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A Contemporary Marriage Service
Version for Ecumenical or Interfaith Settings

Annotated with practical suggestions for planning your own celebration

(For those interested in a more traditional ceremony)

(For those interested in a more specifically Christian ceremony.)

(Or you may want to consult our complete marriage and wedding planner)

(Most marriage services begin with music both to set the mood and to provide background as the wedding party marches down the isle of the church.)



Words of Gathering

God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.


Minister: We are gathered here today before God, our families, and friends to celebrate the marriage of _______ and _______. We are gathered to rejoice in the gift of love that our Creator shares with us. We affirm today that God who is both the Creator and Sustainer of life desires us to fully experience our humanity. None of us can be an island isolated without need of community with others. We offer praise and thanks to God who has blessed us with the wonder of life, breath, hearts, minds and souls. We rejoice in the realization that we are most alive when we wholeheartedly embrace the gifts that God has given us, especially God's gift of love in all the ways that gift is bestowed.

Hymn or Song


Let us pray. Gracious God, you are always faithful in your love for us. Look mercifully upon _______ and _______, who have come seeking your blessing. Let your Spirit rest upon them so that with steadfast love they may honor the promises they make this day. Amen.


(From the Bible, poetry, literature, so something meaningful to the couple their family and friends. Such readings are a good opportunity to have friends and family participate in the service. The number of readings may vary, but will normally include at least one lesson from the Bible)

Declarations of Intent

Charge to the Couple

Minister: _______ and _______, to create a life together with the blessing of God requires that you honor the divine in each other and in yourself; that you honor the many voices of the soul – the joys, the delights, the love, as well as the anger, the fear, the illness, and the unhealed wounds; that you not ask your life partner to be any less than a fully formed person, committed to you in love, but still possessed by that strange and sometimes bewildering gift of freedom. We are to accept our life partners for all that they are, embracing each other in all our complexity -- in times of delight, in the fulness of dreams, in moments or sorrow, conflict, or loss. This is both God's blessing and charge to you: to live together with courage and honor whatever time in its unfolding mystery may bring. Are you prepared to accept this challenge?

Couple: Yes, we are.

Here the Minister shall ask: Who gives this Man and this Woman to be married?

(There is a lot of variety in the ways people handle this. The traditional wedding has the father of the bride do this, but many variations are possible, including the father and mother of the bride saying, "We do," or all four parents doing so.)

Charge to the Witnesses

An ancient proverb teaches that it will take a community to support this couple. You stand here representing their friends and their families. So, having heard _______ and _______ state their intentions to each other and to God in this Service of Marriage, before God do you pledge to support their union and to strengthen their lives together, to speak the truth to them in love, and with them to seek a life of love for others?

Witnesses: Yes, we do.

Minister's Comments
(While it is appropriate for a formal sermon to be preached at this point, my own preference is for somewhat less formal comments by the minister.)

Hymn or Song

The Vows

Exchange of Vows and Rings


________, I ask for nothing more from this good life than to live out its days with you. I give you my hand, my heart, and my soul, and trust completely that they will be safe with you. May our days be long and filled with peace, love and understanding.

________, I have only one way, and that is with you. So, on this day, as freely as God has given me life, I join my life with yours. Wherever you go, I will go, whatever you face, I will face. For good or ill, in happiness or sadness, come riches or poverty, I give myself to you and to no other.

Exchange of Rings (Bride and groom say in turn)

I give you this ring as a sign of my love and commitment to you as my life partner now and always. Wear it as a reminder of our trust and faith in each other and in the beauty of our relationship.

Pastoral Prayer and Lord's Prayer (in unison)

Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all life, author of salvation, and giver of all grace: Look with favor upon the world you have made and redeemed, and especially, _______ and _______. Give them wisdom and devotion in their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow and a companion in joy. Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love and peace with you and each other all the days of their life. Give them the grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and confess their fault, and to seek each other's forgiveness and yours. Make their life together a sign of God's love to this broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.

Give them each fulfillment of their mutual love that they may reach out in concern for others. Grant that all who have witnessed these vows today may find their lives strengthened, and that all who are in committed relationship to each other may depart with their own promises renewed. Enrich with your grace everyone of us: parents and children, colleagues and friends that, loving and supporting one another, we may serve those in need and be a sign of your kingdom. Grant that the bonds by which all your children are united to one another may be so transformed by your Spirit that your peace and justice may fill the earth. Amen.

Declaration of Holy Union

Minister: Now that _______ and _______ have pledged themselves to each other by solemn vows with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I announce to you that they are husband and wife, a new family, and life's partners in the name of God beyond us, God within us, and God between us. Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.

Blessing and Benediction

As God's own, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness and patience, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, and crown all these things with love, which binds everything together.

The grace of God attend you, and love of God surround you, that you may live in faith, abound in hope, and grow in love, both now and forevermore. Amen.



Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.