(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.
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 Holy Spirit rest upon them so that with steadfast
love they may honor the promises they make this day, through Jesus Christ, our
(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
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?
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.
(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
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)
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 Christ's love
to this sinful and 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, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 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
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
The grace of Christ attend you, and love of God surround you,
the Holy Spirit keep you, that you may live in faith, abound in hope, and grow
in love, both now and forevermore. Amen.
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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.