Yep, Scientology Weddings Are Just as Out There as You'd Expect Them to Be

We were up until 2 a.m. researching Scientology weddings because of HBO's unbelievable Scientology documentary, 'Going Clear.' Here's what we found.
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise pose at an event together
rachel torgerson the knot bridal fashion expert
Rachel Torgerson
rachel torgerson the knot bridal fashion expert
Rachel Torgerson
Bridal Fashion Expert
  • Rachel Torgerson is a New York-based journalist and social media professional.
  • Rachel is a Senior Fashion Editor for Cosmopolitan.
  • Rachel worked for The Knot as an Assistant Editor and Editorial Assistant.

Did you watch Going Clear, HBO's riveting Scientology documentary, with your mouth open in utter shock and then go down an Internet rabbit hole for hours afterward? We did too.

Once we learned about founder L. Ron Hubbard, the history of the religion and all of the numerous celebrities (like Tom Cruise and John Travolta) who are members -- not to mention Scientology's involvements in their marriages and divorces (we're talking serious conspiracy theories about the church breaking up couples and playing match-maker with new girlfriends) -- we had to wonder what exactly happens in a Scientology wedding ceremony.

We looked into outspoken activist A-lister Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes (a highly-publicized affair with a Scientology minister in Italy nine years ago) and even into Travolta and Kelly Preston's similar wedding in 1991.

So what's the difference between most wedding ceremonies and a Scientology one?

We present to you 13 of the most incredibly fascinating Scientology wedding facts. (Full disclosure, in case you haven't already guessed -- this article was not formally vetted through any Scientology representatives.)

1. There are five different types of Scientology ceremonies.

Yes, five. They're called Traditional, Informal, Single Ring, Double Ring and Concise Double Ring. Details surrounding these ceremonies are vague, at best.

2. Scientology isn't a recognized religion in all countries.

If a Scientologist wants a destination wedding, they'll have to do some research because not every country will recognize the ceremony. In fact, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had to get married in the U.S. first before their Italian destination wedding. The same goes for John Travolta and Kelly Preston's wedding in France. (They reportedly had to have a second ceremony to validate their marriage, since their first ceremony, which was performed by a French Scientology minister, was in Paris.)

3. Brides wear white dresses and the couple can have attendants like bridesmaids, groomsmen and even flower girls.

Yep, nothing different here. "Brides dressed in white are escorted down the aisle by their fathers," Rev. John Carmichael, the president of the Church of Scientology of New York and the spokesman for 12 churches in New York and New Jersey, told the New York Times in 2006. "They may be attended by bridesmaids and flower girls. Music is a matter of individual choice, there is invariably a celebration of some kind, and many of the promises are familiar: to love, honor and be faithful through life's vicissitudes."

4. The ceremony is commonly followed by a celebration, like a reception.

According to the Reverend, "Our view of marriage and the family is a traditional view, so the wedding ceremony is traditional." Noted!

5. You don't have to convert to Scientology in order to marry.

One big caveat to this point: You're allowed to marry someone who hasn't joined Scientology just as long as they're not a "Suppressive Person." That is, someone who actively doesn't agree with Scientology.

There's even evidence to suggest that in Cruise's wedding to Holmes, where, according to reports at the time, some Roman Catholic blessings were read in respect to Holmes's parents.

6. Questions get really personal once you're married.

Scientologists go through a process called "auditing" regularly, in which an auditor (an interviewer) asks a series of personal questions to each person while they hold onto a device called an "E-meter" that is supposed to measure their thoughts.

Once you're married, the questions get more personal and have to do with thoughts of divorce, infidelity and negative images of your spouse.

L. Ron Hubbard, the religion's founder, came up with some of these questions and disseminated them in a memo in 1962. Some include: "Have you ever used sex as punishment?" "Have you ever regretted getting married?" and "Have you ever felt you were too good for your spouse?" The answers to these questions are recorded by your "auditor" and can allegedly be used against you later, if you defect from the church.

7. Once you're married, Scientology teaches that you will enter into the "Second Dynamic" or 2-D.

The "second dynamic" refers to marriage, sex and procreation. Scientology teaches that there are eight dynamics in life, in order: The self (how to survive as an individual), creativity (everything having to do with creating the family unit, including sex and marriage), group survival, species of mankind (humankind as a whole), life forms (including animals and vegetation), the physical universe (matter, energy, space and time), the spiritual and infinity (which can only be reached after you leave your earthly body).

(And most of us were just worried about these postwedding to-dos.)

8. Scientologists don't condone sex before marriage.

There's an elite group within Scientology called the Sea Org. Members of the Sea Org are held to strict moral standards, which includes no sex or suggestive touching before marriage. "The Sea Org is an elite group and therefore have very high and optimal ethical standards," said Hubbard, in one of his memos from 1978.

9. Divorce is frowned upon, unless the Church of Scientology makes the decision that your spouse is 'Suppressive.'

Well, we can't look to founder L. Ron Hubbard for any clarity on this matter, since he was reportedly married three times and one of these marriages happened while he was actually married to someone else.

All the same, like many other religions, dissolving a marriage is "something that's taken up in a legal court," Rev. Ann Pearce, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology of Washington State told the Times in 2012.

"That's between two individuals, just like anybody of any religion getting divorced," she said, adding, "There's no ceremony recognizing divorce in the Church of Scientology." But according to former church members, couples are sometimes reportedly pressured to use in-house divorce lawyers.

Also, "Scientologists aren't allowed to sue each other," one former church member, Carmen Llywelyn (who divorced her husband, TV personality Jason Lee from the show My Name is Earl) said, because of a policy to contain any public disputes.

10. Scientology ceremonies don't sugar-coat the future.

Scientology ceremonies include references to a wife's beauty fading, sickness and other marital problems and they don't put too much of a positive spin on these things. "We do this strictly in the context of being able to do something about [these common marital issues]," Rev. Carmichael told the Times. "Scientology has workable solutions to life's problems. It is designed with tools people can use to help themselves and others."

By the way, you can find some of these tools on the church's website, where you are shown information on marriage solutions, a dramatic video and courses that offer help -- for a fee.

11. Same-sex marriage isn't condoned.

In Going Clear, Oscar-winning producer and director Paul Haggis says that one of the major reasons that he left the Church of Scientology in 2009 was because two of his daughters are gay. Scientologists were highly involved in California's Prop 8 bill -- the one that shut down the right of same-sex couples to marry.

12. The Double Ring Ceremony follows a seemingly traditional vow exchange.

The Double Ring Ceremony -- the only ceremony the church outlines on its official website follows the traditional call-and-response marriage vows of any typical western wedding. You'll recognize phrases that are close to "in sickness and in health" and "until death do us part" but the biggest difference between typical weddings and Scientology weddings is this core belief of "The ARC Triangle" which is an acronym for Affinity, Reality and Communication -- three things that Scientologists deem very important. During the ring exchange, the minister holds up the two wedding rings between his thumb and forefinger, creating a triangle when they overlap, as a symbol of this core belief.

And for your reading pleasure, the full vow exchange portion of the Double Ring Ceremony is right here: Friends: We are gathered here in the presence of these witnesses for the purpose of legally joining in marriage this man and this woman, (names of bride and groom). If there be any among you who know of any reason why this should not be done, let them now speak, or forever remain silent. (Pause)

All being in accord, we shall proceed. (Groom's name), is your reality of the love you have for (bride's name) such as you will be constantly creating through health and sickness; through adversity as well as good fortune? Can you confront and grant forgiveness for shortcomings as readily as you give praise for all her many admirable qualities? (Answer)

And have you communicated your love to (bride's name)? (Answer)

(Bride's name),have you acknowledged (groom's) love? (Answer)

(Bride's name), is your reality of the love you have for (groom's name) such as you will be constantly creating through health and sickness; through adversity as well as good fortune? Can you confront and grant forgiveness for shortcomings as readily as you give praise for all his many sterling qualities? (Answer)

And have you communicated your love to (groom's name)? (Answer)

(Groom's name), have you acknowledged (bride's) love? (Answer)

Then may I say to you both that through your love together with your agreement upon its reality, and by your communication of these two beautiful truths, you have completed the ARC Triangle, and thereby consummated the only true marriage, which is beyond the power of any individual or group of individuals to add to or detract from in the slightest manner.

However, the law and custom of our society requires that this union shall be made a matter of public acclaim and record. It is my honor to have been selected by you to perform the ceremony. The acceptance of an honor carries with it an obligation of comparable magnitude, and I would be remiss in that responsibility if I failed to attempt a contribution, not to what you have already created, which no one can do, but to the permanency of its continued creation on your future time track.

Man has ever employed symbols to impress upon the mind, wise and important truths, that these symbols might prove an ever-present reminder of the necessity of ceaseless creation of our desires. And I am certain that your one joint desire in present time is that the love you have created shall remain a reality throughout your future years.

Best man, have you a ring? (Answer)

May I have it please? (Receives the ring.)

Thank you.

Bridesmaid (or maid of honor), have you a ring? (Answer)

May I have it please? (Receives the ring.)

Thank you.

(Holding up a ring between the thumb and forefinger of each hand:)

These rings consist of circles, and the circle has been an emblem of permanency to Man since time immemorial. In fact, it represents time and space — which are without ending. I want you to look upon these two emblems and mock-up the ARC Triangle in the center of each.

Have you done it? (Answer)

Thank you.

As long as these emblems remain with you, I want you to see that triangle in their center as a reminder that the reality of their symbolism of permanency will hold true only so long as that triangle remains unbroken. I should like to see you make a pact between you that you will never close your eyes in sleep on a broken triangle. Heal any breach with the reality of your love through communication. If you will do this, these emblems of your greatest desire in present time will remain a reality throughout your future time track.

Let us proceed. (Groom's name), will you take this ring and with these words, place it upon (bride's name)'s finger.

"With this symbol of my love" (Answer)

"I take thee, (bride's name)," (Answer)

"As my true and lawful wedded wife" (Answer)

"I pledge thee to keep this love" (Answer)

"Ever living, ever real." (Answer)

(Bride's name), will you take this ring and with these words, place it upon (groom's name)'s finger.

"With this symbol of my love" (Answer)

"I take thee, (groom's name)," (Answer)

"As my true and lawful wedded husband" (Answer)

"I pledge thee to keep this love" (Answer)

"Ever living, ever real." (Answer)

And now, in the name of the Church of Scientology and by virtue of the powers vested in me by the state, I declare you, (groom's name), and you, (bride's name), to be truly and legally, husband and wife. I will ask that you seal this ceremony with your lips. (Wait for the kiss)

And I will ask these witnesses present to join me in blessing this ceremony with the postulate that the trust and love of the present shall become ever stronger with each passing year. (Pause)

Did you do it? (Answer)

Thank you. (Be the first to congratulate them both, and the first to address the bride as Mrs.)

--L. Ron Hubbard

13. The 'Traditional' Scientology wedding ceremony is rooted in ancient gender norms from the '50s.

The "Traditional" Scientology wedding ceremony is a little different. For starters, it's heavy on gender stereotypes -- we're talking girls making dinner and guys straying in fidelity -- and some other... odd things.

Let's just say one vow dictates to the groom that he should be prepared to get his wife a cat, if she wants one. Yeah, you read that right -- a cat-vow.

Some reported highlights from the Traditional wedding ceremony, below: Now, (groom's name), girls need clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat. All caprice if you will, but still they need them.

Hear well, sweet (bride's name), for promise binds. Young men are free and may forget. Remind him then that you may have necessities and follies, too.

The groom then promises to "keep" the bride, "well or ill," and is also asked, "And when she's older, do you then keep her still?"

The minister then tells the bride, "Know that life is stark and often somewhat grim, and tiredness and fret and pain and sickness do beget a state of mind where spring romance is far away and dead."

She is then asked if she is willing to "create still (the groom's) health, his purpose and repose."

The groom is then told that he shouldn't leave his wife in search of solutions, and the minister says, "Take thy own even though they sleep beneath foul straw and eat thin bread and walk on pavement less than kind."

There you have it -- everything we could possibly find on Scientology weddings. Take it all with a grain of salt. The Church of Scientology keeps most of their traditions and ceremonies under lock and key (and purse strings) and plainly states the following on their website: "Marriage is well on the way to becoming a failed institution."

We hope that's not true!

Sources: The Double Ring Ceremony; What Is the Scientology Wedding Ceremony; For Scientologists, Divorce Is No Simple Matter; For Mrs. Cruise, Perhaps a Cat; Sex and the Scientologist: From the Desk of L. Ron Hubbard; Paul Haggis Supports Leah Remini After Departure From Scientology

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