A Wedding Ceremony

Robert Harris
Version Date: October 25, 2011



Here is the text of a Christian wedding that occurred recently. If you are preparing to get married, you might find some ideas here that you would like to include in your own wedding ceremony.
 
Before the Call to Worship, the processional has occurred and the bride and groom are standing before the pastor. (For the details of the elements in the overall wedding, see the program.)

Call to Worship


Pastor
Welcome, friends, and thank you for coming to this wonderful event. As you know, we’re here today to celebrate the marriage of Bob and Marie. Now, they could have just gotten married at the court house the day they got their marriage license. Marie even mentioned that possibility. Or they could have run off to Las Vegas for a buffet packed honeymoon after a “just us” wedding. Bob was tempted by that. But they didn’t do either of those things, because they wanted all of you to join in their happiness and to witness their commitment to each other and to God.
     Who gives this woman to be married to this man?
 
Bride's Mother
I, her mother, do.
 
Pastor
Please be seated.
 
Now, Bob and Marie stand here together before you and in the presence of God to begin a lifelong, Christ-centered partnership, declaring their intent to be obedient to the greatest commandment, as recorded in Luke chapter 10: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
 
Let us therefore witness and celebrate this holy union together with them.
 

Homily


Pastor
Bob and Marie, you are about to commit yourselves to each other for the rest of your lives. I'm sure you both want your marriage to be successful and rewarding. And even though you are not a couple of twenty-somethings, you might still be interested in a little advice about what makes a marriage successful. It's not the kind of car you drive, nor the house you live in, not the tools you own, Bob, and not even chocolate, Marie. Whether or not your marriage brings richness to yourselves and to others, whether it grows stronger or weaker, warm or cold, depends largely on how you treat each other, on whether you continue to show each other love and respect . That much is obvious, but what does it mean as a practical matter?
 
Just as God has given us the Biblical Ten Commandments, I thought I’d give you ten commandments for marriage. And just as God’s ten were given as rules for producing happiness in life, so these ten should be thought of as rules to follow in order to have a happy and successful marriage. These truths represent the accumulated wisdom of many couples who learned them the hard way, through many struggles and conflicts.
 
And since we are in an entertainment age, I’ve arranged them in countdown order.
 
Number Ten.
Sooner or later, one of you is going to leave the other’s favorite ice cream on the kitchen counter, causing a melted mess. Or one of you will forget to put gas in the car just before the other needs to drive far away for a meeting. Or one of you is going to lose the camera’s little memory card, together with all the photos you took on  your last vacation. You will be upset.
 
The 10th Commandment of Marriage, then, is, “Thou shalt chill out.”
 
Let it go. Don't cry over spilled milk, especially when your spouse does the spilling. Don’t wait to find out by experience that it’s not worth it to hurt your spouse over such ultimately insignificant mistakes. And besides, they are called accidents, not on-purpose-idents.
 
God’s word tells us about number ten: “Love bears all things” and “endures all things.”  —1 Corinthians 13:7
 
 

Number Nine.
Remember the melted ice cream from number ten? Well, you shouldn’t.
The Ninth Commandment of Marriage is, “Thou shalt forgive and forget.”
 
This is an important idea because some people have a tendency to keep a grudge list of all the wrongs their spouse has committed against them over the years so that whenever they get into an argument over something really important like putting a dent in the car or not refilling the salt shaker, they can call up their well-memorized list and recite it in that special tone of voice some of you may be familiar with.
 
The message such a recital sends, of course, is that you were just kidding when you said you forgave your spouse for all those misdeeds and that you never really have gotten over those hurts. If that’s really the case, you should drop the current issue and work on your basic relationship.
 
God’s word on this is that “Love is patient and kind” and ”it is not arrogant or rude.” And “it is not irritable or resentful.”  —1 Corinthians 13:4-5
 
Marriage Commandment Number Eight is “Thou shalt use the magic words,” but that’s so obvious, I think we can skip it. After all, everyone knows that you can transform your spouse into a better, happier person just by using the magic words. And everyone knows them. So on to number seven.
 
Commandment of Marriage number seven. Number seven is “Thou shalt expect—“ What? The magic words? What about them? Oh, okay, just in case there’s someone here who has forgotten one or two of them, here are the magic words:
 
I love you
Thank you
You are right
Forgive me
You’re smart
I’m sorry
Please
I agree completely
You’re beautiful
I was wrong
You have my support
I forgive you
I’m glad I married you
 
 
And a final comment on using these magic words. More than half of the meaning of spoken words comes from the tone of voice of the speaker. So remember to use the magic words with magic in your voice.
 
The Biblical truth here is from Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And even more to the point, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.”   —Proverbs 15:1, 4a
 
Okay, back to Number Seven.
 
For, the Seventh Commandment of Marriage is. “Thou shalt expect change.”
Ever hear someone tell their spouse, “You’re not the person I married”? Men especially, but sometimes women too, need to understand that the togetherness of marriage not only means sharing the wonderful experiences of life together, but it also means physically falling apart together. Age and gravity are not kind to anyone, and both partners should expect that their good looking spouse is eventually going to wrinkle, plump up, shed hair, and generally come to look like their grandparents.
 
Commandment Number Six is, “Thou shalt not expect change.”
Seems like a contradiction with number seven, doesn’t it? Ah, but it’s only a paradox, which can be resolved thusly. Some people see their spouse as a remodeling project, assuming that after marriage they can bring in the tools and change whatever they don’t like about the person they just married. If you’re not happy with the way your spouse or spouse-to-be is right now, then you need to change yourself. That’s a whole lot easier than changing the other person.
 
And where should you start in changing yourself? Start by accepting your spouse and those things you want him or her to change. That way, you can stop wanting to change them. Remember, a nag is a useless horse. So the wisdom here is, To change your spouse, change yourself first.
 
The Biblical truth here is, “Love does not insist on its own way,”   —1 Corinthians 13:5
 
 

The Fifth Commandment of Marriage
can be illustrated by a couple of observations. Recently at Home Depot, a woman said rather heatedly, “Where were you? I’ve been looking all over for you.” Yes sometimes the kids need to be scolded, when they wander off. But in this case, the woman was talking to her husband. The second scene took place in Albertson’s, where a married couple was shopping. One spouse said, “Let’s get this raspberry jelly. It’s good.” To which the other replied rather forcefully, “Well that would be for you. I don’t like it and I won’t eat any of it. But if you insist, go ahead and buy it.” Now excuse me if I don’t understand, but what’s the upside in either of these cases? Is either spouse going to end up happier as a result of this behavior? I mean, how reasonable or beneficial is it to scold a man for wandering off in Home Depot? And getting all snotty over a jar of jelly?
 
The fact is, you are going to be just about as happy—or unhappy—as your spouse is.
 
So, the Fifth Commandment of Marriage is, “Thou shalt make thyself happy by making thy spouse happy.”
 
The Biblical admonition relevant here is, “Let each one of you husbands love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  —Ephesians 5:33
 
Well, we’re halfway through and we still haven’t had a “thou shalt not,” and marriage, like the rest of life, has a few don’ts that are needed for happiness together.
 
 
The Fourth Commandment of Marriage is “Thou shalt not expect a perfect spouse.”
 
That’s the King James translation. The Contemporary English Version of this commandment is, “Get real.” Of course, every couple about to marry agrees that they don’t expect perfection, but in actual fact many do expect their spouse to measure up to—themselves. It is said that in life in general we judge everything by our own experience, by the standard of Me. So in marriage, many spouses view as defects all the differences from their own preferences or habits. They think, “That’s not the way I would do it, so it’s wrong. Furthermore, I expect it to be done the way I would do it.”
 
You’re going to marry a real person, which means an imperfect person, who is unlikely to remedy any of those imperfections. Too often people fall in love, not with another person, but with their own imagination projected onto some random passer by. They begin to attribute to the one they are dating all kinds of characteristics that the person really doesn’t have. They see their short-tempered, cheapskate friend with no social skills as good natured, generous, and gregarious because that’s what they want in a person. So they marry their imagination instead of the person at the altar with them.
 
Then, when they wake up with reality snoring next to them, it’s not just disappointment that sets in, but resentment. The difference between the personality they imagined and the person burping loudly that they actually married produces a sense of injustice, a feeling of righteous indignation, even betrayal in the mind of the expecter, leading to conflict, nagging, and general recrimination.
 
The truth is, your spouse is only a human being, with unique qualities, tastes, habits, and preferences that mostly differ from those of your imaginary hero. Your spouse is not going to solve all your problems, fulfill you in every way, grant your every wish, or behave only the way you want. In fact, he or she might not even like the TV shows you like.
 
But your spouse not only has a distinctive set of behaviors, attitudes and habits, as I mentioned in the previous commandment, but he or she is the owner and exhibiter of just a truckload of flaw—I mean unique characteristics.  But study the happy marriages and you’ll find not that there are no irritants. The husband still blows his nose too loud, leaves his sweaty T-shirt on the bathtub, and puts the dirty dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher. The wife is still always late getting ready for church, forgets to lock the front door, and continues to lose the caps on all the ball point pens in the house. But they are happy because they not only tolerate but they accept each other’s distinctives. Some people call it love.
 
As the saying goes, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”
 
In other words, happiness in marriage comes—at least in part—from narrowing the distance between what you expect and what you get. Keep open to good in disguise. And besides, as the apostle Paul says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” 
—Romans 8:28 
 
 
Getting closer now.
The third commandment of success and happiness in marriage is quite important because it is the one that’s broken most often, and failure to follow it causes millions of couples to live miserably. Okay, so—
 
Number Three.
The third commandment for happiness in marriage is “Thou shalt get over thyself.” Yes, the golden key to happiness in marriage is the very same as the golden key to happiness in life:
 
The realization that it’s not about you.
 
In other words, happiness and joy belong to those who put the focus of their lives on someone or something other than themselves. Getting over yourself means calling on a sense of humility, and humility is excellent in a marriage. And for a truly happy marriage, it’s a necessity.
 
Too many people enter a romantic relationship for what they think they can get out of it. And being self focused, they enter the selfishness whirlpool: “I’ve been thinking of myself and what’s in it for me, but I’m still not happy. So I need to be even more self-centered.” For those who are thinking, “But life is all about me,” I’m telling you, pride is a drunk driver who will never get you to the corner of Harmony and Bliss.
Some philosopher or other once commented on the benefits of taking yourself off your personal throne by noting, “The more you get, the more you have. The more you give, the more you are.”
 
And Scripture supports this: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. “  —Proverbs 11:2
 
So if you really want to be happily married, put your ego on a diet and lose the fat of selfishness.
 
 
The Second Commandment of Marriage is, “Follow the Leader.”
 
This commandment for happiness follows from the previous one. Once you can get over yourself, you will realize that to have a successful marriage, you must follow the leader. For husbands, this means submitting to the leadership of Christ as head of the marriage. In practical terms, this means prayerfully following Biblical principles in your relationship with your wife and in your decision making.
 
For wives, following the leader means submitting to your husband as head of the household. In practical terms, this means helping him in decision making and being an agreeable and supportive partner in the marriage.
 
The Apostle Paul sums up this relationship in the Bible: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church….
 
And Paul continues, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”  --Ephesians 5:22-28
 
So, why is this a principle of happiness in marriage?
The simple fact is that without it, there is a very strong likelihood that husband and wife will engage in a struggle for domination that can destroy their happiness. Sometimes this struggle produces shouting, dish-breaking arguments, but more often it’s evidenced by little cutting remarks, criticisms, disagreements, sarcasm, and often disrespecting the spouse in front of other people. And the saddest part of this story is that frequently no one wins the struggle, so it continues for years.
 
 
And this brings us to the First Commandment for Happiness in Marriage.
 
I’ve just recommended getting over yourself and deferring to someone other than yourself for leadership. So what could be the most important commandment for marital happiness? That’s the one commandment that empowers the other nine, and it’s this:
 
“Thou shalt put God first.”
 
God has given us free will, which allows us to make our own choices. And we make the choices we do because we think that each choice will make us happier or at least less unhappy. As one philosopher noted, the desire for happiness is “the impulse behind all human actions,” even those who choose to take drugs, get in fights, rob banks—or in the tamer arena of married life—argue, disrespect their spouse, give the silent treatment, or even rebel and have an affair. In both life and marriage, people often make poor choices in behavior because they are thinking of themselves at the moment.
 
But God has designed us and he knows what will increase our happiness and what will decrease it. And he has told us how to increase it—namely, by getting over ourselves and by following the leader in Christ. Putting God first and living according to his precepts in the Bible therefore means making better choices—choices that really do lead to happiness. So, you see, these ten commandments of marriage, like the original Ten, are designed to bring joy into your marriage. And God knows how to help you put him first. Perhaps you are tired of bickering or else you fear that if you do marry, your life will be filled with squabbling and prideful silent treatments. Put God in charge of your life and follow these ten commandments for marriage and you’ll see what a difference that makes.
 
 
There you have them. Think these over, and, if you really do want a great relationship, put them into practice.
 

Prayer


Pastor
Let us pray. Lord, we come to you with joy for your presence here now and for the love and goodness you show us each day. We are grateful for every blessing you so generously pour out on us, and we thank you for your guidance and faithfulness. And on this day at this time, we are especially grateful for the grace you have shown to Bob and Marie by bringing them together. They have said more than once that each one seems to have found the other half of their soul. So we thank you all together for the love you have shown them by your gift of each to the other. We pray that you will bless them and direct their paths each day and that they will keep you at the center of their marriage all the days of their lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
 

Declaration of Intent


Pastor
Bob, will you have Marie to be your wife, your friend, your helper and companion as you serve and honor God throughout your life?
 
Bob
I will.
 
Pastor
Will you support and encourage her, honor and respect her, behaving toward her with tenderness, understanding, wisdom, and patience?
 
Bob
I will.
 
Pastor
Do you promise to care for her needs, material, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual; to give her daily affection; to talk with her and listen to her; and to work through every difficulty so that your relationship will grow ever stronger?
 
Bob
I do.
 
Pastor
Do you further promise to live your lives together according to Biblical principles, following God’s guidance for Christian marriage and keeping Christ at the center of your life together?
 
Bob
I do.
 
Pastor
Marie, will you have Bob for your husband, your friend, your partner and companion as you together seek to serve and honor God throughout your life?
 
Marie
I will.
 
Pastor
Will you support and encourage him, honor and respect him, behaving toward him with tenderness, understanding, wisdom, and patience?
 
Marie
I will.
 
Pastor
Do you promise to care for his needs, material, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual; to give him daily affection; to talk with him and listen to him; and to work through every difficulty so that your relationship will grow ever stronger?
 
Marie
I do.
 
Pastor
Do you further promise to live your lives together according to Biblical principles, following God’s guidance for Christian marriage and keeping Christ at the center of your life together?
 
Marie
I do.
 
Song
“Complete” by Parachute Band
 

The Vows


Pastor
Having declared your intent, you are ready, then, to exchange your sacred vows.
 
[Bob takes Marie's right hand with his right hand.]
 
Bob
I, Bob, take you, Marie, to be my wife, to keep and to care for, from this day forward, in wealth or in poverty, in sickness and in health, to be your friend and supporter until death shall part us; and this vow I make before God and these witnesses.
 
[Bob releases Marie's hand. Marie takes Bob's right hand with her right hand.]
 
Marie
I, Marie, take you, Bob, to be my husband to keep and to care for, from this day forward, in wealth or in poverty, in sickness and in health, to be your friend and supporter until death shall part us; and this vow I make before God and these witnesses.
 

Exchange of Rings


[Bob and Marie each get the other’s ring from Heather and Mark and hold them out]
 
Pastor
These rings are a symbol of this marriage. They are made of gold to show the high value of the marriage bond, and they are made in a circle to show that the marriage has no end. The circular shape is also a symbol of eternity, to show that the Eternal One now binds you two together and that he will be always present in your lives. Whenever you look at your rings, therefore, remember this covenant you have made with each other and with God--that you are not your own, and that you are committed to walk together through the great adventure of life.
 
You may now exchange these rings and their promises.
 
[Bob takes Marie's left hand in his left hand, and the ring in his right hand. As he speaks, he puts the ring on her finger.]
 
Bob
Marie, with this ring I now marry you; with this ring I join my life to yours; and with this ring I declare to the world that I am committed to you.
 
[Marie takes Bob's left hand in her left hand, and the ring in her right hand. As she speaks, she puts the ring on his finger.]
 
Marie
Bob, with this ring I now marry you; with this ring I join my life to yours; and with this ring I declare to the world that I am committed to you.
 

Unity Torch


[Pastor walks behind unity torches.]
 
Pastor
[As Pastor speaks, Bob and Marie pick up their torches and together light the unity torch, then extinguish their torches.]
 
The flames of these torches represent the separate selves of Bob and Marie, the radiance of their faith, the brightness of their hopes, and the warmth of their love. Because they have discovered that their individual flames are of the same essence, lit from the eternal source of light, they now join their flames together as a sign that the fires of their lives will burn as one, in the ordinary business of living and in the worship and service of the Lord.
 

Cord of Three Strands


[Pastor hands the cords to Bob. Marie picks up the ends]
 
Pastor
Hear God’s word from the book of Ecclesiastes:
 
Two are better than one because together they have a good reward for their work. And if either one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how unhappy is he who is alone when he falls. There is no one to lift him up. And again, if two are sleeping together, they can keep warm, but how can one person keep warm alone? And though someone might overpower the one who is alone, two can resist him—and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
 
Witness now the braiding of the cord of three strands.
 
[Marie begins weaving]
 
The white strand represents Marie and her life. White symbolizes purity of heart, humility of attitude, and reverence toward God.
 
The purple strand represents Bob and his life. Purple symbolizes spiritual leadership, practical wisdom, and noble behavior.
 
And the gold strand represents God in Christ, the lavishness of his grace, the warmth of his love, and the majesty of his being.
 
By braiding these strands together, Bob and Marie are demonstrating that their marriage will be more than the joining of their two lives. They are weaving the strength and love of God into their marriage as well. God will be a permanent and inseparable part of their relationship, bound together with them in a joint endeavor. This cord of three strands reflects the strength of their bond.
 
[Marie rubber bands the cord. Then they hold it together, fingers through the ring.]
 

Pronouncement of Marriage


Pastor
Bob and Marie, because you have now committed yourselves to each other by these vows, by the joining of your hands, by the giving and receiving of rings, by the mingling of fire, and by the weaving of the cord of three strands—by the spiritual authority vested in me by the Lord as a minister of the Gospel, and by the secular authority vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you man and wife.
[Bob takes cord in his left hand. Pastor joins Bob's and Marie's right hands]
 
What God has joined together let no man separate.  
 

The Lord’s Prayer


Pastor
Let us all rise and pray together the Lord's Prayer, as it is printed in the ceremony program.
 
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 debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
 

Prayer


Pastor
Let us pray.
Lord bless this marriage and these lives; make Bob and Marie a model couple for others to admire and imitate; give them courage in times of distress and humility in times of triumph; and prosper their work as they seek to serve you in all they do. Amen.
 

Kiss


Pastor:
Bob, you may now kiss your wife.
 

Presentation and Benediction


[Bob and Marie turn to face the congregation.]
Pastor:
I am now pleased to introduce to you Dr. and Mrs. Bob Harris
 
[Pastor raises his hands.]
Now may the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
And be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
 
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
 

Recessional


Music: “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”
 
[Bride and Groom exit]
 
[Instructions to guests]
Pastor:
Thank you for joining us today. The reception will begin in about thirty minutes. Meanwhile, in your program is a card on which you can write some marriage advice for Bob and Marie. Please share your wisdom with them, and the put your cards in the Marriage Advice box. Thank you for joining us today.
 
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Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com