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A Guide to the Christian Wedding Order of Ceremony

With Christianity being the largest religion in the world, chances are we have all either attended or will attend a Christian wedding at some point. While there are slight variations in the order of ceremony...

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With Christianity being the largest religion in the world, chances are we have all either attended or will attend a Christian wedding at some point. While there are slight variations in the order of ceremony practiced in different Christian denominations, there are common threads that run through them all. Understanding the significance behind the different parts of the ceremony can enhance our appreciation of the experience.

Order of Ceremony

Bridal Procession

Before the ceremony begins, the groom takes his place at the front of the altar, accompanied by his groomsmen. In Christian belief, earthly marriages reflect God's union with His people. As God initiates the relationship with His people, the groom enters the church first and awaits his bride.

The procession begins with the bridesmaids entering the room, followed by the ring bearer and flower girl, and finally, the bride. Traditionally, the bride is escorted by her father, but nowadays many choose to be escorted by both parents or the parent figure(s) they are closest to.

Guest Tips: Guests are typically seated at the start, and instructions to stand are given by the master of ceremonies when the bride begins her walk down the aisle.

Presentation of the Bride

The presentation happens seamlessly with the bridal procession. It is a brief moment shared between the father (or parent) of the bride and the couple before she steps onto the altar. As the head of their households, an unwed lady is under the covering and protection of her father. As the couple enters marriage, the headship of the father over the daughter passes on to her husband. When a father escorts his daughter down the aisle, it is a symbolic act of giving permission and saying, "I approve of this man as your choice for a husband, and I am now bringing you to him."

Praise and Worship

During this time, an appointed group of musicians leads the congregation in worship. Christians express their reverence and love for God through songs. Several Christian songs are sung to honor and acknowledge that God is the center of everything.

Guest Tips: Guests are invited to stand, and those of similar faith are welcomed to join in worship.

Sermon Message

Also known as the "ceremony message," this portion of the Christian wedding ceremony is tailored to the couple specifically. A minister offers insights into their relationship, shares anecdotes of their path to marriage, and discusses Bible scriptures that are applicable to their story. One of the most popular scripture readings in Christian weddings is 1 Corinthians 13, which begins with "Love is patient, love is kind..."

Exchange of Vows

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The exchanging of vows is when the couple makes mutual promises to uphold the sanctity of their marriage. Led by an officiant or minister, the couple will be asked to repeat lines after them, responding with their "I do"s. Couples may choose to make more personalized promises to each other beyond the traditional ones. After the exchange of vows, the minister may follow up with "community vows," in which guests are requested to pledge their support to the couple in upholding their vows.

Prayers for the Couple

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After the exchange of vows, a minister offers words of blessing for the couple. They may also ask guests to participate in a symbolic gesture called the "laying of hands" by stretching a hand forward and bowing their heads in prayer. This gesture symbolizes the support and blessing of the guests for the newlyweds. Close family members may also be asked to join the bride and groom at the altar during this time.

Unity Ceremony

The unity ceremony is an optional part of a Christian wedding where the couple performs a ritual that symbolizes their coming together as one. It can take various forms, such as the lighting of a unity candle or the mixing of different colored sands into a single container.

Ring Exchange

After the exchange of vows, the couple places wedding rings on each other's left ring fingers. This is often accompanied by additional promises made to one another. The wedding ring is an outward symbol of the couple's inward bond, representing the eternal quality of love.

Removal of the Bridal Veil

A Guide To The Christian Wedding Order of Ceremony

The bridal veil holds significance in Christian weddings as it represents the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God. It also symbolizes the separation between God and mankind. When Christ died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two, removing the separation between God and man. Similarly, the removal of the bridal veil signifies the union between Christ and the church. The groom unveils his bride and kisses her as a sign that this matter is settled.

Pronouncement

To conclude the wedding ceremony, the minister declares the couple officially married in the eyes of the church and introduces them to the congregation (guests).

Recessional

After the pronouncement, the newlywed couple and the wedding party exit the church in a procession known as the recessional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I wear?

There is no specific dress code required to enter a church for a wedding. However, it is best to err on the side of caution by dressing modestly and keeping things semi-formal, such as wearing long pants for men and knee-length dresses for women.

Where do I sit?

The first few rows are usually reserved for the immediate family and the wedding party. When entering the house of worship, sit on the right if you are a guest of the groom and on the left if you are a guest of the bride. If you are seated along the aisle, look out for confetti or flower petals nearby and add to the merriment by tossing them into the air as the couple passes by during the recessional.

Should I bring gifts?

Gifts are not necessary during the ceremony but are welcomed nonetheless. There may be a welcome table where you can drop off your gift, or you can give it to the maid of honor or a bridesmaid.

How long does the ceremony last?

The ceremony usually takes up to an hour and a half.

Will there be food?

Typically, the couple would prepare some refreshments after the ceremony. Church ceremonies are often held in the morning, and brunch or lunch is served afterwards.

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