This is the time the real work starts. Whether you have a wedding coordinator or not, you have got to pick a venue for the ceremony and reception! In some cases, that would be two venues.
This process can be simplified by breaking it down to three choices: 1)a place of worship 2)a family home or 3)a paid facility. Once you decide on one of those three, you can look at your options.
Typically, those who choose a place of worship are generally religious and have a church home. That is wonderful for them because most churches offer their facility free to church members. However, some of the larger facilities may only offer the sanctuary with a fellowship hall available for rent. Still, the price is usually quite affordable.
Non-church members may have a more difficult time getting to use religious facilities. While some may offer their facility to rent to non-members (usually a higher price than for members), most require a personal connection with the bride and groom before allowing them to use the facility. So, if planning to use a religious building, it is best to use one where family members are still connected. Even then, it could be difficult because most allow church members the first option for ceremonies, which means you would have to pick a day not favored by members.
The dilemma with a religious facility comes in two areas 1) many stay booked up way ahead of time so you may not get your date and 2) couples are generally required to attend a premarital session or a series of counseling sessions with a clergy before approving the request. Also, some churches will not approve a request if the couple is not living up to church doctrine. In other words, if one member isn’t of that faith, if they are living together, if one is divorced, if there is a child out of wedlock, or if the couple is interracial. There are a couple of denominations which allow a gay marriage ceremony, but most mainline faiths—particularly in the South—do not.
A situation happened in our family which illustrates how these issues can crop up and cause big problems. One of our relatives was marrying in a traditional church. He hadn’t gone there for some years but his family had strong ties and it would have been a sweet long-standing tradition to marry there. He had fond memories there so it seemed right.
He and his fiance went for their counseling sessions and everything was going well until another relative pointed out to the minister that the young couple had been living together. The minister withdrew as officiate and said they could no longer marry at the church.
They ended up going to a lovely church in another denomination, but they had to make the switch rather late in the planning so the ordeal caused a great deal of stress for them as well as bad feelings among family members toward the outspoken relative.
Rules and pre-approval criteria are fine with most couples who are regular church members because they have no discord with such teachings. They were brought up with those teachings and understand them. It isn’t the same with those not participating regularly in a faith. They simply want to use the church and don’t understand why it is so important to really believe the tenements of the faith to use a building for a day.
The best thing is to ask up front about such things. Every clergy is different and many churches are independent with the local church board or clergy making the final decision based on the situation.
Some churches try to alleviate the unpleasant awkwardness of these requirements with some conditions which would help the couple gain approval. Conditions could include the potential spouse being confirmed in that faith, or perhaps ending a co-habitation arrangement until the wedding, or getting the child baptized. These are all things to consider because fulfilling such conditions, along with counseling, would take several months at best.
Those considering a wedding at a religious facility may have to also consider hosting the reception at a different venue. Perhaps the fellowship hall is in use with other functions, or perhaps you may want to include wedding traditions not appropriate for use in religious buildings. For instance, Baptist churches wouldn’t appreciate a champagne toast or dancing while a Catholic church or Jewish synagogue wouldn’t have a problem with those things.
The key point is to understand what the church traditions and rules are before seeking out a religious facility for your wedding. Don’t assume that church leaders would approve all your requests because you’re nice people in love or have a family member who goes there. Be aware of all expectations or you will be left feeling judged for your lack of understanding.
Most people want to get married in a church for one of four reasons 1) they are truly religious and consider marriage a religious experience and tradition 2) they used to go to church and want to incorporate positive childhood memories and traditions with this special day 3) they think churches make for a beautiful wedding and 4) to please their family.
Evaluate your reasons before considering a religious facility. Make sure you can truly believe in the religious/tradition aspect of the ceremony before going that route. Otherwise, you will be left feeling frustrated and angry while trying to plan for one of the biggest days of your life.
Melody Dareing – Event Coordinator
Next: The pros and cons of having a home wedding