The main service is in the Pastoral Services book
on page 101.
There is also 'An Order for Prayer and Dedication
after a Civil Marriage' and 'Thanksgiving
'An Order for the Marriage of Christians from Different Churches' is published
Many clergy (and indeed increasingly couples coming
for marriage) like to adapt the official services
beyond what is permitted. This is contrary to
Canon Law. With respect to marriage it might
also call into doubt the validity of a marriage.
It must be recognised that the accusation of
being invalid could cause great distress to a
couple even if it is without substance.
According to Halsbury's Laws
The essential parts of the ceremony
have been held to be the reciprocal
agreement of the parties to take each other for wedded wife and
wedded husband till parted by death, the joining
of their hands, and the pronouncement by the clergyman
that they are man and wife.
Presumably therefore, the courts would hold that
no particular texts are required so long as these
features are all present.
The opportunity for the raising of impediment
is also wise since the presence of a genuine impediment
will invalidate the marriage.
The fundamental question
What is marriage?
Three answers are given to the is
1) Marriage is a Sacrament - this
is the Roman Catholic view but is explicitly denied by the Church of England
2) This was the Reformed view and is the view taken in the doctrinal standards
of the Church of England, in particular the Marriage Service in the Book
of Common Prayer which is normative Anglican theology.
3) A relationship which is a more
In English law (see Halsbury above) the assumption
is that the essential part of a valid marriage
ceremony is the making of a covenant.
Common Worship focus
The new service is only a modest development from
the ASB and, as might be expected, does not come
down clearly for any particular view of marriage.
The Marriage Service
- The Welcome
- The Declarations
- The Collect
- The Vows
- The Giving of Rings
- The Proclamation
- The Blessing of the Marriage
- Registration of the Marriage
- The Dismissal
Some changes from the ASB 1980 service
Welcome and Preface
There is a new opening prayer and the Preface has
been re-worked to make it much more contemporary
in its feel.
These are separated from the vows by readings and
sermon. The reason for this is that the declarations
have their root in a separate ceremony of betrothal
which was sometimes held before marriage.
There is a new question to families and friends,
which is good.
The traditional 'Giving
now only referred to in the notes and the Bride's
father, or whoever, is now asked 'who brings...' rather than 'who gives'.
The 'obey' option has been relegated
to the supplementary texts - biblical teaching
is clearly an embarrassment to many.
The woman can go first.
The words at the exchange of rings can be said
There is no option for the groom to have a ring
but not the bride.
In both the ASB and BCP the declaration of God's
blessing on the couple is a short and simple affair.
The assumption is that the deed is done!
In a sacramentalist view this point in the service
assumes much greater importance and is associated
with the epiclesis, or coming down of hte Holy
In the epiclesis of this sacrament the spouses
receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love
of Christ and the Church. (RC Catechism #1624)
From the outset in CW this prayer of blessing
has been much longer and therefore a far more important
in the flow of the service. It has undergone a
variety of revisions.
The closest it came to an epiclesis was:
By the power of your Holy Spirit,
pour out the abundance of your blessing
upon this man and this woman. GS1298B
Reference to the Holy Spirit has been dropped
in the final authorised version of the main service.
There are four alternative blessings and one addition
- presumably so that people can have some variety
the next time they are married!