Ministers officiate, lead and basically set the tone of weddings, based on their personalities and the traditions of their faith. What the minister says will probably be saved for posterity on video and, more important, will ring in the couple's ears for some time, for better or for worse. It makes sense to consider what the minister will say when planning your wedding.
Statement of Purpose
The minister usually kicks off the ceremony highlighting the basis for and purpose of marriage. Protestant ministers tend to paraphrase scriptural concepts, with a statement such as: "We are gathered together for the joining of a new family in an ancient tradition. God performed the very first wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden. Marriage is considered the pinnacle of human relationships, embodying a unique kind of intimacy, and love and is a metaphor for the deep love between Christ and the Church."
The Marriage Vows
While Protestant couples may write their own vows based on scripture and the minister's advice, Catholic priests offer some standard choices. In Jewish ceremonies, the bride does not say a vow, only the groom. And it is spoken as the ring is placed on the bride's finger. The groom says: "With this ring you are consecrated unto me as my wife, according to the law of God and the faith of Israel." In Muslim weddings neither the bride nor the groom say vows. The wedding is seen as a gift to be received from Allah, rather than vows to be made.
The Exchange of Rings
Ministers often highlight the symbolism of the wedding rings. The precious metal of the rings symbolizes the value and purity of the marriage ideal. The circular shape of the rings symbolizes eternity and the hope of an enduring marriage. Upon the exchange of rings, the Catholic church allows the priest to say, "You may now exchange a kiss," although this is not a part of the official Catholic mass. Islam does not officially recognize engagement or wedding rings.
Pronouncement of Marriage and Conclusion
The minister pronounces the official, legal marriage after the bride and groom have made their vows and exchanged rings with a statement such as: "In accordance with the laws in the sovereign state of (name of state}, I now pronounce you husband and wife." At the conclusion of a traditional Jewish wedding, wine glasses are smashed along with the exclamation "mazel tov!," which means "good luck!" Eastern Orthodox weddings are also known to smash wine glasses at times, while Macedonian and Greek Orthodox traditions prefer plate smashing, also a symbol of good luck.
At the beginning of the ceremony Protestant ministers sometimes ask, "Who is giving away the bride in marriage?" Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant ministers all tend to incorporate some form of a unity candle lighting ceremony. Communion is a part of the official Catholic wedding mass, and many Protestants incorporate this as well. Jewish couples traditionally drink together from a cup of wine, as does the Eastern Orthodox Church. And they have their own tradition of crowing the heads of the couple during the ceremony. The marriage couple should research the various traditions and options but also consider their minister's advice.
- Wedding image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com