A Mormon wedding differs from others in a number of ways, but there are many aspects that will be familiar to just about everyone.
While there is really no “typical LDS wedding,” there are traditions that tend to surround them, even outside areas with lots of Mormons (like Utah, Idaho, California, Arizona, etc.). As you would expect, outside of the United States, culture and custom greatly influence wedding festivities as well
I'll describe typical LDS American wedding traditions below, with the understanding that while they are common, LDS couples are free to have most any kind of wedding festivities they choose.
Most significantly,Â LDS wedding ceremonies are performed in dedicated temples and only those who are members who have taken particular covenants can enter.
The ceremonies themselves are fairly simple and quiet — focusing on the sacredness of marriage vows and the commitment the couple will be making to each other. Mormons believe that marriage can last eternally, rather than “till death do us part.” That's a serious commitment!
Most often an LDS wedding is held in a temple that is close to the bride's family. The temple pictured above (credit to my brother, David Moore, for the amazing photo) is the Salt Lake Temple. May parents were married there, Sam and I were married there, and Jessica and Chuck chose to be married there as well. (There are currently four LDS temples closer to our home, but this one is has special family significance — not to mention that it's really pretty!)
Most typically a temple wedding is held in the morning or early afternoon. This is attended by family and close friends who are also “endowed” — meaning those who have made similar temple covenants. It lasts about 30 minutes and consists of an officiator talking to the couple about their commitments and then “sealing” them, which is much like the marriage pronouncement in any other wedding ceremony. The couple may choose to exchange rings if they like. Some have a “ring ceremony” later with more in attendance.
On a side note, I had an experience when we lived in Boca Raton that is relevant. When Jessica was in kindergarten I was a “room mother” for her kindergarten class at Sandpiper Shores elementary. One day the other moms came to my home to help plan a class activity. When they saw a picture of the temple on our wall, they became instantly impressed. Being so complete inculcated in Mormon culture, it took me some time to realize that it was the cost of renting such a magnificent edifice that had them dazzled.
For the sake of budget disclosure, I need to point out there is no rental fee for getting married in the temple. It's free. Or, as my husband says, “It only costs ten percent of our income for life.” (Given that one of the requirements to enter is being a full tithe payer, by the scriptural ten-percent-of-your-increase rule.)
Other family and close friends stay in a waiting room area in the temple and join up with the wedding party immediately following.Â Generally the wedding ceremony is followed by extensive picture taking on the temple grounds. The grounds are alway beautiful and the bride and groom, families, and various combinations of attendees are photographed by a family member or professional photographers and/or videographers.
After the ceremony, the groom's family will typically host a breakfast, brunch, or luncheon for close friends and family. This usually follows as soon after the temple-ground pictures as is feasible, allowing for changing of clothes and travel to the meal location.
Given that there is really nothing to rehearse for a temple ceremony, this meal generally replaces the typical groom's family rehearsal dinner.
In the evening a reception will be held. This celebration is more akin to the typical American wedding celebration with it's party atmosphere. The receptions are often large events that include many, many guests and even entire families.
LDS receptions very rarely feature a sit down dinner. More typically they will be an open-house style reception, featuring a receiving line to greet guests, food to eat, and often dancing.Usually the refreshments will be hors d'Å“uvres or a dessert bar. I have also seen many that would be like a “champagne and cake reception” — except that Mormons don't drink alcohol (yes, we still have fun), so it's more like a “punch and cake reception.”
Because it's available to members — again free of charge — many LDS families will have the reception in a local ward meeting house “cultural hall.” This room is a large area, usually equipped with a stage and basketball court, that serves wards (congregations) for sports events, plays and performances, classes, general Sunday meeting overflow, etc. Others will rent a local wedding venue for the reception.
When the wedding reception is over, the couple cuts the cake, there is sometimes a garter toss, then the bride throws the bouquet. The couple then leaves for their honeymoon.
As you can imagine, with the wedding just over three weeks away, the plans are well under way. In the next few weeks I'll be writing about what we've done and what we are doing to prepare for the wonderful event.
As with most other big life projects, there are many ways to make things more enjoyable, efficient, and affordable. As most Mormons already know, a great wedding celebration doesn't have to break the bank or drain the retirement account.
Follow along with us and share your best wedding planning strategies!