Want to get married in a church but not sure where to start? For couples that don’t belong to a church, are a part of different religions or no religions at all, church weddings can be difficult to navigate.
If walking down a church aisle is your idea of a perfect ‘I do,’ here’s what to keep in mind.
- Every Church Is Different
Every church is different when it comes to marriage, says Drew Rindfleisch, an ELCA-Lutheran pastor serving a congregation on the West Side of Chicago.
“Some consider marriage to be a sacrament in life between two people which should never be broken,” Rindfleisch says, “while some faiths acknowledge that not all marriages are lifelong due to unforeseen circumstances. Some churches are open to same-sex weddings, while there are still many who are not.”
Leslie Johnson, a non-denominational officiant at Minnesota-based Positively Charmed, echoes the sentiment that churches are all different.
“Remember that places of worship are faith communities, not wedding venues,” Johnson says. While some churches may see non-congregant engaged couples coming through the doors as just looking for a great “ceremony backdrop” to their wedding day, other chapels are open to honoring non-denominational or interfaith ceremonies.
- There’s a Church Venue Out There For Everyone
With a little time and research, couples can find a place of worship that fits their budgets and beliefs. Rindfleisch, whose congregation has married all types of people, recommends that a couple find a church, congregation, temple, mosque or community that shares their values.
“Even if couples have not belonged to that faith community in the past, or do not plan to belong to that faith tradition, they can always Google search the church, the pastor, the community and its values and talk to pastors in person,” he says.
- How Much It’ll Cost Really Depends
Not sure how much to budget for a church ceremony? Some churches may charge a fee for the space, others may charge a fee and request an honorarium for officiants, while some may do neither or both. Large cathedrals, Rindfleisch says, often fill up quickly (especially during the summer months), which means charging more. Some churches will ask for $1,000 for everything, he says, while he’s seen smaller churches charge $500 to rent the space and larger spaces charge $2,000 just to reserve a date.
- You May Be Required to Attend Counseling
Depending on the church, couples may need to complete premarital counseling.
“Whatever your faith tradition (or non-faith tradition), it is a truly fabulous idea to engage in a premarital course,” Positively Charmed’s Johnson says. “Many denominations require your willingness to learn and grow in this manner. Think conflict resolution and communication just for a start.”
As an added bonus some states, like Minnesota, where Rindfleisch got married, offer couples a discount on marriage license fees is they complete a certified marriage course.
- Not Sure? Just Ask
It can be daunting to think about asking a church or place of worship about their rules regarding wedding ceremonies, but unless information is available publicly, it’s best to ask directly. Johnson’s advice for couples struggling to find a church venue is to treat the concern with respect for all involved and to communicate with honesty and integrity. For example, if a church asks if you’ll become members, only say yes if that’s the truth.