Here is part of the wedding I just officiated. I removed the names. You will find the charge to the audience, the charge to the bride and groom, and then the significance of the exchanging of rings as well as the significance of making vows.
This is a theologically Christocentric ceremony.
- Charge to Audience
Friends and family, we have gathered here to celebrate the union of Groom and and Bride in holy matrimony. Marriage is a most sacred undertaking.. Marriage is sacred, for it is given to us by God at the beginning of time, as Scripture records in Genesis 2:22-25 (ESV) “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
As their friends and family who are gathered here to celebrate, it is also our duty to pledge to keep them in our prayers and to do all we can to strengthen and encourage them from this point forward. Therefore let us open with a word of prayer.
- Opening prayer
Gracious Creator God and Loving Heavenly Father, we come before you this day in humble gratitude for bringing the lives of Groom and Bride together. May you richly bless this day of celebration. May you richly bless their union. May you protect them from any opposition. Bind them together and bless them, Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen
- Charge to bride and groom
Groom (look at him), Groom (look at her), today, you are undertaking a beautiful, fantastic, mysterious, and difficult task. You are taking upon yourselves a task which has a clear starting point, and an unknown end point. You are taking upon yourselves the task of a Christian marriage. This is a beautiful mystery. You are joining into a covenant of loving faithfulness with each other which promises to only end when death separates you. I would like to read to you a Scripture from Ephesians, and then give you both encouragement and challenges based upon this text. If you follow this text, I do believe that not only will your marriage be blessed, but others will be blessed through your marriage.
In Ephesians 5 (ESV), the Apostle Paul writes
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
This passage gets various responses from people. Some go “wow…!” others state “how archaic and antiquated!” While others simply states, “that’s so… confusing.”
I do think that all three responses are appropriate in their own way. What we have before us is God describing a perfect marriage of love and respect. What we have here is a proclamation that your marriage has the chance to proclaim to each and every person an eternal, transcending, and infinitely valuable lesson.
What is this lesson?
That Jesus Christ, through his humble, sacrificial life, death, burial, and resurrection created the Church. This Church is his bride. And you, Groom, and you, Bride, have a chance to show people by how you interact with each other, just how glorious, beautiful, and transformative the story of salvation is.
As I read this passage, I am overwhelmed by just how much Jesus Christ must be the center of a marriage. He is the only foundation upon which a marriage can stand. He demonstrates to us what true love, true submission, and true unity look like.
Bride, in this passage it says that when you look at Groom, you are to love him by serving him and honoring him as the leader of this marriage. But it says more than this. It says that you do so because you recognize God as having divinely brought him to you as your source of love, strength, sanctification, and protection. So when you look at Groom, and when you love him, and when you surrender your desires for his desires—you are not doing this because of Groom being better in any way than you. You are not doing this because he, in of himself deserves your love, respect, or submission. Rather, you look to him as one who was given to bring you closer to Jesus Christ himself. You will find that it is when you are looking at Jesus, the creator and savior of Groom, that you are better able to serve, honor, love, & enjoy Groom as your husband.
Groom, brace yourself.
This passage makes a hugely significant comparison. It compares Jesus with a groom. It says that when people look at your marriage, and how you treat Bride, they are supposed to see the picture of how Jesus treats the church. Bride is called to show people how the Church relates to Jesus, but she has an incredibly burdensome task if you are not doing your job.
How exactly does Jesus treat the Church? What kind of love does he show. Is there any hint of selfishness there?
This is how Jesus demonstrated his love for the church- by laying down his life for it. He went to the ends of the earth for it. He humiliated himself by being beaten and killed for it. But to what end, to what purpose? So that the church would be made holy. That it would be made spotless. That it would be built up stronger, more beautiful, more lovely.
Groom, I challenge you to make Bride’s job easy. Each day, I want you to ask yourself, how can I give of myself to make Bride feel more loved? How can I give of myself to make her more honored? How can I give of myself to make her cherished? If you do your job of making her feel loved, honored, valuable, special, and cherished, then it will be her delight to honor you, to serve you— to be your wife. If you do that, then you are showing people how Jesus treats the church.
- Exchange of Vows
Because marriage is a legally binding covenant of loving faithfulness, there is an exchanging of vows in the presence of God, family, friends, and each other. We have vows because this is not a simple contract which can be renegotiated at a further date. This is a promise given by Groom to Bride and Bride to Groom to devote every bit of themselves to the other.
Groom, repeat after me
Groom Vows: I, Groom, take you, Bride, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
Bride Vows: I, Bride, take you, Groom, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
- Exchange of Ring
This loving covenant of faithfulness in marriage is unending. It is more precious than any other relationship found between people. Because of this we exchange rings as signs of our vows and love in a marriage. The ring is a circle, with no designated starting point or end. It is made of precious metals with beautiful and valuable stones in it. Groom and Bride with these rings you are declaring your unending love for one another, and just how beautiful and precious your love is and will be for one another.
Feel free to use any or all of this in your wedding or a wedding you are planning or a wedding you are officiating.