Let me begin by saying that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints sometimes referred to as Mormon and I promise to give you the straight dope as far as is appropriate to do so in this forum.
First, to Hal, via the Internet- I am sorry for your friend who should have been better informed by his friends about their wedding. I have many friends and most of my and my husband’s family who are not members of the LDS church and could not attend our temple marriage however, we made sure that everyone we loved knew about the imitations and had a chance ahead of time to ask any questions and discuss things with us.
We also had a ring ceremony as mentioned by Ian and Chip so that those closest to us could feel a part of this beautiful day. Your friend’s friends should have been more open and thoughtful in this regard.
Second, to everyone, an LDS or “Mormon” marriage is not secret it is sacred. In the same way that all of your readers have personal experiences that are too personal to share openly on the internet. Or things about yourself, thoughts or feelings etc that you only confide in certain friends. There may be some things you never tell anyone. These things may not be secret in the sense that they are shady or wrong nor may you be trying to keep everyone but your BFF out and exclude them from you life, love, or friendship. Rather these things are just too personal, special, or sacred to share in forums that do not mirror their import to you.
I would pose that it is unfair for your friends or relatives (let alone strangers) to demand that you share these sacred experiences or thoughts and feelings with them so it would also be unfair for others to demand that we share our sacred experiences and ceremonies.
There are no and never have been hideous penalties for divulging such information outside the temple, as Chip and Ian have indicated*–"Formerly, there were dire penalties stated for revealing the secrets, including having one’s throat slit or being disemboweled, again taken almost directly from the Masons. These symbolic gestures were likely the source of many insidious rumors, and in any case most of the penalties were swept away in the 1990 reform.* "-- however due to their sacred nature the Church does retain the right to discipline in terms of access to church ceremonies if one does choose to discuss such things in inappropriate forums.
As for the contents of the Temple ceremonies there is nothing done, or said within such that cannot be found within the Holy Scriptures. By these I mean the Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Don’t have a copy or some or all of these? Call/email the church or stop your local Mormon Missionary and they would be happy to give you a copy. Don’t want to read through thousands of pages so you know the same with we learn in the temple. I’ll give you a hint. Start by reading the Pearl of Great Price it covers most of what we learn. The Temple ceremonies do expound on some of these teachings and do use symbols and physical ceremonies to help teach and edify those who participate. In the same way that Mass, Islamic Ceremonies, and other religious sects use symbols and such to teach their parishioners.
Teaching, that is the purpose of temples. The ceremonies therein have the main purpose to teach and edify those in attendance. The Temple marriage also has the amazing purpose of “Sealing” couples and families together for time and all eternity. We are not satisfied to only have until death do us part but rather believe that as GOD is our Father and family He means for us to be as families and continue the love we learn here after we die.To that end as Chip and Ian also mentioned we do have temple ceremonies for those who have passed on. In these ceremonies that are either very similar or identical to the ceremonies for the living, a living person can stand in proxy for someone who has died and covenant or be sealed as proxy for them.
Do not worry Hal I can’t wait until you are dead and perform these for you and have them be binding without you having the opportunity in the afterlife to say yes i will accept the work Slim did for me or No thanks I’d rather not. Choice is a irrefutable principle of our beliefs.
I hope that this has helped your readers better understand the purpose and nature of LDS Temples. I would be happy to give straight appropriate answers to anyone who has additional questions! Thanks! -SlimC