Women’s Interfaith Workshop 28.2.18

We were glad to give a warm welcome to the women who made it through the snow and the bitterly cold wind to join us in St Andrews Church Hall on Wednesday 28th February for our workshop taking  continuing our theme of “Weddings: – Ceremony, Custom & Tradition”

Having heard about Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh wedding customs in other, recent workshops, this workshop was the last in this very interesting and stimulating series.  We heard from Christian and Muslim speakers about Christian and Muslim wedding ceremonies, customs and traditions .

It proved to be a very informative and enjoyable afternoon with plenty of informal discussion around the topics raised.

Redbridge Faith Forum held the last in a series of workshops on the topic of Weddings: Ceremony, Customer & Tradition” on a snowy cold afternoon on the last day of February 2018.

A group of women braved the bitterly cold wind and the snow showers to join us in the lovely warm and welcoming Church Hall at St Andrews Church in the Drive.  Having heard about Baha’I, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh weddings previously it was not the time to hear from knowledgeable Christian and Muslim women speakers.

Rev Marie Segal, priest in charge of St Andrews welcomed everyone to St Andrews and explained that priests in the church of England are authorised to legally marry couples without the need for a registrar to attend but there are conditions that have to be met.  In order to be legally entitled to be married in a parish church a person has to fulfil one of the following three conditions:

  1. Be a member of that church
  2. Live within the parish
  3. Have a legal connection to the church – this could be because you have regularly attended services (at least twice a month) there for a minimum of 6 months, or because you were baptised at the church or your parents attend the church.

An application has to be made to the registry office for a licence to marry – this takes a minimum of a month but it is advised to allow up to 72 days.  This is done by the priest givine the couple a form to take to the registery office.  For catholic parishes this document is known as a freedom letter.

Divorced people can be marred at St Andrews but the priest must see the decree nisi to ensure that previous marriage has been dissolved and the priest will ask both the bride and groom if they know of any reason why they should not be married.

The Catholic Church however does not allow remarriage of divorcees if a previous spouse is still living as vows are perceived to be binding until “death us do part”. There are a range of reasons however concerning having a marriage annulled

Romantic films have misled many prospective brides and grooms who mistakenly believe that they can choose their own vows – in fact there are legal vows that must be said although priests will often try and made the service personal and allow additional vows to be made.  In a Christian church vows are being made between the couple but in the presence of God and the Christian marriage ceremony includes the declaration that they are free to marry, the making of vows and the giving of rings as testimony to the marriage.

Sometimes couple will marry at St Andrews who have a relationship with another church as well and may ask that other ministers may be allowed to participate in the marriage service.  Rev Segal is happy for other ministers to share in the service but will conduct the actual marriage herself.

Rev Segal has noticed that customs vary due to ethnicities and are not universal to faith.  For example Eastern European brides do not have their own bouquet but guests present her with flowers at the wedding to carry.

Many Christian churches will offer marriage preparation classes which they believe are important especially for good communication within a marriage.  St Andrews holds a one day course on a Saturday for all forthcoming brides and grooms.

The actual marriage certificate is an important and valuable legal document and churches have to keep marriage registers very secure.  There are two registers for marriages – one remains at the church and the other is returned to the registry office when complete.  The couple are given a marriage certificate to keep and a temporary copy is sent to the registry office.  The bride and groom sign the certificate  which is then signed by a minimum of two witnesses – these can be chosen by the bridal couple and could include family members or friends.

Muslim Marriage

The Islamic wedding ceremony is very simple but traditional very long.  The bridgegroom goes to get the bride but his shoes are hidden and money is requested before they will be given back to him.

A forced marriage is not valid in Islam but many marriages are arranged.  Parents will meet with the prospective couple and then the families will pray as to whether or not they believe the match is right.

If the couple want to go ahead then the groom’s family will visit the bride’s family home bringing gifts of flowers and sweets.  The bride will be dressed up and photographs will be taken.  This will be the engagement.

The couple will then register for marriage.  The marriage ceremony is called the Nikah “tying the know” – the bridge and groom will sit together and the Imam will read words from the Koran.  This tells the couple to think carefully and to remember that the groom has to take care of his wife and his wife still has to care for her family.

Walima – the groom makes a gift of money to the bride (maher) to spend or save as she wishes.  This is unlike many other faiths where it is a common for a dowry to be given in exchange for a bride.

Then for the service the men and women will be segregated in separate rooms.

In the UK family the grooms family usually pay for the wedding expenses – in Pakistan it is often the brides family who pay.