Lutheran marriage has many facets that may not be found in other marriages. "Lutheran marriage" refers to a marriage between two Lutheran people, a man and a woman. Homosexual relationships are not recognized by most Lutheran synods.

Differences in Lutheranism

To begin to understand Lutheran marriage, it is important to understand the main three different bodies of Lutheranism, broken up into what are called synods. ELCA refers to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which is the largest and most progressive Lutheran synod in America. ELCA does recognize same-sex marriage, with most decisions concerning homosexual church leaders left up to individual congregations to decide.

The Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod is closely related in doctrine to the third largest Lutheran synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The main difference between the two synods is the acceptance of others in Communion. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) practices closed Communion, meaning that they do not allow people of other faiths to partake of Communion during a church service. Aside from this difference, typically Missouri Synod Lutherans are more progressive, often letting women vote in church meetings, whereas WELS does not allow this practice.

The following information on Lutheran marriages pertains to the beliefs of the Wisconsin and Missouri synods.

The Wedding

The beginning of Lutheran marriage is the wedding itself. The couple is not allowed to live together before the wedding. If the couple wishes to be married in a Lutheran church, they must typically live apart from each other for about six months before the wedding. As the couple is not allowed to live together, this also means that they should not have a physical relationship before the wedding. The belief among Lutherans is that a couple not only gets married to each other, but also to God, as God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the head of the marriage. As God is the head of the marriage, this means the couple should not separate as husband and wife until death. There are a few reasons for divorce- more on that later.

While it is typically encouraged for the newly wed couple to live separate from other people in their own home, it is not frowned upon for the couple to live with others, such as parents of the bride and groom or room mates.


Children are encouraged to be brought forth after the marriage begins. As a physical relationship is not allowed before the wedding, babies should be born after the wedding has taken place. If a couple decides not to bear children or are physically unable to bear children, this is perfectly acceptable and not a reason for divorce. Children are to be baptized soon after being born and brought up in the Lutheran faith.

Roles within the Lutheran Marriage

The roles of husband and wife are perhaps what sets Lutheran marriage apart from most other marriages. According to the Biblical teachings of the Lutheran Church, the husband is the head of the household and of the marriage. The wife is to submit to the husband. This is the most confusing part for most people, so I'll do my best to explain. Regarding big decisions, the husband is to make the final call, with input from the wife. The husband is to base his decisions, whether big or small, upon the best choice for the wife, and, if applicable, the children. Basically the husband is to live in such a way as Christ lived and died for the church. The husband is not to make decisions based on his self-interest. No matter how much the husband may want something, he is obligated to make all of his decisions based on the interest of the family. The husband is not to lord his power over the wife. The husband is to live in a way of humble servitude based upon what is best for the wife.

The wife is to submit to the husband in the way that the church submits to Christ. The wife is not to simply do whatever the husband wishes. The wife should have a thoughtful discussion with the husband regarding any major decisions and let the husband decide after thoroughly considering her point of view. Since the husband aught to make every decision for the well-being of the family, the wife should have nothing to worry about. However, if the husband fails to make wise choices for the well-being of the family, the wife is to take on his role and make the right choice, even at the expense of the husband not being happy with the decision.

The End of the Lutheran Marriage

Typically the end of the Lutheran marriage is, in the best case, the death of one of the spouses. If a spouse dies, the surviving spouse is free to marry another person if the spouse chooses. However, death is not always the way a Lutheran marriage could end:

Divorce is warranted in three basic circumstances: infidelity, abuse, or abandonment.

Infidelity can be in the form of an extramarital affair, whether a physical or emotional affair. Infidelity can also come about in the form of gambling, drugs, or drinking problems. Infidelity in this case is called so because the spouse has chosen something else in place of the marriage and is ruining the marriage in this way.

Drinking, drug, or gambling problems can also be thought of as a form of abandonment because the spouse has abandoned the other spouse for such things. Abandonment can also come in the form of physical or emotional abandonment. Emotional abandonment happens when one spouse does not actively work on problems within the marriage and instead is acting in his or her own self-interest.

Abuse can be in the form of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. Especially if there are children involved within the family unit, in this case, the spouse being abused is obligated to leave the abusive spouse.

In any case, Christian marriage counseling is encouraged between both spouses before the marriage is absolved. If one spouse refuses counseling treatment, this can be looked upon as a form of abandonment.

Irreconcilable differences, lack of children, or other reasons are not viable reasons for divorce in the Lutheran marriage. These type of issues should be resolved through Christian counseling, which can take on many forms: discussing marital problems with a Christian psychologist, a non-Christian psychologist, a psychiatrist, or the pastor are who a Lutheran married couple are to look for guidance in resolving these issues.

In Conclusion

Lutheran marriage can be a complicated subject for many non-Lutherans, especially concerning roles in marriage. Lutheran marriage comes with strict guidelines for what is and is not acceptable in the eyes of the church. In case of questions, seek out the advice of a Lutheran pastor.