If you decide that you would like to consider being married in church, especially in an Anglican church, you will find that there is a set service which the celebrant is required to use and that the couple are expected to fulfil certain requirements. Some of these are required by law but others are necessary because of our Christian understanding of the meaning of marriage in the totality of God’s plan for his people.
If we have a look at the contents of the Marriage Service we will find that this understanding is quite clearly set out there.
What is Marriage?
In the traditional Preface to the service there are six points made.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ said of marriage that ‘From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no one put asunder.’ (Quotation from Mark 10: 6-9 in which Jesus refers to Genesis 2: 24)
- Marriage is the symbol of God’s unending love for his people, and of the union between Christ and his Church. So Saint Paul teaches that the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church, and that the wife must give due honour to her husband. (See the Epistle to the Ephesians 5: 21-28)
- Marriage should be honoured by all ( Hebrews 13: 4), and is not to be entered into lightly or carelessly, but with reverent and serious respect for those purposes for which it was instituted by God.
- Marriage is a life-long union in which a man and a woman are called so to give themselves in body, mind, and spirit, and so to respond, that from their union will grow a deepening knowledge and love of each other.
- In the joys and sorrows of life, in prosperity and adversity, they share their companionship, faithfulness and strength.
- In marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose, so that children may be born and nurtured in secure and loving care, for their well-being and instruction, and for the good order of society, to the glory of God.
Marriage is Important for the Community
These words are addressed, not just to the bride and bridegroom, but to all those who have come with them to witness their marriage because this is not just a private event which marks the fulfilment of the couple’s love for one another. It is also a proclamation of their intention to become a family which has a significance for the whole community. It is also important for the church because the loving relationship in marriage is the nearest we can come to experiencing the divine love which exists between Christ and his Church.
Marriage is Important for the Couple
Marriage is part of God’s plan for human beings in which the man and woman can grow in love together both physically and spiritually. It is important as they share in the joy of creating new life and caring for their family. As they face life’s challenges it is important that they can do this together, supporting one another no matter what happens, in bad times as well as good times.
To be legally married in Australia a man and a woman must:
- not be married to someone else
- not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister
- be at least eighteen years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one party is aged between sixteen and eighteen years old
- understand what marriage means and freely consent to becoming husband and wife
- use specific words during the ceremony
- give one month’s written notice of their intention to marry to their authorised celebrant.
To be married in church both partners should be baptized members of the church and may be expected to take part in a marriage preparation programme. If a divorced person wishes to be married in a church the local priest may be unwilling to conduct such a wedding service because of Jesus’ teaching about marriage (see above). If he is willing, it will only be possible with the agreement of the Bishop of the Diocese after lodging a formal application.