Members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), often referred to as Mormons, have wedding traditions that are deeply rooted in their religion. The ceremony and festivities are often focused on the Church and the couple’s dedication to living life for the Lord.
There are two different types of marriage ceremonies that take place in the Mormon faith. The first is known as a “celestial” ceremony to symbolize the “heavenly” nature of marriage and that the marriage is intended to last beyond the grave and through to eternity.
For a celestial marriage, the couples must undergo a “sealing ceremony” performed by a priest in the Mormon temple, in private with only the couple, which proverbially seals the couple together and to their commitment to God. A temple sealing is considered one of the highest honors in the church. Children can also be sealed to their parents in a similar ceremony. It’s believed by members that a marriage that is not “sealed” will end at death as in the traditional wedding vow, “’til death do us part.”
The Mormon temple wedding ceremony is performed in front of the couple's family, friends, and fellow church members, and generally lasts about thirty minutes. This is more like a typical church wedding service you see in other faiths but there are some specifications that are unique to LDS culture. Guests of a temple ceremony must have a current “temple recommend,” which is a small card that demonstrates they have been found by the priest to be worthy of entering the House of the Lord. Most temples have waiting rooms available for guests who do not have a “temple recommend” to stay in until after the ceremony is over. No cameras are allowed in the church. Neither are candles, flowers, or music. The intent is that the couple focuses on dedicating their lives to God and to each other rather than on overt pageantry or partying. Brides must not cover their hair with a veil or hat, and their dresses must cover the shoulders.
A reception usually immediately follows the temple ceremony and any family member or guest, Mormon or not, can attend. Some couples opt to have a “ring ceremony” at the reception because the exchange of rings is not included in the sealing ceremony, and guests who may not have been allowed access into the temple can witness this special part of the day. The reception can be held at whatever type of venue the couple chooses. Music, dancing, decor, and photography are permitted during the reception, but alcohol is not. After the reception, or in lieu of, some couples host a less formal “open house” in one of their parent’s homes where guests and well-wishers can visit with the couple and family throughout the day and partake in light food and non-alcoholic drinks.
LDS members can opt for a civil ceremony outside of the church that is still officiated by a Mormon bishop or priest, but may take place at an alternate venue such as a park or banquet hall. However, this type of ceremony is not considered official by the church and the only true way to be married in the eyes of the church is to be sealed in a Mormon temple. Couples who choose this option may not have obtained their “temple recommend” and will have to wait until both are true members of the church to be sealed.
If you have been invited to a Mormon wedding celebration, expect that if you are not a member of the LDS church, you will not be allowed to witness the ceremony but will be able to participate in other activities. You should dress modestly and women should be sure to cover their shoulders and wear skirts or dresses hitting below the knee. Also, all parties surrounding the event will be non-alcoholic and possibly caffeine-free. Gifts for the couple are permitted and, like most couples, registries are a good place to start when choosing a wedding present for a Mormon couple.
Mormon weddings are rich in history and tradition, and are becoming increasingly popular as many Americans are drawn to this religion.