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Wedding Planning Checklist

A list of points about worship to consider when planning a wedding and some questions to ponder.

These wedding resources were included in handouts distributed at a "Saturday Afternoon Wedding Planning Special" at the Calvin Worship Symposium in 2000.

Starting Points

1. A wedding is more like a worship service than a talent show or beauty contest.

2. The people gathered to celebrate with the couple should be active participants rather than passive observers. Have friends and family members actively participate through scripture reading, songs, instrumental gifts, etc. These expressions are gifts to the couple and offerings to God.

3. The wedding service should make it clear that the Word of God is the center of the marriage. Have Scripture play a prominent role in the service through the use of multiple scripture readings.

Results of an informal pre-Symposium on Worship and the Arts poll: The most Christ-centered, God-glorifying moments I’ve ever experienced in a Christian wedding happened when. . . .

1. the whole bridal party, with parents, surrounded the couple in a prayer circle near the end of the service.

2. a soloist sang Psalm 23 not as the anthem, but as the scripture reading prior to the wedding sermon.

3. the statement of purpose at the beginning of the ceremony was led from the baptismal font, with the words "at the beginning of your journey as God’s child you were baptized; now you come to live out your baptismal calling together."

4. the benediction at the end of the service was given first to the couple and then to the congregation.

5. following the spoken vows, the couple sang a paraphrase of the vows to each other, using the words of the "Servant Song."

6. the parents welcomed the new son-in-law and daughter-in-law into the family, or when the extended family gave words of welcome or support. (It’s important that these words be offered sincerely, and not be a charade that masks family conflict.)

7. the bridal party and couple processed in during a congregational hymn. (This clearly established a different focus for the event; it was more a service than a ceremony).

8. after the pastoral prayer for the couple, a soloist sang "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us."

9. in a situation where one of the persons had been divorced, the service included a section that focused on forgiveness. This acknowledged the past, and set the couple free to make a new commitment.

10. the pastor tied the stole around the couple’s hands before the ring ceremony to symbolize the commitment they are making to each other.

11. the bride and groom had friends and family members who did not have a relationship with Christ, and the pastor did not assume that others knew what it means to be married in Christ, and gave a simple, yet powerful testimony to the joy and privilege of marriage in Christ.

12. the service began with celebrative congregational singing (notice a theme developing here!).

13. someone in the church made a wedding banner that is now used at all weddings in our church (the banner could also be used as a decoration in the couple’s home).

14. an elder from the church gave the couple a Bible or a devotional book (during the wedding service) to indicate the church’s support for this marriage and to encourage the couple on their spiritual journey.

15. the bridal party was positioned so that they faced the congregation during the whole ceremony. There was a circle of community and the congregation could truly witness the joy of this occasion. The pastor stood slightly off to the side. (It even made for better pictures!)

16. the bridal couple sat during the beginning part of the ceremony as part of the congregation and then stood at the time of the vows.

17. the wedding happened right in the middle of a regular Sunday worship service, with vows right after the sermon.

Questions to ponder:

1. What is the proportion of time we spend on planning the ceremony and preparation for marriage to other wedding preparations?

2. Can children that are special to the couple take part in the service in different ways than simply serving as wedding party adornments? Are child attendants primarily there to look cute? Or is there a meaningful relationship that is being recognized and affirmed?

3. What is the appropriateness of celebrating the Lord’s Supper at a wedding? That is, could a wedding be a congregational worship service?

Along with this handout, attendees at the session received a free copy of Roy Hopp’s anthem "Not for Tongues of Heaven's Angels" (for SATB, organ, opt. cong., 425-812, mod. easy), published by Selah Publishing Co.

If you will plan a wedding, consider the following:

1. here is a well-crafted piece of music with an unforgettably beautiful melody
2. the piece can be sung by a soloist
3. the text is based on scripture
4. the piece could be sung by a choir or small group of singers
5. this is not an overly sentimental poem like a lot of wedding music
6. this piece can be used as a congregational hymn
7. it can be sung as a duet, with singers alternating verses, and both joining on the refrain
8. the parts the congregation would sing are ready to copy
9. using it at a wedding turns the audience into a congregation
10. you will need to buy enough copies for the accompanist and the soloist.

Also see the "Weddings" theme issue from the quarterly magazine Reformed Worship.