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

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!

Posted on April 26, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Tim White says on

    Bro. Rain,
    This letter states clearly the position it took me 8 years to find. I state that if the couple does not seek God first as single/engaged persons, they will likely not seek God in their marriage.
    May I use your letter (probably reword some of it) for the purpose you used it? I would appreciate your permission or refusal.
    In His service,
    Pastor Tim White

    • Tim White says on

      Don’t know why my “er” didn’t take on my previous email unless I was bitten by spel chek.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Absolutely. It’s for the Kingdom. Anyone can use it.

      • Thank you for allowing us to use this letter.
        I have only preformed one marriage for a couple who left the church soon after the wedding was preformed, even though Christian commitment was discussed in the premarital counseling. When I see them “out and about” it’s always, “We’ll be there next week!” and it has left a feeling of being used by some in the church. I think this letter (with a personalized touch to reflect the pastor who uses it) can be a very helpful tool so the couple and the pastor know the boundaries and expectations upfront so people have to stop and think about their desire to have a Christian marriage ceremony preformed.

  • I love this. Several years ago I created my “wedding rules”. It is a document with my rules for doing a wedding. I make it clear that by asking me to do their wedding, or by having it in our worship center, they are asking God’s blessing on their marriage. I explain that if they want God’s blessing, they have to do things God’s way, and I mention the things Dr. Rainer does in his letter, along with some other rules I have. If they want me to do their wedding, they sign it and bring it back to me. If anyone would like to have a copy of my “wedding rules” feel free to email me at [email protected]

  • Brad Ball says on

    Thanks for this letter. I have always stated these truths in my first meeting with prospective couples. Thanks for posting this because I will tweak this just a little and use it in my ministry. I believe we need to stand up for the covenant institution of marriage because so many do not have a clue about what marriage is to be all about concerning God’s Word.

  • Thank-you for this clear stand. Some years ago, I was contacted by a non-christian couple, aldready living together with several children, to conduct their wedding. Rather than write, I called to fix a meeting with them. At that meeting, my wife and I explained the same points that you describe in your letter. We left them a questionnaire which served as a reminder and included the question, “why do you want to be married in a church?” and left it up to them to contact us. They later told us that they had changed their minds, but I think that this has left the doors open for the future: we were able to receive them kindly with no open rejection.

  • Dr. Rainer,

    I agree with your theological stance, but I handle it a bit differently than what you’ve stated here. Case in point: A couple was referred to me who were not believers and who were living together. They were not a part of our church, but someone from their family was. I called the woman and explained that all I do is based on Scripture. I told them that my counsel would be Biblical and that if they wanted something other than that, there were options other than me available. I agreed to meet with them for one session to discuss parameters of counseling. They agreed. When we met I emphasized what I had said earlier; I indicated that 5 pre-marital counseling sessions were required, along with homework each week. Again, I said that if this was not their preference, that I was not their guy. They agreed.

    During the first session, I shared the Gospel with them. Both surrendered their lives to Christ. Two sessions later, we address pre-marital sexual involvement and living together. I suggested that if they were serious about their faith in Christ, changes were mandatory. Again, they agreed. I did their wedding. They have since been baptized, are in church every week, and are also in my small group.

    If I had followed what you talk about in sending a letter, my guess is that I would have never had the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Had they said “no” anywhere along the path, it would have ended the possibility of me doing their wedding. But they said yes.

    I readily understand the potential of anger from those who might not be willing to follow Scripture. That is true. I just don’t want to give away my evangelism opportunities. One session in person, to me, is the way to go. Then from there, it’s up to the couple to decide what they want to do.

  • Thank you for sharing this! I started doing something similar to this a few years ago and it has saved me many headaches, and, I’m sure, some friendships.

  • Alex Clayton says on


    Thank you for this much needed post. There are two questions that I ask before proceeding with marriage counseling ( which is a must) if I perform the wedding. 1) What is your relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? 2), If you do not have a relationship with God then why do you want me to perform your marriage? In premarital counseling I often hear the reason they are living together is because they can save money? My response is turning to the girl and saying that giving yourself for the price of rent or mortgage is not marriage; it is called prostitution. Young Pastors need to be careful and not fall for the “sin” that if they are living together and get married then everything is alright. If it starts in sin it will be destroyed by sin. Getting married is not the same as repentance and godly sorrow.

  • Hi pastor Thom, in one of your comments, you said yes to limiting marriage to Christians, do you mind to extract a little bit more from your statement?

  • I have not been asked to do anywhere near the number of wedding that you are talking about. But as a pastor of a small church, I try to use a weddings as a way of reaching out to young couples. Before I preform a ceremony, I require the couple to go through marriage counseling. I am the one that does the marriage counseling. This give me an opportunity to get to know the couple better. And during the counseling sessions, I present the Gospel three times and give the couple an opportunity to share there testimony.

    Early in my ministry, I contemplated what should be my requirements before preforming a marriage ceremony. I asked a pastor who had been in the ministry longer what was his thoughts. He said that the couple were going to get married anyway. It would be better for them to have someone share the truth while preparing for the ceremony. This is why I have taken this approach.

    As a result of marriage counseling, I have had people trust Christ as there Savior. This is not always the case, but I have shared the truth with the couple concerning Jesus and His love.

    After 13 years of ministry, I do not know of a couple in which I preformed the wedding ceremony that has gotten a divorce. To God all the glory.

  • Thom,

    This was a breathe of fresh air. This has been my criteria for marrying people as well. The one thing I added was post marital counseling. I have told people I’m not here to do your wedding but to build your marriage.

    Because of this established criteria that I have developed after a couple train wrecks, I haven’t done many weddings and I’m actually fine with it.

    I believe no matter what society says or does, the spiritual bar of marriage needs to be upheld. It’s way too big of a commitment.

    Thank you for sharing, sometimes I have felt like the only one.

  • Interesting policy (sending a letter), and I can see how that would help prevent embarrassing couples sitting in your office. I tell inquiring couples that I’ll need to get the approval of the other elders in our church before agreeing to perform weddings. This safeguards me from making (too many) foolish or uncomfortable marriage decisions by myself (we’ve all been there) while providing some accountability for me. Plus, those guys might see something I totally missed when I’m considering helping a couple. Not sure how this would translate smoothly into a church w/o plurality of elders, but perhaps a leadership team (or deacons) could assist pastors in making these decisions?

    My 2 cents. I appreciate your helpful articles, Thom!