Author: Mavis ElliotBlessings are wonderfully flexible. They are a great way to inject a religious dimension into an otherwise fairly secular occasion, but they don't have to be religious. A blessing can take the form of a self-contained ritual that you can tailor to fit your own requirements perfectly. what does a blessing involve?
A blessing is a short ceremony that takes place after the official marriage ritual. This is normally a civil wedding as a religious ceremony generally includes the blessing as a matter of course.
Unlike the marriage itself, a blessing is not legally binding - it's a more spiritual way of symbolising the strength of your commitment to one another. It's like a seal on the relationship.
A blessing usually involves a reading, hymn or song and a prayer. You could include traditional wedding music, too, or something that has special meaning for the two of you - there's lots of scope for making the ceremony your own. For example, Anne and James got married in a register office and then had a blessing a few days later on the Cornish cliffs. Their blessing made no reference to religion - it talked about love, honesty and, above all, commitment.
If you're going for a formal religious blessing, it must be performed by a priest. This will normally take place in a church, though some priests are more flexible about venues.
The bride is not escorted into the church or venue or given away by her father - bride and groom enter together, as husband and wife.
Why have a blessing?
In the case of interdenominational or inter-faith couples, it's often tricky to satisfy the demands of both religions. One good compromise is for the couple to be married in one religious tradition and have a blessing in the other.
As Catholics are not allowed to re-marry in church, divorcees often opt for a blessing. It is usual for divorced Catholics to get married in a register office and then have a blessing later in the day or a few days afterwards in church.
Couples often consider a blessing to be a way of re-affirming their commitment at the beginning of their new life together. You can have as small or large an audience as you like or it could just be the two of you.
When do you have a blessing?
There is no time limit on when you can have a blessing. It's customary for it to happen very soon after the wedding, usually on the day itself, but some couples prefer to have their marriage blessed several days after the wedding.
If you're getting married in a church, a separate blessing ceremony is not usually performed, but that doesn't mean it's not allowed - talk to your minister about this.
It's also possible to have a blessing as part of a register office wedding. If this appeals to you, have a word with your Registrar.
For couples planning a small civil ceremony, a blessing gives you the opportunity to involve more of your friends and family if there wasn't room for them at the marriage venue. For example, Nina and David are getting married quietly in a register office, and then having a huge blessing at Westminster Abbey with a thousand guests! Make an appointment to visit the vicar of the church and parish you wish to marry in.
Organising a blessing
The first thing you need to do is speak to the person you want to give the blessing. They should be a recognised official of whatever church or tradition you favour. Explain exactly what you want and discuss how best to go about it. Remember, blessings don't have to be conventionally religious - you can put your own stamp on them. Linda and Stephen got married in a civil ceremony and had a blessing in their garden given by a member of a Pagan order.
When it comes to what to wear, it generally depends when the service is taking place. Immediately after the wedding, and the bride will be wearing her wedding outfit, the groom in morning dress or a suit. Alternatively, if the marriage took place in a register office in smart clothes, the bride may wish to change into a 'traditional' dress for the service of blessing. There are no hard and fast rules, so it's up to you to create the memories that you want to have in the years to come. What could be nicer!
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