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Thankful for marriage: Wedding liturgy for Daniel and Michelle Townsend: Part 1

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This week marks six and a half years of marriage for my wife, Michelle, and me. As our wedding drew nearer, my wife and I went to our pastor at the time, Walt Hamer of First Presbyterian Church—Monett, Missouri—for pre-marital counseling. He loaned us a wedding ceremony preparation book that turned out to be extremely helpful, A Marriage Service for You by Robert J. Peterson. The book outlines traditional wedding ceremonies from numerous denominations, and we decided we would look through it and pull what we most liked from it, resulting in a somewhat eclectic service. Below is a recap of our wedding ceremony, which was held at Silver Dollar Music Park in Sparta, North Carolina on Sunday, May 27, 2007.

THE WEDDING CEREMONY

1. Invocation—When the bride arrives at the alter, where the groom is waiting the pastor will begin the ceremony in prayer
2. Introductory Statement—the pastor will say:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God to join Dan and Michelle in holy marriage. For Christians, marriage is instituted by God and is to be regulated by his commandments, for through them we live as we were created to live. Marriage is blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and we believe that it is to be held in honor by all men.
God, our Heavenly Father, has established marriage for our welfare and our happiness. Through Jesus Christ we are told that a man shall leave his father and mother and live as one with his wife. Through the teachings of the apostles, Jesus has instructed those who marry to love each other, to be patient and kind with each other’s problems and weaknesses, to comfort each other in sorrow and sickness, to provide for each other and their children the things which pertain to earthly life, and to pray for and encourage each other in the worship and service of God, and in those things which are eternal. Dan and Michelle, if you will do these things you will know love and joy and eternal happiness. (a contemporary service based on the Presbyterian tradition)

3. Declaration of Intent—the pastor will say to the groom:

Dan, will you have this woman to be your wife, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor her and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

The groom will say: I will by God’s help

Next, the pastor will say to the bride:

Michelle, will you have this man to be your husband to live together in holy marriage? Will you love him, comfort him honor and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

The bride will say: I will by God’s help

The pastor will then address the following question to the wedding party and congregation:
Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support and uphold the marriage in the years ahead?

The congregation will say: We will

The pastor then asks: Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

Tim Stamper will say: I do (a contemporary Episcopal service)

4. Responsive Reading from the Song of Solomon*

5. Hymn—“Come Thou Fount

6. Scripture Reading—the pastor will read Psalm 127

7. Pastoral Exhortation—Tim Stamper. This is to be a personal word from the pastor to the couple.

8. Hymn—“Fairest Lord Jesus

9. Pastoral Exhortation-- Lane Townsend. The pastor will say:

It is a chief moment in life when two people, who were strangers to one another, are drawn together by an irresistible attraction, to that their souls cannot be henceforth divided by time or space; when one sees in a single woman that dream of purity and sweetness which has ever haunted his soul; when in a single man she finds the rest and satisfaction her heart has been unconsciously seeking. It is a revelation from above, and makes all things new; it is the hand of Providence. As the bride gives herself to the bridegroom, let him be to her now father and mother, sister and brother, and most sacred—husband. As he gives himself to her, let the bride sustain and inspire his heart in the great affairs of life and in his chosen calling.

If you wish your new estate to be touched with perennial beauty, cherish those gracious visions which have made spring within your hearts during the days of your betrothal. You must never forget nor deny the vision you once saw; you must resolve that it be not blotted or blurred by the commonplace experiences of life. Faults may appear which were hidden in a golden mist; excellencies may seem to fade in the glare of the noonday sun. Still be unmoved in your devotion; still remain confident and hopeful. Amid the reality of present imperfection, believe in the ideal. You saw it once. It still exists. It is the final truth.

This is the man, that is the woman you love. That is the shape of spiritual beauty God sees and which for an hour he showed to you. That is the soul which is to be when this conflict with temptations, hindrances, failures is accomplished. Hide that imagination in your inmost heart. Make real the ideal in your united lives and your home will be a ‘place of repair and harbor’, a dwelling of contentment and abiding joy, a foretaste of that heavenly habitation where goodness reigns and love is the very air, the kingdom and home of our Father above. Amen. (a contemporary non-denominational service)

10. Song—the groom will perform “You Can Feel Safe With Me”

In part 2, we will look at the second half of the marriage service, beginning with the vows themselves.

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