So, What is a wedding?
marriages have taken place since the very beginnings of civilisation.
In the simplest form a marriage is a promise made by two people to
live, love and work together as a family unit, for an unlimited period
of time, or until one or the other dies. The 'wedding' usually means
the ceremony of making that promise. In the very earliest times a
wedding was not 'registered' as it is today. Nowhere was a written
record of the marriage kept, mainly because written records really did
not exist for anything except the most important events. In these
pre-written history times, weddings were still just as important, but
the only way they were 'recorded' was in the memories of the families.
A party would be held, rather like the reception today, and all the
members of both families would be invited. It would then be difficult
to deny the promises made to your spouse as they were made before all
of your and your spouses families. The wedding would be a joyous party
atmosphere, and the speeches and promises made as part of this.
When Jesus changed water into wine it was at a wedding like this,
at Cana in Galilee. Read it for yourself at John 2 :1 - 11. Jesus (and
everybody else of that time) would be completely familiar with this
sort of wedding. It is only in later times that a separate 'wedding' and 'reception' party would be held.
many countries the church was the only administration, civil or
ecclesial. It was'nt until about 500 years after medieval times that
civil centres of government started to appear and in some countries it
occurred much later then this. For the wealthy, with big houses
and castles, they were married at home for want of a better
description. The church owned the only 'public' buildings in most
areas. So the church was the only
place to get married - there was nowhere else. The church would keep
records of everyone who was born, died or was married in the parish, or
area of its administration. Then later again, governments started to
permit 'civil' weddings (that is deliberately Non-Religious wedding
ceremonies). In many countries these civil services were held in
government offices, and, as there was usually an official whose job it
was to record births deaths and marriages in the area (called a
Registrar) so these were held in the 'Registry Office'. Couples could
get married in a church, or the registry office, but nowhere else.
the second war, 1939 - 45, countries have advanced the places where
marriages may be performed, and tropical beaches, castles and large
hotels can now be venues for the wedding ceremony and the reception
party afterwards or both. These are usually civil weddings, that is to say non-religious ceremonies, but not always so.
is important to remember that the laws for weddings vary between the
countries of the world, and that in each country there are very often
regional variations and differences in law concerning church weddings
and civil weddings. We cannot give you advice regarding the laws of
marriage in your country or area. However, the best advice we can give
you is to find out for yourselves from your local church, Minister of
Religion or government
department. Being a Christian website, we recommend that you find a
church or minister that will marry you, and that you go that extra
embrace the extra significance of a church wedding. Civil and
non-religious weddings are just as valid, of course, but we feel that
there is another dimension to being married in church; a dimension
which might not be apparent to you now, but will become more important
to you as your marriage ages. Besides, the priest or minister will be a
source of good advice in the first instance (don't worry that you are
not regulars to church, or 'the religious type').
First things first
very first requirement to getting married is to find someone to marry!
Not just anybody, this person must be very special. We can't help you
here, short of advising you that this really is the most important
aspect. A marriage is about the relationship, and about the people.
There is a whole industry of wedding providers etc, and all they are
interested in is one day (which you will pay for, of course).
Limosines, top-hats, suits and dresses may make a day to remember, but
if you've not got a strong relationship, it might be making a big day
you would rather forget.
How do you choose the right person?
is no easy answer to this. Nor is there a simple list of do's and
don'ts. My personal advice to people in this goes like this: No matter
how much you feel you love someone, do not let your heart make this
decision. Your head should do this, and do it logically. Make a list if
necessary of good points and bad. Write everything on that list in the
appropriate column. Then discuss fully with your partner the list you
have written, and openly and honestly discuss what is on it and between
you work through each and every point. Ask your partner to make a list
too, about you. Give it as much time as needed, months if necessary.
But all the time, you need to remember that, rather than just finding
the right person YOU need to be the right partner for whoever that
turns out to be. It does not end there. This is a continuous process
which starts now and continues through every day for the rest of your
lives. It is incredibly hard work, but the rewards for a marriage which
always grows and always evolves are amazing. You'll need to ask God
through prayer to help you. But I would say that would'nt I? The
marriage is not a 'Big Day' of ceremony and celebration. It is everyday
afterwards (and leading up to it too!). Have a big day by all means if
that is what you wish. Try however, to keep it in perspective.
Types of Marriage
laws of marriage vary from country to country. This next section is
about United Kingdom rules (other countries are listed below):-
This is an old English word which means 'summon' or 'proclaim'.
The Banns is an announcement, made publicly on three successive
weeks before the wedding. Then anyone who knows of a reason why the
named parties may not marry can say so and if the reason is valid, the
marriage cannot take place. In England, the Church of England is the
'National Church', that is it is the 'official' church. This gives it a
special legal status and one area that this shows is in marriages. The
Church of England can issue its own licences, and can marry without
licences at all, via Banns. (Certain Roman Catholic dioceses can do
this too, I believe, as a dispensation has been given to them to
allow marriage by banns).
Numerically, most marriages happen by licence. The licence is a
certificate which gives permission for the marriage ceremony to take
place. In order to get a licence, those marrying need to prove who they
are, and show that they are not prohibited from marrying. For example
if previously married, proof that the previous marriage has been
dissolved will need to be shown. The registrar will establish that the
parties are not closely related, that they are marrying freely (that is
to say not being forced), that they are the right age, and so on.
Notices will be placed available for public inspection announcing the
intended marriage so that objections can be raised if necessary. When
this procedure is completed, a certificate will be issued, giving
permission for the marriage to take place. The Church of England can
issue its own licences (or marry by banns) but other churches (eg
Methodist, United Reformed, Baptist etc etc) will require the couple to
get a licence from the registrar. The wedding can then take place in a
registered building which will be the church building, and before a
registered person, which will be the minister. Nearly every church is a
registered building and has at least one registered person, but there
is occasionally one which is not. In Scotland, the registrar issues a
licence, and the officiant has to either be an approved person, or
apply for approval for that individual wedding. The officiant will be
given a certificate proving that they are approved, or are approved for
that particular wedding. Civil weddings are by licence and the
registered place is either a registry office, or registered hotel,
castle or other venue. In this case the registered person is authorised
by the district registrar.
Where the religious service does not confer the legal status of
marriage it is considered a blessing, that is a blessing of a marriage
already solmnized. The officiant will still need to satisfy him or
herself of the details because otherwise the officiant might be
blessing something he or she does not agree with or believe in, which
would be hypocritical. There are in certain circumstances, advantages
to having a small informal legal wedding, rather like a formality, and
then holding a ceremony in a manner and at a time to suit. This method
also allows the ceremony (legally a blessing) to happen anywhere, even
in a non-registered place.
Same sex Marriages
This has been a thorny issue for many, Christian and secular alike. I'm
only a simple guy so I look at it like this: If I sin, I'm responsible;
no-one else. Also, if I please God, I did it - no one else. In other
words we are all responsible for our own salvation. If you believe that
same sex unions are wrong that is good; I'll support your position to
the uttermost (because your salvation is your response to God).
Similarly, if you believe that same sex unions are right that is good;
I'll support your position to the uttermost (because your salvation is
your response to God). Some fundamentalists will see that as a
fudge: but I'm a Liberal (a Liberal Catholic as it happens) and I know
that you are responsible for your own salvation. My (nor others)
opinions do not come into this: your relationship matters are between
you and God. So to quote John Wesley (founder of Methodism): 'Even
if I do not agree with you, if your heart is right, give me your right
hand... [to shake it]'.
Some countries (UK, some states in America etc) recognise same sex
partnerships. Many Churches (and nations) do too, even though many do
not. If this section applies to you do your research in our Directory of Denominations as there are many sympathetic churches today, and see our Links to Independant Ministers who take Weddings, below. Even if Civil Partnerships or Same Sex Marriages are not recognised in
your country, many independant church ministers will hold services of
blessing. Click Here to send an email.
Marriage in other Countries.
There have been numerous couples who have gone to an exotic location to
be married and have found to their surprise that the marriage has not
been recognised, or certified or registered when they come home.
Check carefully what the arrangements are before committing to marry in
a country where you do not have citizenship. If you need help, or have
had this problem, our pastors will help you: click here.
Glossary of Marriage terms
The official announcement or pronouncement of the
intention to get married
These are legally defined words which MUST be said in the service.
Legal Declarations The promises,
required by law, that the couple make to each other, and to witnesses.
The legal ceremony, religious or
non-religious, where the legal promises are made.
Traditionally the visible sign of
being married (although not necessary).
Marriage Certificate The legal document which displays the details of the marriage.
Links to Independant Ministers who take Weddings/Same sex unions
Our own pastors will be happy to hold services of marriage or blessing
or unions. We also have many contacts in independant churches
worldwide: contact us with the country of marriage.