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inexpensive wedding

Why do people equate a “church wedding” with lots of expense?

I was talking to someone who got married recently. She is a church-going Christian. Her wedding was a simple wedding in a registry office. They asked to have no presents, and friends present paid for their own meal afterwards at a restaurant. My question is: why do many people not think or realise this is possible in a church? I checked our diocesan website of about 150 churches: only three parishes and the cathedral mention that they do weddings!

I was talking to a priest yesterday and soon in his parish there will, in fact, be a simple wedding, with afternoon tea following in the parish hall. Why are more people not made aware of this option? The local newspaper regularly has a lift-out feature brochure about weddings – at most only one of our parishes will feature in an advertisement, and I have never seen an article explaining that you can have a simple, wonderful, meaningful wedding service at a church.

Churches, parishes, are expensive to run. If you are going to have an expensive wedding and you want to have the service in church it is appropriate that you give a donation to that church. Churches will regularly have a suggested list of donations. Including a donation to the priest. The 2,000 year tradition of the church, however, is that you cannot charge for a sacramental action such as a marriage. The money donated to the priest is placed in the parish’s Discretionary Account usually administered by the priest. I have known of the priest discretely paying for a struggling couple’s wedding rings from the Discretionary Account.

I have known of regulars at a Sunday morning service to get married during the regular Sunday morning service with the refreshments following being extra special to celebrate the wedding. The Christian community celebrates a baptism in its midst Sunday mornings – why not a marriage?

If you can afford to have an expensive wedding, and that’s what you really want – great. If you want a simple wedding, and would rather save the money towards a house deposit etc. or cannot afford an expensive wedding, or do not want to have an expensive wedding on principle – the Christian community should be supportive of you and encouraging you. As far as I know there is no correlation between the expense of the wedding and the “success” of the marriage.

Your church or parish needs to

  • Have a simple brochure explaining the Christian understanding of marriage and what your community can provide in terms of preparation, service options, and follow-up
  • Have this same information online and easy to find on your community website
  • Have this same information in an abbreviated form on your diocesan website or its equivalent in your denomination
  • Regularly advertise in suburban papers with a summary of this information, and regularly write articles about this in those papers – those papers are always hungry for attractive articles. Provide photos and news of such a recent wedding (with the couple’s permission of course)
  • Regularly advertise in the larger newspapers, in magazines, providing interesting articles.
  • Feature on Radio and Television. Get interviewed if you cannot afford advertising. They, too, are constantly seeking interesting stories. Club together with other communities to pay for a television spot. A diocese is large enough to feature regularly.

What do you think about this? What do you or your community do? Any other stories or ideas?

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17 thoughts on “inexpensive wedding”

  1. Our oldest daughter was married in the church 2.5 years ago. There was no pressure from the pastor to have anything elegant or elaborate, and the parish does not have a wedding coordinator. The wedding was only as elegant and elaborate as we could afford (incl her dress, cake & photographer, we spent app. $1,400 USD & we spent that over time so it didn’t cause a huge financial burden on our family), and our daughter was very appreciative of her beautiful day. I would hate to think there are parishes that somehow talk couples/families into doing/having more of a wedding than they can afford. The thought just saddens me.

  2. I live in a pickle. My wife is a high quality wedding photographer and I am her second photographer. What makes beatiful art in our profession is often opposed to the modesty, holiness and humility that I believe should mark the beginning of marriage. Pray for us that we can witness to the Kingdom of God and to the holiness of this sacrament…while still paying the bills.

  3. I happen to be a newspaper reporter. Here’s my follow-up tips:

    Find out when your local newspaper is planning to run its “bridal section.” This normally is done just before the major bridal shows in the area – which could be once a year, twice a year, whatever your local market dictates. The advertising department will know the publication schedule.

    Then about a month ahead of that publication, contact the paper with a story pitch and recommendations of who to speak to in the area about arranging a church wedding on a budget.

  4. At my Presbyterian church we’ve had two weddings in the past couple of years during our regular Sunday worship service. Okay, one was son of the music director/organist, one was son of the pastor. They were both wonderful events that the whole congregation celebrated. If I ever get married I would want it to be part of the Sunday morning service. (And I’d want it to be a Eucharistic celebration–not all Presbyterians assume that, alas!) Even though marriage isn’t considered a sacrament in our tradition I think the parallel with baptism is meaningful–we normally observe major transitions such as weddings and births with our family, and for those of us active in a church our congregation is part of our family. The reformers encouraged baptism to be part of the Sunday service and not a private, immediate-family-only ceremony.

    Any wedding, regardless of where the ceremony takes place, can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. I’ll concede, though, the cheapest wedding I know of was a civil ceremony–a couple I knew in grad school had donated blood to satisfy the blood test requirement, went to the courthouse to get the license (the only thing they paid for), and had a judge perform the ceremony. He had been doing divorces all day so waived any fees because he was glad to be bringing together rather than dividing asunder.

  5. I was positively delighted to read this post as it is something which I believe is long overdue. Weddings today are so overdone they always leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Nobody is championing the case of the simple wedding, and the might of Holywood and the wedding industry are working hard for the overblown wedding extravaganza.

    To me, it is significantly more beautiful and meaningful to have a simple wedding grounded in all humbleness, that the focus is firmly on the vows made in fulfilment of the word of God, and not the pomp and pageantry around them.

    An alternative to donations in churches is to pass around the collection plate, especially where the wedding is combined with holy communion and it is an expectation that such a plate be passed. (Receiving holy communion as the first action a couple make as husband and wife is something I find deeply moving, and I am often saddened when ‘certain’ denominations refuse to give communion to one newly married person – who has just been declared united with the other as one – based on him or her being of different denomination.)

    A really nice way to bring people together at the wedding is to replace the sit-down formal dinner with bring-your-own / pot-luck dinner at the parish hall. This cuts out the cost of catering entirely and brings the cost down to just the rental of the parish hall for the evening plus any additional cutlery and crockery. Such a shared meal in which all directly and actually share their food with each other is richly symbolic of marriage, family and the love and care of the community in welcoming the new married couple.

    Personally the idea of not being married in the church and before God never crossed my mind, and I was surprised to read in the post that it is common for Christians not to get married as such. However, before a church starts advertising wedding services to those who are not Christians, it is important that a proper programme of counselling be put in place to ensure that by the time they come to make their vows before God they both believe in God and understand the vows they are taking before Him.

    It would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the incumbent to allow the marriage of a couple without first taking pains to try to be sure they understand and trust in the scriptural basis of marriage, the nature of God, and the seriousness of the covenantal vows they take before Him.

  6. Hi ,

    I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog.

    As a bride-to-be on a tight budget, I recently discovered an online bridal jewelry store called GlamForLess.com.
    Though their website is plain and simple, I found some great deals on jewelry sets for me and my bridesmaids.

    I think other readers on a tight budget may also find GlamForLess.com to be helpful.
    You may want to check them out at http://www.glamforless.com/ and inform other readers about it.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best regards,
    Lisa Bloom

  7. Even in the UK this is possible. We recently renewed our wedding vows during a Parish Holy Communion service, followed by a meal at a local Restaurant – the donation to the Parish was made, although none was asked for.

    I have known some who spent thousands on just this simple service – why?

  8. I also love weddings as part of the Sunday Eucharist. Often times couples who are willing to do this are deeply involved with the life of the parish and the idea of the parish family being witnesses to their vows is appealing to them. I always mention this to couples as an alternative to Saturday, friends and families only types of weddings that often cost bundle. One of the nicest was when the bride, whose first husband had died a few years before, walked in the procession with her husband-to-be and two attendants (after the thurifer, crucifer and torch bearers, but before the sacred ministers). After the Liturgy of the Word, the marriage ceremony was held, then the Eucharist. The bride and groom also processed out with the altar party. The reception was held in the parish hall and was a pot luck with the parish providing the food. They asked that people bring food as gifts. It was quite wonderful.

  9. I know a church that encouraged expensive weddings. They even had set fees (greater than $1000) in the wedding pamphlets. One of the ministers on staff had a standard fee of $300, and was encouraged to do so by the senior pastor. He only required one meeting ahead of time to “go over the liturgy.”

    Thanks for the reminder that this isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the norm.

  10. In the U.S., weddings have gotten increasingly ridiculously expensive and ridiculously ostentatious. I think if I were ever to get married at this stage of my life (like there is anyone lurking in the corner for me to do such a thing, LOL) I’d just do it during the regular Sunday service and be done with it. I can’t think of any better way to do it other than the context of “bringing it to my Sunday worship” as I do every other thing I bring before God. I also think the most profound thing a newly married couple can do is receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. What more sacred way to be united is there?

  11. I’ve seen couples who were celebrating anniversary milestones celebrate during Sunday Mass, but never thought of getting married during the same. That is a beautiful way to celebrate, not only with one’s family & friends, but with your faith family, too! That is fantastic!!!

  12. When we got married in church, we were saving for a deposit on a house, so we got wed in our civvies (smart, of course), and had the reception in my mother-in-law’s front room. We both have very happy memories of that day, and I think that’s obviously not what getting married is about, but it’s stil very important.

  13. My mom and dad were married in a the south transcept of a church, rather than in the sanctuary. It was a small ceremony and they remained married all of their lives, over 50 years. Their guests took them out for lunch afterwards.

    I went to FIT in Manhattan and worked in the bridal gown industry in the fashion district of NYC for years before becoming a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who writes Christian themed crime fiction (unpublished as yet, in the contest entering phase). I’ve seen brides waste money on bridal gowns that cost more than my wedding did. This is prompting ideas for a novel where the bride-to=be goes for a dress fitting w/her entire bridal party and in the dressing room, her mother in law is murdered. That would be an interesting fiction read. Lots of suspects.

  14. Another idea: Coordinate details with one or more parishes, or an ecumenical Christian organization in your city, to host its own bridal show.

    This doesn’t have to be held at an expensive expo hall – in fact, I suggest hosting it at one of the sponsoring churches. I’m starting to see a lot of the wedding reception halls in my area (Michigan) host their own bridal shows to showcase what their reception hall can do. Why not showcase the churches?

    Invite vendors who are comfortable working in the Christian wedding service environment. Encourage them to bring displays or photos of what they have done or can do for Christian weddings of all budgets. A dress shop, for example, can feature actual attire or photos of lovely gowns from the more modest collections.

    Invite non-profits and ministries that normally aren’t part of a commercial bridal show but whose services are appropriate to this audience to be among the vendor / information booths. Examples: financial literacy classes, homemaking / grocery shopping classes, and baptism preparations.

    Arrange for at least one music director or team from the participating churches set up a table with handouts and song books showing suggested music for Christian wedding services. A music CD or mp3 player could be available at this table or put the music on speaker so it can be heard as background music in the vendor area.

    Set up the vendor and information booths in the gym or social hall. Ask the commercial vendors for modest donations in lieu of booth fees to a ministry that directly serves families in your community such as a food pantry or emergency housing and utility fund. (This gives a non-profit angle to your event, which is favorable for the publicity and marketing campaign. You may also want to invite couples-to-be to donate to your designated charity.)

    Have the church wedding planner or wedding committee members standing by in the church to give tours and answer questions on the details of a church wedding.

    Refreshments that are usually served at the bridal shows in my area are samples of dinner or buffet foods and wedding cakes. You could do that if your social hall hosts weddings, otherwise invite area caterers to provide samples or just serve very simple refreshments with coffee and wedding themed cookies from a bakery.

    Schedule this wedding show around the same time, but not on the same date, as the other major bridal shows in your area. You want to reach this audience as they are making plans for their weddings and comparing packages, products and services.

    If this will be a new event, the planning committee will need to start meeting about six months in advance. As soon as you get the date / time / location booked, then contact commercial vendors and ministries so they can get this event on their calendar.

    The marketing campaign to reach the couples to be needs to start four to eight weeks in advance. Use local news media, social media, your own church web sites, and your own church bulletins to get the word out.

  15. My fiancee and I have both been married before. We are Presbyterians and just met with the minister to plan to exchange vows during a regular Sunday Worship Service in February. We will provide some updated artificial alter flowers and some cupcakes and brownies for after church (usually the church has cookie and coffee after the service each week. We will donate the flowers so the Church can use them again and invite all of our family and friends to attend Church with us that day. We don’t need gifts at this point in our lives. Lots of good ideas. I may ask if we can light a unity candle but other than that, the minister said a marriage is a holy worship service, anyway, so he can lead it as such. With a new outfit, some invites and some napkins, it may cost $500 total.

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