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The Wedding’s First Kiss? That Was Between The Priest & The Groom…

Published Tuesday, Apr. 16th, 2024

A priest lifts up his hands while holding a Bible, as the bride and groom lean in for kiss. A funny photo.
Photo: SensorSpot / iStock

A holy kissing party? Sounds fun.



You’ve been to enough weddings to know the drill: The officiant looks lovingly at the bride and groom, pronounces them married, and says something like, “You may now kiss the bride!” 


No surprises there, right? 


Now imagine that the officiant pronounces the couple married and then leans in to smooch the groom himself…  He plants a moist kiss upon his lips, and only then instructs him to kiss the bride.


Sounds more like a frisky game of 'Telephone' than a celebration of holy matrimony, doesn’t it? 


Believe it or not, the origins of the ‘First Kiss’ wedding tradition do involve a quick kiss between an officiating priest and the groom! (Chaste though it may have been...) Here's how it all started:


In the olden days, a Catholic Priest would pronounce a couple married and then give the groom the ‘Kiss of Peace.' This was done by lightly kissing the groom’s lips to welcome Christ into the couple's union.


After the Priest kissed the groom, he invited him to kiss his bride with the familiar, “You may now kiss your bride!”


...Thus passing God’s blessing on to her as well. 



Howard Pyle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A wood engraving from drawing by Howard Pyle depicting 'The Kiss of Peace, from his article "A Peculiar People," Harper's New Monthly, Oct. 1889




Over the course of a few centuries, however, certain congregations began to have "moral concerns about over-vigorous kissing," and priests switched to kissing shoulders and hands instead. Still later, most priests began nodding or simply shaking hands, and left the kissing to the couple. (via Aleteia)



(Did you know? In ancient Catholic traditions, the Kiss of Peace was often given by priests and other holy figures to others by lightly kissing a man’s lips or hands, or a symbol of Christ on an altar. The kiss was followed by the saying, “Christ is revealed among us,” with the receiver responding, “Blessed is the revelation of Christ.” [via Aleteia and Armenian Orthodox Theology ]


This ‘holy kiss’ is also mentioned in Romans, Corinthians, and other parts of The Holy Bible: “Greet each other with a holy kiss.” )



Painting, Farewell of Saints Peter and Paul, showing the Apostles giving each other the holy kiss before their martyrdom.

Alonzo Rodriguez, 16th century, Museo Regionale di Messina / Public Domain, WikiMediaCommons

Saint Peter and Saint Paul give each other the holy kiss or 'Kiss of Peace' before their martyrdom



These days, officiants announce the first kiss in a variety of inclusive and creative ways. You’ll hear variations like, “You may now kiss each other!”, “You may now seal your commitment with a kiss!,” or simply, “You may now kiss!” 


And as far as we know, most officiant’s don’t ask for a quick smooch first…Although we wouldn’t put it past a few of you more adventurous types. 




Need the perfect wording for a wedding's First Kiss? Check out: 



10 Alternatives to

“You May Now Kiss the Bride!”


Creative alternatives to the familiar wedding phrase, for couples and wedding officiants: 10 alternatives to "you may now kiss the bride" to end your wedding ceremony in a unique way. Examples for LGBTQ+ couples, feminist and non-traditional couples, and formal or informal and funny ceremonies.




Close up of a bride and groom about to kiss during their wedding ceremony

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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