Many wonder what Mormon temple weddings are like. Mormon culture is distinct from American culture in many ways, including in the symbolism it uses. Just as Indian weddings differ substantially from American weddings, so, too, do Mormon weddings differ from American weddings. Open-minded individuals will celebrate cultural diversity rather than condemn cultural differences. It is true that Mormons consider their wedding ceremonies to be very sacred, but they are not secret. Allow me to describe my own wedding in the Salt Lake Mormon Temple.
Prior to the wedding ceremony, called a sealing in the Mormon culture, my wife and I sat together quietly in the temple’s celestial room. In addition to having a well-developed sense of sacred theological ideas (typical of most western religions), Mormons also have a well-developed sense of sacred space that is perhaps unique to our belief system. The celestial room is the most sacred space in all of Mormonism, a place where a Mormon can almost literally commune with God. In this quiet, sacred space, my wife and I spoke in hushed tones of the important commitment we were about to make.
After a few minutes, we were called into the sealing room. The sealing room is divided into two halves. On one half, there are several rows of chairs for the family of the groom, and on the other side there are several rows for the family of the bride. In the center of the sealing room sits a simple altar. The groom kneels on one side of the altar, and the bride kneels on the other. They look into each others eyes over the altar, holding hands during the ceremony.
There are large parallel mirrors on opposite sides of the sealing room. Because the mirrors are parallel, they reflect off each other, so that when the bride and groom look into either mirror, they look into eternity. The eternity represented by one mirror symbolizes the many ancestors that preceded the Mormon couple, and the eternity represented by the other mirror symbolizes their many descendents. Sealings bind not only wife and husband, but also children and parents. Thus sealings are a way of linking all the human generations together as one. These infinite human generations are represented by the infinities of the two mirrors.
The bride and groom are dressed not in the tuxedo and wedding dress typical of American weddings, but rather in the traditional clothing associated with the Mormon endowment ceremony, through which both the bride and the groom have passed prior to the sealing. In the endowment ceremony, the bride and groom made sacred promises to God, promises to dedicate themselves to do His will and to follow His commandments. As part of the endowment ceremony, the bride and groom placed ceremonial vestments over their own white temple clothes (pants and shirt for the men, dress for the women) with each promise made; the vestments symbolize their new commitments to God. By wearing this same ceremonial clothing during the sealing, the bride and the groom are reminded of the promises they made to God on the occasion of their endowment. Whereas before they were each bound by those promises individually, after the sealing they will be bound by the promises as a couple. Thus, a Mormon sealing is not only an agreement between the bride and the groom, but between the bride, the groom, and God.
With the bride and groom looking into each others eyes over the central altar, the ceremony begins. There are no bridesmaids or best men. No one walks the bride down an isle. Rather, the priest, called a sealer in the Mormon culture, begins with a personal statement as directed by the spirit of God. My sealer, for example, described the challenges of marriage, as well as the great, great rewards. The most touching of his words were when he proclaimed that God approved of our marriage. This declaration brought tears to my eyes.
Following this extemporaneous personal statement, the sealer pronounces a fixed set of ceremonial words. Instead of ending with till death do you part, the ceremony ends with for time and all eternity. This is perhaps the most important, distinguishing aspect of the Mormon sealing. Mormons believe that, if performed by one with the authority to act in the name of God, a family can last not only for this life, but for all eternity. Even after death, husband and wife can be together, can progress to become more like God through the grace of Jesus Christ, together. The knowledge that my wife and I can be together forever has brought me tremendous joy. I am so grateful for her, and I am so grateful that God has given us the opportunity to be together for all eternity.
After the ceremony, many Mormons exchange rings, although rings are not officially part of the Mormon sealing, nor are they required. The bride and groom then stand together in the sealing room, and the families of both pass by them, hugging them and giving them words of advice. After removing the ceremonial vestments, the bride and groom leave the temple in the traditional tuxedo and wedding dress. They usually take family pictures in the gardens surrounding the temple.
To the close-minded who are accustomed to condemning those whose culture differs from their own, the Mormon sealing might appear strange. But for Mormons, it is a beautiful, highly symbolic way of beginning a new life as a couple committed to God. I treasure my temple wedding. I treasure the knowledge that my wife and I will be one even after death, forever. My temple wedding was one of the most sacred events of my life; I remember it with great fondness to this day.