How to Conduct a Christian Wedding Ceremony

Chris Rappazini
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The day has almost come. The bride and groom can see the finish line of their ongoing engagement and months, sometimes years, of wedding planning. However, wedding day is just the beginning. It is the foundation of a covenant the couple is making with one another and with God. They are about to launch into a bond that no amount of premarital counseling could ultimately prepare them for. A minister is helping them establish a point in their relationship that they can constantly reflect as the time they said, “Yes!” to one another. They are about to enter into a challenging journey and the officiating minister has the opportunity to shepherd that special moment and help them start off on the right path.

In reality, while the minister is focusing on the covenant they are about to make, thousands of other thoughts are swirling around the couple’s minds. The minister is thinking about bringing an uplifting message from the Scriptures, but the couple is thinking about the pictures and reactions they will get on social media. The minister is focused on the beautiful union of marriage, but the couple is trying to keep their parents from fighting. The minister is concentrating on the vows, the couple is daydreaming about a honeymoon. The minister wants the Holy Spirit to be present, but the couple may be missing loved ones who are absent. Face it, during the wedding week, the one who is the most levelheaded and has the appropriate perspective of what is taking place, is the officiating minister. His task is to remind the couple and everyone else, the real reason they are gathered. This undertaking begins during the wedding week at the wedding rehearsal.

The Wedding Rehearsal

It is important to rehearse the wedding a day or two before the ceremony to make sure everyone is on the same page. Most likely, the bride, groom, their families, and friends have been at the venue decorating all day. They are probably exhausted, running on adrenaline or fumes, and have been so focused on the minor details that they need someone to remind them of the big picture. That someone is the minister.

After the officiating minister has been introduced to all the key participants, it is important for him to say a word or two in front of everyone. Gather everyone together and pass out a template of the order of the service. The minister can then use this moment to introduce himself, explain his relationship to the bride and groom, the importance of a marriage commitment, and remind all that the purpose of a wedding service is to glorify God. Spending a few moments addressing everyone does several things. First, it demonstrates that the minister is the leader of the worship service. Even if the couple hired a wedding planner, the minister was asked to be in charge of the ceremony. It is important that everyone, including the wedding planner, know who is leading the ceremony.

After introductions and a brief word about the purpose of a ceremony, it is important to cover the ceremony’s logistics. Perhaps begin by placing people where they will be during the ceremony. Since the minister probably does not know all the details, he may need some help. Once everyone is in place, then let everyone know that the first thing you will rehearse is how the wedding party will exit. This may seem odd to do first, but the law of primacy says that people usually remember most what is done first. Then once everyone has left the stage, or the front of the room, and is in the lobby area, you can practice the processional. Now everyone knows where he or she is to stand.

After the processional, the wedding party is in place, and the bride has been walked down the aisle, you will want to practice the Giving of the Bride. The person giving the bride away most likely has never had to give away his daughter before. This can often times be a very emotional experience. This is why rehearsing this part of the ceremony is important.

Next, review the order of the service. If any parts, such as special music, Scripture reading, etc., need to be rehearsed, it might be good to do so at rehearsal. Special elements such as Communion, foot washing, and unity candles do not need to be rehearsed in full, but it might be wise to have those participating know where and how these elements will be done. After running through the order of service, have the party practice the recessional and the processional, just so everyone (including those overseeing music) is coordinated.

Always pray before and after the rehearsal. Why is this important? First, this invites the Holy Spirit into this worship service and puts everyone under His submission. Second, it reminds participates of the One who is being worshiped and glorified during the service. Finally, the beginning prayer communicates that the officiating minister has been designated as ceremony leader, and the closing prayer signals when he is handing over the responsibilities to someone else.

The Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

After the wedding rehearsal is over, the minister’s job is not done. Typically, the officiant is invited to the rehearsal dinner. The minister should use dinnertime to get valuable, personal information about the bride and groom from their families and wedding party to include in the sermon. This is also a time when deep, meaningful conversations can take place about God, life, and marriage. Do not be shy about presenting the gospel, praying with people, or sharing a biblical worldview on topics that arise in conversations.

Check with all the parents to see how they are doing and ask them what their child was like when they were younger. Simple questions like this accomplish at least two things. First, it helps the officiant fulfill his role as a pastor. Sure, he was hired to officiate the wedding, but he is a pastor at heart. Parents, and even grandparents, are coming to grips with the fact that their little one has grown up. Listening to their fears, worries, and questions about their child’s unforeseen future can be powerful. They may also be reflecting on their own wedding day and marriage, which could reveal old wounds if the marriage did not work out or if their spouse is deceased. Obviously, the young couple needs your prayers and God’s guidance, but so do their parents and grandparents. Be their pastor, too, even if it is just for a couple of days.

Second, sometimes these conversations give you examples of their son or daughter’s interests as a child. Store those details or illustrations in your mind or write them down. You could then use that information in the wedding sermon introduction.

The pastor will also want to check in with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. They may not be going through the same emotions as the parents, but it is possible that siblings, cousins, or friends have feelings other than joy for the bride or groom. They may be feeling selfish, envious, jealous, lonely, angry, or have questions about God’s timing in their own lives. The minister should not try to solve all these issues at this time. However, it is wise to be aware that these emotions might be present in some of the folks present.

After checking in with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, if appropriate, I like to ask them to help me finish my sermon. I explain that I want to make the sermon personal and ask something like, “Since you know______________ best, what are some fun things you think are vital for their new spouse to know as they enter into marriage together?” Try your best to write down their responses, which could vary from, “Her favorite candy is gummy worms” to “Don’t expect her to function properly in the morning without her avocado toast and mocha coffee” or “He is a die-hard Tigers fan, so game day is a big deal.”

Additionally, try to gain an understanding as to what the bride or groom’s friendship means to those in the wedding party. Perhaps ask a question like, “What are some of the best qualities about ______________?” Gathering this information and using it in the wedding sermon will make it unique and specific for not just the bride and groom, but for all the guests.

Tips for the Wedding Rehearsal

  • Dress business casual.
  • Arrive early and help where needed.
  • Bring a pen and paper, tablet, or smartphone to quickly jot down names and notes. There is too much to remember, so make sure you can write them down.
  • Print a template of the ceremony and give it to everyone at the rehearsal (including the people in charge of technology).
  • Bring masking tape to mark places on the floor so everyone knows where to stand.
  • Ask the bride and groom for the marriage license and envelope with correct mailing address.

Wedding Day

The day has finally come. Premarital counseling is over, rehearsal and accompanying dinner are complete, and two people are about to take vows that have a lifelong impact. Even though people have been getting married for generations, no two weddings are the same. A person’s culture, family, friends, generation, past relationships, and spirituality, as well as the geography, weather, and venue can influence the ceremony. Nonetheless, God has called you a pastor to shepherd a couple during one of their most important moments in life. It is both an honor and an incredibly challenging task.

After arriving at the church or venue, the pastor should visit with the bride, maid-of-honor, groom, best man, parents, and wedding coordinator to see how the day has been. Keep in mind, no wedding is perfect and there might well be drama. One of a minister’s tasks is to be the calming presence and rational thinker. He should encourage people to remember that the day is about how the bride and groom have chosen to glorify God with their commitment to one another. Rarely do wedding days go exactly as planned—but that is okay. Teach people that God is still in control and as long as the bride, groom, and you are there, the wedding can take place. A good way to remind people of this is through prayer. Beginning with the bride and the people with her, try to steal a few moments to pray for her. Perhaps invite others there to pray for her as well. Then go to the groom’s dressing room and do the same.

The Wedding Ceremony

It is beneficial to have the entire order of service scripted because there are too many distractions and elements of a wedding to keep straight. Having a detailed description of everything that will transpire will put a minister’s mind at ease and help him focus on everyone’s emotional and spiritual temperaments.

There are countless ways to conduct a wedding ceremony. At its core, a wedding ought to be both biblical and personal. A basic wedding ceremony template looks like this:

It’s wise to plan the worship ceremony with the bride and groom during one of the last premarital counseling sessions. This way, with the pastor’s help, they are able to make it memorable and God-honoring. Following are suggestions on various aspects of the wedding ceremony.

Welcome and Greeting, Prayer

People will sense the mood of the service from the minister’s welcome. Since this is a day to celebrate God’s goodness and providence, welcome people with a huge smile and happy tone. Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions, and people will notice the minister’s attitude. He should feel free to make it lighthearted and welcoming. A quick use of humor can lighten the mood quickly. This is also an opportunity for the minister to explain how he knows the couple and begin to tell their story. At this point, he may want to address the couple, but really he is welcoming attendees to a worship service. He could say something like, “Nearly five years ago, these two people standing before you met at a coffee shop. They were total strangers. But after some time they became friends and then fell in love. Today, they are meeting here to declare to God their commitment to one another. And they wanted to make sure you were here to witness this very special occasion. They are so thankful you all could make it. Welcome!” Then follow with a simple prayer.


Many pastors use the same sermon for every wedding ceremony they officiate. However, that does a disservice to both the couple and the Lord. It is easier to use the same sermon repeatedly, but pastors can do better. Does it take more time, effort, and creativity to write a new sermon for every wedding you officiate? Yes. But be different. Make each worship service honoring to God by giving your very best in creating a sermon that is both biblical and personal.

Even though each sermon needs to vary, the structure of wedding sermons may be similar. While other aspects of the service is directed to everyone in the service (procession, welcoming, songs, pronouncement, presentation, recessional) the sermon is specifically geared toward the couple. The minister should use the sermon to speak directly to the couple while remembering that everyone else is listening. Therefore, the sermon could begin by reminding the couple how their relationship started and grew. This makes it personal for them and their guests. Or perhaps a minister could begin by talking about their childhood and their relationship with their parents. (This is when you can use the background research from the rehearsal dinner.) Use some of the comments from the bridesmaids and groomsmen for transitions and humor. This makes the message specific to the couple and engaging.

After the sermon’s introduction, transition to the Bible and the pastor’s encouragement and advice for the couple. This portion need not be long, but it does need to be biblical. To make it personal, an officiating minister might use the meaning of the couple’s names or something interesting about them that can be linked to the Scripture passage. This takes some creativity, and usually a concordance, but it makes the sermon both personal and biblical.

Once he has landed on a passage of Scripture that connects to the couple, the minister must unpack the main idea of that passage. Using sound exegetical skills, discover the subject (What is the author talking about?) and complement (What is the author saying about what he is talking about?). Then, combine your subject and complement and write down the exegetical idea. Essentially, the exegetical idea is one sentence that encompasses the main idea of the passage. Next, shape the exegetical idea into a shorter and more memorable preaching idea. The preaching idea ought to be repeated several times throughout the sermon.

One final, critical element to include in wedding sermons is the importance of a marriage that centers on Jesus Christ. Marriages and weddings can omit Jesus from ever making an appearance. But as a follower of Jesus and advocate for the Holy Spirit, we honor God with our lives, marriages, and ministry by making Him our foundation. There will be unbelievers and people with broken marriages at every wedding. They may be offended to hear about God’s role in a marriage. But as a minister of God’s Word, it is incredibly important for marriages to revolve around Christ and His commandment to love one another (John 15:12). Therefore, whenever you have the opportunity, exhort people to put Christ at the center of their marriage.

A Few Principles to Remember Writing a Wedding Sermon

  • Make it personal. If the sermon can be repeated in multiple wedding ceremonies, it is not specific enough. Get creative and use the couple’s name, occupations, hobbies, or background and connect it to Scripture.
  • Make it biblical. After connecting the couple to some aspect of Scripture, expound upon the truth of the Scripture.
  • Make it memorable. Be sure the sermon has a clear, memorable idea that is connected to the biblical text. Repeat the idea so the couple, as well as guests, can apply the idea to their marriage and life.
  • Make the sermon concise. The length of a wedding sermon varies depending on culture, but it is usually much shorter than a typical Sunday morning sermon. My wedding sermons are usually between eight and twelve minutes, so use discernment when determining the length of the sermon.

Exchange of Vows and Rings

The exchange of vows and wedding bands express and symbolize the couple’s commitment to one another. In preparation for the ceremony, ask the bride and groom how they would like this part of the service to be conducted. Some couples write their own vows. Others prefer traditional vows. Either is acceptable; however, review the vows with the couple, usually in a premarital counseling session, so they know the meaning behind their words. During the ceremony, it is helpful to explain the meaning behind the different elements.

“A Christian wedding ceremony ought to be both biblical and personal.”

Special Elements (Unity Display, Communion, Foot-washing, etc.)

Couples are getting more and more creative on how they want to display their commitment to one another. They are often seeking ways to make special moments and memorable experiences. There is no problem with these expressions; however, make sure the couple has the right motive behind any special element that is included. Understanding why the couple chose to add a special element will also help the minister introduce that portion of the ceremony.

Presentation and Dismissal

Even though the dismissal may seem straightforward, there are several important details to remember. People are taking cues from the officiant. When he presents the couple for the first time as husband and wife, the tone should be celebratory. Encourage those in attendance to clap and cheer.

After the wedding party has exited, people need directions on what is next. Before the service, make known any specific requests from the wedding party or coordinator. It is also helpful to announce the location of the reception and the time it will begin. Usually, the recessional is implemented with music, so the minister will want to coordinate with those doing the music to play gently during final announcements. Finally, try to make your last words uplifting and exciting. Perhaps something like, “Let’s keep rejoicing all night! Let the celebration continue!”

Wedding License

Sometime after the ceremony, be sure to have the newly married couple sign the wedding license. In God’s eyes they are already married, but in the state’s eyes a wedding license needs to be signed and mailed. Every state’s procedures differ so it is extremely important to understand the laws of the state(s) where the wedding is being conducted. Research the laws months in advance in case there is any paperwork that needs to be filed beforehand.

After the wedding license is signed, immediately put it in a stamped and addressed envelope and drop it into the nearest mailbox on the way home. Do not wait days to send in the marriage license as many states have only a few days in which it can be postmarked.

Tips for the Wedding Ceremony

  • Dress in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Be on time and prepared.
  • Purchase a small binder used specifically for weddings. Print your notes so you can easily find your place and will not be turning the pages constantly.
  • Turn your phone off (maybe ask others to turn their phones off too).
  • Carry a tissue or handkerchief in your pocket (usually for the groom).
  • Print vows on nice paper, or print sections of the sermon, and give it to the bride and groom after the wedding. This also makes a great one-year anniversary gift.
  • Write down details about the reception that need to be communicated at ethe end of the service.
  • Be professional but not too serious.


A Christian wedding ceremony ought to be both biblical and personal. God appoints ministers to lead a service that honors Him. But each wedding ceremony needs to be unique because every couple you marry is different. Observing and listening to the couple, their family, and friends will help a pastor discern how God wants him to officiate the worship service. When he aims at crafting a service that is both scriptural and distinct, a minister creates special memories that last a lifetime and glorify God.

For Further Reading:

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