5 Things To Keep In Mind Before Planning A Church Wedding

From the Experts

The epic walk down a long aisle, doors flung open as you walk into a pipe organ giving it all its got, and the impact of knowing you are doing something generations of family did before you. I love beautiful drama of a church wedding, BUT that’s not to say there isn’t a ton of extra logistics to navigate. Recently, I virtually compared notes with MK of Your Day by MK on all things church wedding. Check out her feedback below of some handy tips to keep in mind when planning your church wedding day and timeline:

A church wedding can be extremely memorable and meaningful for many couples and their families. The churches themselves often add a level of gravity and intentionality behind the day. While it is nice not to think about how you will structure your ceremony, there are other variables that come into play that every couple should keep in mind.

When can you get married and how it will fit with the overall flow of your day.

Most churches have set times for wedding ceremonies on Saturday, often 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm, but be sure to ask. Some churches have Friday and Sunday options as well, but less so because of their scheduled church services. If you get married earlier, like 1pm, you do not need to do a first look because you’ll have time in between your ceremony and reception. This also leaves enough time for guests to hang out in the city or go back to their hotel before the reception. If you choose (or are given) the 3pm ceremony, consider having an earlier start to cocktail hour so guests can leave from the ceremony and family formals and go straight to the reception space. You should factor getting to the church about 30-45 minutes before your ceremony to get situated and leave 30 minutes for family formals at the altar after. 

Check out Jordan & Jake’s St James’ wedding day here.

What is included in the cost? Is there a cost?

Some churches are donation based, some have a basic rental price, and some churches are all inclusive with musicians and more. Be sure to ask all that is included so you  know if you need to hire a cantor or if you need to get vestments for your officiant. When factoring your church ceremony in to your budget, be sure to include tips for the priest or pastor, for each musician, and if you have any aids like altar servers.

Will the church require premarital counseling, various paperwork, or active membership?

If you are marrying in a specific denomination ask if there is anything you need to prepare or have prepared. Many different denominations require a form of pre-marital counseling. Catholic churches require you go through what they call “pre-cana” while some denominations just require some structured program in whatever way is best for you two. Some premarital counseling requires up to 6 months of lead time before your wedding day, so be sure to factor that into your engagement and planning timeline. If the church is denominational, some will require that at least one of you is a member or has paperwork like baptism and confirmation records to procure.

What are their rules with outside vendors, officiants, cantors and more?

When searching for the right church, be sure to ask about various components that are important to you. Some churches require that you use their musicians and cantors, while others will allow family members and friends to sing a song during the ceremony. This also includes musical limitations. Most churches will only allow liturgical music, while some will ok a newer style of music. Some churches are non-denominational, so you can bring in an officiant of your choosing amongst any denomination, while Catholic churches will only allow priests, and even then, be sure to ask if you can bring your own if there is someone special to you and your family. Lots of churches also have guidelines and regulations when it comes to photographers, florists, and other outside vendors. The administrative team should have a sheet to give to all of your vendors about where they can or can not stand, guidelines for timing, if there are rules about flash, dress, aisle runners and more.

Understanding the limitations

At the end of the day, no matter how flexible the church or denomination, there are always going to be limitations. This is also true of any venue if you decide to do an on-site ceremony or secular ceremony because venues also have rules and guidelines. At that point, it’s a matter of understanding your priorities. If you want a religious ceremony, there are so many options for you to choose. If you want to have your best friend officiate and have James Taylor as your processional, then maybe a church wedding will not suffice. Be sure to write down what is most important to you and your marriage when it comes to your ceremony and go from there.

View Emma & Peter’s big day at St Michael’s of Old Town here!


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