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Ceremony Step by Step



The service begins with the processional, which is the entry of the bride and her attendants into the church, to join the groom and his attendants who will already be standing at the front of the church. The bride and her attendants enter through the main church doors and process down the central aisle, ending at the chancel step.

Music is played as the bride enters the church. Commonly played pieces include:

There may be a combination of two pieces for the entrance: e.g. ‘Canon’ for the entrance of the bridesmaids only, and the ‘Wedding March’ (Wagner) for the entrance of the bride only. For more information about music at the marriage ceremony, advice on inviting other musicians to take part, and to contact the Director of Music at St John’s, go to the Music page.


The service begins with the Preface, read by the Celebrant with the bride and groom and their attendants, and the whole congregation, standing. The Preface sets out the Christian understanding of marriage, drawing on the Christian Scriptures (the Bible), as received by the Anglican Church. The Preface is always included and cannot be omitted or changed – with one exception, in that the reference to “children being born” may be omitted if the couple concerned request that this not be said.

Two forms of the Preface can be used

Second Order Preface

Download the Second Order Preface (contemporary) here.

First Order Preface

Download the First Order Preface


A hymn may be sung at this point, with the congregation continuing to stand. Some common wedding hymns are:


The readings now follow with the congregation seated (the bride and groom and their attendants are also seated at this point). There is always one reading from the Bible.

A collection of readings from the Bible for the wedding ceremony can be downloaded here.

There may be further readings from the Bible, and/or readings from places other than the Bible. These will need to be agreed in consultation with the Celebrant.

The couple being married normally invite one or more family or friends to read the passages selected.


The celebrant will normally give a brief (approximately 5 minute) address at this point in the ceremony, setting out the meaning of marriage and offering words of advice and exhortation to the couple being married. Where the couple being married have an existing relationship with a Priest, Pastor, or Minister from a Christian church other than the Anglican Church, that person may give the homily or address. Please advise St. John’s of any requests to include a non-Anglican Minister of Religion in this way, as soon as possible.


There may be a hymn at this point.
See (4) above for some suggestions.


The bride and groom now return to the front of the church for the marriage. The marriage has four components, each of which is set out below.

(I) The Consent

The question of consent is asked by the Celebrant, addressing the groom and then the bride, in turn. The response is ‘I will’. The congregation are then asked to give their support by saying together, ‘we will’.

N, will you give yourself to N to be her husband,
to live with her according to God’s word?
Will you love her, comfort her,
honour and protect her,
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her
so long as you both shall live?

I will.

N, will you give yourself to N, to be his wife,
to live with him according to God’s word?
Will you love him, comfort him,
honour and protect him,
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him
so long as you both shall live?

I will.

Families and friends,
you are witnesses to these vows.
Will you do everything in your power
to uphold N and N in their marriage?

We will.

(ii) The Vows

The vows are exchanged by the couple with joined hands, facing one another.

I, N, in the presence of God,
take you, N, to be my wife:
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
so long as we both shall live.
All this I vow and promise.

I, N, in the presence of God,
take you, N, to be my husband;
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
so long as we both shall live.
All this I vow and promise.

(iii) The Rings

Both may exchange rings, or the groom may give the bride a ring only. The Celebrant says a short prayer of blessing over the ring/s.

God of steadfast love,
by your blessing,
let these rings (or this ring) be for N and N
a symbol of their love and faithfulness
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As the ring is placed on the finger of the receiver, the giver says:

I give you this ring
as a symbol of our marriage.
May God enable us
To grow in love together.

The receiver accepts the ring by saying:

I receive this ring
as a symbol of our marriage.

(iv) The Declaration

The Celebrant pronounces the declaration, with the bride and groom facing each other, hands joined.

Before God and in the presence of us all,
N and N have joined hands
and made their solemn vows,
promising life-long faithfulness to each other.
In the name of God,
I declare them to be husband and wife.
What God has joined together,
let no one separate.
God the Father lovingly enfold you,
God the Son grace your home and table,
God the Holy Spirit crown you with joy and peace.
The Lord bless you and keep you in eternal life. Amen.

You may now kiss the bride.

(v) Signing the Marriage Certificates

The marriage certificates are signed at a table and chair placed in view of the congregation in the chancel (the area immediately in front of the altar and sanctuary). There are three documents to be signed: the certificate that will register the marriage (which is lodged with the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages), a certificate given to the bride and groom, and the register which remains in the church. Two witnesses are chosen by the couple concerned to witness each of these documents (traditionally these are the Best Man and the Head Bridesmaid or Matron of Honour).

During the signing, music is played. Some couples arrange also for a soloist, musician/s, or choir to perform appropriate pieces. See the Music page for more details about this and to contact the Director of Music.

Some common pieces that may be played during the signing include:

  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (JS Bach), may be instrumental or with choir
  • Ave Maria (Franz Schubert), may be instrumental or with soloist
  • Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod), may be instrumental or with soloist
  • Priere a Notre Dame (Boelmann)
  • ‘The Prayer’ requires a soloist
  • Air from ‘Water Music (GF Handel)
  • Salut D’Amour (Sir Edward Elgar)
  • Canon in D Major (Johann Pachelbel)
  • Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 (JS Bach)
  • Arioso (JS Bach)
  • Andante from Trumpet Concerto (FJ Haydn)


After the certificates have been signed, the bride and groom, together with any others involved in the signing, return to the front of the church for the prayers. The prayers are offered for the newly married couple as they begin their life together as husband and wife. A family member or friend (carefully chosen) may lead the prayers instead of the Celebrant.

The prayers conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, which is said by all.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
for ever and ever. Amen.


There may be a hymn at this point.
See (4) above for some suggestions.


The bride and groom and their attendants, and the whole congregation, stand for the concluding blessing, which is prayed by the Celebrant, pronouncing God’s blessing on the occasion and on all present.


The bride and groom then lead their attendants out of the church, with the congregation following. They may greet immediate family, and others as appropriate, as they leave the church.

Music is played as they make their way out of the church. Some commonly chosen pieces are:

  • The Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Felix Mendelssohn)
  • Hornpipe from Water Music (GF Handel)
  • The Rejoicing from Music for the Royal Fireworks (GF Handel)
  • Hallelujah from Messiah (GF Handel)
  • Tocatta from Fifth Symphony (C Widor)
  • Now thank we all our God (S Karg-Elert)
  • Tuba Tune (CS Lang)


Most weddings at St John’s are between 30 – 45 minutes in length.


Couples being married at St John’s may choose to be married according to a revised version of the Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony from the Book of Common Prayer (published in 1662). This service is very similar to that used at the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Katherine) in April 2011, and has been revised to remove some archaic words and to remove the obligation of the wife to ‘obey’ her husband. The form of the Consent and Vows said by each partner to the marriage are identical. The text of the service is available on request.


(i) Holy Communion

A Marriage service in an Anglican Church may include Holy Communion. This is especially appropriate if one or both of the couple being married are regular churchgoers. If Communion is celebrated, all members of the congregation will be invited to receive communion, not just the bride and groom and/or their attendant parties. There are some practical things to keep in mind when considering the option of including Holy Communion for distribution to all present.

Experience shows that many of the congregation at a wedding will not be regular churchgoers or may come from denominations with different practices to that of the Anglican Church. Because Holy Communion is new to them, or different, they will generally not come forward when the invitation is given to do so.

The couple being married can help by notifying their families and friends that Holy Communion will be celebrated at the service and encouraging them to receive Communion on the day of the wedding.

Anyone who is baptised in any Christian Church may receive Holy Communion in the Anglican Church. Children should also be brought forward with their parents and / or relatives. If children do not usually receive Holy Communion in their home parish, or if they or their parents are unsure, they will be given a special prayer of blessing by the priest.

There are some short congregational responses to be said together during the Communion prayer. These will need to be included in the order of service.

Click here to download the form of the prayers to be included when Holy Communion is part of the marriage service.

The service will be lengthened by about fifteen minutes, depending on the number of Communicants.

(ii) Cultural Traditions

The couple to be married may wish to include a marriage tradition that reflects a treasured cultural practice. Please discuss this with the celebrant at the first meeting. For example, the ‘crowning’ of the bride and groom in some Orthodox services, or the laying of a path of green sprigs in some European traditions, or the giving of the Thali in some Asian traditions. Such requests are usually accommodated by St. John’s in consultation with the celebrant.

(iii) The Unity Candle

The unity candle is a relatively recent addition to many marriage ceremonies and whilst popular in some churches, is discouraged at St. John’s.

(iv) Lighting a Candle of Remembrance

The Paschal or Easter Candle may be lit, usually at the start of the ceremony, in remembrance of a deceased loved one if the couple being married desire this. This is usually done where there has been a recent bereavement. The Celebrant will offer a short prayer as the candle is lit.

(v) Other Requests

Simply let us know your situation and we will advise on how your requests can be accommodated in the context of the Anglican marriage service.


Many couples wish to produce a printed order of service to be handed to guests on the day of the wedding. This is fine, and St. John’s can assist in compiling the order of service. It is important that all couples producing a printed order of service send a draft to St John’s prior to having the order of service printed, so that it can be checked by the Celebrant. It is not necessary to include everything that is said in the printed order of service. Indeed, sometimes it is unfortunate that the congregation are ‘reading along’ with the vows, looking down at their printed booklets, rather than looking up at the bride and groom as they say their vows to one another. St. John’s suggests including only sub-headings to help the congregation follow the service, and any words that all will say together (i.e. the words of the hymns if any, the Lord’s Prayer).

A suggested template can be downloaded here.


Order of Service from A Prayer Book for Australia 1995. Broughton Books by E.J.Dwyer (Australia) Pty Ltd, Unit 13, Perry Park, 33 Maddox Street, Alexandria, NSW 2015. © 1995, The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation. With the Liturgical Psalter, Inclusive Language Version English text © 1995 by David L. Forst, John A. Emerton, Andrew A. Macintosh. Hymns from Together in Song Australian Hymn Book II. © The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd 2006. Registered Office 14 Martin Place (Level 17) Sydney 2000.