When Tom Cruise marries Katie Holmes this weekend, like many a devout Scientologist, he may promise to provide her with "a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat."
The formal wedding of the Hollywood stars in Italy Saturday is shaping up as not only the celebrity wedding of the year but as the most famous Scientology wedding since science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded the church in Los Angeles more than 50 years ago.
Unlike the mysteries of "silent birth" — the no-words method used when Holmes delivered daughter Suri in April — Scientologists say their weddings generally are like Christian affairs with flower girls, a ring, music and a party afterward.
"A photo of a Scientology wedding usually has a bride wearing a white dress and the groom wearing a dark suit and the party behind them. It is a joyous affair," said Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw.
Pouw said what makes a Scientology wedding unique is the advice offered in the ceremony for couples to maintain and improve their relationship.
"They make a vow to each other that they won't go to sleep at night without having repaired any upset they may have had during the day," Pouw said.
Twice-divorced Cruise, Scientology's most prominent advocate, and Holmes, 27, announced their engagement in June 2005 after a whirlwind courtship. It is the first marriage for Holmes, who was raised a Catholic.
The couple are expected to choose from five versions of the wedding ceremony, ranging from the Traditional to the Double Ring. Each includes traditional vows and lasts between 20 minutes to one hour.
In the old-fashioned language that marks the Traditional version, the groom is reminded that "girls" need "clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat" — and is asked to provide them all.
The bride, in turn, is told that "young men are free and may forget" their promises.
In the Double Ring ceremony, the ring is a symbol of permanency and reaffirms the Scientology principles of affinity, reality and communication.
While some outsiders may find the concepts of Scientology difficult to grasp, Pouw said Scientology weddings are "quite normal."
"People do have a lot of questions but in a few years from now when a few more thousand people have attended Scientology wedding ceremonies, it won't be something people have heard about but have never seen," she said.