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Do you know the spiritual meaning of these beautiful elements in a wedding? Do you know how they point to the marriage of the Church–the Bride–to Christ? I’ve attended weddings in recent years in which some of the meanings were printed in the wedding program. I felt it added so much to the ceremony to know the spiritual symbolism behind the traditions.
So, I want to share with you the meanings of some of our most common wedding traditions:
First, we need to know that marriage is a covenant, not just a contract. We’ve been studying Genesis in our church, and in chapter 15 we see God instituting a covenant with Abraham. This shows us some of the symbolism we see in a wedding, strangely enough.
Where did the idea of an Aisle come from?
The word “covenant” comes from a word which means to cut. When God made a covenant with Abraham, He made an animal sacrifice, and cut the animals in half and placed the two halves opposite each other, leaving an “aisle” between. That ground in the middle, that path, was considered “holy” ground.
God initiated the unbreakable covenant with Abraham, by walking between the two parts, down the aisle. God also gave Abram a new name: Abraham. If you say these names, you realize that there is an addition of “breath” into the name, and breath is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. (We take Christ’s name when we are saved and become His, and this is the symbolism of the bride taking the groom’s name when married.)
- Seating of the family and friends on either side of the aisle
Family and friends of the bride and groom are seated on opposite sides of the church to symbolize the cutting of the blood covenant. These witnesses—the family, friends, and invited guests—are all participants in the wedding covenant, and many of them have made sacrifices to help prepare the couple for marriage and to support them in their holy union.
- Center Aisle and the White Runner
The center aisle represents the meeting ground, or the pathway between the animal pieces where the blood covenant is established. The white runner symbolizes holy ground where two lives are joined as one by God. (Exodus 3:5, Matthew 19:6)
- Groom Enters First
Ephesians 5:23-32 reveals that earthly marriages are a picture of the church’s union with Christ. God initiated the relationship through Christ, who called and came for his bride, the church. Christ is the Groom, who established the blood covenant first initiated by God. For this reason, the groom enters the church auditorium first.
- White Wedding Dress
The white wedding dress has a two-fold significance. It is a symbol of the wife’s purity in heart and life, and in reverence to God. It’s also a picture of the righteousness of Christ described in Revelation 19:7-8. Christ clothes his bride, the church, in his own righteousness as a garment of “fine linen, bright and clean.”
- Exchanging of Rings
While the wedding ring is an outward symbol of the couple’s inward bond, illustrating with an unending circle the eternal quality of love, it signifies so much more in light of the blood covenant.
A ring was used as a seal of authority. When pressed into hot wax, the impression of the ring left an official seal on legal documents. Therefore, when the couple wears a wedding ring, they demonstrate their submission to God’s authority over their marriage. The couple recognizes that God brought them together and that he is intricately involved in every part of their covenant relationship.
A ring also represents resources. When the couple exchanges wedding rings, it symbolizes the giving of all their resources—their wealth, possessions, talents, and emotions—to the other in marriage. In the blood covenant, the two parties exchanged belts, which form a circle when worn.
Thus, the exchanging of the rings is another sign of their covenant relationship. Similarly, God chose a rainbow, which forms a circle, as a sign of his covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9:12-16)
These and other Meanings of Wedding Ceremony Traditions can be found at this link.
The marriage of a man and a woman and the wedding ceremony have deep spiritual significance! I hope you’ll think of these deeper meanings when you next attend a wedding, and as you remember or plan your own wedding day!