There are no conditions that say you have to be a regular churchgoer to get married in the Church of England. The Church gives you the opportunity for you to make your solemn promises to each other, not just in front of your family and friends, but also in the sight of God. There are 4 ways of getting married in accordance with the rites of the Church of England:
by publication of banns
by common licence
by special licence issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury
by the authority of a superintendent registrar’s certificate without licence
The parish priest or vicar will guide you as to the most suitable method according to your particular circumstances, although publication of banns is the traditional and preferred method for most couples. The Church of England considers marriage to be a life long commitment, whereby couples carefully prepare for their new life together. It is the custom and practice of the Church of England to offer preparation for marriage for couples who are soon to be married, as well as to be available for support and counselling in the years that follow. The minister will probably ask both the couple to attend a meeting to discuss their forthcoming marriage, and to come to an understanding about the way a Christian marriage works. Items such as type of ceremony, hymns, readings, poems and music are chosen. A rehearsal normally happens in the week running up to the wedding. All of the bridal party, including the bride, groom, best man and chief bridesmaid attend the rehearsal, possibly accompanied by the parents of the couple. The minister will run through the service, everyone will be shown where to stand before and during your service, and the rough timings of the service will be finalised. As well as being a practice run for the service, the rehearsal also serves as a meeting time for all of the wedding party, and a chance for members of the party who haven’t met to be introduced. Couples often take this opportunity to have a meal or similar gathering together, and celebrate the beginning of the wedding celebrations. The ushers should be the first to arrive at the church, about forty-five minutes before the ceremony. They should be informed in advance of how to seat the guests as they arrive. The ushers may also have the job of organising where the guests may park their cars, making sure that everyone has an order of service, prayer and hymn books.
The front right-hand pew is reserved for the groom and the best man. The groom’s close family sit in the second pew behind the groom. The front left-hand pew is reserved for the bride’s parents and her attendants.
The groom and best man are next to arrive at the church at least 30 minutes before the ceremony. Guests usually arrive at the church fifteen to twenty minutes before the ceremony begins, and are shown to their seats by the ushers. The organist starts playing the prelude music. The next to arrive at the church are the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride.
The bride’s mother usually waits with the bridesmaids at the church door until the arrival of the bride. The bride’s mother is the last to be shown to her seat by the ushers, before the ceremony begins. Her entrance serves as a cue to the groom that the bride has arrived, at which point the organist begins to play the processional music and the congregation stands.
The bridesmaids take their places behind the bride in pairs, usually with the youngest directly behind the bride. The bride then takes her father’s right arm and they process down the aisle together, followed by the bridesmaids, towards the groom who takes a step forward. Once the bride is next to the groom, the bride’s father moves to his left and the bride gives her flowers to her chief bridesmaid or matron of honour. If the bride has no attendants, then her father takes her flowers and either gives them to the bride’s mother or places them on the front pew. The Introduction
The bride and groom stand before the minister (with the congregation also standing), the minister then welcomes the people.
The bride and groom continue to stand before the minister, who will then introduces the bride and groom to all and explains what marriage is all about in terms of love, trust and unity between husband and wife
The minister announces to the congregation if anyone knows a reason why the bride and groom may not lawfully marry and to declare it to all now. Both the bride and groom then take the vows.
The minister invites the people to pray, silence is kept and the minister says the Collect, which basically asks ‘God’ to bless the couple. At least one reading from the Bible is used here, followed by the sermon. A hymn may be sung at this point.
The Giving of Rings
The minister receives the ring(s) from the best man and says a prayer. The two rings are exchanged.
The minister follows this by addressing the congregation and announces that the couple are now husband and wife in the eyes of the Church. The husband and wife kneel for the blessing while the congregation remain standing.
Signing of the Register
The congregation are asked to sit, while the registration of the marriage takes place. Alternatively, the signing of the register can take place at the end of the service (after the prayers and blessing).
The wedding then ends with photographs and a wedding reception, which is similar to any other wedding – Sikh, Muslim or Hindu.
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