Everyone these days is talking about same-sex marriage – and rightly so, since it’s such a big issue in our culture right now. But today I want to give us a little bit of relief from the debate by mixing it up with something else about marriage. I want to talk today about the marriage ceremony itself.
I’ll start with a full disclosure: I got married three weeks ago today. It was without a doubt the most exciting and exhilarating thing that I have ever done. And I simply adore my wife! People told us that things would subside after a while, but it sure hasn’t done so yet – our love for each other is getting deeper and deeper each day of our marriage.
My dear wife and I were very particular about how we wanted our wedding ceremony to proceed. A choice of a wedding ceremony is a deep and personal decision, and I want to talk about some of the reasons that were decisive in our own choice of our ceremony.
In short, almost all of our wedding ceremony came out of the Book of Common Prayer. For those not familiar with this kind of a wedding ceremony, it is a very eloquent ceremony that cites numerous Bible verses, has numerous moments of prayer, and is reverential throughout. The ceremony proceeds slowly. It lays out the reasons for getting married, it cautions the couple not to enter into marriage for frivolous reasons, and it is deliberate about involving the surrounding congregation in the proceedings.
We chose this kind of a ceremony in part because we are Christians and we wanted our worship of God to be central to our celebration of our wedding. The Book of Common Prayer places the worship of God in the middle of things. There are several places where the minister thanks God for the blessings that have been given to us, praises God for good gifts, and in general talks about how central God is to what is going on between the couple at the front of the congregation. We were particular about wanting our wedding ceremony to take place inside of a church building – my wife’s church (and now mine) – although certainly we do not want to judge people who decide to get married outside of a church. Being inside of a church building was important to us because a church is a designated house of worship, a place where God is honored.
The Book of Common Prayer also prescribes the vows for the couple – it does not allow the couple to write their own vows. We both decided that we preferred the traditional vows because we wanted our oaths to each other to be a part of a longstanding tradition – something much bigger than ourselves, and a special and solemn something in which our ancestors for generations before us have participated. We felt that by saying the traditional vows we were letting it be known that we intended to participate in a venerable and continuous tradition, in a way that honors our ancestors and that recognizes the wisdom of the oaths that they felt were important. And the vows from the Book of Common Prayer do indeed say ‘until death do us part,’ which was important to us also.
Another reason why we chose this sort of a ceremony is because it does a good job of involving the congregation in what is going on. There are several times during the service where the congregation is asked to respond, publicly, to questions that are asked by the minister. This was important to us because we wanted our vows to each other to be public and we wanted the community around us to keep us accountable for what we were doing. Our hope was that by being so public about our vows to each other we could perhaps help to strengthen the marriages of our wedding guests as well.
And we also, as part of the Book of Common Prayer ceremony, served Communion (The Great Thanksgiving) to our wedding guests. The minister of course was in charge of Communion, but my wife and I and some other lay helpers did make a point of participating and helping to give our guests the bread and wine. We did this because we wanted to involve our guests in the special (and wonderful and mysterious) ceremony that was taking place. And we also did it because we wanted to be servants to our guests in a tangible way during the ceremony.
And another reason why we chose the Book of Common Prayer ceremony is because it’s just so incredible and awesome! If you ever get a chance to read it, take some time to think about the eloquent words as they are being spoken. Much of the ceremony is prayer mixed with Bible passages. And throughout the ceremony there are gracious and graceful teachings about the importance of marriage. It’s one of the most beautiful and transcendent services that I have ever experienced. I highly recommend it!!