Weddings in the Universalist tradition {.title}

Why this page?

Since beginning and developing and maintaining web pages on the Universalist tradition in 1995, I have been asked for information about wedding rites within this tradition. This page offers basic resources, gleaned from worthy historic sources (and kept in original language). Marrying persons with an interest in traditional liturgy, liturgy students, genealogists (wanting to know what rites ancestors might have used) and historically-minded Universalists will find much here.

I still welcome questions.

The couple to be marriage presenting themselves before the minister, either in the church, or in a private house, as the case may be, he may commence the ceremony by first addressing the company assembled, as follows: —

Beloved Friends: We are assembled at this time and place for the purpose of solemnly joining together in the bands of matrimony, the affianced couple now standing before us. The occasion is interesting and joyful, and we earnestly hope the union now to be consummated, may be crowned with the divine blessing, in the fulfillment of all reasonable anticipations of prosperity, peace and happiness.

Then addressing himself to the couple to be married, the minister may say: —

You Mr. ___ and Miss ___ [or Mrs. ___ as the case be, calling each by name,] are about to enter into a new state and relation in life, the state of marriage, appointed by the Author of our being for wise and benevolent purposes, and especially for mutual support, counsel, and happiness. It is a state which is declared to be honourable among all men; and which, therefore, should not be entered into unadvisedly, or without due consideration; but seriously, discreetly, and with pure and upright motives. Trusting that you both have duly considered its importance, and that you will, each of you, make it your constant endeavour faithfully to discharge the various duties which now devolve on you, in the very responsible and most endearing relation of husband and wife; you will now please take and receive each other by the right hand, and give your cordial assent to the questions I shall propose to you respectively.

Addressing the man, the minister’s may then say to him: —

Do you take this woman, whom you hold by her right hand, to be your lawful and wedded wife; and will you be an affectionate and faithful husband to her, so long as ye both shall live?

Then in like manner to the woman : —

Do you take this man, whose hand you have received, to be your lawful and wedded husband; and will you be an affectionate and faithful wife to him, so long as ye both shall live?

They each having declared or signified their assent, the minister may offer a prayer, which may be according to his discretion, or in the use of the following form, he first saying: —

Let us pray.

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 day by 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.

O eternal God, creator and preserver of all mankind: the author and giver of all good things. Send thy blessing, we pray thee, upon these thy servants, this man, and this woman, whom we bless in thy name; and grant that as Isaac and Rebecca, of old, live faithfully together, so this wedded pair may faithfully perform and keep the vow and covenant between them made, and may consistently remain together in peace, harmony, and sincere affection; and may live in obedience to thy holy will and commands. Grant them all things needful for life and godliness, and have them always in thy holy care and keeping.

Bless the company assembled on this joyful occasion. Crown us all with thy loving-kindness and tender mercies, and finally consummate the designs of thy love concerning us, in a happy and glorious union in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

The minister then uniting their hands again, may say, as follows: —

Forasmuch as this couple have consented together in holy matrimony, and have pledged their fidelity each to the other, in the presence of these witnesses, I pronounce them HUSBAND AND WIFE, in the name of God, and according to the laws of this State.

The minister may then close the ceremony with the Nuptial [sic] Benediction, as follows: —

May God Almighty bless, preserve and keep you: and manifest his favour and goodness toward you, more and more, according to his abundant kindness, and his everlasting love; and to Him be ascribed all praise and glory, throughout all ages, world without end. AMEN.

Prayer for a Marriage Celebration.

Father of mercies and God of love — We would bless and praise thee, as for all thy favours in general, so especially for that relation which we sustain to thee, and to each other. We adore thee that thou hast made us rational and intelligent beings, and hast implanted in our bosoms the elevated sentiments of friendship, affection and love; by which we are rendered capable of enjoying the endearing delights of society and social intercourse, in the interchange of kindred sympathies and attachments. We bless thee for those ties of affinity which here bind us together as parents and children, brothers and sisters, companions and friends; and which constitute us mutual partakers with each other in the joys and sorrows of this our mortal state.

May thy richest blessings, O Lord, descent upon these persons who, by the marriage-covenant, are now about to enter into a new and endearing relation to each other. May they always have occasion to number this among the most propitious events, and happy periods of their earthly existence. Wilt thou, heavenly Father, give them grace faithfully to discharge all the relative, social, and moral duties and obligations which shall devolve upon them in life. Let the blessings of health, peace and happiness attend them, and the beams of thy love and goodness shine brightly upon them, and illuminate and cheer their habitation.

Bless this union, O Lord, not only to this couple, but to all their relatives and friends. And grant that when this connexion on earth shall be dissolved, they may be bound together in an higher and holier union in thine immortal kingdom: where the celestial inhabitants neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven. Mercifully hear and answer us, most merciful Father, in these out supplications and prayers; and do for us, and for the whole human family, exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think; through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. AMEN.</div>

This Ceremonial of Marriage (a misuse of the term) comes from The Gospel Liturgy: A Prayer-Book for Churches, Congregations, and Families. “prepared by direction of the General Convention of Universalists.” (Universalist Publishing House, 1871)</div>

¶ In some of the States, marriage is regulated by Statute; and no one should officiate without being first assured of his authority so to do. He should also see that all the prescribed forms of Law (if there be any) have been duly attended to. Invariably, a Certificate should be given; and a record should be kept, that so a duplicate may at any time furnished, if required.

¶ The Minister, if satisfied that there is no reasonable hindrance to the intended marriage, will request the parties to arise, and accompany him, with mind and heart, to the throne of grace.

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who dost set the solitary in families, and hast gathered the holiest affections into the circle of a loving home: We give Thee hearty thanks for the institution of Marriage, for the tenderness of its ties, and the sacredness of its obligations. And we offer up our trustful prayer, that Thy blessing may rest on the solemn vows of the present hour.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O LORD that these Thy servants, through Thy favor attending them, may realize all the fond hopes with which they enter into the married life. May the joining of hands be consecrated by the union of hearts. And do Thou help them clearly to see, and deeply to feel, that joy or sorrow will be the experience of their companionship, according as they keep or neglect the promises made this day.

Let heavenly wisdom be their guide, and goodness and mercy continually follow them. Make straight their paths, and bestow upon them all needed temporal and spiritual gifts. Be with them through all the duties and pleasures and trials of life; and when they shal have filled the measure of their usefulness upon the earth, may they pass serenely into the glorified family above, through or Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

¶ Then shall the Minister say,

As an expression of your mutual desire and purpose to be joined in Marriage, you will please take each other by the right hand.

¶ To the Man:

In the presence of the LORD, [and these witnesses,] you do take this woman to be your WIFE, — promising to love, honor and cherish her, and in all things to be unto her a faithful husband, so long as you both shall live. [Answer: I do.

¶ To the Woman:

In the presence of the LORD, [and these witnesses,] you do take this man to be your HUSBAND, — promising to love, honor and cherish him, and in all things to be unto him a faithful wife, so long as you both shall live. [Answer: I do.

Then shall the Minister add:

Forasmuch as you have entered into the honorable estate of Matrimony, by mutual promise and pledge, I do pronounce you to be HUSBAND AND WIFE. Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

¶ The ring (if one be in readiness for the occasion) shall here be put on the fourth finger of the wife’s left hand by the husband; and the Minister, laying his hand on the hands of thus joined, shall say,

Let this emblem of eternity, be presented and received as a token of mutual love, be a cherished memorial of the vows assumed this day. And may the peace of GOD, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.

Benediction:

The LORD bless you, and keep you: The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The LORD lift up His countenance upn you, and give you peace, for evermore. Amen.

This form of solemnization of marriage comes from A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home; with Selections from the Psalms. Revised edition. (Universalist Publishing House, 1894)</div>

The persons to be married and their friends being assembled, the Minister shall say:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God, adorned and sanctioned by Christ’s presence at the marriage of Cana of Galilee, and set forth and commended in the Christian Scriptures as innocent and honorable to all who engage in it not unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, and soberly, with purity of heart, and in the fear of God. Therefore, if any man can show just cause why these two may not be lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.

Then speaking to the persons about to be married, the Man standing at the Woman’s right hand, the Minister shall say:

I require and charge you both, as ye will answer before him who knoweth the secrets of all hearts, that if either of you know of any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it.

If no impediment be alleged, the Minister shall say to the Man, addressing him by his Christian name:

M. wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, so long as ye both shall live?

The Man shall answer:

I will.

The shall the Minister shall say to the Woman, addressing her by her Christian name:

N. wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, so long as ye both shall live?

¶The Woman shall answer:

I will.

If the giving away of the bride be omitted, after the answer of the Woman, I will, the Minister may say: In testimony of the purpose mutually expressed, let your Troth be given to each other.

Then shall the Minister say:

Who giveth this Woman to be married to this Man?

Then shall they give their Troth to each other in this manner: — The Minister, receiving the Woman at her father’s or friend’s hand, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and say after him as followeth:

I M. take thee N. to my wedded 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, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance: and thereto I plight thee my troth.

The shall they loose their hands, and the Woman, with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Minister.

I N. take thee M. to my wedded 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, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance: and thereto I give thee my troth.

The Minister, having received the Ring from the Man, shall deliver it back to him, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand. This being done, and the married persons again joining hands, the Minister shall say:

This Ring is consecrated as the token and pledge of your mutual trust and affection; and worn upon the hand of the woman becomes the accepted symbol of that spiritual union which it is the office of marriage to secure. And by it you declare yourselves husband and wife, according to God’s holy ordinance.

The Husband and Wife shall severally answer:

I do.

Then the Minister shall say:

Forasmuch as M. and N. have consented together in wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and have thereto have engaged and pledged themselves to each other, and have declared the same, by giving and receiving a ring, I pronounce them henceforth Husband and Wife.

Then the Minister shall join their right hands together,and say:

Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

Then the Minister shall say:

Let us pray.

O Eternal God, giver of all spiritual grace, send thy blessing upon thy servants, whom we bless in thy name. Enable them to perform the covenant which they have now made in thy presence. May they dwell together in peace and love, in holiness and comfort; in the Christian faith, and in the practice of Christian virtues. Bless, preserve, and keep them; fill them with all spiritual benediction and grace; that they may so live together in this life, that daily they may enter into the life everlasting. We ask this in the name, and as the disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

Then the Minister shall say this Benediction:

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Amen. </div>

This form of solemnization of marriage comes from the Gloria Patri Revised (Universalist Publishing House, 1903 and 1913)</div>

The form is the same as in A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home; with Selections from the Psalms. (Universalist Publishing House, 1894), except as follows, with additions in square brackets, and deleted words in bold italics.

If no impediment be alleged, the Minister shall say to the Man, addressing him by his Christian name:

M. wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, [and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her] so long as ye both shall live?

The shall the Minister shall say to the Woman, addressing her by her Christian name:

N. wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, [and forsaking all others keep thee only unto him] so long as ye both shall live?

The Minister, having received the Ring from the Man, shall deliver it back to him, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand. This being done, and the married persons again joining hands, the Minister shall say:

This Ring is consecrated as the token and pledge of your mutual trust and affection; and worn upon the hand of the woman becomes the accepted symbol of that spiritual union which it is the office of marriage to secure. And by it you declare yourselves husband and wife, according to God’s holy ordinance.

¶ The Husband and Wife shall severally answer:

I do.

. . . the man shall say after the Minister:

With this Ring, I thee wed; and with all may worldly goods I thee endow; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Other works consulted in preparing this resource.

Gloria Patri: Prayers, Chants, and Responses, for Public Worship. Universalist Publishing House, 1882. Contains only services for Sunday worship.

A Book of Prayer for the Churches. Abridged edition (of 1894). Universalist Publishing House, 1941. Rites not directly related to congregational worship omitted, including marriage and funerals.