Marriage is steeped with religious meaning. Though social views have changed over time, many people still view it as a sacred union.
Often, brides and grooms choose civil ceremonies for more flexibility; however, religious traditions may still be incorporated to honor one or both parties. In fact, this can be a helpful option if one partner is more spiritual than the other, or each person comes from a different faith.
If you prefer to get married in your place of worship, it’s a good idea to talk to your officiant, first. Most faiths have rules about what a marriage ceremony includes, how long it takes, and when it can be scheduled. Here are a few tips to get you started!
Get a Marriage License
Bottom line: if you’re getting married, you need a legal license. This is not provided by your church; you have to get one from your county or city office. You must verify your identity, eligibility to get married (age and single status), and pay the fees. There may be waiting period and/or window in which you may use the license, so schedule your visit accordingly.
Schedule Ahead of Time
If you’re Roman Catholic, for example, you may not be allowed to marry during Lent or Easter weekend. While some parishes may not prohibit marriages on Sundays, most churches will not cancel regular worship sessions to schedule a wedding. You’ll want to check with your church and find out what days are available ahead of time.
Consider Your Partner
Interfaith religions and same-sex marriages have been a point of contention over the years. Some religions frown upon marrying someone from another faith and/or require conversion; others are neutral and allow spouses to keep their religions. Some churches/temples only approve weddings after interviewing both people—even couples of the same faith. Some churches recognize civil unions and others do not; the spiritual aspect of marriage also varies between faiths. Be aware of the rules about marriage, children, and divorce before you walk down the aisle!
Include Ceremony Traditions
Religious traditions can add beauty and significance to your wedding. There’s usually a reading from scripture along with words about marriage and/or the couple from the officiant. A ring exchange is typical. Depending on your faith, your ceremony may include a mass, communion, and/or audience participation (sitting, standing, readings, or prayer). Folk traditions such as jumping the broom or handfasting may or may not be allowed, so ask your officiant. Some faiths encourage special practices before or after the ceremony, such as periods of seclusion or traditional dances.
Follow Venue Rules
If you’re getting married in a church, the reception will be in a separate space. There may also be rules about who is allowed to attend the ceremony (for example, if you’re Mormon getting married in a temple). Some venues allow lighting a unity candle and others do not. Jewish weddings are often held outside under a chuppah. Churches may limit your choice of music; a specific dress code may also be required. Don’t assume, however, that you must cover your shoulders or hair. Different parishes espouse different traditions, so check with your local house of worship for specifics.
Weddings comprise a meaningful part of our culture. Talk to your partner and discuss how your families feel about a wedding that does (or doesn’t) include traditions belonging to a specific faith.
Decide which practices are important to you, and which ones you’d rather leave out. Ask your religious officiant for more guidance, so you can plan a wedding that honors your beliefs and feels right for you. Happy planning!