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Getting married in church

07.06.2021, 18:22
In Finland, weddings are traditionally held in church and officiated by a pastor. Alternatively, you can have a civil wedding and ask for a blessing on your marriage in a church ceremony.
Hääpari papin edessä ylhäältä kuvattuna

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, you can have a church wedding if both of you are members of the Church and have attended confirmation school. A church wedding is also possible if one of you is member of another Christian church or denomination in Finland or of a Christian church abroad.

If neither of you is member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, you cannot have a Lutheran church wedding. The Orthodox Church of Finland and some other churches, denominations, and religious communities can offer church weddings according to their own traditions. If you are a member of such a church, please contact them directly.

If a church wedding is not possible, you can ask for a blessing after you have been officially married in a civil wedding ceremony. In this case, it is not necessary to be church members.

Before you can get married, you have to take care of some official paperwork. You will both need to present a certificate of non-impediment to marriage. This certificate is issued by the authorities and states that there are no legal hindrances to getting married. In Finland, you can apply for an examination of impediments to marriage through various channels of the church and through DVV (the Digital and population data services agency). If either of you is a foreign citizen, you may need additional documents from your home country. For some countries this may take a lot of time and effort. More information about applying an examination of impediments from this link .

Making your wedding ceremony unique

Every wedding ceremony is unique. You can make your great day reflect your own personalities and personal preferences in many ways. As the venue, you may like the majestic character of Helsinki’s magnificent Cathedral, the modern feel of Temppeliaukio Church (the Church in the Rock), or perhaps prefer the intimacy of Puotila Chapel. But it is also possible to have the ceremony in your home, at the reception venue, or even outside in nature. Together with the church organist, you can choose the wedding music and the hymns for the occasion. (Go here for more about music and hymns for a wedding ceremony.) You can have relatives and friends participate in the music, the readings, and the prayers. It is good to remember, though, that the church wedding is basically a Christian worship service, so you should honour its sacred character. If you have more exotic wishes, you may want to discuss them with the pastor or the organist well in advance. This way, you will avoid last-minute disappointments.

If you are in for something spontaneous and low-key, the Hääyö (“Wedding Night”) or a similar event may be the right thing for you. Just come to the church or chapel with your partner and the necessary documents. You don’t even need a reservation!

The order of service

The service follows a distinct order or liturgy. It includes hymns, prayers, Bible readings, and a short speech by the pastor. The basic order of service is as follows:

I. Gathering

  • Introduction music: mostly a wedding march, possibly followed by a hymn
  • Invocation and words of introduction
  • Psalm reading (optional)
  • Prayer

II. God’s Word

  • Scripture reading: one or more texts from the Bible, read by the pastor or by wedding guests
  • Speech by the pastor

III. Wedding

  • Questions to the couple
  • Ring prayer
  • Vows (optional)
  • Pronouncement of marriage
  • Blessing of the newly married couple
  • Hymn, music or poem (optional)
  • Prayer of intercession. Parents and grandparents, godparents, relatives, or friends may join the pastor in intercession for the couple.
  • The Lord’s Prayer

IV. Conclusion

  • Blessing (Benediction)
  • Dismissal. At this point, the pastor gives the Wedding Bible to the couple.
  • Concluding music: mostly a second wedding march.

The detailed order of service, including suggested Bible readings, prayers, and vows, is found here. It is also possible to celebrate Holy Communion as part of the wedding service.

The blessing of a civil marriage follows the same structure as the wedding service, but it omits the ring prayer, vows, and pronouncement of marriage (see here).