Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why British Mormons will never Marry in the Temple

The new Mr and Mrs Buttimore leaving
Southend Ward LDS Chapel

My wedding day was wonderful. At 11 a.m. I walked down the aisle on my father's arm, followed by five bridesmaids, to where my husband-to-be was waiting with his best man.  We recited traditional vows, exchanged rings, walked back down the aisle together, and then had a wonderful reception celebration with 80 guests. For most of our family members and many of our friends and colleagues it was the first time they had set foot in an LDS church.

After the reception we drove to the London England LDS Temple where we were sealed for time and for all eternity in the presence of 20 friends, most of them members of our ward.

It was a wonderful day, and I particularly love the fact that we had the best of both worlds. We had the dream traditional wedding in our LDS chapel surrounded by those we love, and we also had the meaningful  and sacred sealing ordinance. I  wouldn't change a thing.

Members of the church in the US have faced a particular problem for many years. Unlike in the UK, marriages which take place in an LDS temple are legally recognised, so US couples are encouraged to marry in this sacred place. (For non-Mormons reading this, Temples are different from the chapels used for weekly Sunday worship. They are reserved for particular ordinances - including the sealing of marriages for eternity - and are, in fact, closed on Sundays.) However, only worthy recommend-holding members of the LDS church are permitted to enter a Temple. This means that a couple whose parents are not members of the church (as is the case for my husband and I) cannot be at their wedding. Engaged couples therefore face the agonising choice between having their wedding elsewhere so that their family can be present and then waiting the year the church requires before entering the Temple for the sealing ordinance, or explaining to their families and friends why they will not be able to witness their marriage.
Waiting to go into the London Temple for our Sealing

The law on marriages in the UK has relaxed recently. It used to be the law that marriages could only be conducted in Anglican churches, other churches where a licensed registrar was present, or council registry offices. In the last few years, however, this law has been changed and now owners of stately homes, hotels, etc., can apply for a licence to conduct weddings. There's even an old windmill nearby which hosts weddings, although not receptions because it can only hold 20 people.

Could the London and Preston Temples now apply to be licensed for weddings? Could British Latter-day Saints now legally marry in the Temple?

I think if there was the suggestion that the Church might apply for such a licence most Latter-day Saints in the UK would be against it. We love being able to invite our non-member friends and family to our weddings. Whenever prophets and apostles encourage us only to marry in the Temple, we are quite aware that their counsel does not apply to us. We cannot marry in the Temple, we can only have our marriage sealed there - albeit whenever we like, including on the day of the legal ceremony.

It's not going to be an issue, however, because of another law about marriage. Weddings in the UK have to be open to the public because it has to be possible for anyone with a legal impediment to the marriage to be able to come into the ceremony and declare it. The Temple is not a public building therefore, unless UK law changes further (which seems very unlikely), it will never be legal here to marry in the Temple.

And whilst we're on the subject of laws about marriage in the UK, weddings also have to take place after 8am and before 6pm. Evening weddings are not legal because before electric light was invented the law had to ensure that the parties could see each other and were thus marrying the right person. Neither it is legal (or sensible, given the weather) to get married out-of-doors. Weddings have to take place within a licensed building which is also a permanent structure - although some venues have built pretty pavillions or gazebos in their gardens to get round this rule. Quick weddings can't happen either. It takes at least three weeks to call banns for a wedding, and an appointment needs to be made for a special licence, with both parties being interviewed, so that can take several weeks to arrange too.

What do you think? Was your Temple marriage perfect in every way, or would you have preferred to walk down the aisle in your chapel too?


  1. Interesting. So many things I didn't know! I've actually heard many bishops encourage couples who marry outside of the temple first not to "walk down the aisle" in the chapel. In the cultural hall or anywhere else is fine, but I've heard of several bishops ask couples that if thy want the ceremony in the chapel not to "walk down the aisle." I've also had several friends have "ring ceremonies" at their reception (post-temple marriage). There also I've heard of bishops encouraging couples not to do the walk down the aisle bit. I think they are trying to keep the emphasis on the temple ceremony, not the other trappings. But for us (most Americans) they are trappings, and for you they are your wedding, with your temple sealing to follow. Very interesting! I have known some people from the very southern southwest whose closest temple is in Mexico who have had to have a civil ceremony first as well, so it does happen in the US sometimes too.

  2. Our day was wonderful- we got married in the D.C. temple in the morning and had a short “ring ceremony” at our reception that evening. It wasn’t really even a ceremony, we just waited until everyone was seated at the reception, and we had a little arbor set up in one corner. We walked in together, and we stood at the arbor with our bishop. He said a few words about why we chose to be sealed in the temple so that our nonmember friends would understand, and then Chad and I each said a few words to each other about what we love about each other and why we wanted to be married- kind of like our own “vows.” Then we kissed and stood in a reception line to greet our friends and family. We wanted that feeling of love that’s present in a traditional ceremony, and to have the opportunity to demonstrate that to our guests without the formal civil ceremony. I thought it worked really well. :-)

  3. I'd never really heard what was recommended or not for the ring ceremony, but I'm pretty sure my old bishop was at mine! We had one (in my backyard) because so much of our family are not members of the church and I was the first grandchild/niece/nephew to have a wedding. We had chairs set up, an aisle, my brother-in-law sang a song, my sister read a poem, my brother sang another song...really it was quite ceremonious so I hope that was okay! But then (after we walked down the aisle with a ring boy and a flower girl) my dad talked about the temple and those present understood we were already married earlier that day for time and all eternity. Then we did vows, kissed, and ate cake. Yay!

  4. And I totally thought of Mr. Rochester with the whole ceremony in a public place thing so someone can declare an impediment!

    1. Yes, that is entirely the reason for weddings to be open to the public, to ensure that if any one knows of a just impediment the wedding could be stopped in time. While we may feel sorry for Rochester and Jane, he was going to commit bigamy if their wedding had gone ahead at this time.

  5. How interesting. I had never heard of any of that. Customs and laws from country to country are fascinating. What about how they have historical novels with people rushing off to elope to Gretna Green or other location or when they mention about being married quickly by special licence?

    1. Susan, in Scotland the laws around many things (including marriage) are different. First the age was 16, not 18 (although I don't think it is any more) and yes, you didn't need a special licence. So couples from England, especially young couples,would go to Gretna Green, it being the southernmost Scottish town, just across the border.



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