This post is by Heather B. My husband and I were married and sealed to each other in an LDS temple over 6 years ago. We were surrounded by around 30 of his closest friends and family, but none of mine. I was a convert to the church of about 2 years when we married, and since we decided to get married in our home state, none of my close friends could make the ceremony (we were students at BYU at the time). My family members were not at all interested in joining the church, and sat outside during our sealing ceremony.
When my husband and I were engaged, I sat down with our bishop numerous times for interviews and to prepare for the temple and sealing. I was told that though my family couldn’t attend, a ring ceremony could be held. When the time for to actually plan a ring ceremony, I found out that according to the Bishop’s Handbook of Instructions:
- After their temple marriage, a couple may exchange rings at locations other than the temple. If such an exchange is made, the circumstances should be consistent with the dignity of their temple marriage.
- The exchange should not appear to replicate any part of the marriage ceremony, and the couple should not exchange vows.
- A couple may arrange with their bishop to hold a special meeting for relatives and friends who do not have temple recommends. The meeting may include a prayer and special music, followed by the remarks of a priesthood leader. No ceremony is performed, and no vows are exchanged.
- No other marriage ceremony should be performed following a temple marriage.
We ultimately decided to forgo any sort of ring ceremony. We exchanged rings at the reception, in a hurried moment at the side with just our parents. I honestly couldn’t think of a way to have a ceremony that would be meaningful without any vows, any replication of the traditional wedding that my parents had expected for me since I was a little girl. It seemed like adding insult to injury.
I spent most of my wedding day worried about my family. Would some well meaning temple worker say something that would make them hate the church? Would my mother be in tears in all of my wedding pictures? How uncomfortable would it be at the reception, with only my parents, brother, and one aunt in contrast to my husbands many friends and family? Most of my family decided not to travel hours away to simply go to a reception. I honestly don’t think that they did this to snub me, but because culturally, the wedding is a much bigger event than the reception in traditional Christian weddings, and the idea of traveling hours away for just a reception seemed trite. It was not the carefree day that I had hoped for.
While I take full responsibility for choosing to partake in a tradition that excluded my own family, I also look back at my wedding and think, what did the church gain from this? The only answer that I have been given is that the sealing ceremony is sacred. Without going into detail about the ceremony or making light of it, let’s look at arguments against letting non members witness sealing ceremonies:
Temple Clothing: the temple clothing and ceremonial garb worn during a sealing is considered sacred. However, the LDS bury their dead in them, and often have open casket viewings with the temple clothes in full view. LDS funerals are open to everyone. What is the difference between seeing them at a funeral and at a wedding?
A talk with the bishop and limited use recommend for sealings could be issued to family members much like we do for our young people who perform baptisms in the temple. This would allow younger LDS siblings to attend a sealing as well. My husband had two siblings and nieces and nephews we would have loved to attend our sealing. Since young children are allowed in the sealing rooms to be sealed to their parents, so it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch. I cannot believe that a loving Heavenly Father would consider siblings and parents unworthy to witness such an important event.
The ceremony itself is very short and simple, comprosing of talks given by temple presidents that can be found in various church publications. Most of the more sacred parts are held in the celestial room, away from even the wedding guests. Non Members could wait in the sealing room with everyone else during these parts, or if an endowment session took place before the sealing.
The third option is to waive the one year wait after a civil wedding before a sealing can be performed. LDS in many countries are able to have a civil wedding followed by a sealing that day, and include all of their friends and family. If the church allows this in some countries, why not allow it for all members?
As we prepared for our marriage, our leaders encouraged us to use our sealing as a missionary opportunity for my family. I believe that they did this in sincerity and a little bit of cultural naivety. While they saw temple weddings as a glorious symbol of forever families, my loved ones could only see that the church was keeping their family apart. This disconnect killed any chance of a missionary moment during our wedding celebrations.
Do you think that what the church gains by keeping control of LDS weddings outweighs what they lose in relations with part member families and general bad PR? Do you see a day when the church will receive revelation on this issue that will allow the church to evolve as it has in other areas relating to the temple?