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Marriage for the Whole Church

In July 2018 the 79th General Convention approved four marriage liturgies for Trial Use and authorized a fifth liturgy for lifelong covenant relationships, for jurisdictions that do not permit civil unions for same-sex couples. That convention emphasized the pastoral importance of access to marriage in one’s own congregation for all people, including same-sex couples. This work builds on many years of seeking to create a more inclusive and just Church. Three of these liturgies were previously authorized in 2015, along with a revision of the marriage canon, which allowed marriage equality to be extended to same-sex couples that year.

The marriage liturgies for Trial Use (which is a formal part of preparing material for Prayer Book revision) are:

  • The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage (download PDF)
  • The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2, adapted from The Book of Common Prayer 1979 (download PDF)
  • The Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2, adapted from The Book of Common Prayer 1979
  • An Order for Marriage 2, adapted from The Book of Common Prayer 1979

These liturgies have been published by Church Publishing as Liturgical Resources 2: Marriage Rites for the Whole Church, which also includes additional essays and information.

Also approved for use as Enriching our Worship 6 is The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant, designed for use where civil unions are not permitted.

The three rites in The Book of Common Prayer 1979 (The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, the Blessing of a Civil Marriage, and An Order for Marriage) continue to be available and in use as appropriate and desired, as well.

A Message from Bishop Hughes to the Clergy of the Diocese of Newark

March 2021

Dear members of the clergy:

Part of our sacred responsibility is standing with our people at significant thresholds in their lives. When a couple desires to marry one another, we are called upon to be witnesses and to pronounce God’s blessing. The Episcopal Church has provided rites for that declaration of love and commitment in lifelong relationship with one another through the Book of Common Prayer, and more recently, through authorized rites that expand that access to all couples.

For all marriages conducted in Episcopal Churches in this Diocese, I expect that:

  • All couples will receive pastoral care and counseling appropriate to their circumstances and in accordance with the Canons of the Church and The Book of Common Prayer.
  • One of the authorized liturgies, linked above, or found in The Book of Common Prayer 1979 is to be used.
  • All records will be kept properly in the Parish Register and the Service Register.
  • When a new marriage follows a divorce, you will seek permission from the bishop’s office to perform the ceremony (which is the canonical policy for all marriages after divorce). More information about that process can be found at this link.

Thank you for your ministry.


+Carlye J. Hughes
Bishop of Newark