Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! Holy Matrimony within the Episcopal Church is a joyful and sacred occasion. It can also be very stressful and confusing. To help ease some of the stress and confusion, we’ve prepared these guidelines to assist you in planning your marriage celebration at Saint Luke’s.
Please peruse the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's downloadable Marriage Guidelines online, and review our checklist, below:
6-12 months before service
Meet with clergy to obtain permission, complete application, sign declaration of intent, set the service date and set appointments with Center for Pastoral Counseling.
4-6 months before service
Complete Premarital Counseling and Re-Marriage Application. (If applicable)
Set appointments with officiating clergy, Organist and Altar Guild Director.
1-6 months before service
Complete all meetings with clergy, Organist and Altar Guild.
1 week to two months before service
Obtain Marriage License and pay church fees.
Rehearsal the day before the service.
- Non-members and non-pledging members: $500
- Center for Pastoral Counseling: $300
- Counseling before a third marriage: To Be Determined
- Organist: starts at $300
- Rehearsal-organist (required for soloist/special music): $50
- Altar Flowers: At Cost
- Additional Flowers:At Cost
- Administrative Costs (bulletins, paper work): $50
- Receptions: Parish Hall: $300
- Clergy Honorarium: Discretionary
The cost of clergy and building is provided by the pledges paid by church members. The average annual pledge is about $3,100. Non-members and non-pledging members are asked to pay $500. There is no fee for the priest’s services. A clergy honorarium is welcome. If one chooses to offer a gift, it is usually placed in the Discretionary Fund. If such a gift is given, it should be presented to the priest directly. Normally the clergy honorarium is not less than the organist fee.
Please make one check for flowers, organist fee, administrative costs, non-member fee, and receptions payable to Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church. The check should be given to the administrator, who will forward it to the church treasurer for distribution, preferably one week prior to the wedding.
The Marriage License may be obtained at any Virginia Circuit Court. There are no residency requirements. The minimum age for marriage without parental consent is 18. Proof of age may be required. In cases of remarriage after a divorce or death, the date of the divorce or of the spouse’s death is also required. There is no waiting period in Virginia. The license is valid for 60 days after issuance.
The marriage license must be given to the clergy, as a representative of the State, prior to the wedding ceremony. Couples must bring the license to the wedding rehearsal.
The Role of the Clergy
- According to the Church’s Canon Law, each couple is required to schedule a series of premarital counseling sessions with the officiating priest.
- All services conducted by the Clergy are normally held in the Church. Except in unusual circumstances, weddings will not be scheduled between Ash Wednesday and Easter.
- The Rector has the final word in all arrangements with regard to the use of the church, the music and the service itself.
- With the Rector: six to 12 months before the service.
- Setting a date and reserving the church: Before reserving the church and setting a date the bride and groom must obtain permission from the Rector, complete the Wedding Application and sign the Statement of Intent. When all paperwork is returned to the office a date will be reserved. After setting the date the couple must make appointments with the Center for Pastoral Counseling, the officiating clergy, the Director of the Altar Guild, and the Organist.
- With Center for Pastoral Counseling: Four to six months before the service.
It is the policy at Saint Luke’s that, after an initial meeting with the clergy, the couple meet with a counselor at the Center for Pastoral counseling located at Saint Luke’s. The couple will meet with the counselor for four 50 minutes sessions each for a total package fee of $300. (Please note: if the $300 fee is an extreme financial burden on the couple, then funds are available to assist in covering the cost). Upon completion of their four sessions the couple will receive a “certificate good for a one year check-up” free of charge as a wedding/anniversary gift. Couples are encouraged to view these conferences as opportunities to discuss, in a climate of trust and understanding, their relationship and how they may continue to grow therein.
Remarriage After Divorce
At least two months before the service: If you have had a previous marriage ended by divorce of annulment, you must observe the following requirements to obtain permission from the Bishop of Virginia to celebrate your marriage at Saint Luke’s.
- One full calendar year must have elapsed since the court decree ending the previous marriage. Copies of such court orders must be presented to the priest in the pre-marital conferences.
- If a person has had more than one marriage ended by divorce or annulment he or she must see (at their own expense), a licensed therapist, pastoral counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist and must present a letter from that professional affirming the couple’s readiness for marriage in light of events that led to the death of their previous marriage. This document is set with the application for remarriage after divorce to the Bishop for his approval. The Center for Pastoral Counseling will provide this service for an additional fee.
- The officiating priest must write a letter to the bishop requesting permission to perform the marriage. Included with the letter must be copies of court documents and pastoral counselor’s letter. Any priest in the Episcopal Church may decline to solemnize any marriage at his or her discretion. (National Canons I.18.4)
Preparing for the Service
Meeting with Officiating Clergy to Prepare the Service: One to six months before the service. After the pre-marital counseling is complete, the couple must meet with the clergy person officiating at the service three to four times to plan the wedding service. This includes a careful reading and discussion of the service in the Book of Common Prayer, selection of readings and review of details needed for the bulletin and the rehearsal.
Meeting with the Altar Guild Director: One to six months before the service.
Flowers: The Altar Guild of Saint Luke’s is responsible or preparing all flowers within the church. Natural cut flowers are always used. An arrangement of flowers is prepared for the center of the re-table (behind the altar), and additional arrangements may be placed on the two credence shelves. An arrangement of flowers may also be placed in the narthex.
Aisle Runners, Unity Candles and Special Furniture: We do not allow the use of aisle runners because they can poise a slipping hazard. We also do not permit special furniture, candelabra, “unity candles”, etc. to be moved into the church for a wedding.
Meeting with the Organist: One to six months before the service.
While planning the music for your wedding, it is best to start early. Consult with St. Luke’s Organist-Choirmaster, who normally plays for weddings, as soon as you have determined the date. Please note that playing for weddings is a professional service like those provided by your florist, photographer and caterer; the organist’s fee starts at $300, due in advance of the wedding. Rehearsals with the organist are $50. See Music for your Wedding.
Time and date: The Rehearsal will normally be scheduled for the evening before the Marriage service. Rehearsals take one hour after all participants have arrived. As a courtesy to the clergy and altar guild participants are asked to arrive on time.
Marriage License Required: The Marriage License must be given to the officiating clergy before the rehearsal can proceed.
Communion beforehand: If communion is desired at the rehearsal arrive one-half hour earlier.
The Day of the Service
- Bridal Party. The church library is available to the bride and her party for dressing TWO HOURS before the service. Please let the clergy know if you wish to use this facility.
- Groom’s Party. The Groom and Best Man and ushers are expected to greet arriving guests in the narthex 30 minutes before the service.
- No rice! Please inform family and friends that rice is dangerous underfoot, difficult to clean up, and lethal to birds, and therefore should not be used inside or outside the church.
- Intoxication. Any suspicion of intoxication amongst any members of the wedding party prior to the marriage service will be grounds for canceling the service.
- Begin on time. The service will begin at the stated hour. If for any reason the bride or groom is not present the service will be cancelled. If the bride and groom are present the service will begin regardless of who else might be absent.
During the Service. There is no flash photography permitted during the service (from the time the officiating priest enters the nave to the time he or she leaves the nave). Non-flash photographs may be taken by a designated professional photographer during the service from the rear of the nave, but the use of bulky, noisy or otherwise distracting equipment is not permitted. The photographer may take one non-flash photo of the procession and recession, but may not stand more than halfway down the aisle.
Before and after the service. Photographs may be taken in any part of the building prior to the service, and may be taken in the nave after the service has been completed and the congregation has left the nave.
Videotaping. Videotaping is permitted at the Rector’s discretion and direction.
Music for Weddings
An Episcopal Church wedding is a sacred rite invoking the blessing of God on a marriage. The dignity of the sanctuary and the religious significance of the service should be reflected in the music used. The music and texts, selected with the underlying thought of glorifying God, should be suitable for a church service, s distinguished from a social gathering.
Pre-service music is generally left up to the organist – it is usually classical but light-hearted and jubilant. This is also an appropriate time for a vocal or instrumental solo.
Music is selected in consultation with St. Luke's Organist and Choir Master. The following are considered inappropriate for church wedding processionals in the Episcopal Church:
- Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin ("Here Comes the Bride"), R. Wagner
- Wedding March (Midsummer Nights Dream), Mendelssohn
This is because the entrance procession is a liturgical action that includes the bride, groom, the rest of the wedding party, ad liturgical ministers. Therefore, “Here Comes the Bride”, by its very title limits the full meaning of the procession. The over-used marches of Wagner and Mendelssohn in their original context promote a view that is inconsistent with the Christian understanding of marriage and have become commercialized and trivialized. It is respectfully suggested that “Here Comes the Bride” be more appropriately used at the wedding reception.
Solos are optional and must be approved by the Organist and Rector. Show tunes and love songs are not appropriate at a wedding in the Episcopal church. The singer should be competent and well-prepared. If any rehearsal time apart from the performance on the wedding day is required, such a rehearsal is to be coordinated with the organist. An additional organist’s fee of $50 is required unless the rehearsal takes place the day of the wedding.
The Book of Common Prayer provides for hymns to be sung by the congregation during the marriage ceremony. If a reasonable number of wedding guests are churchgoers and familiar with the hymnal, congregational singing can be an effective means of celebration this important event and is to be encouraged. Some appropriate hymns are:
- Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, 376
- Love divine, all loves excelling 657
- Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, 390
- From all that dwell below the skies, 380
- Now thank we all our God, 397
If you have a friend or relative who has offered to play for your wedding, please be aware that the organist-choirmaster’s contract requires that they receive their usual fee as a professional courtesy, whether or not they play. The organ is a complex, fragile instrument which should only be played competent, professional musicians familiar with its operation – it’s not just a big piano!