The Wedding Ceremony
1. PRIOR TO WEDDING
The service begins with the processional, which is the entry of the bride and her attendants into the church, to join the groom and his attendants who will already be standing at the front of the church. The bride and her attendants enter from the main church doors and process down the central aisle, ending at the chancel step.
Music is played as the bride enters the church.
You should discuss musical choices with your musician(s). They can advise music in their repertoire that is appropriate for the various parts of the ceremony. Some commonly used pieces are:
- Trumpet Voluntary (J Clarke)
- Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin (R Wagner)
- Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ (G F Handel)
- Prelude to Te Deum (M-A Charpentier)
- Overture from Music for the Royal Fireworks (G F Handel)
- St Anthony Chorale (F J Haydn)
- Sonata No. 3 (F Mendelssohn)
- Trumpet Tune in D (H Purcell)
- Trumpet Voluntary in D (J Stanley)
- Grand March from Aida (G Verdi)
- Canon in D (J Pachelbel)
For more information about music at the marriage ceremony, advice on inviting other musicians to take part, and to contact the Director of Music at St John’s, go to the Music page.
2. THE ‘GIVING AWAY’ OF THE BRIDE
The celebrant may ask ‘Who brings this woman to be married to this man?’ This is entirely optional and has lapsed from modern marriage services, but may be included at the bride’s request. If requested this will take place at the very start of the service, and is asked of the person who escorts the bride into the church. The answer is ‘I do’. Having answered the question, the bride’s escort then proceeds to his or her seat.
3. THE PREFACE
The service begins with the Preface, read by the Celebrant with the bride and groom and their attendants, and the whole congregation, standing. The Preface sets out the Christian understanding of marriage, drawing on the Christian Scriptures (the Bible), as received by the Anglican Church (or Church of England). The Preface is always included and cannot be omitted or changed – with one exception, in that the reference to “children being born” may be omitted if the couple concerned request that this not be said.
A hymn may be sung at this point, with the congregation continuing to stand. Some common wedding hymns are:
A large collection of wedding hymns (text with melody line) can be downloaded here.
5. THE READINGS
The readings now follow with the congregation seated (the bride and groom and their attendants are also seated at this point). There is always one reading from the Bible.
There may be further readings from the Bible, and / or readings from places other than the Bible.
The couple being married normally invite one or more family or friends to read the passages selected.
6. THE HOMILY or WEDDING ADDRESS
The celebrant will normally give a brief address at this point in the ceremony, setting out the meaning of marriage and offering words of advice and an exhortation to the couple being married. Where the couple being married have an existing relationship with a Priest, Pastor, or Minister from a Christian church other than the Anglican Church, that person may give the homily or address. Please advise St John’s of any requests to include a non-Anglican Minister of Religion in this way, as soon as possible.
There may be a hymn at this point.
See above for some suggestions.
7. THE MARRIAGE
The bride and groom now return to the front of the church for the marriage. The marriage has four components, each of which is set out below. The vows are exchanged by the couple with joined hands, facing each other. Pease note that it is possible to add to the vows but it is not possible to change or edit them (i.e. if you wish to write your own vows or if there is something that you wish to say to each other at this point, you may do so after exchanging the vows as set out below).
(I) The Consent
The question of consent is asked by the celebrant, addressing the groom and then the bride in turn. The response is ‘I will’. For a discussion of why the couple say ‘I will’ instead of ‘I do’, follow this link to read an article about this by the Archbishop of York. The congregation are then asked to give their support by saying together ‘we will’.
N, will you give yourself to N to be her husband, to live with her according to God’s word? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her so long as you both shall live?
N, will you give yourself to N, to be his wife, to live with him according to God’s word? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him so long as you both shall live?
Families and friends, you are witnesses to these vows. Will you do everything in your power to uphold N and N in their marriage?
(ii) The Vows
The vows are exchanged by the couple with joined hands, facing one another.
I, N, in the presence of God, take you, N, to be my wife: to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, so long as we both shall live. All this I vow and promise.
I, N, in the presence of God, take you, N, to be my husband; to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, o long as we both shall live. All this I vow and promise.
(iii) The Rings
Both may exchange a ring, or the groom may give the bride a ring only. The celebrant says a short prayer of blessing over the ring/s.
God of steadfast love, by your blessing, let these rings (or this ring) be for N and N a symbol of their love and faithfulness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As the ring is placed on the finger of the receiver, the giver says:
I give you this ring as a symbol of our marriage. May God enable us To grow in love together.
The receiver accepts the ring by saying:
I receive this ring as a symbol of our marriage.
(iv) The Declaration
The celebrant pronounces the declaration, with the bride and groom facing each other, hands joined.
Before God and in the presence of us all, N and N have joined hands and made their solemn vows, promising life-long faithfulness to each other. In the name of God, I declare them to be husband and wife. What God has joined together, let no one separate. God the Father lovingly enfold you, God the Son grace your home and table, God the Holy Spirit crown you with joy and peace. The Lord bless you and keep you in eternal life. Amen. You may now kiss the bride.
8. SIGNING THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES
The marriage certificates are signed at a table and chair placed in view of the congregation in the chancel (the area immediately in front of the altar and sanctuary). There are three documents to be signed: the certificate that will register the marriage (which is lodged with the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages), a certificate given to the bride and groom, and the register which remains in the church. Two witnesses are chosen by the couple concerned to witness each of these documents (traditionally these are the Best Man and the Head Bridesmaid or Matron of Honour).
During the signing, music is played. Some couples arrange also for a soloist, musician/s, or choir to perform appropriate pieces. See the Music page for more details about this and to contact the Director of Music.
Some common pieces that may be played during the signing incude:
- Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (J S Bach), may be instrumental or with choir
- Ave Maria (F Schubert), may be instrumental or with soloist
- Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod), may be instrumental or with soloist
- Air from ‘Water Music’ (G F Handel)
- Salut D’Amour (Sir E Elgar)
- Canon in D Major (J Pachelbel)
- Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 (J S Bach)
- Arioso (J S Bach)
- Andante from Trumpet Concerto (F J Haydn)
9. THE PRAYERS
After the certificates have been signed, the bride and groom, together with any others involved in the signing, return to the front of the church for the prayers. The prayers are offered for the newly married couple as they begin their life together as husband and wife. A family member or friend (carefully chosen) may lead the prayers instead of the celebrant.
The prayers conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, which is said by all.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
for ever and ever. Amen.
11. THE BLESSING
The bride and groom and their attendants, and the whole congregation, stand for the concluding blessing, which is said by the celebrant, pronouncing God’s blessing on the occasion and on all present.
12. THE RECESSIONAL
The bride and groom then lead their attendants out of the church, with the congregation following. They may greet immediate family, and others as appropriate, as they leave the church.
Music is played as they make their way out of the church. Some commonly chosen pieces are:
- The wedding march from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (F Mendelssohn)
- Hornpipe from Water Music (G F Handel)
- The Rejoicing from Music for the Royal Fireworks (G F Handel)
- Hallelujah from Messiah (G F Handel)
- Toccata from Fifth Symphony (C Widor)
- Now thank we all our God (S Karg-Elert)
- Tuba Tune (C S Lang)
LENGTH OF THE SERVICE
Most weddings at St John’s are 30 to 45 minutes in length.
13. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
Couples being married at St John’s may choose to be married according to a revised version of the Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer (1662). The text of the service and the structure recommended by St John’s can be downloaded at:
BCP 1662 The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony
(i) Holy Communion
A Marriage service in an Anglican Church may include Holy Communion, and this is especially appropriate if one or both of the couple being married are regular churchgoers. The couple concerned ought to consider whether Holy Communion will be distributed to everyone present (i.e. the whole congregation), the bridal party only (bride and groom together with groomsmen and bridesmaids), or to the bride and groom only.
Some practical things to keep in mind when considering the option of including Holy Communion for distribution to all present.
Experience shows that many of the congregation at a wedding will not be regular churchgoers or may come from denominations with practices different from that of the Anglican Church. Because Holy Communion is new to them, or different, they will generally not come forward when the invitation is given to do so.
The couple being married can help by notifying their families and friends that Holy Communion will be celebrated at the service and encouraging them to receive Communion on the day of the wedding.
Anyone who is baptised in any Christian Church may receive Holy Communion in the Anglican Church. Children should also be brought forward with their parents and / or relatives. If children do not usually receive Holy Communion in their home parish, or if they or their parents are unsure, they will be given a special prayer of blessing by the priest.
There are some short congregational responses to be said together during the Communion prayer. These will need to be included in the order of service.
The service will be lengthened by about fifteen minutes, depending on the number of Communicants.
(ii) Cultural Traditions
It may be desired that a marriage tradition that reflects the family of origin of one or both of the couple being married be incorporated into the marriage ceremony. For example, the ‘crowning’ of the bride and groom in some Orthodox services, and the laying of a path of green sprigs in some European traditions. Such requests are usually accommodated by St John’s in consultation with the celebrant.
(iii) The Unity Candle
The unity candle is a relatively recent addition to many marriage ceremonies. Normally, two smaller candles are lit at the start of the ceremony. These candles may be lit by family members, such as the parents or mothers of the bride and groom, or by any existing children or step children, or by others invited by the bride and groom. After the exchange of vows, the bride and groom take one candle and each and simultaneously light a larger, central candle, symbolizing their union. The two individual candles may then be extinguished, or all three candles may continue to burn, depending on the symbolism being sought. An explanation of the ceremony may be given by the celebrant and there may also be a reading after the lighting of the central candle.
(iv) Lighting a Candle of Remembrance
The Paschal or Easter Candle may be lit, usually at the start of the ceremony, in remembrance of a deceased loved one if the couple being married so desire. This is usually done where there has been a recent bereavement. The celebrant will offer a short prayer as the candle is lit.
(v) Other Requests
Simply let us know your situation and we will advise on how your requests may be accommodated in the context of the Anglican marriage service.
PRINTED ORDER OF SERVICE
Many couples desire to produce a printed order of service to be handed to guests on the day of the wedding. This is fine, and St John’s can assist in compiling the order of service. It is important that all couples producing a printed order of service send a draft to St John’s prior to having the order of service printed, so that it can be checked by the celebrant. It is not necessary to include everything that is said in the printed order of service. Indeed, sometimes it is unfortunate that the congregation are ‘reading along’ with the vows, looking down at their printed booklets, rather than looking up at the bride and groom as they say their vows to one another. St John’s suggests including only sub-headings to help the congregation follow the service and any words that all will say together (i.e. the words of the hymns, if any, and the Lord’s Prayer).
NOTICE OF INTENTION TO MARRY
The Notice of Intention to Marry (NOIM) form is required to be lodged at least 30 days prior to the date of the wedding. It must be signed and witnessed by the celebrant, who is also required to sight relevant documentation (originals) such as birth certificates for both partners to the marriage or an overseas passport if one or both were born overseas, in addition to any documents regarding the end of a previous marriage.
The NOIM form can be downloaded through this link to NSW NOIM and filled out, but not signed, in advance of a meeting with the celebrant.
THE ST JOHN’S GORDON FORM
All couples being married at St John’s are also required to complete and submit to St John’s the Wedding Information form. This form gives us all of the information we need to produce the necessary documents and also advises the parish staff of the music and readings, together with any special requests or requirements. The form needs to be returned at least one month before the date of the marriage.