Q. I was wondering where the concept of using a pastor or minister as an officiator for a wedding began. I have not seen any reference in the Bible that you must be married by one, so why is it done? What makes a couple truly married? Thanks and God bless.
A. To the best of my knowledge, the practice evolved from the need to register all marriages in the genealogical records in ancient Israel. At some point in time a Priest or Levite also became involved to insure that the couple was permitted to marry, then as an observer to see that the ceremony was conducted properly, finally assuming a formal role in leading the ceremony. But he was never necessary to make the marriage official. That only required the Bride, the Groom and two witnesses.
As property and estate issues became more complex, governments saw the need to maintain accurate records and since for most, weddings were primarily religious ceremonies, the state empowered the clergy to make weddings official and legal. Today in the US for example, the clergyman officiating at the wedding will often say, “By the power vested in me by the State of ___ I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
While it still requires only the Bride, the Groom and 2 witnesses to be truly married in the eyes of God, to be legally married in most places requires a representative of the state, be it judge or clergy, and the filing of the required legal document(s).