appropriate as N. and N. establish a new mile marker on their life’s journey, that we be present to etch our names in the memory of this experience.
As the women entered the sanctuary they were handed a carnation. At each stage in this flower’s growth it has possessed a beauty and purpose in keeping with that phase of its maturation. There is the beauty of the young bud, which wraps its petals tightly around its heart until it is kissed by the warmth of spring. There is the beauty of the newly opened flower as it unfolds itself to the cycle of life. And there is the beauty of the mature flower, like the one you hold in your hand, which lifts its face to the Creator in joyful praise of his design and purpose. It is this mature flower which symbolizes the union of N. and N.
No one word captures the spirit of moments like this more than the word – love. To be sure, love is a feeling, a dancing of the heart, responding to the unimaginable acceptance of ourselves by another. But love is more than a feeling. Likewise, across the ages efforts have been made to distill the essence of love into a manageable or memorable phrase. Poets, playwrights, musicians and theologians have all attempted to state succinctly the nature of love, but love has defied these attempts to contain it.
That is perhaps why those Scriptures that we hold sacred demonstrate love not so much with words as with pictures. Love is Abraham’s willingness to give Lot first choice, even when he knew Lot would choose the best. Love is Hosea’s forgiveness of Gomer, even after being hurt at the deepest human level. Love is those countless acts of compassion and tenderness, which are showered upon others, even when it is known that the other cannot reciprocate. Love is that total and willful giving of oneself for the benefit of the other as demonstrated by our Lord, even when that giving demands of us all that we have.
N. and N., it is my prayer for the two of you that your love be as selfless and forgiving and compassionate and Divine-centered as the love revealed to us in Scripture.
#7 Previously Married People
Friends, this is a day of new beginnings. N. and N. have traveled many roads separately, but today they join hands and hearts to travel a new road together and we are here to celebrate that with them. As N. and N. look back over their previous journeys, certain truths come into focus. One is that any journey has its share of wrong turns, missed directions and frustrating cul-de-sacs. But these miscues are not without forgiveness for the penitent nor learning for the wise. Another truth is that the journey is just as important as the destination. In our more hurried and competitive moments, the vision of the yet-to-be-obtained goal causes the landscape to blur into indistinct haze. But for the attentive, there are timeless treasures to be discovered along the way. And yet another truth is that no matter where our journey takes us, as persons of faith we never walk alone.
N. and N., as you begin your new journey, I remind you of the forgiveness you have received, the wisdom you have gained, the attentiveness you have learned and the companionship with God you have enjoyed. May these insights from the past guide you in the future, beginning your journey, as you do now, with the vows that you will make today.
#8 Secular Orientation
Welcome, family, friends and loved ones. We gather here today to celebrate the wedding of N. And N. You have come here to share in this formal commitment they make to one another, to offer your love and support to this union, and to allow this couple to start their married life together surrounded by the people dearest and most important to them. So welcome to one and all, who have traveled from near and far. N. And N. thank you for your presence here today, and now ask for your blessing, encouragement, and lifelong support, for their decision to be married.
Marriage is perhaps the greatest and most challenging adventure of human relationships. No ceremony can create your marriage; only you can do that. You will do it through love and patience; through dedication and perseverance; through talking and listening, helping and supporting and believing in each other; through tenderness and laughter; through learning to forgive, learning to appreciate your differences, and by learning to make the important things matter, and to let go of the rest. What this ceremony can do is to witness and affirm the choice you make to stand together as lifemates and partners.