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Guide for a Contemporary Wedding Ceremony

Just for pastors, a helpful guide to performing a contemporary wedding ceremony.

This contemporary wedding ceremony is taken from The HCSB Minister's Bible.


Seating of the mothers

Before the groom's mother is seated, she and the groom's father will light the groom's individual unity candle. Likewise, before the bride's mother is seated, she and the bride's father will light the bride's individual unity candle.



Dear family and friends, we are gathered here today in the sight of God and in the presence of this company to witness the union of _________ (groom) and ____________ (bride) in Christian marriage. Marriage is a holy estate given by God to fulfill us as individuals and as a couple, and to conform us, as maturing believers, into the image of Christ. _________ (groom) and ____________ (bride) have chosen to be married in the Lord's house as a testimony of their faith in God and as a witness to all present that they desire to honor their Lord and Savior in their lives and in their home. May our heavenly Father look down upon this event with His favor. May the Lord Jesus Christ be present and add His blessing. May the Holy Spirit attend and seal these vows in love.

Giving in marriage

In God's most amazing act of creation, He created beings in His own image. They not only were made to reflect His image, but they were made in His image. We read of this astonishing event in the first chapter of Genesis: "So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female" (v. 27). Being made in the image of the triune God, the male was not complete when he was alone, so God created the perfect complement for the male: the female. She was to be his life companion, his co-laborer in fulfilling the creation mandate of God: "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth" (v. 28).

In the time of man's innocence, God instituted the estate of matrimony between the first man and the first woman. Marriage was consecrated by God, not only for mutual help and comfort, but also as a means of procreation. In marriage, God gave His creatures, man and woman, the ability - and the mandate - to create life like themselves, life in the image of God. Not only this, but God also gave this first couple a taste of redemption for mankind, as marriage is a foretaste of the mystical union that exists between Christ and His bride, the church.

It is into this holy estate that ___________ (groom) and ____________ (bride) have chosen to enter. Not knowing any just reason that these two should not be married, I ask, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"

Father responds: "Her mother and I do."

(Alternate: Father and mother respond: "We do.")


Let us pray: Father-Creator, we thank You for Your wondrous and gracious creation of mankind in Your image. We thank You for the heavenly character of love - especially when Your love exists between a man and a woman. We thank You for Your institution of marriage and of the joy and the sense of completion that it brings. We thank You for our redemption in Jesus Christ, as we are made new creatures in Him. We ask now that You bless the union of _________ (groom) and __________ (bride), that they may grow to conform to the image of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We ask You to enable this couple to bless You in their lives and in their marriage in all the days ahead. For it is in Your name alone that we pray. Amen.

Statement of Marriage

__________ (groom) and _____________ (bride), you are about to pledge the most sacred vows that one person makes with another. As you stand before the witness of God and this company, it is important that you give careful consideration to that which you are promising. You are accountable to your precious mate and to God for that which you pledge. It is advisable that you soberly examine the vows you are about to make.

These vows, which you have selected to represent your commitment, are timeless in the earnest promises they reflect. In these few moments, we will examine the things that you are vowing to do for your mate, regardless of life's circumstances, for as long as you live.

Your first promise is to honor your mate. What does "to honor" mean? As Christians, we look to God's Word for instruction on this and other important matters. In doing so, we find that honor is a biblical term for respect, esteem, high regard, and reward. In its various forms, it is found more than 222 times in the English Bible. Honor is used to represent respect paid to superiors, such as God, Christ, kings and presidents, church officers, the elderly, and parents. Honor can also be something bestowed as a reward for virtuous behavior, such as for honoring God or serving Christ, for manifesting wisdom, discipline, or righteousness.

To honor someone or something is to acknowledge and show respect for the authority or worthiness of the object of one's honor. This is the connotation of "to honor" one's mate. As you make your vows to each other, you are pledging to acknowledge and to show respect for the worthiness of your mate. Showing honor to your mate involves an affective side (that is, a feeling of respect for your mate) as well as outward manifestations (that is, your actions toward or regarding your mate). Tragically, there are too few marriage partners who consistently keep this vow. This lack of honoring one's mate contributes significantly to troubled and failed marriages. Too often marriage partners fail to realize the value and worthiness of the one they profess to love above all others. Instead, they tend to elevate themselves or others to the demotion of their mate.

There is one other aspect of honoring your mate about which you should be aware. In the Bible the word love is sometimes used as a synonym for honor. This is seen when Paul tells the Romans to "show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor" (Rm 12:10). ____________ (groom) and ______________ (bride), if you truly love each other, you will desire to honor each other. We see also in Scripture the highest example of such honor. It is the example of Christ. In washing the disciples' feet, He paid them the honor of service, of subjecting His own priorities to their interests. _____________ (groom) and _____________ (bride), do you really love each other enough to honor each other as Christ would have you do? Are you prepared to follow Christ's example by subjecting your personal priorities to the other's best interest and serving the other all the days of your life?

Next, you will promise to love and to cherish your mate. For two people like you, who are so deeply in love, these promises sound easy enough to keep. Yet there are many who start out "in love" when they marry, but who apparently no longer "cherish" their mate enough to stay married for a lifetime. We hear the statistics; we see the marital casualties of our day. Do not despair, however; you can build a stable and loving relationship that will withstand the storms of life. How is that possible?

You must look to your heavenly Father, not only for His wise counsel on marriage, but also for His being a role model of loving and cherishing this new family member. God's Word, in 1 John, describes His role modeling: "Look at how great a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God's children. And we are!" (3:1). It is amazing that God Almighty chose to adopt us as His children - not His servants - His family members! This lavish love is unconditional and blind to sinful shortcomings. As you are about to "adopt" this new family member, your mate, remember to lavish on your mate godly, unconditional love. This is much more than simply saying the words, I love you, everyday. First John continues by saying, "Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; . . . Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, . . . And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him." (3:18; 4:7a,16).

These verses explain to us that God is not only the source of love; He is love. If you are to live all your married days "in love," then you must do as the verse says: "The one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him" (4:16c). It cannot be with just your words or even your well-intentioned vows that you proclaim your love to and for your mate. Your words must be clothed in action, day after day, from the little things to the big things of life. This involves a total commitment of your life - to live in God and allowing God to live in you - so that your relationship to Him and to your mate reflects His love. This means your focus cannot be on attaining the perfect house or the great job but rather, on maintaining the humble posture of a loving servant who is willing to serve his God and serve his mate . . . for life! Then - and only then - can you begin to understand what to cherish means.

In this insightful book of the Bible, we find: "This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our [mate]" (1 John 3:16, paraphrased). ___________ (groom) and ___________ (bride), you must lay down your lives - your selfish desires, passions, ambition, and pride - for each other. You must cherish the other more than you cherish your own self. Your mate now comes first - before yourself, before your parents, before your friends, before your job, before your leisure activities, before your caring for your own exhaustion and needs at the end of a hard day. You must serve each other as Christ served. Then and only then will you truly fulfill your vow "to love and to cherish." And all of this wonderfully ties into honoring your mate.


_________ (groom) and ____________ (bride), you have listened to this sobering explanation of the meaning of the vows you are about to make. These vows are as binding in adversity as they are in prosperity. They should be broken only by death. If you are prepared to make such a serious commitment, will you now turn, face one another, and join hands.

_________ (groom), in taking ____________ (bride) to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?

Groom responds: "I do."

__________ (bride), in taking ____________ (groom) to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?

Bride responds: "I do."

Exchange of Rings

You will now seal your vows, "to honor, to love, to cherish," by the giving and receiving of rings. The unbroken circles of these rings symbolize a union between husband and wife with God that cannot be broken. This is in accord with God's creation plan, and it brings honor to the One who created you to glorify Him. The precious glistening gold of these rings symbolizes all that is pure and holy in the marital bond. As these metals were refined to fashion these beautiful rings, may God ever refine and purify you both as new creations in Christ Jesus. As you wear these rings, may they ever remind you of your love and of the commitment you have made this day.

__________ (groom), place this ring on __________'s (bride's) finger and repeat after me:

Groom: "I, _________ (groom), take you, ____________ (bride), to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward. I pledge before God and these witnesses to place your good above mine, now and always, no matter the circumstances. I promise to honor you, to love you, and to cherish you until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you, and to you alone."

_________ (bride), place this ring on __________'s (groom's) finger and repeat after me:

Bride: "I, ___________ (bride), take you, ____________ (groom), to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward. I pledge before God and these witnesses to place your good above mine, now and always, no matter the circumstances. I promise to honor you, to love you, and to cherish you until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you, and to you alone."


Song to be sung as the bride and groom kneel in prayer.


The bride and groom will continue kneeling in prayer.

Gracious Father, thank You for creating us in Your image. Because of this, we are able to know You and to know what true love is. We see in this couple a deep and abiding love for each other and for You. We have witnessed the giving of vows and rings in this sacred hour. Through Your power and blessing, we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows, to be renewed daily in their love and commitment, to walk in mutual faith, to build a strong and lasting marriage, and to live by confidence in Your grace. As they grow in conformity to Christ's image, may You, O Lord, receive glory through the lives and marriage of __________ (groom) and _____________ (bride). In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

(The bride and groom will stand.)

Lighting of the unity candle

_________ (groom) and ____________ (bride), your parents have lighted a separate candle for each of you. They did so to symbolize your individual lives and the families from which you come. Your individual lives have been a blessing to your parents who have received immeasurable joy in seeing you grow and mature over the years. Your individual lives have been a blessing to those who have known and loved you. Your individual lives have been a blessing to God whom you have faithfully served. As you lift your individual candles from their holders, be reminded that marriage does not eliminate your separate identities. You are made in the image of your heavenly Father; nevertheless, you are each unique. God has created you as such for His purpose and His glory. You will not extinguish your individual candles, as God still has much to do in and through your individual lives. Together you will light the unity candle to symbolize your union in marriage. Together you assume a new identity - as one with each other and the Lord. Today, God has created anew in you a union that will enable you to fulfill His creation mandate to serve Him in the world and to establish a family.


Song to be played or sung during the lighting of the unity candle.

Declaration of marriage

____________ (groom) and ___________ (bride), we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other. We have seen the sealing of your solemn vows of marriage by the giving and receiving of rings. It is, therefore, my joy and privilege to declare you husband and wife. ____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of the newlyweds

Friends and family of the bride and groom, it is my pleasure to present to you Mr. and Mrs. ________________.



Jim Henry is pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Florida.