Are you wondering how to book a church wedding? Have made the decision to get married in a church? Then this post about planning a church wedding will guide you through the process.
Choosing the church
The first thing you will have to do is contact the church admin office. The contact info can usually be found online. Then you’ll need to arrange a meeting with the church wedding coordinator (this may not be the vicar). There may be certain conditions that you and you fiance will need to meet to be allowed to marry in your chosen church. These are usually any of the following:
- You are a member of the congregation
- You live in the parish
- One of you was born in the parish
- You have family connections with the church (e.g. your parents married there)
If you don’t meet any of these conditions but still want to marry in a specific church then speak to them directly as many churches and vicars have different policies.
Booking the church
The next step will be to meet with the church’s wedding coordinator, you may need to attend a service beforehand. If that’s not your thing then be aware that you will most probably have to attend several services before the wedding. At the very least you will need to go to hear the reading of the banns of marriage once. The reading of the banns is a legal requirement that the church must meet. The vicar must announce your intention to marry on three Sunday’s in the three months leading up to your wedding. If you don’t live in the parish they must also be read at your local church. It’s a bit like the point in the marriage service when the vicar asks the congregation if anyone knows of any reason why you shouldn’t marry – they’re just checking your not already married or that you don’t have a secret family somewhere that your haven’t told your intended about, y’know stuff like that! So, the wedding coordinator will go through the available dates with you (go with a date in mind) and give you a quote for the cost of it all. The basic fee is around £500 but you may have to pay for optional extras such as an organist or for the bells to be rung. THIS useful site run by the Church of England has all the information about pricing and costs. If all is well you’ll set your date.
Before the wedding
At some point you will need to meet the vicar (if they weren’t the person who booked your wedding). They may want to interview you (basically just get to know you a little better and ask why you want to marry in church etc). Some churches may have a workshop that you need to attend with other couples before the big day or pre-marital counselling. It may sound a bit intense but the church/vicar want to know that you are choosing to marry in the church for the right reasons, in their book (the bible!) that’s because you want to involve faith in your marriage. If you’re not comfortable with these types of things there are other, more secular, options for wedding ceremonies. (Check out my upcoming post about civil wedding ceremonies).
Decorations & logistics
Now on to practicalities! Many churches are very beautiful and also very old. Most were built before cars were around so parking may be a problem. Something you might need to think about when sorting out logistics. And don’t forget to check you have the right postcode for sat navs before you print the invites. Decorations may also have limitations. Many churches are listed buildings so most probably you won’t be able to attach anything to walls or have lots of naked flames etc. Commonly people use flowers as the predominant decor in church weddings. Arrangements can be placed on the altar, above the entrance, hung on the pews along the aisle and on stands dotted here and there. Its a good idea to find out what is generally done in your chosen church before liaising with a florist. You might not be able to recreate that gorgeous hanging floral wreath or candle lit aisle that you’ve seen on Pinterest! That said churches are often spectacular in themselves so there may be no need to go overboard on the decoration. Also confetti. Many venues (churches included) have strict rules about confetti, often its only the natural biodegradable stuff that’s allowed now, partly because it’s a nightmare to clean up otherwise and for environmental reasons.
A few months before the wedding you will need to sort out the finer details of your wedding ceremony. Here is an example of a typical
ceremony time line:
(Are you having bridesmaids? Will they walk before you or after you? Who’s walking you down the aisle? What music would you like to ent
er too? Many churches have a sound system if you don’t want live music )
Welcome from vicar, introductory prayers & a hymn if you’re having them.
(Time to dig out that old school hymn book! Favourites include ‘Morning has Broken’ ‘Give me Joy in my Heart’ and ‘Lord of the Dance’)
Preface and declarations
(The tense bit in which you wait for someone to object!)
(Usually from the bible. There are many romantic ones in the Song of Solomon.)
(Depends on your vicar but there is usually a sermon involved)
Another hymn if you’d like one
The marriage ceremony
(Including vows, the giving of rings and the blessing of the marriage)
The signing of the register
(You’ll need to choose two people to be your witnesses; mothers of the bride and groom tend to like this job. Many people choose to play some music/have the choir sing for the rest of the guests as you may need to go into a separate room. Also you’ll probably want your photographer to document it!)
Final hymn & blessing
Exit of the new Mr & Mrs
(Don’t forget music for your exit. Humourous choices include Sonny and Cher ‘I got you babe’ ‘Islands in the stream’ by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers or Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, sealed delivered’! Or you could go for the more traditional route with the organist.)
Ringing of the church bells
(If you’re having them, provide a very festive atmosphere for photos outside the church)
The Church of England wedding SITE has some great tools to help you plan the ceremony.
Order of service
The little booklet with the order of ceremony in it for your guests to follow and usually the words to the hymns you’ve chosen. If you are having your wedding stationary made for you (invites, seating plan) you can also add this to your list. Or make them yourselves (be warned this generally takes longer than you think it will!) Fun little extras to include at the back are a word search (just in case the bride’s a teensy bit late) and/or a colouring page for younger guests (a little basket of crayons tied up with ribbons for your ushers to give out is a pretty addition).
On to the reception
And then it’s time to make your way to the best party of your life! I have a post in the works about transport options between venues so keep your eyes peeled.
This guide refers specifically to to churches belonging to the Church of England, however many of the premises are transferable.
The photos in this post were taken by Mark Pugh of MP Media.