Brief notes on books and resources from various Christian traditions
A Christian Celebration of Marriage: An Ecumenical Liturgy. Prepared by the Consultation on Common Texts. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987. 32 pp.
This liturgy consists of an Order of Service (Gathering, Word of God, The Marriage, Prayers, Conclusion), intended for the minister, followed by an abbreviated version of the order which can be used as a wedding "program." As is often true with ecumenical texts, the eclectic dimension of this service makes it useful for many denominational settings, but it lacks the flavor of a particular tradition.
Christian Marriage: The Worship of God. Prepared by the Office of Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.120 pp. $7.95.
This volume is a very valuable source for all Presbyterian and Reformed pastors. The basic premise of this book is that "the marriage rite is public worship, and it includes affirmations about the nature of worship and marriage that transcends the concerns of one wedding" (p. 83). The first part of the book contains three wedding services ("General Use"; "Based Upon the Lord's Day"; "Recognizing a Civil Marriage"), and a section containing additional formularies and prayers. The second part is a "Commentary on an Order for Christian Marriage." The final section includes a list of music suggestions and an annotated bibliography.
Abingdon Marriage Manual (Revised). Perry H. Biddle. Nashville: Abingdon, 1987.192 pp. $12.95.
Biddle is especially strong in emphasizing the wedding service as a worship service. Therefore, "unless a song can pass the test of music fitting for a Christian worship service, it should be reserved for a social gathering" (p. 96).
The Marriage Manual consists primarily of the services of five denominational wedding services (Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist), with commentary. Biddle is flexible about some issues but insists that "the wedding rehearsal and ceremony are under the sole direction of the minister" (p. 68) He also includes an extended discussion about marrying couples who have already shared board and bed.
Christian Reformed Church. Psalter Hymnal. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1987.
The Psalter Hymnal contains a traditional form, derived largely from the sixteenth century, and a second service, approved by Synod 1979. This service begins with a longish explanation on the "institution and meaning of marriage." The "Pastor's Message" follows the vows and Declaration of Marriage—the only service I've seen that places the message at this point. I assume pastors will feel free to speak their message before the vows. (Interestingly, when this form appeared in an earlier Service Book, the vows of bride and groom were identical; but Synod 1986 revised the form so that the bride's vows again include "I will love you and submit to you…")
Planning a Christian Marriage. M. Lawrence Snow. Nashville, TN (P.O. Box 189; Zip 37202), Discipleship Resources, 1988. 24 pp.
Addressed to the couple, this no-nonsense guide for planning a wedding includes the following: 1. First Things First (general decisions about the wedding); 2. A Service of Christian Marriage; 3. The Wedding Rehearsal; 4. Wedding Checklist; and two Appendices—Suggested Scripture Readings and Suggested Hymns.
Most of the discussion concerns the service of Christian Marriage. Snow walks us through the service, explaining the various components and listing different options. The explanations include mention of divorce (previous divorce of couple or divorced parents), the suggestion that the wedding party might sit down during the "sermon or witness," and the observation that the couple might "go immediately from the church to a hospital room or nursing home to embrace an absent parent or family member" (p. 16). Serving communion as part of the liturgy is listed as a desirable option.
Toward a Christian Marriage. Alvin L. Hoksbergen. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1985.39 pp. $.80.
This compact pamphlet deals with both the wedding ceremony and with Christian marriage and contains the two Christian Reformed forms.
Reformed Church in America. "Order of Worship for Christian Marriage," in Worship the Lord. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987 $3.95
The RCA form is structured as a regular worship service, containing the familiar Approach-Word-Response sequence. The prayers of this service are especially meaningful. The traditional "You may kiss the bride" has been liturgized to "The husband and wife greet each other with the kiss of peace." If the framers of the service were serious about that change, they should have been consistent and extended the "passing of the peace" to the congregation.
The Minister's Marriage Handbook. James L. Christensen. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1985.221 pp, $11.95.
The Handbook will answer most questions one might have about wedding preparations, including floral decorations, (male) minister's attire, common-law marriage, and wedding music. Also included are ten complete wedding services ranging from the traditional Book of Common Prayer service to a "Liberated Service" (This is a day for singing and rejoicing, for balloons and butterflies"). The book is longer on planning details than on reflection, but is nevertheless helpful.
Words for Your Wedding. David Glusker and Peter Misner. San Francisco: Harper, 1986.155 pp. $7.95.
The options in this book are largely denominational. Each part of the wedding ceremony is explained briefly, followed by the forms of five denominations: United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, the American Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Canada. In addition, the author offers several more options under "Contemporary Services."
A number of Roman Catholic books are very thoughtful. However, the strong emphasis on marriage as a sacrament and the highlighting of the eucharist may make these less useful for Protestant readers. But let me list one fine example: