It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years."
~ Simone Signoret
If there's a topic offering more room for misunderstanding of Scripture than the Trinity and the sovereignty of God combined, it would be marriage.
Though the first question (above) is how marriage should be performed, it implies a query about how to perform the weddings by which marriage is established. Let’s address both.
The Bible (particularly Song of Solomon) describes how couples of ancient Israel were joined in marriage—but Scripture does not give actual instructions on necessary components of a wedding.
Marriage itself was established when the Lord created Eve, in a passage later quoted and confirmed by Jesus. The verses are most familiar for their use in wedding ceremonies:
But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.... Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said:
"This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
~ Genesis 2:20-24 (NKJV)
The Bible goes on to say a great deal about how men are to treat their wives. Several places address women about their attitude toward husbands. Throughout Old and New Testaments, it is clear that God established marriage as a most sacred institution, and that He thoroughly abhors adultery and divorce. Reverence of marriage is emphasized as a portrait of the covenant relationship the Lord makes with His people.
Who has authority to validate marriage?
Marriage between a man and woman is the family institution which stabilizes civilizations, and societies in which marriage breaks down also crumble, so the state is one entity with a reasonable interest in establishing marriage, where no church sanction is sought. However ...
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
~ Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV)
The man and woman who respect God do well to ask the counsel and blessing (officiating) of church authority. Responsible church leaders of all denominations will actively guide couples to neither enter nor exit marriage without the most serious consideration.
I am aware that the Roman Catholic Church goes beyond offering counsel, and that it denounces marriage by Catholics performed “outside” the church. However, since I consider the Bible the first and final authority on matters of faith, I suggest that a valid marriage covenant is established when a man and woman:
• reverence marriage as a permanent relationship established by God;
• exchange formal vows before witnesses; and
• give themselves to one another in physical union.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source: luxeproductionsnw.blogspot.com