What does the Bible say you have to do to be married? I can’t find any scriptures about what constitutes a ceremony… (signing marriage licenses, having witnesses, a priest) etc .. is all this just a cultural tradition?
This is a really interesting question because as far as I have seen in the Bible, it does not give us a ceremony for the exact demands for calling the marriage and marriage. But that doesn’t mean that marriage is not clearly understood as a formal declaration.
Here’s what I mean. Take for instance the institution of marriage in Genesis 1:18-25. God says that the man should not be alone and makes a helper for him (Genesis 1:18). The helper that he makes is a woman who is called his wife just a verse or two later (Genesis 1:25).
Although Scripture does not give us a ceremony here, the man reacts by accepting the woman as his wife, talking about the intimate connection he has with her (Genesis 1:23). She literally is bone of his bone, because God took one of his ribs to make her (Genesis 1:22).
When Adam says this about Eve, his speech is elevated prose. One might think that there may have been more said about this matter. But the Bible doesn’t include a ceremony. It just includes this poetic prose.
Nowhere else do we see a ceremony throughout all of Scripture. But we know from the culture of Judaism, Christian culture, and just about every culture out there that marriage usually contains some sort of ceremony or binding.
There is an acknowledgment of a special change in status between a couple. The ceremony may be different from culture to culture, religion to religion, country to country. Each government may require some kind of legal tender to affirm the new status.
Even though there are different ceremonies and requirements for marriage, the fact is that there is a change in status that is recognized by everyone involved. The Bible acknowledges this change in status without formally making a ceremony that must be followed for marriage to be considered marriage.
That is the beauty of the Bible, that it gives us ample information and things that we can use in our ceremonies, but it doesn’t hold us to a specific ceremony that must be done for marriage to be considered marriage in God’s eyes.
He leaves us with creativity to celebrate the bond of marriage in our own ways. Marriage is a sacred act that joins a man and woman together before God and holds them to a covenantal commitment to one another and him.
The Bible tells us that we must be committed in this relationship. It is an intimate connection, so intimate that the first man and woman realized that they were physically part of one another. But marriage also connects these two individuals, making them one spiritually, emotionally, physically, and relationally.
It’s important that this bond must not be separated. It makes the two of them one person. You cannot become one with another person other than your spouse. These are some of the ways that the Bible explains marriage. We must be sure of the person we choose to marry because of this intimate connection.
There are examples in the Bible of people violating this sacred joining of a man and woman together. For instance, there were laws in the Old Testament concerning anyone who took a woman through sexual relations. That woman must become that man’s wife.
The sexual act itself creates the bond of marriage. But it’s my understanding that there was a formal acceptance of the marriage before it was consummated in most instances. It seems that, at least as far as Israelite culture went, the formal acceptance by the community of the marriage was expected to come first. Any other actions before this were considered premarital.
It’s fascinating to study marriage in the Bible. It seems that there is an implied ceremony of some sort, some formal declaration of the joining of a couple, and then the consummation of the marriage through sexual relationship. But as far as a ceremony, that seems to be left up to each culture to choose how to accept and declare the relationship.