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So You're Thinking About Getting Married?
Finding a Church, Planning the Celebration and a Few Words about Costs

So 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 here.

If You Already Belong To A Church

There are 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.

If you need help finding a church where you will feel at home, I've written a brief article on how to go about doing that. Click here for help finding a church.

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.

For the more traditional service, click here.

For the more contemporary service, click here.

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 here.

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 life.

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.

Wedding Planner

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.