A Customary for Holy Matrimony

1. What is the meaning of Christian marriage? Christian marriage is a lifelong union of two individuals in heart, body, and mind. It is celebrated within the community of faith, by mutual consent, and with the intent that it be a lifelong commitment. Marriage is intended by God to be for the mutual joy of the couple, for help and comfort in prosperity and adversity, and when it is God’s will, for the bearing and raising of children in the knowledge and love of God. (see BCP p. 423)
2. Who are the ministers at the wedding? The couple are the ministers; they marry one another. The minister presides and pronounces the Church’s blessing on the union the couple have made. The gathered congregation witnesses the vows made by the couple and proclaims their support for the couple in their new commitment to each other.
3. When should the service take place and should it include Holy Communion? It is particularly appropriate for active members of the parish to be married during a Sunday worship service, in the context of the Holy Eucharist, attended by the parish community. Weddings may also be scheduled other times, depending on the couple’s circumstances. Holy Communion is not required at a wedding, but is encouraged because it symbolizes Christ’s self-giving love toward all human beings.
Weddings are normally not performed during Lent and on other penitential times during the liturgical year, or during Holy Week. Scheduling of the service and the most appropriate service will be decided by the rector in consultation with the couple.
4. May non-members of the parish be married in this church? Normally, only members of the parish are married in St. Peter’s church. Others may at the discretion of the rector, and they must comply with all the canonical requirements, including pre-marital counseling. Marriage in the Church requires that at least one of the persons to be marries must be a baptized Christian.
5. What should be done before setting a wedding date? First you must consult with the rector. Normally the rector must have at least thirty days’ notice before the wedding. The canons of the Episcopal Church requite that the rector must determine that the couple may be legally married and that at least one party is baptized. In addition the couple must be instructed about the nature of Christian marriage, its nature, meaning, and purpose.
Pre-marital counseling and instruction will vary depending on the couple and their particular circumstances. These requirements will be worked out by the rector and the couple. Usually during the first meeting with the rector a date may be set for the wedding.
A Statement of Intent must be signed by both parties stating that they understand and agree to the Church’s understanding of Christian marriage.
6. Are there any special requirements when either party is divorced? Yes, if the former spouse is living, you must present the final divorce decree and obtain the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. This situation may also require additional pre-marital counseling. In these cases, the couple should plan to give at least three months’ notice.
7. Can same-sex couples be married in this church? Yes. The requirements for marriage in this church are the same for everyone.
8. Can a minister from another church preside? Other Episcopal clergy may preside on approval of the rector. Clergy from outside the Episcopal Church cannot preside at an Episcopal wedding.
9. May a minister decline to solemnize a marriage? Yes, the canons of the Episcopal Church allow a minister to decline.
10. Can we make up our own vows? No. In consultation with the rector, there are some provisions to fashion your own service using An Order for Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer, but you must choose one of the forms of vows contained in the Rite. Same sex marriages must use one of the Rites approved by the Bishop.
11. Can a civil marriage be blessed in the Church? Yes, there is a form in the Book of Common Prayer for the blessing of a civil marriage. This service must also be scheduled and planned and requires that the rector have thirty days’ notice.
12. How are weddings scheduled? Weddings are scheduled by the rector in consultation with the couple, on a “first come, first serve” basis. Normally not more than one wedding is scheduled on any given day.
13. Who plans the service? The rector, in consultation with the couple plans the service using the Book of Common Prayer. Couples should review pages 422 through 437 of the BCP before their first appointment with the rector.
14. What about music? Music is planned in consultation with the church organist. If organ or piano music is to be used, the church organist is normally the musician. If other instrumental music is desired, it must be approved by the rector. All musical texts must come from Holy Scripture, the Hymnal, or the Prayer Book.
15. What about the rehearsal? Wedding rehearsal is normally the day before the wedding and is held in the church. All participants, organist, readers, ushers, and the wedding party are expected to attend the rehearsal. If a rehearsal dinner or party is planned, it should be after the rehearsal.
16. When should we get the marriage license? The license should be applied for at the village or town clerk. A license is valid for 60 days after issue. The license must be brought to the rehearsal. The wedding cannot take place without a license.
17. Can an outside consultant be used? No. The altar guild provides these services.
18. What about church decorations? The only decorations and flowers appropriate for use in the church are the flowers placed in the two vases on the reredos behind the altar.
Candles. The only candles used during a wedding are those normally used for worship in the church. “Unity” candles or other similar decorations and ceremonials are not appropriate in the Marriage liturgy.
19. What about service bulletins? Service bulletin examples are available and the rector can assist in preparing bulletins, however, the couple must prepare and print the bulletins.
20. Can photographs be taken during the ceremony? No, because it is a distraction. However, a video camera is available and the couple must provide the disc and someone to operate the camera. Arrangements can be made for the rector and wedding participants to pose for photographs after the ceremony. Couples should discuss what kind of photography (still and/or video) and plan for the particular scenes or settings they wish to have photographed and give the photographer specific instructions. Another approach to photography is to take the photographs before the wedding service. This allows for the wedding party to immediately be available to greet guests and attend the reception. It also places a limit on the length of the photography session.
21. What fees are charged for a wedding? Members of the parish are not charged for use of the church for a wedding. If the parish hall is used for a reception, a fee of $40 for janitorial service must be paid. Non-members will be charged $125 for use of the church facilities. The officiating clergy is customarily paid an honorarium (suggested amount is $50-100) and the organist is paid a fee $100 for the rehearsal and wedding.
22. If there is a reception at the church, may alcoholic beverages be served? Yes, but they must be served with discretion and non-alcoholic beverages must also be provided. Intoxication is not appropriate and serving of alcohol must comply with the laws of the State of New York.
23. Are church staff who assist with the wedding automatically invited to the reception? No. The wedding is a public service of worship; however, the reception may be by invitation only. You may invite the priest, musician, servers, and others who assist in the wedding, and you should send them an invitation. An exception is when the wedding is a part of the Sunday worship service and the reception is held in the parish hall afterward. It is expected that the participants and congregation is invited.
24. May the guests throw rice? Yes, OUTSIDE ONLY, rice and birdseed may be used, as long as provisions are made to clean it up after the service.
25. On the day of the wedding. The bridegroom and best man should arrive at least 25 minutes before the service starts. There are facilities for the bride and her attendants to dress and they should take the preparation time into account when determining arrival time at the church. Usually one hour before the service start is sufficient time.
26. What about other questions? If you have other questions, please call the parish secretary, the altar guild, or the rector.

A list of reminders

Date and time of wedding:  ______________________________
Date and time of rehearsal: ______________________________
Meetings with the Rector:
                1st: ________________________
                2nd: ________________________
                3rd: ________________________
Florist: ______________________________________
Meeting with the Organist: ______________________________
Choose readings for the service:
                Old Testament: ________________________________
                Psalm: ____________________________
                New Testament Epistle: __________________________
                New Testament Gospel: __________________________

Readers for lessons (except the Gospel)
Marriage License Obtained: _____________________________
Service bulletin prepared: _______________________________
Notes: _______________________________________________
Church Office
12 Elm Street
Westfield, NY

The Rev. Virginia Carr, Rector              949-9234
Ms. Rebekah Brown, Secretary             326-2064
Ms. Mildred Simpson, Flower Guild    326-2523