One of the highlights of my ministry has been officiating at weddings. Somehow God has always given me and others a blessing; I’m sure most preachers could say the same.  Ceremonies run the gamut, from the sublime, to the ridiculous…everything from a classic dip to a “lip lock” at the end of the service which gives you a preview of the honeymoon.
Back when “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was a popular TV program, the groom’s father asked me to follow up the “I dos” in a very formal wedding by asking his son, “Is that your final answer”? I agreed; it was fun, but a challenge to recover.
Recently, I did a wedding for an elderly couple. The groom had a keen sense of humor. He had typed out for me what he wanted me to say at the close of the ceremony… “Jay and Elsie want to profusely thank all of you for coming to be a part of their special day. And also, they appreciate all of the goodies that you helped to prepare for the reception. They would like for you to know that if there is anything that you would like to eat that you don’t see, just let them know, and they will tell you how you can get along without it.”
Turning to more serious thoughts, the absolute first consideration should be, “Are these two people believers?” Try to put them at ease with “small talk,” but under the surface, remember you are considering entering into a four-way covenant –the two of them, you, and the Lord. If the Lord is left out, or if one of the three people is pretending, it will all result in disappointment at the least, and usually wrecked lives and heartbreak.
Early on, ask for their individual salvation experiences, testimonies, and church involvement. If you have any doubts about either of their spiritual condition, see this as a wonderful opportunity to witness.
As a Southern Baptist, I would require that they be baptized before the ceremony. Also, they would have to demonstrate some kind of consistent pattern of attendance at Bible study and worship. “You will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16
Another important question relates to how they view the marriage commitment. The only biblical reasons to dissolve the marriage would be death, or unfaithfulness (and even this can be overcome with God’s grace).
After discussing possible date, time, place, then counseling sessions should be set. I meet with them about four times. Much material is available. I attended a one-day certification seminar for “Prepare/Enrich” which I adapted for my needs. The couples individually take a 100 question inventory, which is sent off to be tabulated and compared. Then, we sit down together and evaluate strength and growth areas in the relationship. This has always proved to be a valuable tool and spring board for discussing key issues. A series of video sessions can also be very effective.
Following is the general format for the ceremony.

Date, Location, and time

  • Bride
  • Groom
  • Matron of Honor
  • Best Man
  • Maid of Honor
  • Groomsmen
  • Bridesmaids
  • Flower Girl
  • Ring Bearer
  • Servers
  • Ushers
  • Keeper of Brides’ Book
  • Others:
    • Minister(s)
    • Wedding Coordinator
    • Wedding Director
    • Organist
    • Pianist
    • Singer(s)
    • Audio
    • Photographer
    • Videographer
  • Colors
    • Bridesmaids: dress, bouquet
    • Groomsmen: suit, tie


Bride’s Side

  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • Extended Family

Groom’s Side

  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • Extended Family

REHEARSAL – Date/time
Dinner – Place/time

1. Welcome and Prayer

2. Turn over to Director

3. Review usher seating assignments

4. Begin with placement of complete wedding party at the altar, main floor and upper level, if needed; practice recessional first, then procession and ceremony.


The Bride, Groom, and all parties should arrive two hours before the wedding to allow time for dressing, receiving flowers, preparing marriage licenses, etc. (Ladies dress in bridal quite – downstairs; men dress in a Sunday School Room – downstairs.)

Prelude music should begin 20 minutes before the wedding.

Seating: Ushers seat people as they arrive. Ask guests, “Bride or Groom.” Bride’s side is on left; Groom’s side is on right, as you face altar. Usher extends left arm. Grandmothers are seated 15 minutes before the wedding. Groom’s mother is seated 1st, then Bride’s mother.

Lighting of Candles: Ushers light all candles except Unity candles; then light mother’s candles on the way down the center aisle. Late guests may seat themselves.

Parents’ Lighting of Unity Candles: The groom’s parents go down aisle – wait at foot of steps. The bride’s parents go down aisle and meet groom’s parents at the foot of steps.

Simultaneously, groom’s father lights candle that groom’s mother is holding. And – Bride’s father lights candle that bride’s mother is holding.

Fathers stay at foot of stairs while mothers walk up and light right and left unity candles. Mothers come back downstairs and together with the fathers, blow out candles in hands. All return to seats except father of bride; he goes back down aisle to escort bride. Minister, Best Man, Groom, and Groomsmen await.

Procession: Music: e.g., “Canon in D Major” begins softly – Minister turns on lapel mike and enters from right side, followed by the Groom (about 5 steps behind), Best Man, then other groomsmen (unless escorting bridesmaids down the aisle). All take position at base of steps.

The Brides maids, Maid of Honor, Ring Bearer, and then the Flower Girl enter and take positions at the base of the steps – left side. MOH and/or brides maid may stand ready to help with Bride’s train if necessary.

The musician begins the “Bridal Chorus”. Bride and escort enter as Minister motions for everyone to stand. Bride and escort move to base of steps. Groom steps beside the escort.


WELCOME/PRAYER (Minister): “Please be seated.”


We are gathered here today in the presence of God and these witnesses as (G) “Full Name” and (B) “Full Name” unite in Holy Matrimony.

Jesus honored marriage by His presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and His Church. And the Holy Spirit commends it to be honored among all people. Jesus also used the figure of marriage to symbolize the great day when He, the Bridegroom, adorned in all His glory, will come for His Bride the Church, which He has purchased with His own blood.


(Minister) Who gives (B) “First name” in marriage to (G) “First name”? (Her escort responds, e.g., “Her mother and I”, joins their hands, then is seated.)


God has established marriage to be a permanent relationship of one man and one woman freely and totally committed to each other as companions for life. We find in Genesis 2, God ordaining the institution of marriage.

“. . . And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden. And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make for him a help mate’ . . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made He woman, and brought her unto the man.”

“And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Woman was taken from man’s rib, which is from his side, not his head nor his foot, so she belongs along side of man.)

(Move up steps.)

(G) “First name” and (B) “First name”, the Scripture in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 1:3 instructs you in your obligations as husband and wife: “Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. . .” “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. . .love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and sacrificed Himself for her.”

A marriage is year upon year of unconditional love and commitment. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”


This is a good place for a more light-hearted, personal touch, if you feel comfortable with it.

Included are possible inserts; e.g., the HEART and PRAYER acronyms. These were always well received. You can use a poem or something that you write yourself.


(Bride gives bouquet to M. O. H. and joins hands with Groom, facing each other). “First name”, do you promise to be the spiritual leader for the home being created today, to love (B) “First name”, protect and provide for her, comfort and honor her, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live? (Groom answers “I do”.)

And (B) “First name”, do you promise to love (G) “First name”, be his helpmate, comfort him, honor and keep him, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live? (Bride answers “I do”.)

(Minister to Groom:) Repeat after me: I (G) “First name” take you (B) “First name”, to be my wedded wife; to have and to hold; from this day forward; for better and for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; till death do us part.

(Minister to Bride:) Repeat after me: I (B) “First name” take you (G) “First name”, to be my wedded husband; to have and to hold; from this day forward; for better and for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love, and to cherish; till death do us part.

SCRIPTURE/PRAYER – facing each other, standing or kneeling (bench or pillows)

(Minister to Couple: Ruth 1 Passage Together, repeat after me: “Entreat me not to leave you; or to return from following you; for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God my God.”

Prayer – no amen if song has amen

SONG e.g., “Lord’s Prayer” or “Wedding Prayer”- Name of Soloist


(Minister takes ring from Best Man and holds it.) Throughout the Bible, the idea of covenant is very important. God has given signs as reminders. He gave Noah the rainbow and Abraham circumcision.

The ring is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond. The gold symbolizes the purity of your love for each other, and the unending circle the permanent vows which you are taking. Wear this ring whenever possible as a sign to people, and as a reminder to your mate, of your commitment to each other.

(Minister gives the Groom the Bride’s ring, to place on her third left finger, holding it there, he repeats:) With this ring, I thee wed; and pledge my love to you; in the name of the Father; and of the Son; and of the Holy Spirit.

(Minister takes ring from the M. O H. and gives to Bride to place on Groom’s finger, she repeats:) With this ring, I thee wed; and pledge my love to you; in the name of the Father; and of the Son; and of the Holy Spirit.


(Bride and Groom move to Unity Candle. As they are approaching & lighting candle, Minister says:) The Unity Candle is made up of three individual candles. The two outside ones represent your two lives, that have been shining separately.

As you light the center candle, you are merging the two flames into one, just as you are welding your lives together.

The outside candles remain lit, signifying the importance of your individual uniqueness, as well as children and extended families. Yet the center candle stands out, just as your marriage takes precedence over all individual concerns, and other human relationships.
From this day forth, may you be as one. As this light cannot be divided, so will your lives be a testimony to your unity in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bride and Groom light middle candle, face each other, holding hands until song is complete: (Song)e.g., “Only God Could Love You More” Name of Soloist

Return to Minister.


For as much as (G) “First name” and (B)“First name” have expressed their love for each other, and have pledged themselves to keep these vows before God and these witnesses; by the authority vested in me as a servant of God and the laws of this state, I hereby pronounce them husband and wife. And finally I challenge you to remember the command of Jesus, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:9). And to symbolize sealing the covenant, you may now kiss your bride.


(Bride receives bouquet from M. O. H. They turn and face congregation.)

It gives me great joy to present to you Mr. and Mrs. “Groom’s First and Last Name”

“Wedding March” (instrumentalist) begins. Couple exits, followed by court. (Ushers must know escort assignments during rehearsal.) Bride’s mother is escorted (followed by the father); Groom’s mother is escorted, Brides Grandparents, followed by Groom’s Grandparents.


Instrumentalist continues to play softly as Minister moves to bottom of steps and gives invitation to reception.

On behalf of “First name” and “First name”, I want to thank you for being a part of their special day. And now, please join them for the reception at “Place of Reception.” Directions are in foyer.

(Sign Marriage License)







Couple moves up steps to Minister


Personal comments to couple


Bride gives bouquet to M. O. H. and joins hands with Groom, facing each other.

Statement of vows

SCRIPTURE/PRAYER (Preferably facing each other)





Groom’s pledge

Bride’s pledge


Bride and Groom move to Unity Candle

Minister’s statements

Bride and Groom light middle candle,

They return to Minister



Bride receives bouquet from M. O. H.. They turn and face congregation.


“Wedding March” (tape/instrumentalist) begins. Couple exits, followed by court.

Bride’s mother is escorted (followed by father). Groom’s mother is escorted; Bride’s grandmother is escorted (followed by grandfather, then his grandmother (same procedure).


Instrumentalist continues to play softly as Minister gives invitation to reception.


P is for Priorities – Jesus, spouse, children, career, church,
rest/recreation. Each req. TIME (quality and quantity).

R is for Respect – each other’s freedom. Don’t try to control (you can’t anyway).

A is for Acceptance – Some things can be changed; some can’t. Whatever cannot be changed, accept it. What can be changed, let the Lord do it.

Y is for Your Commitment . . . forgiveness. Think of Jesus on the cross. He loved us enough to forgive our sins, and was committed enough to die for them. You must love each other enough to forgive – even when feelings are crushed, and committed enough to stay married – even when you’re numb. Pray through it, and the Lord will restore your feelings.

E is for Encourage – privately / publicly. Be Best Friends. Confide, listen, share, be interested. An angry person cannot be a loving person. Don’t yell unless the house is on fire.
Criticize constructively, and even then only after much prayer. Constantly build each other up.

R is for Romance – In the big & little things, be spontaneous, candlelight dinners, letters, things that say “you’re special”, “you’re my lover”.

PRAY for each other and with each other – everyday!


(G) “First name” and (B) “First name” I want to talk to you about how to unlock the joy in your marriage using the acronym of HEART.

H, “First name”, (G), Hear her with understanding – not solutions. Listen to her without distractions. Offer your support and validate her feelings. Though your roles are different, you value is equal

E, “First name”,(B), Encourage him – even when he fails. You are your husband’s most important human encourage. Be patient, kind and forgiving. Remember, his heart grows warmer the less you nag and the more you cheer him on.

A, “First name”, (G), Affirm her for who she is. Your opinion of her is the most powerful mirror in her life. Learn her needs and make them a top priority. Treat her gently, both in the tone of your voice and the touch of your hand. Nurture her, and love thrives, neglect her, and love dies.

R, “First name”, (B), Respect him with honor. Demonstrate that you value things which are important to him. Deep inside, he needs to know that you have confidence in him. And never allow him to be the brunt of anyone’s humor, especially yours.

T, “First name”,(G), Trust her fully – and be trustworthy. Consider her your confidant in every area of your life. Practice openness and honesty, to create an environment of trust.


Tom Kaplan is a minister in Winston, GA.

Share This On: