Finding a Church, Planning the Celebration and a Few Words about Costs
You're Thinking About Getting Married?
If you've already decided
on getting married and are interested in practical questions that arise in planning
a church wedding, continue reading. If, on the other hand, you need some help
with making up your mind about whether marriage is right for you, click
If You Already Belong To A Church
a few things you'll need to think about, especially if you are contemplating a
religious ceremony, whether in a church, or another location. Of course, if you
already belong to a church and have a good relationship with your minister or
priest, he or she will be available to work with you on making your marriage service
as meaningful as possible. Don't be afraid to request some modifications or additions
to the traditional wedding service if that appeals to you. Many clergy are happy
to tailor the service to your needs ... after all, this is your wedding.
If You Don't Belong To A Church
If you are not a member of a church,
I would suggest that you start attending one where you think you'd like to be
married. Clergy are much more enthusiastic about investing time and energy making
your wedding special if they have a sense that you are not just looking for a
picture perfect setting for a wedding. After all, marriage is much more than a
photo-op. Further, if you have a personal relationship with the clergy who will
be performing your ceremony, you're already half way toward an event that will
have special meaning to you and your partner. And don't forget, many of the serious
issues that are part of even the best marriage won't surface until long after
your wedding. And at that point having a pastor or minister whom you and your
spouse can trust and confide in will be even more important.
One of the things I always tell couples during pre-marital
counselling is that with every marriage I perform, a free 50,000 mile check up
is included. I make this promise with a sense of humor, as few couples in the
midst of planning a wedding will be thinking several years ahead to a time when
one crisis or another presents itself. But being prepared -- in advance -- for
the inevitable difficulties involved in forging a life long partnership is, it
seems to me, a good idea. And having a church community where you will be surrounded
by people, and a pastoral leader, with whom you can share sorrows, as well as
joys, is important.
I have two sample services for your to look at: one
more traditional, the other more contemporary. Both have all the elements you'd
normally find in a wedding service in a Protestant church. A Catholic ceremony
will be much the same, but will often include the sacrament of communion, and
will be somewhat longer. These sample services can be adapted with the addition
of special music, a soloist, a hymn or anthem, as well as readings from the scripture,
poetry or literature that may communicate some of feelings that you would like
share with your friends and relatives on this special occasion.
Note, you can cut-and-paste from either service, edit and revise as you see fit.
More conservative Christians may want to emphasize readings from the Bible and
may appreciate a biblically based sermon as part of the ceremony. Less conservative
Christains, or those with lots of friends or family members who are not part of
the church, may want fewer references to Christ or more readings from outside
the Bible. Note also, that either of these services can be adapted for use in
an interfaith service where you or your spouse do not share a common faith.
If you'd like help finding a reading for your wedding, click
In planning wedding services with couples, I like to encourage
them to include opportunities for friends and family members to participate in
the service by doing one or more of these readings. Also, it is a good idea to
include opportunities for members of the congregation to participate, for example,
by singing a hymn, saying a prayer, like the Lord's Prayer in unison, or pledging
their support for you and your partner at this important turning point in your
In Conclusion ... the cost and other questions.
These are only a few of the considerations you will need to think about when planning
your wedding. Other questions will certainly arise. For example, how much will
you expect to pay the minister, the organist, or the church for use of its facilities?
The answer to these questions will vary so widely by region that it is impossible
to answer them here. The religious service will be a minor part of the expenses involved; the reception and the associated costs for food and entertainment constitute the lion's share. One can easily spend 10, 20 or 30 thousand dollars on these items. So, I would say, once again, that being a member of the church
where you are going to be married has the addtional advantage of reducing the
cost. Many churches reduce or eliminate some of the expenses associated with a
marriage for their members.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.