Wedding Ceremonies in Churches

April 7, 2011 ,
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The Greater Philadelphia area, including Wilmington, Delaware, Southern New Jersey, the Main Line suburbs and, of course, Center City, is rich in historic houses of worship of every denomination.  If you are considering holding your wedding ceremony in one of the area’s churches, you’ll need to make securing the date and location your first wedding planning priority.  [The Catholic Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, Photo:  Cliff Mautner]

What’s in a Date?  Well, everything!  Particularly when you are working around religious holidays set forth in every faith.  Although most weddings are scheduled around a favorite season, such as the flowering cherry blossoms in Spring, or the colorful foliage in Fall, it’s important to educate yourself on the religous holidays or observances that would impact your chosen wedding date.  First, start with major holidays then move to religious holidays, taking into consideration your faith and the religions observed by the majority of your family and closest friends.  Many churches will not hold weddings around significant rites such as Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter), Christmas or during Lent.  It’s best to consult directly with the church of choice to best understand their Holy Days.  Once you’ve worked around the religious holidays, you need to consider National holidays, regional or citywide events that would impact your event or your guests’ travel to and from it.  And don’t forget, if like most couples, you plan on celebrating your wedding on a Saturday, you’ll face competitive scheduling and back-to-back ceremony bookings.  Once you have a date in mind, don’t delay in reaching out to the church to secure it in their book.  [Saint Ann’s Church, Wilmington, Delaware, Photo: Anna Kuperberg]

Plow Through the Required Paperwork.  Most churches will offer bridal couples a detailed information booklet on wedding ceremony procedures, requirements and guidelines.  Some of those booklets can be quite intimidating with paperwork, historical records and relationship counseling.  But if you’re already a member of the church, which most people are, these records shouldn’t be hard to come by or challenging to complete.  In order to help couples prepare for the celebration of a life long marriage commitment, the church may or may not require the engaged couple to participate in a process of instruction and formation.  In all honesty, so many of our clients have expressed surprise at how insightful their pre-marital counseling sessions were and how useful the exercises were in preparing for marriage.
[Above, Christ Episcopal Church, Riverton, New Jersey, Photo:  Melissa Mermin; Below, L to R, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Cape May, New Jersey, Photo: Images by Berit;  Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Wilmington, Delaware, Photo:  Laura Novak; St. Thomas of Villanova, Villanova, Pennsylvania, Photo:  Philip Gabriel]

Rules, Rules and More Rules!  Each church has it’s rules and regulations as to what is permitted in their “house.”  Trust us when we say, don’t make any assumptions as to what you can and cannot do.  Be clear on what is allowed, discuss the options and alternatives, and confirm all permissions granted IN WRITING.  When you plan your wedding months if not years in advance, any oral communications and promises as to what you are allowed to do in the church will mean nothing if the person who made the promises has moved on to another parish.  Churches deal with hundreds of wedding ceremonies every year, it’s not inconceivable that they will not remember your wedding details without friendly reminders.  

Some of the more common questions to ask the church include: 

  • are there any time restrictions on the usage of the church? 
  • are we permitted to take photos in the church? are photographers or videographers able to move in the church or are they to remain still in their position for the duration? 
  • are there any restrictions on flowers or other decorations? 
  • is an aisle runner permitted? are open flames candles permitted or only battery-operated? 
  • are there mandatory fees for the church music director, organist, solosit or choir?  are you permitted to use your own musicians? 
  • is there a mandatory fee for the priest, minister or sexton? 
  • is a traffic officer or security guard outside the church required? 
  • are there parking spaces provided in the church parking lot or in front of the church?
  • who runs the wedding rehearsal?

Don’t Forget the Importance of the Ceremony.  Although many brides and grooms focus most of their wedding planning energies on the reception, don’t forget to devote time, energy and thought to your wedding ceremony.  It’s the portion of the day that reminds you of the traditions and customs from whence you came, and which signifies those you will take into your new life together as a couple.

[Above, Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, Photo:  Phil Kramer; Below, St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Photo:  Cliff Mautner]

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