Mormon marriages are different than civil marriages, in that they are for eternity. Mormon marriages are done in Mormon temples and performed by those having authority.
First of all, let's compare a civil marriage to one that is performed in the temple.
A civil marriage has the following: 1) the bride and groom make certain promises to each other, and 2) the bride and groom can legally live together under the laws of the land. Most civil marriages are beautiful with the tuxedos, limousines, music and decorations, but no matter how you put it together, the marriage is only for time. The authority for the promises between the bride and groom is the integrity of the two people. The authority comes from man and none other.
In a Mormon marriage the bride and groom make covenants and promises to God. The authority for the promises in a celestial marriage, or eternal marriage, comes from God. When a bride and groom enter the temple they are to be 'sealed'. What exactly does this mean? Sealed means to attach or bond together. In the temple, the bride and groom are joined together with God to form a union; God being the foundation in which they base their eternal marriage on. Sealing a husband and wife together is conferring the blessings of God upon each of them individually and jointly and upon the children they will bring into their family. Being sealed also indicates that God is approving of the ordinance that is being performed, that of celestial marriage.
When a bride and groom go to the temple to be married, they will participate in the 'sealing ordinance'. This ordinance was established by God and is the same ordinance by which Adam and Eve were joined together as husband and wife.1
Here is where the similarity of the civil and temple marriage are, that of being authorized to live together as a husband and wife under the laws of the land and where you make certain promises to each other, but that is the end of the similarity.
To make clear what a religious ordinance is in the Mormon Church, it is a specific rite or ceremony performed under the power of the priesthood. In the sealing ordinance, the one officiating must hold the power to perform the sealing ordinance. The power is referred to as the sealing authority or the power by which, conditioned upon obedience to the covenants made, eternal family units are formed. 2
When kneeling across the altar from each other in the sealing room of the Mormon temple, the bride and groom will receive good counsel from the officiator. The officiator is one who holds the priesthood, one who is worthy and one who is among the very few who have had the sealing power conferred upon him from the prophet of the Lord.
The bride and groom make promises, commitments and covenants with their Heavenly Father. Each of them will receive individual promises of blessings, but only on the condition of their individual worthiness. These individual promises are such that if one or the other were to be disobedient through their marriage, the other partner who remained faithful would continue to be eligible to receive the promised blessings.
Next, the bride and groom jointly make promises, commitments, and covenants with their Heavenly Father and will make covenants to receive each other as husband and wife. Promises of blessings are jointly made on the condition of obedience and is essential if the promised blessings are to be received jointly. This is because you then become 'one', a single unit consisting of two halves. 3
Bible, King James Version, Ecclesiastes 3:14
2 "The Holy Temple" 1980, pg 8
3 "Marriage, in the Lord's Way" by Elder Cree-L Kofford, June 1988, pg 7-9
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