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 Issues | Liturgy | Comon Worship Marriage


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 for Marriage'.
'An Order for the Marriage of Christians from Different Churches' is published separately.

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 of England:
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 qeistion.

1) Marriage is a Sacrament - this is the Roman Catholic view but is explicitly denied by the Church of England (see Article 25)
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 modern focus.

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
  • Preface
  • The Declarations
  • The Collect
  • Readings
  • Sermon

The Marriage

  • The Vows
  • The Giving of Rings
  • The Proclamation
  • The Blessing of the Marriage
  • Registration of the Marriage
  • Prayers
  • 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.

The Declarations
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 away' is now only referred to in the notes and the Bride's father, or whoever, is now asked 'who brings...' rather than 'who gives'.

The Vows
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 together.
There is no option for the groom to have a ring but not the bride.

The Blessing
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 Spirit.
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!


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Common Worship
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