A wedding ceremony for couples of the Lutheran Church can differ depending on the branch of the church. One thing the branches of the Lutheran Church share is recognzing the wedding ceremony is a sacred worship service of God.
Lutheran Denominational Wedding Services
Although Lutheranism is one denomination of Christianity, several branches of the Lutheran church share fundamental disagreements. Three of these branches include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American (ELCA), Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).
Due to their differences, the service and message at a wedding for each may differ. Despite their differences, however, all three of these branches agree on one thing: a wedding is primarily a worship service. Lutheran weddings focus on services that praise God and sanctify the marital union. Most Lutherans believe in reserving socializing and celebration for the wedding reception, leaving the ceremony a time for worshipping God and honoring the marriage.
Components of a Lutheran Wedding Ceremony
Lutheran weddings usually begin with a prelude. Lutheran hymns are played on musical instruments and this time gives worshippers a time to reflect on their faith. Following the prelude is the wedding processional.
Due to the differing views of each Lutheran denomination, the actual order of service and words spoken varies from church to church. This also depends on the service each pastor follows, usually outlined in the church's worship book, hymnal or supplemental materials. While they do differ, most Lutheran weddings do perform weddings in a similar manner.
Invocation or Greeting
After the processional, the pastor greets the bridal party and guests to the worship service. Parental consent is given during this time, should the bride, groom and pastor wish to include it in the ceremony. An opening prayer, suitable for a wedding ceremony, is often included as well.
Because a Luteran wedding is a worship service, scripture readings are included. Usually shorter than a typical Sunday reading, they are wedding Bible verses that offer insight into God's view of love and marriage. Pastors usually have a list of suggested scripture verses from the Bible, which might include:
- John 2: 1-10, depicting the wedding at Cana
- Song of Solomon 8:7, speaking about unquenchable love
- Colossians 3:12-17, about living in love and thanksgiving
- Matthew 19: 4-6, which speaks about marriage faithfulness
The wedding sermon, like the scripture reading, is shorter than a typical worship service sermon. The pastor bases it on the previously read Bible verses. Depending on how well the pastor knows the couple, he or she may personalize the sermon for the particular couple's circumstances or experiences in life.
The vows read are usually those found in the worship book in the order of marriage service. Couples who wish to write original wedding vows should discuss it with their Lutheran pastor to find out if they will allow it. The pastor may need to approve the personalized vows before the ceremony.
Exchange and Blessing of the Rings
The Lutheran pastor blesses the rings and the couple exchanges them, reciting words found in the marriage service.
Pronouncement of Marriage
The pastor pronounces the couple married. In some services, the pronouncement is just before the benediction or blessing.
Wedding prayers are an important part of the Lutheran wedding. The pastor usually leads with a prayer dedicated to the praise of God and Jesus and their guidance for the couple's married life, finishing with the Lord's Prayer. The entire congregation joins in the Lord's Prayer.
Benediction or Blessing
The pastor blesses the congregation and the couple before the recessional. After the blessing, he or she introduces the newlywed couple. In some churches, the couple seals the marriage with a kiss; however, not all Lutheran churches feel this is appropriate. Discuss this option with the presiding pastor.
Music in a Lutheran Ceremony
Music is often an integral part of a Lutheran wedding ceremony. Usually, the order of service dictates when to play selections. Common times for musical selections include after the greeting, after the sermon and after the exchange of rings.
Churches often have a list of recommended Christian wedding songs for couples. Typically, they discourage or even ban the use of non-Christian songs during the service. Songs, like the service itself, are to worship God and Jesus.
Optional Lutheran Ceremony Inclusions
Lutheran weddings ceremonies might also include a unity candle portion, typically after the exchange of rings. Some services also may have a portion dedicated to signing of the marriage license. Other ceremonies might include a special prayer or poem in honor of those who passed away before the wedding. Discuss these options, along with the rest of the ceremony, with your Lutheran pastor.