Blessing of Civil Marriage
According to Western Christian thought, the ministers of marriage are the two individuals who marry each other. From the point of view of the church, the role of an ordained minister in a marriage service is to pray for God’s blessing on the marriage which the couple ministers to each other. (From the point of view of the state the minister may have other civil functions to perform.) An ordained minister offers the prayer of blessing because he/she is the appointed leader of the congregation assembled for this particular act of worship.
The church recognizes the validity of marriages which have been solemnised in accordance with its understanding of marriage, whether or not the exchange of vows took place in the context of an act of worship at which one of its ordained ministers presided. A civil ceremony at which two people took each other as spouses with the intention of lifelong commitment is a complete and valid wedding. People enter marriage through the forms of civil ceremonies for a variety of reasons: because of cultural differences, to appease families, because they were not practising Christians at the time. Sometimes they later wish to affirm the Christian nature of their marriage by a ceremony which culminates in a solemn prayer for God’s blessing on the marriage.
There is an intimate relationship between the vows of marriage and prayers of blessing which may follow them, even when there is a considerable interval of time between the two events. Nothing that is done in the blessing of a civil marriage should reflect negatively on the original exchange of vows. The blessing of a civil marriage is not a second marriage. The marriage vows should not be repeated.
This service should not be used in contravention of diocesan regulations relating to remarriage after divorce.
Protocol For Use
- The couple shall provide legal documentation as proof that the civil marriage has taken place;
- The couple shall commit to meeting with the priest to discern their reason for seeking a blessing upon their marriage;
- There shall be a minimum of sixty (60) days between the initial request and the blessing;
- At least one of the spouses must be baptised;
- A request for the blessing shall be made to the Bishop;
- The blessing shall be entered in the vestry book and noted as a blessing in the parish marriage register;
- Only priests holding a valid authorisation to solemnise marriages shall be permitted to preside;
- No priest shall be obliged to bless a civil marriage.
This process will be monitored and adapted as necessary.
This liturgy was commissioned by the Bishop in response to a motion passed at the 2007 Synod of the Diocese of Montreal and affirmed by the 2008 Synod.
Be it resolved that this Synod request that the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and that the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes and ministries.