A Letter I Gave to Couples Who Wanted Me to Perform Their Wedding Ceremony

April 26, 2014

When I was a pastor, I had many couples asked me to perform their wedding ceremonies. In fact, one year I officiated at 40 weddings. In case you are wondering, I was really stupid to accept so many invitations.

I am pretty conservative about doing weddings. I see the role of the Christian minister to be narrowly defined regarding when he says “yes” to such opportunities. As a result, I often found myself in some awkward positions when I had to decline to perform the ceremony.

The dilemma became much more palatable when I sent a letter to the prospective wedding couple who inquired about my availability. A lot of the awkwardness dissipated, and a good number of the couples never came to see me. When my assistant received a request from a couple inquiring about my performing a ceremony, she told the couple that she would send them a letter. They were welcome to make an appointment with me after they read the letter shown below.

Dear Prospective Newlyweds,

Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming marriage! I am honored you asked me to perform the wedding ceremony.

Please understand that I perform weddings for couples where both the man and woman are Christians. My role is that of a Christian minister. I am unable to be a part of a wedding where either the husband or the wife will not be fully committed to Christ. The most important foundation of a marriage is the faith commitment of the couple. Both the husband and wife must demonstrate when they meet with me that they profess Christ as their Lord and Savior; and they must share with me the specifics of their Christian testimony. If you are not certain about your faith, I would be happy to share with you what it means to be a Christian.

The Bible also teaches that intimate or sexual relations must be limited to the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Any other sexual relationship is sinful. If you are currently sexually active, you must indicate your desire to repent of your sin. If you are living together, you must be willing to live apart from one another until you are married.

Finally, I must require any couple planning to marry to receive premarital counseling. I have several choices I can recommend to you.

If you are willing to abide by the issues I state in this letter, please feel free to make an appointment with me, so we can determine next steps. Marriage is a God-given institution. It is something to be honored and celebrated. It is a commitment for life. I pray that your marriage will honor our Lord in all that you do and say.

In His service,

Thom S. Rainer

Let me know what you think of my letter. And let me know what your experiences are in weddings and premarital considerations. I bet it could be a lively discussion!

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77 Comments

  • Scott Hescht says on

    I understand not wanting to marry unequally yoked believers, however why not officiate two non-believers? You could warn them that you only marry under God’s blessing, but officiating an unbelievers wedding is to reveal to them the gospel and the sanctity of marriage.

  • Great post! So, my husband and I were one of the couples you speak of in the post. When we got married in 2011, we had a 1 year old son and though we were both raised in the church had walked away from God for some time but around the time of the wedding both of us rededicated our lives to God.

    I’m now on the path to becoming a chaplain but have been asked by close friends and others to ordinate weddings and I’m looking into licensure. Two things: 1) Do you know the best place online or otherwise to become licensed if I’m not a current minister or pastor, and, 2) Have you received any backlash concerning your decision to send out the letter prior to meeting with couples? (I’m thinking of the Christian bakers who refused to bake cakes for a LGBTQ wedding ceremony.)

  • Janet Garner- Mullins says on

    I have been in ministry in ministry for 15yrs and have been asked recently to perform my first wedding. I have some reservations because this young couple have been living together for several years and have children.

    I like the letter and the various comments. Some of the comments help me and some have caused me pause because I have differences of opinion, relative to whether I should send a letter or meet with them first and also, if I should marry persons living together for some many years and then to ask them to break up their family and live apart for several weeks. I will probably use the letter and some of the wonderful insightful comments as a guide to help me along with much prayer.

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