MARRIAGE PROCEDURE IN THE CHURCH
Romans 12: 4-8; 1 Corinthians 3:5-11
The Marriage Committee is fulfilling a role which is as necessary for the perfecting of the body of Christ as preaching of sermons. It is therefore necessary for all and sundry to be conversant with the role of the committee in our church setting. In this session, we are going to look at the functions of the Region marriage committee in the Marriage process in the Church. This is necessary especially to enable intending couples see the committees in the right perspective as helpers of their course and not just a hurdle to overcome. Such understanding, we believe, will inspire confidence in the candidates and make for good interaction with the committees. On the part of the committee, their work becomes easier and is better placed to give the help they are meant to render to every seeker that comes before them. The Marriage Committee handles all Marriage matters in the Group or Region. Its main Functions include:
- Giving of help and assistance to unmarried brethren in their marriage plans from the day such brethren register with the committee, God’s leading in the area of Marriage, until the Marriage is consummated.
- Supervising Marriage processes in the Group or Region while keeping to our uniform practice and Bible Standards.
- Providing necessary counseling to intending couples, assisting newly wedded couples, and families that may be having marital or family challenges. The Marriage Committee’s function of overseeing the Marriage process in the Church will be examined in the following five stages.
- REGISTRATION, INTERVIEW, MEDICAL TEST AND PARENTAL CONSENT.
- DOWRY PAYMENT/ ENGAGMENT
- REGISTRATION AT THE MARRIAGE REGISTRY
- PHYSICAL & MATERIAL PREPARATION BEFORE CHURCH WEDDING
- REGISTRATION, INTERVIEW, MEDICAL TEST & PARENTAL CONSENT
The Marriage Committee ensures as much as is humanly possible that the salvation of those who come to the Committee is genuine before dealing with their Marriage cases; where there is doubt, to lead such to the experience and contact the Pastor of the person concerned so as to help him / her further before attending to the issue of his / her Marriage. The Committee ensures that only marriageable sisters are seen by the intending brothers who should equally be matured enough for marriage.
After Praying to know the will of God, a brother or sister should first see the leader of his/ her local church who would refer him/ her to the Marriage Committee after proper counseling. When coming to the Marriage Committee for the first time, he/she should come with 2 (two) recent passport photographs and file folder, He/She is then giving an appropriate form to fill .The questionnaire would request detailed information about the Christian life, evidence of God’s leading, state of preparedness, etc. of the candidate. Immediately after completing the questionnaire, such candidate is sent for Medical test. The Marriage Committee Chairman or secretary signs the back of one of the submitted passports and attaches it to the Medical request slip to be taken to the GP by the candidate. The result will be sent directly to the Marriage Committee from the GP (The candidate will need to sign consent for disclosure of medical result to a third party). Thereafter, the Marriage Committee will interview the brother or sister for the correctness or otherwise of his declaration. The Marriage Committee is usually careful not to scare or intimidate the candidate in any way.
A sister who is of age, free and ready for Marriage must pray and hear from God before giving the reply directly to the brother who proposed to her. She is requested and reminded to be polite, courteous, very plain and clear while giving her answer to the brother. Where more than one brother has come to the Marriage Committee for a sister, they are sent in the order of first come first to go‘. Permission to go can only be given to the next brother when it is confirmed that the sister has concluded praying on the previous brother sent and that her answer is negative.
Where many brothers are on queue to see a particular sister and she is not coming up with the will of God, the Marriage Committee can intervene and stop any other person being sent. The sister is then invited and advised to go and pray to determine God’s will. If she comes up with the name of one of the brothers amongst those on the waiting list, he is automatically sent to see her no matter his number on the queue provided there was no pre-arrangement between them. On the other hand, if she is led to someone who has himself not come up to see the Marriage Committee on her behalf and such a brother is free to marry, the sister should be allowed to see him.
After a sister/ brother has given her/his consent, the two of them, are invited to see the Marriage Committee to confirm their convictions. The Marriage Committee will listen to the testimony of the sister preferably without the brother listening. They are then advised to seek their parents consent. While they are free to see other relatives if they choose to, it is mandatory to see their parents for their consent. If they need to travel, they are advised to take along one other person who is mature and approved by the Marriage Committee. Whoever is chosen by the intending couples, will see the Marriage Committee or a representative of the Marriage Committee who will enlighten him/ her on the role he/ she will play. He/ she is made to realize the purpose or the necessity of a third party and that he /she is going as a representative of the Church to help the intending couple not to be too close. He or she is not to be the spokesman for the intending couple who ought to have spoken to their parents individually before presenting the would-be suitor. Where the parents are domiciled in another location, a recommendation or support letter will be issued by the host Overseer or his representative.
After parents consent which need not be in writing, is obtained, the intending couple is allowed to enter into a period of courtship. Before commencement, however the Committee gives the intending couple a very comprehensive courtship briefing, instructions, and warnings which they need to adhere to in order to have a successful courtship. During the courtship sensitive issues such as Money Management in the home, Extended family, career and Marriage etc. are expected to be well thrashed out. Courtship meetings should be in private but not in a secluded place. A couple’s house (with more then one room) having children or where people move in and out is ideal. All doors and windows should be kept open during meeting time. Late night meetings are not permitted. Every meeting should be adequately prepared for the meeting can be divided into 2 parts:
- Bible discussion
- Practical Marriage plans
The Bible discussion can simply be exhortations from the Bible which should be rotated between them. After each exhortation, opportunity should be given for questions. The courtship will be for a period of between 6 and 9 months. If in the course of post courtship interview the MC discovers that a sensitive issue has not been thoroughly discussed, more time is given to the intending couple to deal with such issues. During this period, the intending couples should go together to a recognized and recommended Government hospitals for their last medical test to confirm their genotype and HIV status in company of a recommended third party from the Marriage Committee. Should there be any opposition to the weeding of the intending couple during the announcement; the objection (s) should immediately be resolved.
- DOWRY PAYMENT AND ENGAGEMENT
Gen. 24: 50-67
Dowry is usually paid to parent in-law either in form of cash or gifts may be required for the bride herself. The dowry list is collected by the brother from the parents of the sister and such list is submitted to the Marriage Committee for scrutiny and approval before payment is made. When list of dowry items have been collected by the brother intending to marry, it should be presented to the Marriage Committee for scrutiny. Nobody should go from one state to another to pay dowry without passing through the State/Central Marriage Committee of the place where the parents of the sister live. The host state should be written for their assistance on how to deal with the customs so as to keep to Bible standards. It must be emphasized that the intending couple should complete their engagement process in the sister’s group/region, after which their file will be finally transferred to the brother’s group/region for the wedding programme.
The period of engagement is the time the dowry of the sister is paid to her parents (see Gen. 34:12; 29, 18: 1 Sam.18:25-27). During the period the intending couple must ensure that they do not offer anything that is ungodly or give money in lieu of such or as an equivalent. When approiprate demands are made by in-laws, the would-be couples are to pray and not to compromise. It is of paramount importance, where the engagement holds outside the sister’s Region that they obtain a letter of introduction for dowry payment to the overseer in the Region where the ceremony will take place so he can monitor the engagement, render necessary assistance and report back to the Region where they came from.
- REGISTRATION AT THE MARRIAGE REGISTRY
After the payment of dowry, the intending couples will both go to the marriage registry along with two witnesses for filing of notice. A certificate is given from the marriage registry after twenty one working days from the date notice was filed. The certificate must be presented to the CMC before church wedding is conducted. It is wrong to file notice in court before dowry is paid. Church wedding should take place after obtaining court license or marriage certificate. After dowry is paid the bridegroom will collect a letter from the parents of the bride giving the church the right to continue with wedding arrangements. Brothers and sisters who had children before marriage/ conversion should note that the Registry expects such people to make necessary declaration by way of affidavit.
- PHYSICAL AND MATERIAL PREPARATIONS BEFORE CHURCH WEDDING
Luke 14:28- 30; John 2: 1- 11
The intending couple is expected to have made necessary physical preparation before the wedding ceremony. Among other things, the brother must have a suitable accommodation of at least one room equipped with household materials, such as bed, bedspreads, pillows, chairs, stove or cooker, kettle cooking pots plates and cutleries and of course foodstuff etc. The Marriage Committee should ensure the suitability of the proposed accommodation before the wedding day is fixed. This in effect means that, the Committee is expected to personally visit and inspect such accommodation and not work on mere report. Besides, the would-be bride is expected to be “woman of resource” while the bridegroom must of necessity be gainfully employed, so they do not become a liability after their wedding. The intending couples should, in their preparation, have the following in mind:
- WEDDING REHEARSAL
Rehearsal for the intending couples and their witness will be done Saturday preceding the wedding date. Emphasis is on punctuality presence of parents or the representatives especially the person giving the sister in Marriage.
- INVITATION CARDS
Where wedding invitation cards are to be used the design should be simple and scriptural. Worldly and carnal pictures should not be used on the cards.
- WEDDING DRESSES
The wedding dresses should be modest, decent, presentable and should be such that could be used even after the wedding ceremony.
- PROGRAMME PAMPHLET
Enough programmes should be printed for the wedding ceremony. Sufficient copies of the pamphlets are to presented to the MC a week to the wedding date.
The intending couples are to be conscious of the time of the service and make adequate preparation to be at the venue one hour before the commencement of the service. The would be bride should ensure her father or his representative who should perform the “giving out in marriage” is at the venue at the same time in marriage.
The couples may desire to have a reception for their guest after the wedding ceremony. Where this is so it should be very brief not exceeding an hour and must scripturally handled. The reception should be done outside the church premises.