THE WORD IS
Marriage is one of the temporal estates which God instituted already in Paradise. "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This institution by God makes marriage holy and inviolable. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6). Marriage lasts until one of the parties involved dies (Rom. 7:2,3). Where these principles are confessed and observed, marriage enjoys God's blessing, even though, because of human weakness, mutual love and the continuation of life together are at times under severe strain.
Marriage is a civil estate. This is already apparent from the fact that pagans and unbelievers have the same right to marry as believers do. But above all it is a civil estate because the purpose of marriage is temporal, pertaining only to this life and ending at death. From this it follows that the State has the right to enact laws pertaining to marriage and to see to it that marriages are properly performed. In principle the performing of marriages belongs to the State and not to the Church. For historic reasons marriage customs differ in different countries. In some countries civil marriages are compulsory, in others, church marriages are recognized by the State as sufficient. Civil marriages also are legitimate in God's sight, for the civil authorities are God's servants in matters like this.
God wants Christians to sanctify their earthly lives with God's Word and prayer (1 Tim. 4:4,5). Christ blessed the marriage at Cana by His presence (John 2:1-11). Therefore it is proper that the Church blesses a marriage with God's Word and prayer. The marriage ceremony should not include anything that is contrary to the essence and lasting nature of marriage. It is the obligation of the State, by laws and other means, to promote respect for the institution of marriage and to help preserve its enduring character.