One part of your ceremony that you don’t want to miss out on is the blessing of the marriage. Be sure to fully recognize what it is and what it means as well. It’s important that you incorporate it into your big day for a variety of reasons, you just have to decide how you want to go about it and what fits your couple style. But don’t worry, we’re here to help!
What is a “Blessing of the Marriage” Ceremony?
The ceremony to bless the marriage is an important one but where does it come from? And how does it coincide with your religious and cultural beliefs?
Traditionally, the essence of marriage is the mutual agreement between a man and a woman for a lifelong union, voluntarily assumed, and publicly acknowledged. The Church, in providing a fitting setting and a beautiful ceremony for its announcement and public ratification, does all in its power to safeguard the union and to make of it what a marriage ought to be.
Marriage as a social institution is as old as the human race. It was “instituted of God” in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1:27–28; 2:18, 24) and obviously is not of Christian origin. It belongs to all mankind… to Jew, Gentile and Christian alike.
The mutual contract between bride and groom can be acknowledged and publicly ratified before a Justice of the Peace or other officer of the State; but such a marriage, though legal, lacks a very definite “something” which a religious service gives it. That “something” is the blessing of the Church, and it gives the newly married couple a deeper understanding of God’s wish for them
Should You Have Your Marriage Blessed?
The civil ceremony lacks religious reference but like the church, still asks for similar consents. The “Mutual Consent” consists of questions to both bride and groom and may seem like a needless formality, “do you take this man” and so on, but this is necessary to fulfill the nature of the civil contract. The State is strict on determining consent of each party just as it would in any other signed civil contract. The civil ceremony, by design, simply lacks any reference of prayers to the Trinity, or in seeking any blessings from a creator.
Some couples, for reasons they may see as valid, choose a civil ceremony, opting for a church blessing at a later time. If that is their choice, then the church recognizes and provides for that choice in the form of a Blessing of a Civil Ceremony. As an Episcopal Priest, I have been asked many times to perform such blessings. However, the Blessing of the Marriage is not a wedding.
Other couples have chosen to marry civilly in order to gain financial benefits, quietly embark on buying a house, obtain health insurance for a spouse, etc. However, the Blessing of the Civil Ceremony should never be thought of as the “real” wedding later on so, if you’re considering marrying civilly, but really want the big white church wedding, please make your choice beforehand. I have had, on several occasions, planned and counseled with couples only to find out on the day of the wedding that they have been already married by a Justice of the Peace. They don’t tell family members and in some cases ask the clergy to ‘keep their little secret” on their behalf if any family member is suspicious. This is lying…not a great way to start out a life together. As a clergyman, it is always my hope that couples are open and honest with their friends and family (and themselves) as they begin life as a married couple.
In conclusion, if you have been married by the court “You Are Married”. If you are seeking the blessing of the church, realize that it has no bearing on your true wedding date or legal contract. You already have this. You’re not lacking in anything any other married couple has unless they had a church wedding and therefore God’s blessing on the union.
What to Expect During the Blessing Ceremony
The Rite begins as prescribed for celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, using the Collect and Lessons appointed in the Marriage service.
After the Gospel (and homily), the husband and wife stand before the Celebrant, who addresses them in these or similar words
- and N., you have come here today to seek the blessing of God and of his Church upon your marriage. I require, therefore, that you promise, with the help of God, to fulfill the obligations which Christian Marriage demands.
The Celebrant then addresses the husband, saying
N., you have taken N. to be your wife. Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?
The Husband answers I do.
The Celebrant then addresses the wife, saying
N., you have taken N. to be your husband. Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?
The Wife answers I do.
The Celebrant then addresses the congregation, saying
Will you who have witnessed these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?
People/Congregation: We will.
If a ring or rings are to be blessed, the wife extends her hand (and the husband extends his hand) toward the Priest, who says;
Bless, O Lord, this ring to be a sign of the vows by which this man and this woman have bound themselves to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Celebrant joins the right hands of the husband and wife and says;
Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder
The Congregation responds Amen.
Ceremony Readings & Vows
When piecing together your perfect wedding ceremony, it’s important to think about the readings and vows that follow. Here we have some examples of how you can focus on the blessing of the marriage and have it fall in line with your Godly beliefs.
If there is to be a Communion, a passage from the Gospel always concludes the Readings.
- Genesis 1:26-28 (Male and female he created them)
- Genesis 2:4-9, 15-24 (A man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh)
- Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7 (Many waters cannot quench love)
- Tobit 8:5b-8 ( New English Bible ) (That she and I may grow old together)
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (Love is patient and kind)
- Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Father from whom ever family is named)
- Ephesians 5:1-2, 21-33 (Walk in love, as Christ loved us)
- Colossians 3:12-17 (Love which binds everything together in harmony)
- 1 John 4:7-16 (Let us love one another for love is of God)
Between the Readings, a Psalm, hymn, or anthem may be sing or said. Appropriate Psalms are 67, 127, and 128.
When a passage from the Gospel is to be read, all stand, and the Deacon or Minister appointed says
- The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to ______.
- People Glory to you, Lord Christ.
- Matthew 5:1-10 (The Beatitudes)
- Matthew 5:13-16 (You are the light…Let your light so shine)
- Matthew 7:21,24-29 (Like a wise man who built his house upon the rock)
- Mark 10:6-9,13-16 (They are no longer two but one)
- John 15:9-12 (Love one another as I have loved you)
After the Gospel, the Reader says
- The Gospel of the Lord.
- People Praise to you, Lord Christ.
The Husband, facing the Wife and taking her right hand in his, says;
In the presence and Name of God, I, N., take you, N., to be my wife, 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, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
Then they loosen their hands, and the Wife, still facing her Husband, takes his right hand in hers, and says:
In the presence and Name of God, I, N., take you, N., to be my husband, 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, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
They loosen their hands.
The clergy person may ask God’s blessing on a ring or rings as follows
Bless, O Lord, this ring (these rings) given as a sign of the vows by which this man and this woman have bound themselves to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then the Celebrant joins the right hands of husband and wife and says;
Now that N. and N. have exchanged these solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the blessing of a ring, I pronounce their marriage blessed, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.