[Special wedding certificate] Planning a Wedding
Organizing a Wedding Service
      Congratulations! So, you're getting married. And now comes the fun part, organizing the wedding. These notes may help you a bit. They are designed for a person who wants a Christian marriage, but not over the top, a person who thinks marriage is the union of a man and woman under God, but is not looking for a full-blown religious experience. The notes provide practical pointers for the actual wedding while not touching on the related issues of shower teas, honeymoon, etc. Some of the notes are peculiar to Australian, but most are general. Anyway, have a great time planning your wedding, and have a happy life. A lot of people think God is grumpy old bloke, but actually he wants us to be happy. Look at Jesus, when they ran out of drinks at the wedding reception he was attending at Canna in Galilee, he he sorted out a new supply for the guests. So, be happy!
  • The minister / celebrant: Civil Wedding Celebrants / Marriage Celebrants are the best people to contact if you wish a secular wedding service. Civil Celebrants can be found on the web or advertised in your local paper. Most do an excellent job, but it is always useful to first watch the celebrant in action. You will find that most celebrants are happy to include a religious element and all you need to do is provide them with the prayer / reading / betrothal ... that you would like. If you would like a church wedding then it is best to look for a nice church building and contact the minister whose name will be on the notice board out the front. Some ministers don't like doing weddings, so just try another church if you get a negative response. Check out a service and watch the minister in action. If you want to be married in a public place like a park or a reception center it is best to use a marriage celebrant, but some ministers will marry people outside the church building.
  • The reception: If you are using a reception center, always start with this booking first as they are often booked years ahead. Remember, a personal recommendation can save you from an embarrassing occasion. Most reception centers give you 5 hours and the booking can be an evening during the week or a Saturday/Sunday lunch or tea. There is a price difference between the different booking times with Saturday evening being the dearest. Why not be different and go for a Saturday lunch or a Friday evening? With the high cost of receptions people are now doing their own thing" - a Bar-B-Q, separate intimate dinners leading up to the wedding and then the big drive off into the sunset following the service, finger food and drinks served after the wedding in a hall, cricket pavilion, park ......
  • The church/chapel/park... Next book the church. Some churches don't do weddings, so just try another one that looks right for you if you get a no-can-do. For a wedding in a public place, you can't just roll up to the park etc. and do the deed. Check with whoever is responsible for the site because you will probably have to book. Remember, it does rain! What contingencies have you in hand if it is a rainy day?
  • Timing: A wedding service takes about 30 minutes (up to 60 minutes for a Catholic or Orthodox wedding). What with the bride arriving a little late, the service will begin about 15 minutes after the commencement time, with about 15 minutes chit-chat after the service. So for a 30 minute service allow 1 hour. If the reception begins at 5.00pm, and the church is a 30 minute drive from the reception, and the service is 30 minutes, book the church for 3.30pm. The photographer can do the photo-shoot in 30 minutes, although if you let them some will want up to 2 hours. The bridal party usually arrives at the reception center some 30 minutes after the guests following the photo-shoot. Remember, most guests don't like waiting around for an hour for the reception to begin, so it is best to keep the photo-shoot short. They like to go straight to the reception center from the church or park. This is, of course, not possible with some customs. For example, in a Greek wedding the bridal party goes to the grooms home following the service before going to the reception.
  • Customs: Anything goes now, but because anything goes conflict is always around the corner, so take care. In Australian custom the bride's parents choose the church and pay for the reception, while the groom's parents pay for the church, drinks, cars and flowers. This simple formula no longer works because most young people have already left home and/or are living together; receptions are extremely costly now and therefore both parents usually contribute to the cost along with the couple; other nationalities have different customs (eg. In a Greek wedding the grooms parents choose the church). All the small church customs are similarly now a matter of personal preference. eg. i] A bride is given away by her father - often now the mother joins in, even the family, or it is dropped altogether. ii] The father escorts on his right arm - a man normally escorts on the left (to leave his sward arm free, which is why there are not many left handed people!) other than on this occasion or when escorting on the gutter side of a footpath. iii] In Australia the bridesmaids proceed the bride while in New Zealand, following English tradition, the bridesmaids follow the bride. iv] The bride and groom make their promises, right hand to right hand - now most use both hands. v] The wedding register is signed in the vestry - now most people sign in front of the congregation.
  • Minister/Celebrant Interview and planning: The minister/celebrant will need to see you for planning and legal document preparation. Your planning interview should be between 6 months and 2 months before the wedding date.
  • Notice of Intended Marriage: This is an official white form from Births, Deaths and Marriages and it will be sent to you by the minister/celebrant. Carefully fill out the form in BLACK pen. DO NOT sign the form, but bring it with you to your planning interview. The form must be completed at least one month and one day before the wedding otherwise you will have to get a magistrate to shorten the notification date, and this is not easy, even sometimes not possible. The Notice of Intended Marriage is not valid if signed more than 18 months before the wedding.
  • Birth Certificates, Divorce Papers or Death Certificate. The minister/celebrant must see an official birth certificate or extract. These can obtained from the Government Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages. A passport is no longer acceptable. Where a person is unable to obtain a birth certificate, a statutory declaration stating why it is impracticable to obtain the certificate and stating where and when they believe they were born, must be produced. For a person born overseas a passport issued by the Government of an overseas country is acceptable in the absence of a birth certificate or extract. For a divorced person the Decri Nisi must be produced and for a deceased partner the death certificate must be produced. Photocopies are not acceptable.
  • Music (if any). Remember, you will need to supply the ghetto blaster if the service is in a park, new batteries and a competent operator. If you are using tapes, produce 3 seperate tapes: 1. Bridal March.. 2. Signing Interlude, one song is usually enough. 3. Exit. The music can make or break a wedding service. CD's work better. Live musicians are always a treat, eg. a string quartet, guitarist singer...., but make sure you see them in action before booking them. Hymns are a problem. Do Australians sing any more? With a church you will find that they have their own organist who can provide the music. They may even require that you use their organist.
  • Flowers As you like. The signing table always needs a bunch of flowers. Some people decorate the path the bride will walk along and also where the bride and groom will stand. With a church, you will find that the church ladies usually decorate the church for Sunday and that these arrangements are usually sufficient. None-the-less you are usually able to provide extra arrangements if you wish.
  • Bible Reading/s. Some suggestions. Old Testament: Genesis 1:26-2:4a, Genesis 2:18-24, Genesis 24:48-51, 58-67, Song of Solomon 2:8-14, Song of Solomon 4:1-7, Song of Solomon 4:9-15, Song of Solomon 8:6-7. Psalms: 23, 37:3-7, 46, 67, 100, 111, 121, 127, 128, 138. Epistles (The letters in the New Testament): Romans 12:9-18, 1Corinthians 12:31-13:13 (or part of this reading), Ephesians 3:14-19, Ephesians 5:20-33, Colossians 3:12-17 (18-19), 1John 3:18-24, 1John 4:7-16. Gospels (The New Testament): Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 7:21-29, Matthew 22:35-40, Luke 6:27-36, Luke 10:25-37, John 2:1-11, John 13:2-17, John 15:9-12 (12-16).
  • Signing: You will need to provide a table (portable if outside) with a chair if you want to sign in front of everyone in a park or public place.
  • Vows: In a Christian service, and particularly with the Anglican/Lutheran/Roman churches, the vows are set and are usually not changed. In other churches more latitude is given to the minister who may allow you to write your own vows. For example: "I ...... , in front of our friends and family, take you ........ to be my wife/husband. I promise to you today, tomorrow and for all the days ahead of us, to share my life with you, to love and respect you. I will be there for you in good times and bad. I will grow with you and stand with you. I will give my all to you. Today I vow to be yours always." The vows are the center of the marriage service. Life promises are made to each other in the presence of family and friends, so be sure to examine the words carefully. What promises do you actually want to make to your partner? The service below contains the traditional church vows. There are a number of different versions around today. In simple terms, the vows are a promise of mutual love for life. They are of course an intention to that end rather than a legal binding set in concrete. The word "obey" is sometimes included in the bride's vowes, but it means "respect" rather than obedience and is often not included these days. Do you intend learning your vows off by heart or will you repeat them after the minister?
  • Names: The bride and groom usually say all their Christian or first names to each other, but some like to just use their usual or even shortened first name.
  • Rings. Traditionally only the Bride receives the wedding ring, although today often both the bride and groom receive a ring. In tradition, the ring served as the unbroken symbol of the marriage bond. This symbol was provided by the groom and worn by the bride.
  • Witnesses: Two are required. They may be from the wedding party or guests. They must be over 18 years old.
  • Service Sheets. The service below details the words said in a traditional Anglican service. When printing a service sheet there is no need to print the service out in full. If you want to produce a service sheet just use the headings and only print in full the words you say to each other and the Lord's Prayer. The wedding party is placed on one page, poem etc. on another, and usually a "thank you" on another page. Some people print a map to the reception center on the back page.
  • Ushers. Someone to hand out the service booklets.
  • Wedding Certificate. At the conclusion of the service you will receive a wedding certificate. In Australia this certificate is no longer regarded as an official confirmation of the wedding when applying for a passport etc. You can apply for an application form from Births, Deaths & Marriages, GPO Box 30 NSW. 2001 for an official "Standard Certificate." They also issue Commemorative Marriage Certificates as in the illustration above. The cost is some $40. Phone for information: 1300 655 236.
  • Costs. A wedding can be a very expensive event costing all up around $30,000, but at the same time it is possible to have a great day for around $5,000 or less. The best advice is create a day that you can afford. Don't go into debt for a wedding. Identify all the elements and budget for the day. Dresses, suits, hair, cars, flowers, invitations, church/chapel/park, minister/celebrant, reception.... On the budget side, hire the dresses and suits, print your own invitations, borrow the cars, do your own hair, hire a marquee $400, and set it up in someone's backyard and cater out the food at $10 per. head. The fees charged by the Celebrant/Minister range from $100 to $300. The church/park fees range from $0 to $500, while musicians can range from $50 to "ouch".
  • Wedding Preparation. Most ministers and some civil celebrants require the couple to undertake a marriage preparation course. These may be a written questionnaire or a Saturday conference-style meeting. Although the girls don't mind, most blokes find them very threatening. The truth is they are innocent enough and if entered into in the right spirit, they are quite enjoyable. Just learning some basic conflict resolution techniques is value enough. None-the-less, a celebrant or minister of religion does not function primarily as a marriage counsellor. The Australian government is moving to include more pre marital guidance in the preparation of couples for marriage in response to the increasing divorce rate, but there is resistance to this from many celebrants and ministers who feel they are intruding on a couples personal life choices if they start questioning them and offering gratuitous advice. "Know thyself and to thyself be true" is the basis of a sound relationship. As for the rest, it's just common sense.
  • Divorce and the Church. The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church (particularly in Sydney), and to some extent some other Protestant Churches, do not automatically allow the remarriage of divorcees. It is very hard for a couple not to feel offended by this rule, although its purpose is to affirm a high view of marriage rather than punish anyone. Marriages do break down and this is hurt enough. If you are wanting to be married in a church or you want to use a minister in a public place, you are best to confirm at the outset whether the minister will marry divorcees. A Roman Catholic will have to gain a Papal dispensation and an Anglican may have to gain an approval from the Bishop to be remarried in the church. Both of these are difficult to obtain and so if you are having difficulty with your own church you could try the local Uniting, Baptist, Presbyterian, Christian Community...... church where the matter is left up to the minister's own discretion.
  • The Service. The following service is a shortened and revised version of the traditional English wedding service. The religious content has been reduced so that the service is comfortable for people who do not normally attend church. Even today, this traditional form remains a very appropriate service for a wedding. The words and flow of the service are very well known and so people feel comfortable in it. Feel free to use it as a source for your own wedding service.
A Service of Marriage
Adjusted Traditional form
      [The bride and escort (who may be the groom if you wish) process to the place where the marriage will take place. They face each other but at this stage don't usually hold hands, although these days feel free to do what you like.]
      We have come together here in the sight of God, and in the presence of friends and family, to join together this man and this woman in matrimony, which is an honourable state of life, instituted from the beginning by God himself, signifying the spiritual union that is possible between our Lord Jesus and those who reach out to him.
      Jesus adorned and beautified matrimony with his presence and with the first miracle that he performed at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the Bible commends that all should hold it in honour.
      It is therefore not to be entered upon unadvisedly, lightly or merely to satisfy physical desires; but prayerfully and with careful thought, duly considering the purposes for which it was instituted.
      It was instituted for the forming of a family, so that children may be raised in a loving environment.
      It was instituted so that we may live harmonious and balanced lives. And it was instituted for mutual companionship, help and comfort, in good times and bad.
      Into this union N....... and N........ come now to be joined. If anyone can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let them now speak, or hereafter remain silent.
The Consent
      N........, will you have N......... as your wife? Will you love her, cherish her, honour and protect her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her, as long as you both shall live?
      I will
      N........., will you have N......... as your husband? Will you love him, cherish him, honour and protect him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him, as long as you both shall live?
      I will
Give Away
      [With the "giving away" the man may receive the woman's hand from a member of the family or a friend and similarly, the woman may receive the man's hand. Usually the father gives the bride away, but both parents can perform this rite. You may wish to have no "giving away". In this case the bride's escort sits down after the processional. ]
      Who brings this woman to be married to this man?
      I do (etc).
      [Family members may add this blessing]
      Members of the families of N........ and N........., do you give your blessing to this marriage?
      We do
      [The bride gives her flowers to her bridesmaid at this point in the service]
      God our Father, in your great love you have given us the gift of marriage; so bless these two persons as they pledge their lives to each other, that their love may evermore grow to be a true reflection of your love for us. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Betrothal
      I N............ 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, as long as we both shall live. This is my vow and promise.
      I N.......... 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, as long as we both shall live. This is my vow and promise.
Exchange of rings
      With this ring I wed you, with my body I worship you; with all that I am and all that I have I honour you: [in the name of God. Amen.]
The Wedding
      [Couple now face the front, holding hands]
      Let us pray.
      Eternal God, preserver of all mankind, giver of all spiritual grace and author of everlasting life: send you blessing upon this man and this woman that they may keep the vow and agreement they have made, of which these rings given and received are token and pledge, and may they ever remain in perfect love and peace together; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
      Those whom God has joined together let not man put asunder.
The Declaration
      N......... and N........... have now witnessed to their mutual consent before God and this company; they have pledged their solemn word to each other; and they have confirmed it by the giving and receiving of rings and by the joining of hands. Therefore, under God, I declare them to be husband and wife.
      May the Lord bless, preserve, and keep you; may he mercifully with his favour look upon you and fill your union with his kind grace. Amen.
The bride and groom kiss at this point. The bridesmaid gives back the bride's flowers.
      [Poem, Reading, Word of encouragement, etc. Optional]
Bible reading and address
      I may be able to speak the language of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired speech; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have the faith needed to move mountains - but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and even let myself be burnt alive - but if I have no love, this does me no good.
      Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; it always protects, always trusts, always hopes. Love is eternal. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Candle Ceremony
The Lord's Prayer
      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.
      Almighty God, who by joining man and woman together taught us from the beginning that we should not separate what you have joined as one; we praise you that you have consecrated the state of matrimony to such an excellent purpose that in it is signified the spiritual marriage and union that is possible between Jesus and those who reach out to him. Look kindly on these two young people that this man may love his wife, just as Jesus loved broken humanity, and gave himself up for us, cherishing us; and also that this woman may be loving and generous, responsive and faithful to her husband. O Lord, bless them both, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessings [eg.]
      Now to him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with everlasting joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 24, 25.
      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen
Signing of the register and musical interlude
      [The register may be signed in front of the guests or in a private place. A soloist could perform at this point.]
      [The bride and the groom lead the wedding party , followed by the parents.]

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