Sarah had known from the time she was a young teenager that she wanted a temple marriage. Her mother was not a member of the church and her father had only had spurts of activity. However, recognizing that the gospel had answers that she wanted in her life, Sarah had always done whatever it took to be worthy of a temple marriage.
During her junior year at college, Sarah met Seth. It wasn't long before she knew she wanted to spend eternity with this man. Both will readily confess that there were plenty of ups and down in their nine-month courtship and four-month engagement, but the most difficult episode for both of them was facing Sarah's parents and explaining that they were getting married, but in a place where her parents could not attend the ceremony.
Seth and Sarah's experience is not unique. There are many scenarios that would render inactive, new member, or nonmember families or friends unable to participate in a temple marriage ceremony. If your upcoming wedding plans include one of these scenarios, the decisions you make about ways to include those family and friends who will be unable to join you in the temple ceremony will affect not only the planning stage and the wedding day, but will probably have a lasting effect through many years to come.
If your attitude is one of patience and inclusion, hearts will be softened and future relationships will be strengthened.
- Get it out in the open. Let it be known at the same time you announce your engagement that you are planning to be married in the temple. Temple marriage takes planning and preparation; some of that planning and preparation may need to be for others as well as for you and your future spouse.
- Set the tone. While the temple ceremony is the most important part of the day, it is neither the longest nor the most public. Involving those who cannot participate in the temple portion of the day with as many other details as possible will help them feel included and important. Including them as much as possible will also help ease their disappointment and the sense of friction during the days leading up to the wedding.
- Give as well as receive. You will be given many gifts in celebration of your wedding day. Use this occasion to give the gift of knowledge to those you love who need some extra help in understanding about the importance of temples and the eternal nature of marriage. Give them an illustrated book about temples. Provide them with a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and explain its important principles and how those principles are central to what you believe. Even if they do not fully understand the scope of what you accept as true, help them understand how important these truths and principles are to you. Most importantly, help them to know that what goes on in the temple is not secret; it is sacred.
- Have one more gathering. Showers and luncheons need not be the only reason to meet with extended family before the big day. Depending on how familiar friends and family are with the temple, it might be a good idea to have a family meeting to discuss what is involved. Invite your bishop or another priesthood leader to explain the importance placed on the family and how the temple is an interregnal component of eternal families. Such an occasion could provide an informal and friendly environment for questions and answers. The opportunity to have questions answered will hopefully make everyone feel more comfortable.
- No one wants to be left out.
Do not exclude anyone from the temple portion of the day. Invite those who cannot enter the temple to come to the temple with you. Arrange for someone to wait with them outside on the grounds or in the waiting room. If you schedule early enough, in many cases a member of the temple presidency will be able to meet with your guests and answer as many questions as possible. Some temples conduct tours of the grounds or have visitors' centers that will lend a welcoming feeling to those who are waiting for you.
- Extend the ceremony.
Rings can be exchanged at a separate ceremony outside the temple. This is not to be done on temple grounds, and caution should be taken not to make the ring exchange become a pseudo wedding ceremony; however it may mean a great deal to a parent or relative who has looked forward to this event for many years to be included in this portion of the ceremony.
- It is all about you. Temple marriage is about creating eternal family relationships. With the proper planning, your temple marriage can be used as an opportunity to build future relationships rather than become an obstacle that creates discord.
- A great deal will depend on your attitude. Don't be apologetic. Instead, talk about how excited and happy you are, and how grateful you are to all of your friends and family members for making your wedding day so special.