Mormon Wedding! What Do I Do?

Understand the Unique LDS Wedding Practices and Conventions

The Church teaches of the importance of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Photo courtesy of © 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

If you are not LDS, review the instructions below and do not be afraid to ask questions. LDS wedding celebrations can be freewheeling, spontaneous and largely unstructured. Your host is your best source of information.

The following are especially important:

  • Modesty. Wear something modest, this means up to your neck and down to your knees. You need to look like you are attending a conservative church. This is not a party, at least not like the parties you are probably used to.
  • Attire. Business dress is best, suit and tie for men, skirt or dress for women. If it is hot, men can discard the suit coat or blazer.
  • Alcohol, Coffee or Tea. These beverages are not likely to be involved, since LDS do not imbibe.
  • Children. Children will be included in nearly everything. This means pandemonium, rather than decorum. Get used to it. We have.
  • Location. Where the wedding occurs determines protocol for all the other festivities. If the wedding is at a temple, then travel may be involved. Sometimes the wedding can take place a week, or even a month, before any reception, open house, etc.

Use the Invitation to Ascertain Important Clues

Whatever form the invitation takes, it will harbor important clues you need. Invitations may not follow traditional wedding etiquette. Ignore this. Look for the following:

  • What type of wedding it is. This is more complex than you may realize. It may be a temple marriage and sealing, a temple marriage for time, a civil marraige in an LDS meetinghouse, a civil wedding somewhere else, like a home. Also, it could be a civil ceremony performed by civil authorities in an unfathomable location.
  • What exactly you are invited to, if anything. What you receive may just be a wedding announcement and nothing more. If that is the case, then consider sending a gift or ignore it at your leisure.

If it says, "marriage solemnized for time and all eternity in the [fill in the blank] temple" then it is a temple wedding and sealing.

You cannot attend.

If it says something like, "you are cordially invited to attend a reception or open house" or it simply lists information for them, then you are invited to attend whichever you choose, or both. It is your option.

If something more specific or formal is planned, like a sit down meal, there will be RSVP instructions. Follow them. Sometimes a card, return envelope or map is included. These are all clues that can help you.

If you are confused, ask your host. They may not be able to anticipate your confusion. Help them out, as well as yourself, by simply inquiring.

What to Expect at a Temple Marriage/Sealing

LDS members are more concerned about people marrying in the temple than they are about attending the ceremony itself. There is no reason to be offended if you are not included.

Only select LDS members can attend anyway. Generally this means four to 25 people. The ceremonies are short, do not involve decorations, music, rings or ritual and they generally occur in the mornings.

Other family and friends wait in the temple waiting room or on the grounds of the temple itself. After the ceremony concludes, everyone usually convenes for pictures on the grounds.

Use the time to get acquainted with other guests.

If there is a visitors' center, it is a wonderful time to learn about LDS beliefs.

What to Expect at a Civil Wedding

Any other wedding is a civil wedding and local laws will prevail. It should be reasonably traditional and familiar to you.

If it occurs in an LDS meetinghouse, it will probably be in the Relief Society room or the cultural hall. Weddings do not take place in the chapel, the main worship room, like in other religions. Women use the Relief Society room for their meetings. It usually has more comfortable seats and elegant decorations.

The cultural hall is a multipurpose room used for just about anything, including basketball. Wedding decorations may be draped from a basketball net and court markings will be visible. Ignore them. We do.

Music could be unfamiliar. There will not be a traditional wedding march or music.

The LDS leader officiating will be in business attire, which means a suit and tie.

Take your cues from those around you, or seek assistance, especially from those in charge. Chances are everyone is as confused as you are.

What to Expect at a Reception, Open House or Celebration

These events can be held in a reception center, the cultural hall, home, grounds or somewhere else.

In general you will probably hand off a gift, sign a guest book, go through a receiving line of some sort, sit down to a modest treat, chat with whomever and leave whenever you want. Just remember to smile for the camera, wherever it is.

LDS do not charge for their facilities. All meetinghouses come equipped with round tables and sometimes even table cloths. There is a kitchen, basic equipment, as well as chairs and so forth.

The receiving line may be short, with just the couple and their parents, or it may include a best man, maid/matron of honor, attendants, bridesmaids and others.

Treats may be a small piece of cake, a wedding mint and a small cup of punch; but they can take any form.

When you arrive, take a moment, consider traffic flow and cues. Go where they seem to want you to go.

What About Gifts?

LDS members are still people and they need what most newly married people need. Couples register at the typical places. Some invitations may tell you exactly where, so look for these clues.

Do not take gifts to temples. Take them to the reception, open house or other festivities. Someone, including even a small child, may take your gift from you when you arrive. Do not let this worry you.

There is some operation somewhere where people are recording and logging in gifts. You should receive a thank you note at some point, probably in the weeks after the wedding.

What Else Might I Need to Know?

Some celebrations involve dancing. If there is, it should say so on the invitation. Do not assume any wedding dance protocol will be followed.

For example, do not assume that you are expected to dance with the bride and place money in her dress.

If you want to give the bride and groom money, a discreet hand-off in an envelope is best.

Since rings are not officially part of a temple ceremony, they may or may not have exchanged rings inside the temple.

Ring ceremonies help non-LDS family and friends feel a bit more comfortable and included. Usually held before a reception or open house, it will look like a wedding ceremony, but no vows are exchanged.

Bridal showers, but generally not stag parties, occur. Anything sexually suggestive is in poor taste and may make the LDS members feel uncomfortable, so avoid it. Stick with G-rated activities, gifts and what not.

Above all, do not worry and try and enjoy yourself. That is still the intent, after all.