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Sealed with a Kiss - Why do Wedding Ceremonies End with a Kiss?

Bride and groom kissing with Tanya Jones, wedding celebrant applauding

As an experienced wedding Celebrant (and previously a Registrar of Marriage), I know that just about every couple ends the ceremony with a kiss! They don't always want to use the phrase “You may now kiss your bride”, but still like to kiss at the end and, let’s face it, most couples usually don’t need any sort of prompt at all!

This is another of those age-old traditions that most people still expect to see as part of a wedding ceremony, but have you ever wondered why the ceremony ends with a kiss?

As with most wedding traditions, there are many different theories as to how the kiss came to be the accepted end of a ceremony, and here are some of the most popular:

A Kiss to Seal Legal Contracts

In Roman times, when literacy rates were low and a signature could not be replied on, a public kiss was used to seal a legal contract, and is said to be perhaps where the phrase “sealed with a kiss’ came from.

Two grooms kissing after their wedding ceremony, with one holding bouquet of cream roses

The Kiss of Peace

In ancient Catholic wedding ceremonies, the priest would give the groom the “kiss of peace”, and the groom would then be asked to pass the kiss on to his bride. It is thought that this may be where the phrase “you may now kiss the bride” originated.

Bride and groom kissing at the end of their wedding ceremony watched by smiling bridesmaid

Exchange of Souls

Among Christians generally, it was thought that the kiss symbolised the exchange of souls between the bride and groom, which fulfilled the scripture in St Mark’s Gospel that “the two shall become one flesh”.

Bride and groom kiss

But not everyone ends their ceremony this way...

Royal Family Weddings

Royal-watchers among you may have noticed that none of the royal family’s wedding ceremonies ended with a kiss. In 2011, the then Dean of Westminster is reported to have commented that we ”..don’t do [wedding ceremony kisses] in the Church of England," and added, "That's sort of a Hollywood thing: 'You may now kiss the bride.' It doesn't happen here.”

Royal couples’ first public kiss after their wedding is usually on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, if married in London, like Charles and Diana, and William and Kate. Harry and Meghan’s first married kiss in public was on the steps of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

However, for non-royal folk, it seems that whether or not to say “you may now kiss your bride” is up to the individual vicar conducting the ceremony, so make sure to check with them if you would like it to be said.

Not a Fan of PDA?

Don’t worry - a kiss at the end of the ceremony, or during the reception, or at any other point in your day, is NOT compulsory! If you’re uncomfortable with the whole idea, then simply don’t do it!

Bride and groom laughing together at the end of their wedding ceremony

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