The minister at a wedding has the enormous task of not only legally marrying the couple, but also making the ceremony unique to the bride and groom and meaningful to all in attendance. Although there are some slight variations among the different denominations, there are specific statements that apply to every wedding ceremony.
Statement of Purpose
Although it may seem obvious why everyone has gathered, the minister will officially declare the purpose of the ceremony. He will say something along these lines: “Friends, we have come today in the presence of God and these witnesses at the invitation of (name of groom) and (name of bride) to share in the joy of their wedding. This outward celebration we shall see and hear is an expression of the inner love and devotion they have in their hearts.” The minister will then typically make a few remarks about the couple.
Declaration of Intent
The bride and groom must declare their intent to be married. The minister will ask each one individually if they intend to enter into the covenant of marriage, and the bride and groom need to respond in the affirmative. For example, the minister will say to the groom, “Will you have this woman to be your wife; to live together in the holy covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her so long as you both shall live? If so, answer, 'I will.'" The groom will then answer that he will. The minister will ask the same question of the bride, and she will respond affirmatively.
The Marriage Vows
The part of the ceremony where the bride and groom exchange their vows, or promises, will vary depending on their particular faith. For example, the Catholic faith has a specific set of vows but Protestants can tailor their vows to be more unique to the couple. Protestant couples often write their own vows and include personal details such as, "I promise I will make you your favorite milkshake, even when the 49ers lose." If the bride and groom will be saying their own vows, the minister will simply give them a cue to start. In Jewish ceremonies, which are conducted by a rabbi, traditionally only the groom will say a vow. When specific vows are included, the minister or rabbi typically will have the couple repeat after him as he recites the vows line by line.
The Exchanging of Rings
If the couple has chosen to exchange rings, the minister usually says something about the symbolism of the wedding ring. For example, “Though small in size these rings are large in significance. Made of precious metal, they remind us that love is not cheap, nor common; indeed love is to be cherished.” As the rings are exchanged, the minister will have the bride and groom repeat after her, “With this ring, I thee wed,” as they place the rings on each other’s fingers.
Pronouncement of Marriage, Prayer and Kiss
Once the vows have been made and rings exchanged, the minister will proclaim the legal binding of the marriage: “By the authority vested in me by the state of (the state in which the ceremony is performed), I now pronounce you husband and wife.” After this pronouncement, in most Christian weddings it is customary for the minister to pray for the couple. After the prayer, he will then say, “You may kiss the bride.”
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