Specific guidelines for planning and conducting weddings and funerals
1) Planning the contents of the wedding service
a) The service should reflect the Christian convictions of the couple. See the booklet entitled The Christian Wedding in a Changing World – A Challenge to Validate and Illustrate the Gospel in Our Wedding Practices by Albert N. Martin.
b) The service should manifest a sense of propriety and dignity.
c) You should show a sensitivity to variable factors relative to the complexion of the congregation.
d) You should urge the couple to exercise fiscal restraint with respect to their wedding ceremony.
e) You should make sure the couple comes to the wedding rehearsal with a printed order of service that includes everything they desire to be included in the actual wedding ceremony. Urge them to bring enough copies of this to the rehearsal to be distributed to the entire wedding party.
f) You should ask the couple if they have any preference relative to what your scriptural meditation might be.
g) Finally, you must remind the bride and groom to make sure that they bring their wedding license with them, preferably to the rehearsal, and give it to you at that time.
2) Preparing the wedding prayers and meditation.
– Some of the directives included in the lecture on our pulpit prayers will have applications to the prayers we prepare for wedding services.
– Suffice it to say that your prayers should be clearly thought out, and a basic outline of those prayers committed to memory or included in whatever written material you have with you as you lead the wedding ceremony.
b) Meditation or brief sermon
i) As a general rule, select a passage or theme that is patently related to the subject of marriage, such as
Gen. 2; Mt. 19,
Mt. 22:1-4 or Eph. 5:22ff.
Mt. 22:1-4 or Eph. 5:22ff.
ii) Do not attempt to handle a passage which demands close reasoning or lengthy periods of intense mental concentration.
iii) Remember that those who have come to a wedding come with a general attitude of joy and excitement. Do not let your good be evil spoken of.
1 Cor. 9:22
iv) You must not seek to give a full orbed version of a sound and biblical theology of marriage!
v) Seek to limit your meditation to 15-20 minutes.
vi) Whatever you say make some clear statements as to:
– The origin of marriage: Gen. 2:18-25
– The divine order for roles in marriage: Eph. 5:22-33
– The permanence of marriage: Mt. 19:3-9
– The relevance of the Gospel in connection with marriage: Eph. 5:32
3) Conducting the rehearsal
1 Cor. 13:5-7
1 Jn. 3:16
a) When all are present gather them together, speak a few words of greeting, and explain why it is essential that all be done decently and in order and that all is planned by the bride and groom.
b) Lead in prayer with thanksgiving and entreaty for help.
c) Distribute the outline or order of service.
d) Direct each person to the exact places where they should be five minutes before the wedding begins.
e) Go through the entire ceremony two times.
i) Skip the details.
ii) Emphasize the transitions.
iii) Work on parts where glitches would most likely occur.
f) Gather them all together again.
i) Make sure each is clear in his mind what to do.
ii) Urge to think a half hour ahead of schedule on the wedding day.
iii) Close with prayer.
4) Conducting the actual wedding
a) Aim to arrive at least one-half-hour before the scheduled beginning of the wedding.
You should use this time to make sure that all of the physical items are in their proper place. If you are planning to deliver your meditation from the pulpit, make sure that your Bible and your notes are in place. If hymn books are to be used by the wedding party, make sure that they are in their proper place. If you need water, make sure some is accessible to you.
b) When the groom and best man are in place seek to create a relaxed climate and pray with them
c) About ten minutes before the scheduled beginning check to see that the bridal party is ready and pray with them.
d) When you enter with the groom and best man seek to create a climate of solemn joy and spiritual reality.
e) As you speak, speak directly and forcefully to the people. DON’T MUMBLE A WEDDING RITUAL!
f) Seek to let your own heart respond to the joyful solemnity of the occasion.
g) Announce at the outset that it is a service of worship, conducted in the presence of God — no flash pictures to be taken. Announce that whistling or clapping or “whooping” are inappropriate.
h) When speaking to the couple look at them but speak so that all can comfortably hear. (Likewise, with the vows)
i) If you sense distracting nervousness in the bride or groom speak softly and reassuringly to them. (An affectionate squeeze on the arm won’t hurt)
j) In your brief sermon seek to be engaged with the congregation in an attractive, direct conversational way.