King may have prepared the following two documents early in his career to use as a standard prayer and ceremonial text for weddings throughout his ministry. He may have used them to officiate in one of his first marriage ceremonies, the 22 August 1948 wedding of Samuel P. Long and Ruth Bussey at Thankful Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia.1
O God our gracious heavenly father, who art the originator of all life; whose presence brings happiness to every condition; whose favor sweetens every relation. We beseech thy blessings upon these thy servants as they embark upon the great sea of matrimony. Grant that the ship of their marriage will be well anchored and guided by the proper compass, so that
when the tidal wave of a new experince emerges and the jostling winds of adjustmnt they will be able to emerge successfully into the great habor of peace, happiness and oneness. Give them a deep awareness of the sacredness of this venture. In an age when so many men and women would make marriage a mere perfuctory act with no divine and sacred value, when myriad hollywood would arise to make of marriage a mere seasonable plaything which must occur at least four or five times in a life time, in such an age help then to realize that marriage is man's greatest perogative, for it is in and through it that thou hast given man the priveledge to aid thee in thy creative activity. Help them to see the primacy of love in this venture. Grant that they will realize that without it a marrige can be dropped into the abyss of meaninglessness where each peson will experience the bleekness of nagging despair, but with it the marrige can be lifted to heavenly paradise where exhuberant joy will reign without ceasing the radiant level of life's most exciting venture.
Today you embark upon the sacred seas of matrimony. Marrige is not a physical arrangement to be entered at will and dissolved at whim; it is holy ground that must be entered reverently. Through its portals men and women enter the realm of their immortality. Indeed, marriage is man's greatest perogative, for it is in and through it that God has allowed us to aid him in his creative activity.
Today you become the hiers of a legacy of togetherness. Together you will dream dreams. Together you will make plans. Together you will face moments of unutterable joy. Together you will face moments of inespressible sorror. Dispair not when the inevitable moments of personality adjustment arise, for they may be the stepping stones to a higher levels of self completion. Be not dismayed when the booyancy of fulfillment is transformed into the fatigue of disappointment, for this is apart of the changing scenery of life. Like the ever flowing water of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever changing cycle of the seasons life has the piercing chill of its winters and the soothing
warth warmth of its winters summers.
If you feel that the fountain of love is running dry in your marriage, seek desperately to fill it anew; for without love marriage is like a parched and dryed up dessert without the refreshing oasis of happiness If you are tempted to stumble from the mountain of love, seek passionately to reach the high places again; for without truth marrige is like a ship without a compass.
Love, trust, loyalty and mutual respect are the pillars upon which the temple of marriage must be built. If these elements are there the storms may come and the winds may blow, but they will not upset the temple of your marrige, for it is founded upon a solid rock.
1.“Bussey-Long Wedding of Wide Interest in Atlanta, Decatur,” Atlanta Daily World, 4 September 1948.
Wedding Prayer: CSKC-INP, Coretta Scot King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 97.
Marriage Ceremony: MLKJP-GAMK, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers (Series I-IV), Martin Luther King, Jr., Cener for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Alanta, Ga., Box 123.