Putting Together a Methodist Wedding Ceremony Program

Everything you need to know for a Methodist wedding ceremony program.
Elisabeth Davies
by Elisabeth Davies
Updated Sep 11, 2021

In the United Methodist Church, weddings are seen first and foremost as a service of worship. Christian marriage is not a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, but those who choose to marry enter into "a sacred covenant reflecting the Baptismal Covenant," according to the The United Methodist Book of Worship. Methodists believe that baptism marks the beginning of a lifetime of growing as a follower of Christ and entering into a covenant with God. Marriage is seen as a reaffirmation of that covenant.

The wedding planning of a Methodist wedding is very much an in-house affair. While a wedding coordinator or planner may be used by the couple, many aspects of planning the wedding service happens between the couple and the officiant. Whether the wedding service will take place in a chapel, sanctuary, or fellowship hall is also discussed, as well as any use of the church facilities or church property. Music selections are also decided between the couple and the organist from an approved list, and the couple is required to meet with the pastor who will be officiating the ceremony for premarital counseling prior to the wedding service.

Many of the elements of a Methodist wedding ceremony are usually familiar to most wedding guests who've attended other traditional Western wedding ceremonies. However, there are some unique aspects and wedding policies with a UMC wedding ceremony that set it apart. In a Methodist wedding ceremony, guests are not seen as passive witnesses but active participants, and therefore required to participate in the wedding day. There are also no alcoholic beverages served at a UMC wedding or wedding reception, which may be unusual for some guests.

It might be a good idea to outline these points, and some of the basic parts of the ceremony in your wedding program along with examples of the verbiage being used so that non-member guests know when they are asked to participate and what they should say.

What To Include in a Methodist Wedding Program

Methodist wedding ceremonies have two specific outlines for the wedding order of service, one traditional and one contemporary. The contemporary vows order of service is more involved, with more congregation call and response. The traditional order of service is more straightforward and shorter. Here is a brief rundown of what is included in both versions.

Service of Christian Marriage Vows - Traditional Vows

1. The Entrance
- The Gathering
The congregation enters and takes their seats, accompanied by the organist, a soloist or instrumental music. At the end of the processional, the congregation stands as the groomsmen, bridesmaids and flower girls proceed down the aisle.

- The Greeting
The pastor welcomes the congregation in the sight of God to bless the Christian marriage.

2. The Declaration of Intention
- Declaration By The Man and The Woman
The couple will express their intention to be married in the sight of God and the congregation.

- The Presentation
The father of the bride or the presenter gives away the bride.

3. The Marriage
- Exchange of Vows
Solemn vows are exchanged between the couple led by the pastor.

- Blessing and Exchange of Rings
Rings or other gifts that are blessed by the pastor and exchanged.

-Declaration of Marriage
The pastor wraps or places their hand on the couple's joined hands and pronounces they are husband and wife. The lighting of the unity candle may take place this time. The center candle in a three-prong candelabra is lit with the flame of the two outer candles, symbolizing the two lives of the bride and groom coming together.

- Blessing of the Marriage
A blessing is said by the pastor over the couple asking God to look graciously upon them and their new life together.

- Holy Communion
If the couple wishes Holy Communion be observed, then everyone in the congregation will take part.

- The Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is recited by the congregation.

- Sending Forth
Dismissal With Blessing
The pastor asks God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost to bless the congregation.

- Going Forth
Recessional hymns may be sung or played as the couple, the members of the wedding party and the guests leave. Birdseed may be tossed by the congregation outside the church building as the couple leaves.

Service of Christian Marriage Vows - Contemporary Vows

1. The Entrance
- The Gathering
The congregation enters and takes their seats, accompanied by the organist, a soloist or instrumental music. At the end of the Processional, the congregation stands as the groomsmen, bridesmaids and flower girls proceed down the aisle.

- The Greeting
The pastor welcomes the congregation in the sight of God to bless the Christian marriage.

2. The Declaration of Intention
- Declaration By The Man and The Woman
The couple will express their intention to be married in the sight of God and the congregation.

- Response of The Families and The People
The pastor asks the families of the couple and all the guests in attendance if they bless marriage. The congregation will respond that they do.

- Proclamation and Response
Selections of scripture are read by witnesses to the marriage, a sermon is given by the pastor or both. This may be intermingled with readings of Psalms or the singing of hymns.

- The Presentation
The father of the bride or the presenter gives away the bride. The pastor will ask the congregation to care for and uphold the couple in marriage. The congregation responds that they will.

- Prayer
A prayer is offered asking God to bless the people in attendance and guide them with his Holy Spirit.

3. Proclamation and Response
Readings, songs, Psalms, or canticles may proceed in any order.

- Scripture Lessons, Hymns, Psalms or Canticles
Certain selections from the scriptures may be read or talked about by people close to the couple.

Songs, Psalms, or canticles may be sung or recited by members of the congregation or by chosen people.

- Sermon or Witness to Christian Marriage
A sermon and possibly an intercessory prayer may be said by the pastor or by all in the congregation.

4. The Marriage

- Exchange of Vows
Solemn vows are exchanged between the couple led by the pastor.

- Blessing and Exchange of Rings
Rings or other gifts that are blessed by the pastor and exchanged. The lighting of the unity candle may take place this time. The center candle in a three-prong candelabra is lit with the flame of the two outer candles, symbolizing the two lives of the bride and groom coming together.

- Declaration of Marriage
The pastor wraps or places their hand on the couple's joined hands and pronounces they are husband and wife. The congregation may or may not sing a hymn at this point. A prayer for the church and the world may also be said.

- Blessing of the Marriage
A blessing is said by the pastor over the couple asking God to look graciously upon them and their new life together.

- Holy Communion
If the couple wishes Holy Communion be observed, then everyone in the congregation will take part.

- The Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is recited by the congregation.

- Dismissal With Blessing
The pastor blesses the couple that Christ may abide in their home. The pastor then asks the congregation to bear witness to the love of God in the world.

- The Peace
The pastor offers peace to the congregation, who respond "and also with you."

- Going Forth
Recessional hymns may be sung or played as the couple, the members of the wedding party wedding party and the guests leave. Birdseed may be tossed by the congregation outside the church building as the couple leaves.

Methodist Wedding Program Wording Examples

The Response of the Families and People

The United Methodist Church outlines a few variations for the vows exchanged between the couple, but the call and response of the contemporary vows should be included in your wedding program.

Two examples of how you might word the response of the families and people are as follows:

Example 1:

Pastor to Family Members or Representatives
The marriage of [Name] and [Name] unites their families and creates a new one. They ask for your blessing.

Family Response
We rejoice in your union, and pray God's blessing upon you.

Example 2:

Pastor to Family Members or Representatives
Do you who represent their families rejoice in their union and pray God's blessing upon them?

Family Response
We do.

The Lord's Prayer

Because The Lord's Prayer may be spoken by the congregation, you might include it in your wedding ceremony program for those who might not be familiar with it.

The Lord's Prayer for The United Methodist Church is as follows:

The Lord's Prayer
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 this 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,
for thine is the kingdom,
and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

Where to Buy Methodist Wedding Programs

When it comes to actually designing and printing Methodist wedding programs, you must first consider how customized you want the programs to be. If you're looking for a ready-to-go semi-custom option, customizable options ready for purchase are aplenty on The Knot. However, if you're looking for a totally custom and personalized option, then it's a great idea to partner with a stationery vendor who can design all your paper needs, from wedding invitations to programs, for you. To find a great local vendor for the task, peruse The Knot Marketplace.

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