Getting Married – Not just a special day, but a special journey to last a lifetime!
Preparing for a wedding is not simple – you probably don’t need us to tell you that!
There are many questions to be asked and decisions to be made. You will probably have moments when you wonder whether you are ready for this commitment and whether you are making the right move. It is important and healthy to ask these questions, and inevitable that you will experience doubt and anxiety. We are always happy to listen if you need someone to talk to in confidence. Feel free to contact us at the numbers listed on the inside front cover.
But often it is the multitude of small worries which crowd your mind as the big day looms closer – whether the bridesmaids’ dresses will match the flowers, who will stand where… We hope that this page will help to answer these practical questions as you work your way through the process of planning your wedding
Recommended Preparation: Rob Bell – Flame
Can I be married at your Church?
To be married at one of our Churches, one of you must live within the parish boundaries or be a regular worshipper here and on our electoral roll. (Church membership roll) or have a qualifying connection with the parish: that you used to live here, your parents still live here or you were baptised here. If you meet these criteria we will marry you after calling your banns (see below).
We define being a regular worshipper here as at least a year’s worth of regular attendance (at least twice a month) at Mass, either on a Sunday or during the week. If there is no existing qualifying connection to the parish, but you still want to marry here, then the simplest solution is to come to Mass and become one of the congregation!
If either you or your partner is a foreign national, then a special licence needs to be obtained. Please speak with us at the earliest opportunity so we might advise on this.
If you move house out of the parish between booking your wedding and the actual date you may disqualify yourself from being married in the right Church. If you are considering such a move please contact the Vicar at the earliest opportunity.
What if I have been married before? What about Same-Sex Marriage?
The issue of re-marriage is a complex and delicate one, affecting not only you but also the wider community, especially the members of your first family. If either you or your partner are divorced and your former spouse is still living we will, therefore, take extra care to help you consider the impact of a new marriage and the best way of celebrating this new beginning.
Sometimes we do marry those who have been divorced, and a member of the Clergy will be happy to discuss the possibility with you. He or she will make the final decision about whether we can offer to conduct the wedding after he has met and talked with you. Please contact them directly to arrange a meeting. It may also be possible to offer a Service of Dedication and Blessing following a Civil Marriage or Civil Partnership. We are an open, inclusive and accepting Church and welcome everyone, just as Jesus accepted everyone. Please see here for a sermon which Fr Simon preached on Divorce, Inclusion, Forgiveness and Acceptance.
Although it is legal for same-sex couples to be married in the UK, the Church of England currently does not allow for the legal ceremony to be celebrated in Church, although we in this parish pray that we might be able to do so as soon as possible. We are active in the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England. However, we are able to offer a service of prayer and dedication to any couple married in a Civil Ceremony, including same-sex couples (as well as different-sex couples). More information can also be found on this page. Please speak with Fr Simon about the possibility of this. This is our affirming position on Marriage and Same-Sex couples.
How do I book a wedding?
One or both of you needs to first contact Fr. Simon on 07976 802123 (email: email@example.com ) and arrange to come and see him. This isn’t to reserve a date which will be discussed when we meet. You are not “booking” the church: it is a public act of worship and so please do not “book” other things expecting the Church to fall into line with those plans: it must always be subject to the approval of the priest celebrating your wedding. There may be other weddings also on the day, but we always ensure there is plenty of time between them (at least 2 hours).
Our first response is always this: come to Mass. All the teaching and preparation is mediated through the main gathering of the parish in worship, and we expect you to be a part of this in the build up to your wedding. It is also the best way to get hold of us.
Fr Simon (or one of his colleagues) will check that you are either living in the Parish or have a qualifying connection to the parish. They will then arrange for your banns to be called. There is a non-returnable deposit of £100 required to confirm the booking, and we consider your booking to be provisional until this is paid.
Timing of the Wedding
If you are trying to work out timings for your venue, with photographs and everything, block out an hour-and-a-half for the Church bits, then allow travelling to the venue (sometimes a quick stop at Shaugh Bridge for a photograph as well which is popular).
Fr. Simon is an Insulin-dependent Diabetic and so would prefer to avoid Weddings at Noon or 1pm. If you were to have your wedding at 1.30pm then after the service, photographs and travelling you’ll be at your venue by about 3pm and ready to sit down by about 3.30pm. This means there is not a lot of hanging around between the speeches and your evening celebration.
Calling the banns is a legal requirement if you are to be married in the Church of England. We read out your names on three Sundays and announce that you are planning to get married. This gives people in the local community a chance to object if they know of a reason why you cannot legally marry. (If you marry in a registry office, your names would be displayed for three weeks before the wedding for the same reason).
If you are wanting to get married in another church and have been told that you need your banns calling with us (because you live here) then please complete this online form. After the banns have been read, Fr Simon will give you a (paper) certificate or letter to give to the priest marrying you in exchange for the banns fee (in 2016 £41). We do not charge for ‘home’ banns so if you live in this parish there will be no charge.
We will read your banns on the first three Sundays of the month before the wedding. We will tell you the dates of the banns. You do not have to be present in church to hear them, although a lot of couples like to be there, especially as everyone in Church pauses and prays for you, your wedding preparations and your future married life together.
If one of you lives in another parish, you must have your banns read there as well. Banns must be read during the three months before the wedding. Please contact the other church in good time so that they can arrange this. When the banns have been called in the other church, they will give you a certificate (which you must pay for, the rate for which changes each year) which you must bring to us.
This is your responsibility. We cannot marry you if we have not seen this certificate and it is something that is often overlooked and causes panic at the last minute. If you need a banns certificate for a wedding in another church, then after the banns have been called they should be picked up from Fr Simon.
What if my partner isn’t Church of England?
If your partner is, for example, a Roman Catholic or a Methodist, or of another faith, their banns must still be read in their local CHURCH OF ENGLAND church. This is a purely legal requirement.
If you would like a minister from another denomination to take part in the ceremony, we will be happy to discuss this. For legal reasons, however, the exchange of vows must be conducted by a Church of England Priest.
If your partner is a foreign national, special provision must be made and you should contact a member of the Clergy as soon as possible.
If your partner has atheistic objections to making vows before Almighty God, then we really need to have a serious talk. We do not wish to ask people to act hypocritically or against their wishes, and perhaps you should talk through further what the commitment of marriage signifies to both of you, and whether a compromise can be found. However, we take these vows seriously and expect that you will want to do the same.
Paying for the Wedding
Wedding fees are made up of a number of charges. There is a statutory fee which goes into the central funds of the Church of England from which clergy are paid. We do not get paid extra for conducting weddings.
A suggested donation is listed for the use of the church buildings, which help maintain it as a facility for the community and to pay for the wedding preparation weekend. Whilst this is optional, we have suggested a level close to the statutory fee as this only starts to cover the costs of maintaining such a beautiful building. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if our beautiful church wasn’t here for your children’s baptism? Or their own wedding?
It is now also our practice to make a collection either during a third hymn or during the signing of the registers whilst a piece of music is being played and the legal formalities are being completed. We may ask your ushers to assist with the collection.
A detailed list of fees can be downloaded from the top of this page
They will go up slightly on 1st January each year and the fee you pay will be the fee at the time of the wedding, not at the time of booking.
As for many, a blessing following a civil marriage, is seen as almost the same as wedding, the cost is the usual fee, less the statutory Church of England fee.
We require a non-refundable deposit of £100 with your booking. We can only regard your booking as provisional until this deposit is paid.
We prefer if you could pay your deposit directly from your account via BACS (who uses cheques any more?). Our details are below:
You can also use these account details to pay for your wedding in instalments. Please remember to add your names and the date of your wedding in the payment details section so we know whose wedding the money is for!
We advise you to seek a professional florist to decorate the Church if you wish to have any special floral arrangements. Florists must liaise with Fr Simon and the parish flower teams to check that what you and they plan are appropriate. However, if you do not have any special plans for flowers, then there will be the usual floral arrangements for the week. Please do inform us.
All flowers are expected to remain the Church following the service and not to be taken away. They are a part of your act of worship and a thanksgiving for your marriage.
Outside florists should be made aware that fixing nails, screws etc into any part of the fabric or furniture of any church is not permitted (some of our churches date from Medieval Times and we want to preserve them!). Damage to the building will be charged. This means for example that floral arches around church doors are not an option unless freestanding arrangements can be made. Candles may be used around the window sills if desired.
Flowers may not be placed upon the altar. Arrangements on the pew ends, the columns or anywhere else need to be secured without damage to the fabric of the Church. Water is available in the churchyard. Inappropriate floral arrangements will be removed. We apologise for such seemingly draconian guidelines, but unfortunate experiences and damage to our lovely buildings has happened in the past and we do not wish to put either the church or yourselves in a difficult position.
Planning the Service
A wedding is not just a personal celebration; it is also a legal ceremony, marking a change in your legal status. Because of this, there are rules made by the government about how the service is conducted; by whom, where, and what is said within it.
However, within those limits we can work with you to plan a service which will be special for you. Ultimately the form the service takes is at our discretion, but we like to be flexible and we will enjoy hearing your ideas and helping you plan. For example, the law says that you can’t write your own vows, but you can write your own prayers, choose readings or poems, and choose the music. So, don’t be afraid to ask if there is something special you would like. We have, frankly, seen just about everything! However, don’t book things without checking with the priest taking the service, as this is still a public act of worship and you have not just “booked the church” for the day. You will have the opportunity to explore these choices fully when you meet with the parish clergy.
Neither of you will be asked to “obey”. It is not part of the Church of England wedding ceremony any more, and it compromises our integrity and beliefs about the equality and mutuality that makes a lifelong and successful marriage. It is not an option.
What is the service like?
The Service will usually last about 40 minutes, and will contain not only the legal exchange of vows, but also a bible reading, prayers, a blessing, a short address and the signing of the registers.
If you are trying to work out timings for your venue, with photographs and everything, block out an hour-and-a-half for the Church bits including photos, then allow travelling to the venue (sometimes a quick stop at Shaugh Bridge for a photograph as well which is popular).
If you are a regular worshipper at our Church, the service can include Holy Communion (‘A Nuptial Mass’) if you wish, but this is not very common these days. The Nuptial Mass is particularly lovely.
You may have been exposed to quite a few bridal magazines recently, and perhaps the odd-American reality TV show. Some things the Americans do are not common in the UK (such as Bridesmaids processing into Church before the Bride and her Father), nor a selection of Best Men and Bridesmaids standing in a line (ancient churches simply can’t accommodate this), and as noted above, you can’t write your own vows. We are very experienced at conducting weddings and based on our experience, we can help you have the kind of wedding you desire within practical and legal parameters.
You won’t have to worry about kneeling during the Service (most couples prefer to stand throughout these days) so you won’t have to worry about creasing the dress; and the Groom won’t have to have “help me!” painted on his shoes! If you need to, there are plenty of places for you to sit!
The Best Man doesn’t have to worry about losing the rings down the big grates, either, as he will place them on a special plate before we begin and at the right point in the service they will stand (with the ring bearer, if you have one) and hold the rings for them to be blessed.
You do not have to print your own orders of service. We have a set of our own sheets which are available free-of-charge. Alternatively, we can print out a full set of personalised sheets on nice paper for a modest cost. However, if you choose to you might like to print your own. Please discuss the format with the priest conducting the wedding so that we can make sure that it is correct. After your planning meeting we will send you a document will all the suggested text in it. This will help your guests to participate fully in the day. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have any necessary copyright permission for the service sheets.
Please contact Christian Copyright licensing for further details – the address is on the inside front cover. You will need to provide fifteen copies of the service sheet for the priest, organist and choir. Please bring these copies to the rehearsal.
We are able to print a special version of our standard service sheet on nice paper and with your names inserted throughout at a very reasonable rate. Please discuss this with a member of the Clergy who will be able to show you some samples.
Hymns and Wedding Music
You might like to spend some time with this page which has a whole host of YouTube links to hear the music. You might want to sit there and read the lyrics along with the music. The first four especially are Wedding Hymns set to well-known tunes.
There are normally two or three hymns during the service. One hymn is near the beginning, one before the prayers and the third during the signing of the registers. You can choose, in place of the third hymn, to have a piece of music, or a song sung by the choir or a soloist. A list of suggested hymns is available in a booklet and downloadable at the end of this page, along with downloadable templates of words for your service book.
You can use our hymnbooks rather than printing a service sheet with the words of the hymns but please make sure that the hymn you want is included!
You will need to choose music to be played for the arrival of the bride, for the signing of the registers and for the wedding procession at the end. Please talk to the organist about this. MP3s can also be used (but not tapes or CDs). We have had vocal and musical performances as well, but the organist’s fee cannot be avoided by bringing in someone else: it is a part of his fee, whether he plays or not!
There are plenty of lovely hymns to choose from without resorting to All Things Bright & Beautiful! On this page are a selection of lovely hymns to well-known tunes.
You will need two witnesses to sign the registers at your wedding.
They can be any two adults who are present, but are often members of the family (often both Mums or both Dads). The registers are signed on the altar towards the end of the service on the high altar.
It is advisable to have at least two ushers at the wedding. They should be in the church thirty minutes before the wedding with the Best Man and the Groom. They should introduce themselves to the priest as soon as they arrive, so that we can make sure they know what their responsibilities are. Their jobs are to give out service sheets and hymnbooks and to direct people to their seats as they arrive and to assist at the end of the Service. It is a great help if they can also collect books and help to clear up at the end of the service.
We want you and your guests to be able to enjoy your wedding without distractions. For this reason, we do not allow photography during the service, except a couple of unobtrustive ones from the back taken by a professional photographer, without flash.
Photographs can be taken freely as you leave the church at the end, and of course, in the church grounds after the service. If the weather is bad it may be possible for some photographs to be taken inside the church after the service, but this will depend on whether the church needs to be prepared for another wedding.
A good professional will speak with the clergy conducting the service beforehand and will be shown good vantage places to get such pictures, but obtrusive and excessive photography will result in the service being halted and that individual asked to leave.
Members of the congregation are asked to experience the service directly rather than through the lens of a cameraphone and so we ask that you make everyone know that this is expected of them. Afterwards they can take as many lovely photographs as you all like!
Copyright rules make the video recording of weddings a complicated business. There is blanket permission granted for the recording of the words of the service.
However, the copyright of the hymns and music resides with the publishers of that music for fifty years after the death of the author. Older, traditional hymns are often out of copyright, but many newer ones are not. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are legally covered. A temporary copyright license can be obtained, from MCPS (which is a part of the Performing Rights Society) at the web address at the top of this page, who will also give advice. The process is described here.
What happens after we have booked the Wedding?
You will be encouraged to attend our Marriage Preparation Course which is a relaxed and informal preparation for the day and rest of your lives together. Couples who take this course have attested to how useful it was to discuss between themselves these important things. Do not worry: you don’t have to say anything out loud in front of strangers.
Please keep in touch with us as you make plans. If you have any questions please ask them as soon as you can, rather than leaving them to the last minute.
In any case, please contact a Fr Simon about three months before the wedding. He will then tell you which member of staff will be conducting the service, so that you can contact him or her directly.
The priest concerned will want to meet you to talk about the wedding and get to know you. You can discuss with him or her not only the practicalities of the service, but also anything else which might be on your mind.
Most importantly, start coming to Mass, this makes the fundamental change between getting married at the Church and getting married at our Church. Try to make it a regular part of your preparation: you won’t regret it! Fr. Simon has 4 Churches to care for, and so the Mass cannot be offered in every church every Sunday, but if you check the parish diary, you will see where the Mass is, and Fr. Simon is.
Preparation for your Marriage
It’s not just about preparing for the Wedding, we are most interested in preparing you for the whole of your married life.
This article is good: The Marriage Rules
Fr. Simon often refers to this Video. It is well worth watching: Rob Bell – Flame (excuse the Brazilian Portuguese subtitles)
I also highly recommend this article, and often quote it in my short wedding homily:
Marriage isn’t for you by Seth Adam Smith
Overall, you need to recognise that even if you have shared a relationship for many years, lived together, had children marriage will change that relationship and we pray it will change it for the better. It is a deeper, more profound commitment to one another that goes far beyond a pretty dress and a piece of paper. The Bishop of Chester said recently (2018, in the House of Lords) that ” I sometimes wish that people started out with a more realistic sense of the inevitable ups and downs, tensions and demands of marriage. A president of the Mothers’ Union was once asked whether she had ever thought of divorcing her husband. “Divorce? Absolutely never”, she said—“But murder? Really quite frequently over the years”.”
When the priest who will conduct your wedding meets you, he or she will make an appointment with you for a wedding rehearsal, which will take place at some mutually convenient time in the few days before the wedding, usually on the Weds or Thurs evening in the week before in the evening,
The bride and groom are of course essential at the rehearsal, but it is helpful if anyone else who is involved in the ceremony can be there. This would include the best man, the bridesmaids, ushers and whoever is giving the bride away. The Photographer might wish to come to scope out the venue if they have never shot a wedding in our Churches before.
Incidentally, the practice of ‘giving away the bride’ is optional. It is up to the bride whether she wishes to be given away, and by whom. It need not be her father who does this. She can choose anyone, male or female, whom she feels has played an important part in her life and accompanies her down the aisle. No words are said at the ‘giving away’, but a gesture and an acknowledgement.
On the day…
We hope your wedding day will be one to remember – for all the right reasons. The most important people on that day are the two of you, so try to relax and let others take as much of the strain as possible.
The details of the service will be explained at the rehearsal, and the priest will talk you through the ceremony on the day. You do not have to learn any words or remember anything. However, there are some things you can do which will help.
Be on time!
Allow plenty of time for getting to church. The photographer is likely to want to take pictures of the groom before the wedding so remember to allow time for that.
There is a belief that it is traditional for the bride to be late. In fact, though, it just makes everyone nervous if the bride is seriously late – so don’t do it if you can help it. Instead, please try to arrive five minutes early. This will allow time for unhurried photographs of you arriving, rather than a last minute dash. If you are early, don’t let your driver persuade you to go once around the block (Bickleigh and Shaugh Prior don’t have ‘a block’ as such and your detour might make you seriously late!). It is much better to stop the car at the church and wait there. There might be a traffic jam around the block! If there is a serious emergency then please call a member of the Clergy to inform him.
Sometimes there are issues which make you late: the George Junction is notorious on a Saturday lunchtime, the Vintage Car you booked might not be able to make it up the hill to Shaugh Prior or there maybe a flat tyre. This is not a problem, because you can call the priest taking the service (Fr Simon is on 07976 802123) and let him/her know, and he or she can inform the congregation of the expected delay. If you simply expect to be ‘fashionably late’ then the priest will send the bellringers, choir and organist home and the service will be conducted without music.If you are seriously late without good reason, the priest may even decline to take the service altogether. This is especially important when there is more than one wedding on a given day. We always allow at least two hours between your service and the previous one, but we ask you to be mindful of others who are getting married that day.
One for the road?
We cannot go ahead with your wedding if you are drunk. This is because you cannot give consent unless you are in control of yourself. A drink to steady your nerves is fine, but a best man who fills you full of Dutch courage in the pub is not doing you any favours.
Stag and Hen nights the night before are strongly discouraged! Neither of you want this special day marred with a hangover! Sort that out a week or so before and have a good time, but don’t overdo it (and no last-minute drunken tattoos either!)
What if things go wrong?
No wedding goes like clockwork: it rains, Brides forget their flowers, guests get lost, people fluff their lines and occasionally Fr. Simon can call someone by the wrong name. This is normal. It is not the end of the world. We are practiced at smoothing things out and keeping calm while we do so.
If the legal requirements have been met – banns called etc. – and if the bride and groom arrive (and are sober – see above!), the wedding will go ahead and there is no reason why it should not be a joyful occasion. Ultimately it is the love and the commitment between you which makes the day, not whether every detail goes to plan, and many of the things which have kept you awake at night will slip by without you even noticing them. So please, try not to worry too much.
What is most important is that you enjoy the day. It will be over so quickly and so you must not focus on the things that may go awry, but concentrate on coming together as a new creation in the sight of God: a married couple.
Keep this booklet handy. Ask us anything which it doesn’t cover, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need us, either before or after the wedding.