As someone who recently planned their own wedding, I had to ask myself this very question; should Christians only get married in the church? Of course I want to honor God with my marriage, and that includes the wedding day, so I needed to find an answer to this question.
Should you get married in your local church? Getting married in your local church is not a Biblical command, however including God in the holy covenant of your marriage is very important. This is due to the fact that God created marriage and wants to be apart of the covenant. The Catholic Church requires marriage to be in the local church but this is not supported by any Biblical text. Having a civil recognition (if culturally correct), as well a recognition from the church body is Biblical.
To explore this topic further, we will look to what Scripture says about marriage and the local church, as well as other considerations and a pros and cons list.
What The Bible Says About Getting Married in the Local Church
The Bible is very clear about marriage; it is ordained by God, it is a representation of Jesus and the Church, and it is a covenant in which God is apart of. However, the Bible does not explicitly say whether one must get married in the church building. Additionally, throughout the texts you will not find it a necessity to get married in the local church.
There are many Scriptures that teach Christians to hold marriage with utmost respect, and we should make our covenant known to the society around us. Often times, in many cultures and societies, this means marriage through civil union. Furthermore, as believers in Jesus, we are to follow what the Scriptures say about marriage.
There is a great deal of verses about marriage in the Bible. I will list a few below.
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Ephesians 5:25: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”
Mark 10:9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Ephesians 5:25-33: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, …”
Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the Lord.”
1 Peter 3:7: “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.”
Proverbs 31:10 “A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.”
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.“
Is It Required for Christians to get Married in the Local Church?
The answer to this question will vary depending on which source you look for answers. While the Bible may say one thing, the Evangelical or Catholic church may say another. Since we have learned that the Bible does not require marriage in the local church building, let’s look at what the Evangelical and Catholic church says.
The Evangelical Church
Most Evangelical churches would advise Christians to be married by a priest, pastor, or preacher; basically a person who is recognized as a leader with authority in the church. It is also typical to have Christians as witnesses of your holy matrimony because they are aware of what marriage truly means to God and of the covenant that is being made.
Therefore, the church building is not necessary for an evangelical wedding.
The Non-Evangelical Church
In an article titled “A Reformed Understanding of Marriage”, the ceremony of marriage is described in this way, “The distinctive contribution of the church in performing the marriage ceremony is to affirm the divine institution of marriage; to invoke God’s blessing upon those who enter into the marital relationship in accordance with his word; to hear the vows of those who desire to be married, and to assure the partners of God’s grace within their new relationship.”
In no way is the wedding ceremony required to be in the church according to this description.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church views marriage as a holy sacrament of the church. They also believe that the church building is considered sacred, therefore, Catholics will not get married outside of the church building.
How The Church Should View Marriages Outside of the Church Building
Since we have found that the Bible does not require marriage inside of a church building, believers should not view Christian marriages as legitimate, as long as both the man and wife are believers and that they followed martial-cultural norms so that their marriage will not be questioned by the public.
The Pros and Cons
Now that we understand that getting married in the local church is not required, we have the freedom to explore and choose what is right for our wedding day. Below is a list of the pros of getting married in the church and the cons of not doing so. We hope that this will help you to make your decision with a little more ease.
Pros of Getting Married in the Church
- It is very evident that God is recognized as a part of your marriage.
- It is a statement of faith in God.
- A clear message of honoring your faith and the sacred space of a church.
- Most people would agree that churches are beautiful, so this is a plus for most couples.
Cons of Not Getting Married in the Church
- If you do not regularly attend church, it may be difficult to find a church to get married in.
- May be sending a cultural message that you are not involving the Church in your marriage covenant.
- You may lack the traditions of getting married in the church (communion, worship, etc).
Do I have to be a Church Member to Get Married in the Church?
This largely depends on the Church that you would like to get married in, as each church has different guidelines on weddings.
Catholic churches will only marry their own members, as long as one of the newlyweds blog to the church. A priest will marry a non-christian with a catholic inside of the church, however.
Most Baptist churches do not require membership in order to be married in the church, however, Baptists have stated “…Neither do we think it allowable that any of us should enter into marriage outside the Church of God, with wicked, unbelieving or carnal men” (ERLC.com). However, this quote was found from a 16th-century document and may have changed since.
Each church, no matter the denomination, may have different policies. So contact your church to find out the best option for you.