Beginning the service
Traditionally, the bride and groom enter the church separately - the groom arriving before the service with the best man, and the bride just before the time set for the start of the service. The bride may arrive on the arm of her father or another relative or friend (it does not need to be a man), and with one or more bridesmaids. However, the bride may enter alone if she wishes.
The priest leads the bride to the chancel step to meet her groom, then welcomes the congregation. The family and friends of bride and groom have an important role to play as both witnesses of the wedding, and supporters of the marriage.
The priest reads an introduction explaining what Christians believe about marriage. He or she will also ask, as the law requires, if anyone knows any reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. This is asked to the congregation generally, and then to the bride and groom specifically.
The bride and groom are asked to promise before God, their friends and their families, that they will love, comfort, honour and protect one another and be faithful to them as long as they both shall live.
The priest will also ask the congregation to declare that they will support and uphold the marriage.
Turning to each other, the bride and groom take each other’s right hand and make vows:
'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'
The couple then exchange a ring or rings as a 'sign of their marriage' and a reminder of the vows:
'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 priest then declares that bride and groom are now husband and wife. The priest does not 'marry the couple; they marry each other. The priest just directs and guides them in this and then tells everyone that they have done it properly!
In the prayers God’s blessing and help is asked for the couple. There may be a prayer for the gift of children, but every couple will have their own feelings about this, so it's best to discuss the details with your priest. Often couples may wish to help choose the prayers or to write their own with the clergy’s assistance and guidance.
Readings and talk or sermon
It is usual to have one or more readings (at least one of which should be from the Bible) and the priest will generally give a (short) talk or sermon.
Signing of the register
After the couple have exchanged their vows, the bride, groom and two witnesses must sign the registers. This is a legal requirement and the priest will give them a copy of the marriage certificate.
A wedding is one day - a marriage is a lifetime
You have probably already spent many hours planning your wedding. There are so many things to think about - the dress, the cake, whom to invite, the honeymoon. All of these are important, but the wedding is just one day, while marriage should last for the rest of your lives.
Alongside the wedding preparations it is also important to spend time as a couple talking through your expectations of marriage. However much you think you have in common, you are still two separate individuals with different backgrounds, personalities, experiences, hopes and fears. The priest who is taking your service will want to spend some time with you talking through these issues.
We do offer marriage preparation, perhaps as part of a group with other couples. This gives you an opportunity to think through possible issues and how you will handle them as a couple.
Topics might include:
- Coping with conflict
- In-laws and family issues
We hope that you have a wonderful wedding day and that it will mark the beginning of a long and very happy marriage.