Wedding Policy for Trinity Lutheran Church, Wautoma, WI
Marriage and Weddings
God Himself instituted marriage at creation saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…The Lord God took one of his ribs, and from the rib the Lord God made a woman and brought her to the man…Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:21-24). Our Lord Jesus Christ added these words: “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6).
Marriage is therefore a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Those entering marriage should do so with the highest reverence for this holy estate which God has instituted. The wedding service and the pre-marital relationship of all couples, both young and old alike are to reflect such esteem for the estate of matrimony.
As with other facets of God’s creation, disobedience to God has wrought havoc to marriage and has robbed many of the intended blessing such as marriage can be. People, by reason of their sinful nature inherited from our first parents, will experience much heartache within marriage along with much joy. Indeed, a heavy cross often is laid even upon many who live godly lives in Christ Jesus. For this reason, the Church Wedding directs the worshippers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Father sent “to redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Jesus, who reconciled us to our heavenly Father, grants peace and joy in homes where He is honored. Jesus, by whom the Father richly grants us forgiveness, empowers the couple who trusts in Him to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
The Church, in accord with God’s Word, will instruct all participants in a wedding to think upon Him who is called the heavenly bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ. Husbands are directed: “Love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water and the Word, that He may present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:22-27). In the same context the wife is directed: “Submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the Body” (vs. 22-23). Each couple is hereby called to give a lifelong, living illustration of Jesus’ redeeming grace and the Church’s response of obedience and service.
The Wedding Worship Service then should be one of many worship services in which the two standing before God’s altar have their thoughts turned toward their Creator and to their Savior, for in Him alone will they have the power to love and forgive. He alone will sustain them when the burdens of life become difficult. It is therefore proper that wedding preparations begin with prayer and determination that the wedding and subsequent marriage honor God in everything.
Couples Living Together
An increasing number of men and women are living together in a conjugal relationship without marriage license, without wedding, and (at times) without the consent of their parents. Because God’s Word clearly shows that it is sinful for couples to live together without marriage, people who persist in behavior that God rejects and condemns as sin are choosing a course that may lead to eternal punishment.
God’s Word is clear: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment” (Heb.10:26-27). And again, we read: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God … The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
The church and its pastors desire God’s richest blessings upon all who enter the marriage relationship. However, they know God cannot bless those who live in manifestly impenitent sins. Therefore, they are faced with the difficult question/problem of how to deal with couples living together in a conjugal relationship and then wanting a wedding in the church. The concern is not only for the couple, but also for the whole church and the confession which it makes. This practice is an offense to the church and all other acquaintances. By ‘offense’ the Bible means “stumbling block” or “death trap.” Others will be led to stumble and fall into sexual sins and possibly be led away from Christ by such behavior. In the first letter the Corinthians the warning is given: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
That this practice is wrong before God is affirmed by the fact that, contrary to what those who place themselves in such relationships and situations may believe, over 80% of marriages so begun end in divorce. Simply put, those who think that they are improving their chances in marriage by living together in defiance of God’s Word are in error.
Therefore, for the good of the couple involved and to avoid offense to the church and the world:
ï No marriage can be performed by the pastor where there is no indication of repentance (turning from this sin), either verbally stated or in practice. One cannot ask God’s blessing on those who come under His judgment.
ï If the couple in repentance agrees to separate for the time up to the marriage, then a wedding may be held in the church.
With this understanding a couple may prefer, in humble repentance, to have a small wedding. However, a large wedding would be appropriate if it is thought of as a celebration of God’s forgiveness and how He may bless us despite our sinfulness. The Church always celebrates the joy of forgiveness.
For Those Who Want a Church Wedding
ï Each couple desiring to be married at Trinity Lutheran Church must meet with the pastor before he consents to perform the marriage and before a wedding date is set.
ï Each couple must arrange to have pre-marital counseling with the pastor well ahead of the wedding date.
ï The following contingencies are placed on the pastor performing the wedding:
a. In order that the truth of God’s Word not be compromised or a poor witness given, the pastor cannot and shall not participate with clergy of other denominations (Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11)
b. Normally, at least one of the couples needs to be a member of Trinity congregation.
c. If neither the man nor woman are members of our congregation, they must attend the pastor’s adult membership class as a prerequisite for a wedding conducted by the pastor. They shall also be expected to faithfully attend worship services during this time.
d. Members who desire to be married are expected to faithfully attend worship services as a natural part of their responsibilities as members of our congregation. Spiritual guidance and nurture are a necessary part of a happy Chris-tian marriage.
e. If in the first meeting it is learned that the couple is living together, no commitment will be made for a wedding date unless the couple recognizes their sin and repents (turns from it). At this point two options shall be offered them in the indication of repentance:
1) They shall confess their sin, receive absolution, and separate until the time of the wedding
2) They shall confess their sin, receive absolution, and have a small, private wedding service conducted as soon as possible, followed by a period of counseling. Should they desire a “Church Wedding” it would follow this period of counseling and be designated as a “Recognition of a Civil Marriage.”
If neither of these options are acceptable, the plans for a wedding at Trinity can go no further.
f. If in the first meeting it is discovered that the bride is expecting a child, the couple must:
1) Recognize that their act of fornication is a sin.
2) Confess and repent of that sin.
Upon confession, and receiving absolution, the pastor will direct the couple according to options 1 and 2 in section e., above. However, separation is not recommended if the child has already been born. In this case the mother and father should be encouraged to get married right away in order to raise the child in a family setting as God has ordained.
One Man/One Woman
The marriage policy of Trinity Lutheran Church, a member congregation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is and always has been consistent with the Synod’s beliefs on marriage. We believe that marriage is a sacred union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25), and that God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the Church (Ephesians 5:32). The official position of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, as set forth in 1998 Res. 3-21 (“To Affirm the Sanctity of Marriage and to Reject Same-Sex Unions”), is that homosexual unions come under categorical prohibition in the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10) as contrary to the Creator’s design (Romans 1:26-27). These positions and beliefs can be found on the LCMS website (lcms.org), along with other statements, papers and reports on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex civil unions and “marriage.” Our pastors will not officiate over any marriage inconsistent with these beliefs, and our church property may not be used for any marriage ceremony, reception or other activity that would be inconsistent with our beliefs and this policy.
Other Important Policies
Since the Church Wedding as described in the introduction must honor the Triune God ~ The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ~ plans for the wedding will observe the following policies:
ï Music must be chosen from a suggested list provided by the pastor or otherwise be approved by the pastor for use.
ï Flowers or other decorations must not obscure the cross or the altar. No arches are allowed nor any other decorations which call attention to themselves and detract from the worship service.
ï Flowers need not be real, but they must be in good taste. We should seek to honor God with our best, not to degrade Him by being cheap or tactless.
ï No flash pictures are to be taken during the wedding ceremony and no video equipment is allowed within the chancel area. An announcement of this policy will be included in the wedding service folder.
ï No bird seed or rice should be thrown in the church proper.
ï No alcohol shall be consumed on church property. If either the bride or groom are intoxicated or otherwise abnormally impaired at the time of the service, the wedding will not take place that day.
ï Should lewd slogans, signs, etc. be found on cars or in the church building, the wedding will be delayed until such are removed. Please advise your friends.
ï All wedding attire must be modest; in keeping with 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “I desire that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation…which is proper for women professing godliness with good works.”
ï The pastor is responsible for the wedding service. If the couple should wish to arrange the order of service they will do so under his advisement; bulletins/service folders should not be printed until approved by the pastor.
ï The tradition of the nuptial kiss, if followed at all, must be discreet lest it detract from the wedding service.
ï The color of the paraments shall not be changed for the wedding, but shall follow the appointed color for the church year.
ï Though not forbidden, weddings are discouraged during the Lenten season. No weddings shall take place between Palm Sunday and Easter.
ï Neither the florist nor the wedding consultant, if one is contracted, play any part in the directing of the rehearsal or wedding service. The church does not provide a center aisle runner. If you desire to use one, you may obtain it from your florist or another source.
ï Decoration of the church is to be done only a day or two ahead of the wedding, but should be completed at least one hour before the wedding service begins. Decorations are not to be attached in any means that will leave marks on wood, paint, or other surfaces.
ï Any flowers placed in vases on the reredos (back of the altar) should be lower than the crossbeam of the cross so as to not take away from it.
ï It is the responsibility of the couple to see to it that the flowers (If they are not to be left for church), aisle runner, candles, etc., are removed following the wedding service.
ï Pictures may be taken prior to the service, as long as they are completed at least 45 minutes before the service is to begin. Pictures may also be taken after the ceremony.
ï A video may be taken if it is done without distraction, but not in the chancel area as mentioned previously. No additional lights may be used.
ï The use of the church is available at no cost to members. A special donation may be in order, however, to help cover expenses for lighting, heating, and cleaning.
ï The couple is responsible for the cost of tabulating the Prepare/Enrich pre-marital inventory. At the present time the cost is $35. This expense is payable at the first pre-marital counseling session, with checks being made out to Life Innovations, Inc.
ï Honoraria for the organist should be no less than $50, considering the amount of time involved in consultation, practice, rehearsal, and the wedding itself.
ï Honoraria should also be given to vocalists and other instrumentalists.
ï The rehearsal is to begin promptly at the designated time and should last about 45-60 minutes.
ï Those present at the rehearsal will conduct themselves in a manner in keeping with the setting, before, during, and after the rehearsal.
ï Attire may be informal, but in good taste.
ï The Marriage license needs to be given to the pastor on the day of the rehearsal.
ï The processional begins after the brides mother is seated and the aisle runner, if one is to be used, is pulled.
ï Walk naturally and slowly. The “hesitation step” is not natural.
ï The bridal party exits the church in an orderly fashion, walking at a natural pace.
ï Selected ushers return immediately to escort from the nave the immediate members of the bride’s and groom’s families, beginning with the bride’s parents.
ï After the immediate family has been escorted out of the nave, the ushers return and dismiss the congregation, pew by pew, alternating between sides.
ï Immediately following the receiving line, or service if no receiving line is used, the bride and groom along with two witnesses over 18 must meet with the pastor to sign the marriage license.
ï All ushers should be ready to seat guests at least thirty minutes prior to the wedding.
ï The ushers or a designated acolyte will be responsible for the lighting of the candles.
ï It is not necessary to ask those entering if they are “friends of the bride” or “friends of the groom.” Places are designated for members of the immediate families involved. For the rest there is no special “side.”
ï The ushers should inform those who are carrying cameras that there are to be no flash photographs taken during the service; opportunity for pictures will be given following the service.
ï Ushers will usher at the recessional as laid out above.
Musicï Since the Christian Wedding Service is a service of worship, the music used throughout the wedding should direct the congregation’s thoughts to the Triune God. This quite naturally eliminates some songs for consideration, including the traditional “Wedding March.” The “Bridal March” or “Bridal Chorus” as it is sometimes called comes from the opera Lohengrin, written by Richard Wagner. This song was never intended to be used as part of a church worship service, and has as its entire focus the bridal chamber and the physical consummation of the marriage. While the church certainly acknowledges the physical consummation of a marriage as a God given gift, it is not the God given focus of a worship service. Rather than calling attention to the physical side of marriage, our music should focus on the Spiritual side.
ï While sentimental or romantic songs from the time of your courtship may be very special or meaningful to you as a couple, it is more appropriate to include them at your reception than at the wedding service.
ï The pastor or the organist will be happy to help you in selecting acceptable religious music for your wedding.
The entire marriage rite is designed to lead you and those in
attendance to give all glory to God and to seek
His blessing. All preparations and actions
should work toward that end.
Suggested Scripture Readings and Hymns
Traditional Readings from the LSB Agenda:
Genesis 1: 26-28
Genesis 2:7, 18-24
Ephesians 5:1-2, 22-23
Matthew 19: 4-6
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9-10
Song of Solomon
John 15: 12-17
1 Corinthians 13
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
1 John 4:7-12
922 Go, My Children, with My Blessing
860 Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing
940 Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
859 Lord, When You Came as Welcome Guest
700 Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
895 Now Thank We All Our God
858 O Father, All Creating
862 Oh, Blest the House
790 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty