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Is it Wrong to Have Your Wedding in a Church if You're Not a Member?

By August 20, 2008

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Every day I get tons of email about this Weddings site, so it takes a really thoughtful email to stand out amongst the crowd. The Reverend Kit Carlson, an Episcopalian priest, emailed me about the trend she sees of treating churches like "stage sets" and clergy like "central casting extras."

Although I don't entirely agree with her, her email did make me think. So I've decided to print her email, and my response here in my blog. Let me know what you think by clicking on the blue comments link below.
Hello Nina,

I was browsing your articles because my daughter was married in a civil ceremony and is considering having a religious blessing of the marriage later.

I am an Episcopal priest, and I am fine with her decision. I'll tell you why ...

You should have some sort of article up there about how used and abused clergy people are beginning to feel because brides and grooms treat them like service providers and not like religious guides or leaders of a faith community. When I perform weddings in my church, they are for couples who are members, or who are willing to attend church regularly and explore what faith means to them in the context of the life-long commitment they are about to make. I also require at least three, maybe more, premarital discussions to try to help them start married life on a good footing. I want to know why they even want to have a wedding in a church, since Mexico is so much prettier and the wedding industry will take good care of them in many non-religious locations.

To have a religious ceremony involves a very large and important third person -- the Deity -- in that ceremony, in those vows, and in the life the couple plans to lead. Many couples, I am finding, forget or don't even care about that very large and important third person in their rush to have the "perfect ceremony" and "the best day of their lives." It's all about whether the church is pretty and whether the officiant is available. Too often they schedule the entire reception, reserve the limos, book the beauty appointments, and THEN come looking for clergy.

I know this is a rant. But it debases faith to treat a church like a stage set and an ordained minister like a Central Casting extra. Marriage is life-long, and only begins on that wedding day. It is a holy institution and deserves to be treated that way. Really, it's not about the wedding. It's about the marriage. It is a big deal to give your life over to another person. It's much more than just checking out a church to see if it will look good in the pictures, and if the clergy person passes the couple's "test" for hipness.

I am happy to work with couples who really want to explore what marriage means and what it means to invoke God's blessing and invite God's involvement into that marriage. Some of my best weddings have been for remarrying couples who know they didn't think hard enough about it the first time around, and who really want to learn from the past and look ahead to the future. They put in the time because they know they'll benefit from it. And the ceremony is deeper and much more meaningful for everyone because they did that work, and because they have an idea of why they are inviting God into their relationship.

But really, if couples don't want to take the religious part of it seriously, to treat me and my faith community with some respect, then I am all for civil ceremonies and friends doing the couple's wedding in their own back yards! By all means! I think those are the preferred options for people who don't really want to bring God into it in any kind of deep or substantive way.

Anyway, you should do something from the clergyperson's perspective.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Kit Carlson
Dear Reverend Carlson:

First of all, let me state that I am fully in agreement with you about couples spending too much time on the invitations and the registry, and not enough time on the ceremony. Frankly, it's much harder for this industry to make money on the ceremony, so you'll find most magazines and websites emphasizing all the things a couple can buy, and not giving too much advice on crafting a meaningful ritual.

That being said, I don't think a couple need be a regular part of a church or other religious institution in order to have a valuable wedding there. I must admit, I am biased, because my own wedding was held in a church where I am not a member. But that experience gives me insight as to why couples might do so.

For many people, a wedding is the first important ritual they will choose to participate in as an adult. I know of several couples who weren't particularly religious, but getting married opened the door to what religion could mean to them. They might see their marriage as the first step in "real" adulthood, and thus the first time they are taking real responsibility for their own religion.

Other couples may not be religious, but trying to accommodate family members who are. As often as a couple might hear the phrase, "It's your wedding, do what you want!", the reality is that a wedding is a familial and community ritual as much as it is a personal one. There are huge pressures on a couple to please others, especially parents.

Lastly, the church and synagogue have always been centers of community ritual. For those of us who are spiritual, but don't necessarily subscribe to a particular pedagogy of thought, it can still make sense to find a church that feels comfortable for important occasions.

It is interesting to note that the church where I got married will only marry its members and those who are friends of the Minister and/or deacons. I think that's partially because they want to avoid exactly what you are speaking of, and also because the Minister doesn't want to give up his Saturdays for just anyone!

If this bothers you, there's no reason why you can't be more choosy. Put something on your website or in a brochure that describes the process required of anyone who wishes to get married there. I bet you'll lose some of those just looking for Central Casting.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful email.

Best wishes,
Nina

Comments

August 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm
(1) Kit Carlson says:

Wow! I did not think you would post it, but I am not sorry you did. Maybe it will help some couples to think before they call the church or synagogue.

I would only want to re-emphasize some things I already said:

“When I perform weddings in my church, they are for couples who are members, or who are willing to attend church regularly and explore what faith means to them in the context of the life-long commitment they are about to make.”

I am willing to work with couples who are willing to work with me, even if they aren’t members. I know that this is a tender moment and offers a wonderful opportunity for couples to explore deep and spiritual questions in the context of their love. I’m just saying I’m not a service that can be hired at will.

“Really, it’s not about the wedding. It’s about the marriage. It is a big deal to give your life over to another person.”

I mean it that it’s not about the ritual.

The wedding is a day (maybe two days now or three with all the parties). I have been married to the same man for 28 years and I can tell you that as much as we loved, and I mean loved, our wedding, it is nothing. It is a blink, a speck, a flea, a fly in everything that our marriage has become.

I am in the marriage business, not the wedding business.

As far as the family question goes, then if it is that important to the parents or grandparents, why they must already be members of a religious community. What better place to celebrate a marriage than in the religious community of one’s beloved forebears?

Basically, I’m just asserting that I am not a service. I am a priest. If any couple wants to talk about God, argue about God, disagree about God and what role God might have in their marriage, I am totally there for them.

But I am not a prop.

Thanks for your thoughtful response as well,

Peace,

Kit

August 21, 2008 at 7:37 am
(2) Kathy Pridham says:

Why does everyone write the date (2008) out as two thousand and nine or two thousand and ten? when we refer back in history to the year 1908 we would say ‘nineteen-o-eight’ or ‘nineteen hundred and eight’right? we wouldn’t say one thousand, nine hundred and eight cause we don’t do that with any other year reference either eg. 1508 would be fifteen-o-eight etc. Is it incorrect to say twenty-0-nine? I am doing my daughters wedding invites and I’ve been thinking alot about it. I think for the twenty first century, I will be wording it ‘tweny o nine’

August 21, 2008 at 1:33 pm
(3) Scott says:

Kit, I think you have valid arguments but they seem to come from a frustrated member of the clergy. I appreciate that you have devoted your life to the church and wish you all the best.

One thing that I believe and I think that alot of us lose sight of is the wedding in a church, regardless of the circumstances, is an opportunity for the church(and that includes the priest and its parishioners) to treat the event as an opportunity to extend the Faith of Christ to the attendees. Perhaps there are alot of people there for the wrong reason but nevertheless they are there. What better time than then to try to have an impact on them and perhaps bring them into the fold. Perhaps some have strayed and this might be the perfect time to reach them with a short message of love and kindness. History has shown that religion has never been easy and that we have to look for and administer to the lost in any way we can. I say that a wedding is just another opportunity for you to touch that one person that is ready to open their heart.Yes it can get frustrating but I believe it is worth the trouble.

Maybe you could create a structure that requires a certain exposure to the church itself in order to hold the couples wedding in the church. Maybe 3 meetings inst enough. Maybe have them attend 3 services on top of the meetings. Cant hurt and might lead them to become members or more active members.

Hopefully, this has come across as a blessing as I have meant it to be and not a personal attack. I only want to shed a different outlook on what seems to be a frustrating experience for you.

Our best to you…

Scott

August 21, 2008 at 4:21 pm
(4) Kat says:

I agree with pretty much all that’s been said, but I’d like to share my story… It’s rather frustrating and plays into this whole thing. Sorry this is a rant, but I just want you to know that all brides aren’t just out for the picture perfect officiant.

When we got engaged, it was all happy news and no plans for a couple of weeks. I’ve never had a religion per say, more a set of beliefs accompanied by faith (I call myself agnostic to those who pry), while my fiance came from a very religious Christian household, even though he no longer is religious. Either way, we were both critical of some old friends who had gotten engaged and the first thing they did was register for a $4000 set of pots and pans… Anyway, one of my recently married friends gave me a ceremony book not long after we got engaged, because she shares a lot of beliefs as me; it was a great book containing a variety of religious and non-religious passages. Then I set to work writing our ceremony. I made sure to include elements from both our faiths, planned to have his sister read a religious passage and sing a song, both of their choice, and threw in some stuff to appease my mom. We just had to find someone to officiate and work on translation. This was before we had a venue, caterer, registry, we didn’t even have a date set.

And then his parents told us that marriage was nothing if God wasn’t involved, which although I don’t believe (is Hindu or Bhuddist marriage nothing then?), I respected their religion and said ok, since I don’t have a religion we’ll get married in theirs. They said they would take care of it. Well, I went to work planning the rest of the wedding and kept bugging my fiance, ‘When are we meeting the pastor? I want to talk to the person performing our marriage ceremony. What is he going to say? Do I need to adhere to any of their beliefs (like no jewelry)?’ I asked his mom and his sister both numerous times for the pastor’s number or to set up the meeting with no response. (I even looked up their church on the Internet but the number listed was disconnected.) Well, I lied about no response… The response I got was, ‘Why would you need to talk to the pastor? He’s just going to read some verses and perform the ceremony.’ I can’t even describe how let down and frustrated this has made me… Our families are from different faiths, so much so that the religions specifically look down on each other. Pair that with the fact that I’ve never been to church more than a dozen times in my life (outside of weddings and funerals), I’ve read very little of the Bible and what I did I either found demeaning, confusing or downright offensive and it feels like a recipe for disaster.

My fiance didn’t even understand why we need to talk to the pastor. His family barely speaks English. My family barely speaks Spanish. Their religions compete. This is the biggest ritual of our lives… And we don’t get to talk to the person performing it?? I told him the pastor is the FIRST thing we should have gotten squared away when we got engaged, the first person we should have met with and why. Finally he came around, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this month. Some of our friends just got married and the bride mentioned that they met with their officiant every week or other week and it made them think so much about how things will work in their marriage. And I really wanted that if we were going with a religious ceremony… And I also wanted to make sure that nothing said would offend my family… But it’s not going to happen.

We finally met with the pastor last weekend, but we still have no clue what he’s going to say or anything… I wanted to meet with the pastor and just us, so I could voice my opinions without interference from or potentially offending his or my parents, but that didn’t happen (his folks were right there)… I hate, let me repeat, HATE how our ceremony is going to go, but thanks to his family it’s too late to change… I wanted to cry so many times during the meeting, which BTW was conducted mostly in Spanish so I really couldn’t put my two cents in… Oh, and we’re getting married next Friday. Yes, we barely met with the pastor 2 weeks before the wedding, not of our doing. (Apparently, the pastor offered to do some counseling with his parents about our ceremony, but I don’t get how that helps us…?)

This whole thing makes me feel so bad because the ceremony is the most important part, and for the last ten months I feel like I’ve just been planning a party. My beliefs aren’t going to be acknowledged because it’s against their beliefs and I just hate that. All because we couldn’t talk to the pastor beforehand… I told my fiance that every time I’ve tried to include religion in my life it’s been a disaster, and not to expect me to participate (other than politely) in anything else regarding his family’s faith for a very long time, and he said he was hurt by that. I asked him if he would ever get married blindly into a religion and he said he couldn’t do that, it would be scary and potentially offensive. I told him that’s how I’m feeling. It’s really disappointing to me that I want the ceremony to be over with so I can enjoy myself, but I don’t really have any other options at this point, without causing huge problems with his family.

So I guess you could put me on the opposite end of your spectrum, even though I agree completely. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly, especially when it is performed as a religious ceremony. Granted we’re not having our ceremony in a church, but even when the ceremony is religious you need to talk about it with your spiritual guide.

This is a good article, just wanted my two cents in since I didn’t get it in real life…

August 21, 2008 at 7:15 pm
(5) Anonymous says:

Reverand,
Please know that there are some of us who want to make God the center of our marriage and to witness the union. However, it is quite realistic that at the time of the wedding, the couple has not yet settled into a church and its community as a couple. It could be that one person isn’t in the same “place” as the other, a new town makes it difficult to choose, or pressure from both sets of parents to choose “their” church weighs on the decision. Regardless, those barriers to choosing quickly yet wisely should not be a reason for the parish and clergy to be unwelcoming and judgemental. True religion as an individual and a couple is a life-long process, not one confined to the wedding day. Be happy that a couple has perhaps taken the first step to a life of fellowship and community.

August 22, 2008 at 12:16 pm
(6) Rebekah says:

I can agree with Rev. Kit. However, I am also Episcopal, and in our church the priest has refused to do a ceremony based on music, readings, and couples that do not adhere to Christianity. Like previously stated, you can always put in more regulations of who you will marry. I have always felt that the ceremony should be the most important part of the wedding. Unfortunately, I see a lot of ceremonies being rushed so that they could get to the party. “Where the real fun begins.”

I started to think about the ceremony long before I was engaged. I thought about getting married in his church (he’s Catholic) but decided against it. I couldn’t make myself go through a full Catholic service and be happy. Not only could I not take communion, but we were in a very untraditional sanctuary. I wanted my church, and my church family. We will be getting married in the Episcopal church, with so many prayers being read you wont be able to deny the Lord’s presence. The only thing we wont be doing is communion. I am very happy how the ceremony is taking shape, but I still wish, for his sake, we could get a Catholic blessing, without a Catholic ceremony.

August 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm
(7) Elaine says:

I am so sorry Kat you are having such a rough experience . . . my fear would be that such disrespect around the wedding might continue into the marriage . . . which is, I believe, Kit’s point.

I also am an Episcopal priest, who serves in an academic setting, and a parish. Recently I participated in a wedding that formed the beginning for two people, one Jewish, one Episcopal. The bride, groom, rabbi and priest worked together on honoring each others traditions, hopes and dreams for the wedding. God was certainly present, and everyone at the ceremony embraced the humor, love and joy of the couples’ commitment to one another. I felt honored to be part of it.

Clergy can listen, cooperate across interfaith differences and value you . . . as well as God . . . and not make their rules more important than anything else. I learned to do this from a wide range of good mentors . . .

On the other hand, when a bride called me 10 days before a wedding, and I was one of dozen’s of clergy she’d called . . . and she said neither bride nor groom had a religious tradition . . . but they wanted some clergyperson to “do the wedding” in a chapel they had rented because it was pretty . . . and they said they didn’t have time to meet with me . . . they just wanted me to show up. I said “no.”

Others suggest I might have evangelized and brought someone into Christianity by saying yes.

But it didn’t feel like they were open to engaging religion or seeking . . . they just wanted a prop.

August 23, 2008 at 5:20 pm
(8) Jennifer says:

I grew up in the Church as my dad is a vicar. I stopped going to Church when I was about 14. I haven’t gone since and will be getting married in a few months. It will be a civil ceremony. I totally agree that too many couples are getting married in Church because ‘it’s tradition’ and it will look nice in the pictures and someone can sing ‘Ave Maria.’ I think it is really hipocritical to stand before a God you don’t worship and ask him to approve your marriage.
Even though it would be very easy for me to arrange a Church wedding, it wouldn’t be right because I don’t attend Church. How can I call God into my life just because it suits my needs? My dad, the vicar, totally understands as does my mum who still attends Church herself.
By all means people should do what they want on their wedding day but I think if you are marrying in a Church, you should be religious, otherwise its just for show…

August 24, 2008 at 5:08 pm
(9) Jane Ellen+ says:

(6) Rebekah: There is an option in the Roman Catholic Church called a “Dispensation from Canonical Form.” One can apply for permission from the bishop’s office to hold a wedding outside the church, and still have it recognized as a sacramental RC wedding. This is something we did 25 years ago (My husband was RC; I was not, and we were married in my church). I assume it is still permitted. You might check with your local priest to see what is involved.

August 24, 2008 at 5:43 pm
(10) Jeff says:

My own years trying to be “flexible” and make offering a wedding service as an outreach opportunity for the unchurched is that it doesn’t work. I can think of maybe two occasions out of a couple hundred weddings where someone later came to church because of what they saw and heard through me and the church’s offering of the space and service — lay that against the absolutely staggering amount of time you put into a wedding (pre-mtgs, rehearsal nights that are almost always a Friday, the service itself, closing and cleaning up for tomorrow’s worship, the paperwork after for the county/state), and i know why most clergy focus on members and immediate family of members. I started out very open to such services, but even when i didn’t feel “used” by the family (not often, but not infrequent), the time took away first and foremost from my family over and above my commitment to ministry, and then took away from time that was spent on the parish and on real outreach and evangelism.

I still do some non-member weddings, but not many, and struggle with wanting to be a positive Christian experience for a new, young couple, but then getting steamrollered by maids of honor (what do you mean no tape on pew ends? this won’t remove any . . . oh, sorry) or mothers-of-brides (can we just move this, um, what? altar? yes, can we put it offstage?) — you start to see that this just isn’t much of an evangelism moment if they’re just coming in looking for the stage set. If that’s their mental frame, then they inevitably see you as an uncooperative prop manager, and start looking around for the director.

Who is the photographer in most people’s minds, even after three meetings with the couple. It’s not like the couple really gets the final vote on much that gets debated over your head at the rehearsal. (Why can’t we throw rice in the entryw…foyer? Oh, you said narthex. Anyhow, we’ll, um, come back and sweep it up . . . Monday.)

August 25, 2008 at 1:20 am
(11) Elisabeth says:

1) If you are living a secular life; if you are not a member in good standing of a particular parish or church; if faith in God is not a priority with you, why bother having a wedding in a church? Isn’t that hypocritical and all just for show to try to seem more respectable?

2) If you are No an active member of a church, why would you expect the church to conform to you rather than the other way around?

3) If you do get married in a church and they have their rules and practices, you should expect and plan to adhere to those. The couple’s plans and the parents’ plans may need to be adjusted to conform to reality.

4) Too many people focus on the ceremony and not on the MARRIAGE that comes afterward. A beautiful ceremony is wonderful, but if you are not spiritually, emotionally, financially, and psychologically prepared (as much as one can be), danger lies ahead.

5) Any so-called pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, or other religious authority who doesn’t spend time counseling the engaged couple isn’t worthy of his position.

August 25, 2008 at 10:40 am
(12) Anonymous says:

I, too, am an Episcopal Priest and completely agree with Kit and the others who officiate weddings. I don’t necessarily require a couple to be members, but I do require them to work with me 6 months in advance, and during that time, I ask them to come to Sunday services. This allows some of the “evangelism” to take place prior to the wedding ceremony and allows for an opportunity for a stronger faith foundation to form. Sometimes they continue attending church after the wedding. Sometimes they disappear. Either way, I end up feeling true to my faith and my vocation.

August 25, 2008 at 12:43 pm
(13) T. Strand says:

Yet another Episcopalian priest who is chiming in on the use and abuse of the church in weddings. Yes, there is always the chance that a couple may wish to become active members after their church wedding, but the exceptions, however touching, still remain the exceptions. I have, however, found that clearing stating the Church’s teachings both in the preparation for and the execution of the service is appreciated by the both the couple and those attending; someone at least is still standing up for the principles of Christian marriage. Having these expectations clearly available in church publications and websites can avoid such experiences as I had once when a groom’s mother, arranging the wedding for her son, fully expected his dog to be able to be “Best Man”!

August 28, 2008 at 2:02 pm
(14) Lee says:

Well, my goodness…what a shame to push people away. A reverend or priest ought to know you are to draw people closer to God, not push them away. When a person comes to you it is your chance to plant the seed of faith is it not? If your church has clearly stated rules, anyone willing to reach out to God may take the step – you have to encourage though. They may do this if marrying in a church is that important to them. OR perhaps they’ll realize that is it really not appropriate and choose not to after all, OR even better, they’ll realize that their lives really are missing something and wonder if they should take the path to God. I am sorry, but upon reading your letter Kit, I was shocked by the negativity and lack of foresight.

You see, I will soon be married and we are both Christians. We have made no definite plans on where to wed. It does not matter, we could get married in a barn or or ball room or the prettiest church you could provide. What does matter, my dear friends, is if you have the Lord in you heart or not. HE is the one you truly need in your lives, no one else.

Remember, God IS everywhere – not just in a church building.

August 28, 2008 at 5:21 pm
(15) Rev. Carleen says:

Lee, you have “taken the words from my mouth”. As solely a wedding minister, (and though I attend a church of another minister)I do not have the building to use. My couples do not always get married in summer months, and many would prefer to marry in a church. Again, they may not live in this area full-time, but are marrying here for whatever reason. This has happened on occasion. I read what Jeff wrote, and find it hard to believe that you only touched a couple of lives in that time. (maybe that’s the only ones that came back to your particular church, there may have been more). Anyhow, aren’t two saves worth it to you??? I am beginning to wonder who is worried about the “business of it all”, the brides or some of us clergy. I will hope that you open your doors to allow all to come in and you can make sure the church is well compensated for their effort. Churches can make well needed funds by allowing these weddings. You as clergy do not have to perform the wedding, if it goes against your beliefs; their are other ministers and officiants that can do that part.

August 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm
(16) KC says:

As a wedding coordinator in a Lutheran church, I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed this post and all the comments (although the one about the dates confused me…). This discussion thread is definitely a hot topic in the church I work for, and we are frequently bantering around many of the arguments and ideas mentioned here! Jeff, your post had me laughing and nodding – how many times I have been asked to move the altar or heard the Chancel referred to as the ‘stage’ I can’t even count! I feel for those officiants out there without the help of a coordinator or other staff to intercept those demands! I also agree whole-heartedly with Lee about God being everywhere and the importance of clearly stating the rules. While I have seen so many people treat the church setting like a theater for the performance, I must say I have found this more often comes from family rather than the couple themselves. The only thing I wanted to add was my strong feeling about trying to decipher someone’s intentions. At times, as in the example given by Elaine, it is pretty clear. But more often than not I find there are so many variables involved and it is never a good idea to make quick judgments about people or their intentions. I agree with the idea of stating the guidelines up front and informing the couple of the church’s expectations regarding the theology behind the ceremony. I am grateful to be able to work with a staff that has worked so hard on establishing principles and clearly expressing them to brides and grooms. Of course, it is an issue we will probably face indefinitely!

September 1, 2008 at 12:25 am
(17) pippa says:

I, personally, have always regarded Marriage as a religious institution (in my case Christian)and frankly cannot see the point in couples having a religious ceremony if they don’t wish to become involved in all the other day to day beliefs that come with said religion (whether it be Christian, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist or other…)

I also have great sympathy for the Reverend Kit and others who are feeling ‘used’ by couples sometimes. As a member of the wedding industry i see this happening all the time!

But, as a point for the other side of this argument, i also note how increasingly expensive it is for couples to get married in a church these days (at least in my city)- even for those who are regular church attendees. If couples are expected to pay such high sums of money, do they not deserve for the parish to cut them just a little bit of slack?

September 2, 2008 at 8:19 pm
(18) Lena says:

Well, I may put a bee in everyone’s bonnet. But I’d still like to put in my two cents. My engagement has been cancelled, partly due to religious differences. I’ve known this man for 6 years. We’ve had multiple religious discussions as friends with no hard feelings on either side. Then we got engaged.

I’m Pagan, however, don’t misunderstand me. I am not one who finds Christianity in any way wrong or bad as some of my fellow Pagans do. I support anyone who lives their faith, no matter what faith that is, or even their absence of faith. As long as your honest and live what you believe, then I support your decision whole heartedly.

My former fiance is Christian. However, he hasn’t been inside a church since he was a young teen. He cusses like the Marine he once was. He takes your Lord’s name in vain. I can’t think of one thing in his daily life that would show anyone that he is a Christian.

I, however, live my beliefs every day. I pray to my Gods every morning and every night and at mealtimes. I would never try to convert someone to my beliefs. I will tell them about it when asked, or give them resources. But a spiritual decision is one that has to be made within your own heart and soul, and should be taken very seriously.

When we began planning our wedding, I knew that he would be uncomfortable with strong Pagan concepts so I thought we would have a beautiful civil ceremony that would have meaning for us both. He, however, thought that since it was a wedding, it should be in “a church somewhere”. He didn’t even care that I wouldn’t be comfortable with a Christian ceremony. He fought tooth and nail over anything he decided was remotely Pagan, even when it had no connection at all. Yet he thought I was “shoving my beliefs down his throat”.

Needless to say, this strange new person didn’t even resemble the man that I had agreed to marry, so I called it off. He’s still telling people that it’s because he would “run around nekkid to get married”. I simply tell people that we had significant differences of opinion.

Religious vs. civil, okay. Religious (meaning Christian only) vs. anything else? Not cool.

September 3, 2008 at 2:02 pm
(19) Andrea says:

Question:

Is it wrong to have a Wedding in a Church if you are not a member?

My Answer:

The problem is that man has his/her own ideas into what marriage is about. God never asked anyone to be saved in order to become married. God did say is that the bed is undefiled in marriage; we are not to fornicate or commit adultery. So therefore there is no rule according to The Word of God that one has to become a “member” in order to have a ceremony in church. The only requirement to God is Salvation not church membership. It is wrong to turn someone away from being married in a “church” because they are not a “member”. You are being used to cause the couple to continue in sin or to commit sin (fornication) because they are “not a member of a church”. When you marry one, you are doing what God has called the couple to do which is become one and pleasing unto God.

Counseling is not a requirement either, it is good so that we know what God requires, but God does not and has not ordained counseling but has ordained marriage. Sinners who are married are still pleasing in God’s sight because they are not living in sin by fornicating. It is about pleasing God and not man. When we remove the rules of man and replace them with God’s commandments and laws, we would not have these kinds of disagreements.

I am truly turned off with this “you are not a member” attitude. Christ opened himself to everyone in the open by the sea shore and not in a building and did not and never have required anyone to put their name on a roll or ever turned away because they had not accepted Him as their Savior. Christ always had His arms open and ready to receive those who were lost. The only listing our names should be written in is The Book of the Lamb. That is the only acceptable “membership” in God’s sight. Let us stick with The Word for those of us who have boldly confessed Christ as their Savior and become humble before God so God can use us to bring those unto Salvation and not turn them away.

A wedding ceremony is an opportunity to show Christ, to tell the Gospel and to offer Salvation. I was recently married August 17, 2008 in a church, which I am not a member. Pastor Ryan’s criteria were 3 things: (a) if fornication was taking place to cease; (b) to find a church for fellowshipping; and (c) 6 months of counseling. We accepted because (1) We are born-again Christians; (2) God speaks about fornication and fellowshipping in His Word; (3) I wanted my then fiancé to be able to talk about everything that he believed needed work as I wanted to express myself so that the marriage lasted until death do part; and (4) I wanted Godly counseling and guidance. God does not require anyone to worship in a structure (brick and mortar). When Christ returns it is not the structure that He is returning for but the soul He requires. At my wedding ceremony, I included a “Plan of Salvation” before we exited in order to let folks know about Christ so that it was not just a “stage show” but a true spiritual wedding. I took it as if I was truly answering to God though Pastor Clark gave the sermon on Salvation and also included a page with Scripture just in case my guests decided in their hearts, wherever they were that they were ready to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Pastor Clark believed that when he signed the marriage license, he strongly believed that God would be the center of the marriage and that we would work together to keep the marriage together by focusing on Christ. The ceremony was blessed because we were on one accord in Christ Jesus.

Let us return to doing God’s work which is to marry folks rather than deny folks because they are not serving God or a “member” of “their” church (it’s God’s church in the first place). That business belongs to God and God does not need our help. Also, did you ever think that someone would hear about the Gospel through a guest??? The Priest/Pastor/Bishop/Elder should be able to give a sermon (long/short) about Salvation. Maybe they can let the couple and families know that this is their requirement to speak about Christ if they wish to be married using God’s servant. We should not try to limit God with our limited minds. Let us open our arms and receive those who are lost and gently speak The Gospel without judgment and shame. The Bible states “with lovingkindness have I drawn thee”.

September 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(20) Jennifer says:

I was married 14 years ago in a beautiful church by a wonderful pastor who met with us many times before the wedding to discuss issues relating to our relationship, marriage and to our ceremony.

We were not members. We are not and never have been church-goers or religious in any sense. We attended ONE church service before making our decision. The message that day happened to be one of inclusion and acceptance and it spoke to us strongly since we had several members of the wedding party who are gay. But we also loved the “stage” and that was a major part of our decision. Believe me, if this inclusive church had rust colored carpet we wouldn’t have gotten married there.

I realize now that was extremely shallow and in a sense we were “using” the church and the wonderful pastor. But I didn’t realize it at the time. We were young and I honestly thought that’s what you were “supposed” to do. It never occurred to me that I could have a civil ceremony elsewhere.

So…I see both sides of this. Perhaps the pastor was doing what some of you suggest and welcoming us with open arms. But I also wonder if he should have had a discussion with us in a nice way as to the reason for our choice and pushed us to think hard about what we were doing and why.

Regardless, I remember and appreciate the ceremony more than almost any other part of the wedding (and we had a great reception!) because it was so meaningful and very, very special.

So even if we are not church-goers, perhaps that was not such a bad thing for the pastor to perform our ceremony even though we had no plans to bring the church into our life.

Great topic, great discussion!

September 4, 2008 at 3:16 pm
(21) Steve says:

As a minister (United Methodist), I have performed countless weddings for non-members. I have never turned anyone down because of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.

It has been tremendously time-consuming. I work with couples for several hours before their wedding, not only on the ceremony, but I give them personality inventories and talk with them about conflict management, communication and how to nurture a long term relationship.

Why do I do it? Not because I think they will come to my church – they rarely do. Rather, because I want them to know where they can turn for love, strength and support when life overwhelms them. Within a couple of years of marrying non-members, many of these families have turned to me (the church) to support them in crisis. I have officiated at numerous funerals – twice for a bride I married, once for a child and several times for family members of these non-affiliated couples.

I have found that the wedding is often a door to even deeper ministry later on. And I wonder where these people would have turned if they had not had a caring pastor in their lives to perform their wedding?

September 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm
(22) Rev. Larry Hurley says:

As a Wedding Officiant, I conduct 99% of my weddings outside any church building. 1000s of couples don’t connect with the church and many can’t get married in the church. Most have tried the church routine and been turned off and dropped out, (check the hair colors in your parish) Consequently they come to me for a ceremony built and conducted in a spiritual manner.
I’ve quickly learned to spot couples who are simply looking for the proverbial ‘hired gun’, for someone to ‘get it done.’ I can live with that. 100s of others want a spiritual but not a religious or church content in their ceremony. They are free to add Bible things into readings vows and other ceremonial aspects.
Having worked for years on the inside I see why couples prefer the outside. I used to minister in a denomination who worked to keep their scriptural purity by NOT marrying anyone who knocked on the door.
I’ve sat through weddings in a church with so much preaching or ritual that, well enough said.
I am blessed in being ‘minister, Padre, Priest, Rabbi, Pastor’ to those outside the four walls. They in turn ‘bless’ my life.

September 4, 2008 at 8:07 pm
(23) Celia Milton says:

I am a civil celebrant and a participating lay minister in a wonderful UCC church in NY, a church that is supporting me in my quest for ordination within that denomination.

I write and perform weddings; this is my full time practice. My clients, almost to a one, say that they are “spiritual but not religious”. They don’t, for the most part, have a problem with God; they have a problem with the way organized religion qualifies their beliefs. These people are not faithless; they just don’t feel their theology is being addressed by the mainstream denominations.

As a pastor, I care deeply about my “congregation”, even if many of them are very transient. But I know that the deep care I put into our ceremonies make them different from either a “rent a minister” or a parish minister who will marry anyone willing to come to church a couple of times. I consider myself very, very lucky to have this ministry.

September 5, 2008 at 10:26 am
(24) kara says:

Thank you all for this wonderfully enlightening (and timely!) discussion. This is a topic that seemingly many couples (I’ve certainly seen it among my friends) don’t take into enough consideration in the whirlwind of planning when family traditions rather than their personal beliefs take center stage.

I was hoping that some of you might weigh in on my own personal dilemma with this decision. I was raised Roman Catholic, and while I respect the beauty of the rituals and churches (I lived in Italy for a time and was deeply moved by the palpable sense of God in some of those buildings), I’m not practicing and do have some lingering issues with both the Catholic religion in particular and religion in general. (I too would describe myself to those who pry as agnostic.) My fiancé, on the other hand, is decidedly less religious (even spiritual!) that I am and has no ties to any religion.

I know this is looking to have civil ceremony written all over it. The catch is this—I was raised by my mother and maternal grandparents who has all passed away. They were all very Catholic and quite frankly the place I feel most connected with them—where they would be most “present”—is a church. Would it be wrong for me to find a Christian or Catholic church or even non denominational chapel to hold the ceremony?

I know we will put together a meaningful and suitable ceremony as that is the priority for both of us, and that the whole topic requires much further reflection and discussion for my fiancé and myself, but I was hoping some of you might share possible options.

Cheers!

September 11, 2008 at 1:11 pm
(25) Sarah says:

If the church doesn’t want to be treated like any other vendor then they shouldn’t charge $2,000.

September 12, 2008 at 10:59 am
(26) Andrea says:

It is my strong belief that Sarah is correct in her statement that once you charge, you become a vendor.

The Bible states in Matthew 21:12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

The Church is not for sale nor God’s servants, nor the work of God. Our purpose is to draw folks closer and have a relationship with God and not the traditional religion.

Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Marriage was ordained by God and not man. When we take the man out of marriage, we will stop looking at fellowshipping and church attendance as a casting call and stop calling the altar a stage and learn that life is not a fairytale and God should be the center to hold the marriage together.

The world is looking for something but man is never the answer.

September 18, 2008 at 1:48 pm
(27) Rick says:

It is nice to see this in open debate, it has sure stirred some passions and touched some nerves.

Although mostly reiterating what has already been said, I have some ideas of my own to share.

Coming from a photography background, I have heard numerous sentiments how the photographer cheapens the ceremony, gets in the way, is a distraction, a general nuisance etc. Of course there may be obnoxious photographers but the statements I have heard were not directed toward a particular individual. Each part of the ceremony brings an important element which, when combined, helps create the memorable moment. It is a disservice to the couple being married to ridicule their desire to have the event captured in images. It goes by so fast anyway!

Now, getting back on topic…

It is very common now for couples to come from opposite walks of life or from different geographical regions altogether. My wife and I got married in a church half way between our homes that were 3 hours a part. This way, it was easiest for everyone to attend and since it was nearest a major airport, simplified travel for those from out of town. Had we received resistance regarding performing the ceremony, we both would have been insulted. What we did was best for family and should be respected, fortunately it was.

I know if I felt pressured for a commitment to a church in order to have the ceremony performed, that I would not feel that the church would be right for me. It would be the church where I felt no pressure and warmly welcomed that I would most likely want to attend.

And to answer the commenter about the date, spelling out the year is a proper etiquette thing.

Just my 2 cents:)

Rick
modern wedding invitations

September 24, 2008 at 2:09 am
(28) Paul says:

Nina is also missing one very important point when the Priest doesn’t just want to marry anyone. The clergy are giving their Blessing and Gods on the marriage and you don’t do that if that person or persons don’t value the santicty of the ceremony or sacrament as in some churches. The clergy have a responsibility to God to only marry believers in their churches.

December 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm
(29) Denise says:

I agreee with you to a point, I haven’t always been a member of a church as a matter of fact I have been a member of my church for 2 1/2 yrs, but friends of mine that wanted to get married in a church, looked and looked tyill they found one that would take them.
I think that as a church that someone is looking to get married at, should open their arms, doors, show them the same kind of love that Jesus has shpwn all of us, We are not perfect. I Believe that the Church is a symble Of God, Jesus Christ, and like the bread crums that are left in order to find ones way home, that is the Church for all of us, it is a place where people who do not tend a church can feel close to God.
So who are WE to turn them away from God, yes some people may treat you wrongly, but alot of people treated Jesus wrong, and He still showed them love, kindness.
SOmetimes WE have to ask God for help and guidence, and even understanding so that we are better able to help those lost sheep looking for a home to be wed.
Everyone has a right to their oppions, but ask God what He thinks you should do, and pictuer in your Head what He thinks when you turn His people away.
Just keep that in mind, just like the three vistors who stopped by a ladies house who was waiting to have dinner with Jesus, and the lady turned them away because she only have enough food to feed Jesus, she was so excited to have Him in her home, and as she waited and it got later and later, she ask Where were you? I have waited for you all day, and still you never showed, Jesus replied, My child, I knocked on your three times and three times you turned me away, I was the homless man, cold and hungery, I was the mother with the baby, cold and tired, and I was the child scared and alone.
You see Jesus is all around us, welcome people into your church, talk to them, show them the love of Jesus Christ. It feels good to know that Jesus is proud you me how about you?

November 4, 2011 at 7:09 pm
(30) a3136929 says:

I’ve said that least 3136929 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

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