You can marry in a church!
You’re welcome to marry in the Church of England whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and regardless of whether you go to church or not. It’s your church, and we welcome you! (A complication would only arise if one of you had been married before, but there may still be a way forward. Read more about this under “Preparing for the service: frequently-asked questions“.)
It is your vicar’s duty to marry you, but also their privilege. If you invite us to be part of your wedding, we offer a special place for such a special day. Getting married in church means that you make your promises to each other before God, in a setting where countless others have also committed themselves to one another.
The rules on where you can get married changed on October 1, 2008, making it easier for you to get married in a church where you previously have links. You no longer have to live in the parish.
Marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace; it is given that husband and wife may comfort and help each other, living faithfully together in need and in plenty, in sorrow and in joy; it is given that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance with God’s will, to his praise and glory.
The Church of England website has additional information.
A marriage service, wherever it is held, is a public declaration of love and commitment to your partner.
If you choose to get married in church, there is an added dimension – the assurance that God cares about your relationship and that his resources and strength are available to help you.
Including God in your marriage doesn’t mean that you will avoid all the usual ups and downs, but you will know that you can look to God for help and guidance and that his love will sustain you.
You will also have the support and encouragement of the Christian Church family.
Q. Where can I get married?
A. Thanks to a new law, you’ve now got more choice about which church to marry in. If you want to marry in your local C of E church, check www.achurchnearyou.com to discover which parish you live in. There should also be some contact details for the local vicar.
But you might like to marry in a different church because it has special significance for you through family or other special connections. An engaged couple can now do just that if either of you can show just one of the following seven connections with the parish.
That one of you:
- was baptised in the parish concerned or
- was prepared for confirmation in the parish or
- has at any time lived in the parish for a period of at least 6 months or
- has at any time regularly gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least 6 months or
- That one of your parents, at any time after you were born:
- has lived in the parish for a period of at least 6 months or
- has regularly gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least 6 months or
That one of your parents or grandparents:
- was married in the parish
In all cases involving church services – i.e. going to normal church services, baptism, confirmation or marriage – this applies only to Church of England services. Even if you cannot demonstrate any of the above connections, we want to help you explore whether it may still be possible for you to marry in your special church. Talk to the vicar there well in advance to discuss the options open to you.
At the moment you can only have a Church of England wedding in a parish church or some other place of worship – normally one licensed by the Bishop. It is not normally possible to have your church wedding in other venues, for instance in a hotel.
Q. How do I book the church?
A. As soon as you have decided you would like to get married in church, get in touch with the parish priest to see whether the church is free on your preferred date.
Your priest or minister will probably wish to meet with you in person to discuss your plans.
Q. What are the legal requirements?
A. You must have your banns read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding.
Banns are an announcement of your intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place.
Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you lives as well as at the church in which you are to be married if that is another parish. (In some cases there may be an alternative to banns – see the Church of England web site.)
If you are under the age of eighteen, you must have your parents’ consent to marry.
There are special guidelines on church marriage if you have been divorced: see the separate question on this issue.
Q. How much will it cost?
A. The legal fees for a marriage cover the publication of the banns, certificate of banns (if necessary), the marriage service and a certificate of marriage. These fees are fixed centrally and will cost between £180 and £250.
These fees do not cover any extras you may wish to have for the service, such as a choir, organist, bell-ringers, special lighting, fees for video recording and so on. Check with the parish priest about the cost and availability of these things.
Q. Can I choose what kind of service I want?
A. You may be able to choose between a modern language service or one in more traditional language. Talk over the options with the parish priest. There are usually one or more readings from the Bible in the service – the parish priest can help you select the most appropriate. There will also be some prayers, which you may help to choose, or you may write your own. You may also decide to have someone other than the minister leading the prayers.
The minister will probably give a brief talk or sermon.
If you have friends or family members you would like to involve in the service, for example by doing a reading or playing a musical instrument, discuss this with your parish priest at an early stage of your planning.
Q. What if one of us is divorced?
A. The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life. It also recognizes that, sadly, some marriages do fail and, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.
If you are thinking about asking to be married in church, you should discuss this with the parish priest. Please do this well before choosing a date for your wedding.
Some priests may be willing to take such a marriage, others may not be prepared to do so, on grounds of conscience, and may not allow the use of their church either. The law of the land permits them this choice.
The parish priest is willing to discuss the possibility of conducting your marriage, he/she will want to talk to you frankly about the past, your hopes for the future and your understanding of marriage. You and your intended spouse should therefore be prepared to consider some questions. You are advised to reflect beforehand on the issues they raise – and should be prepared to answer them honestly, (a form and explanatory statement, Marriage in church after divorce, may be downloaded from here or ordered from Church House Bookshop, phone 020 7898 1300, website). If it is not possible for your proposed marriage to take place in church, the priest may consider other alternatives with you, such as a Service of Prayer and Dedication after a civil ceremony.
Christians believe that marriage is a gift from God. In the marriage ceremony, a couple make a public declaration of lifelong commitment to love each other, come what may.
The Bible compares married love with the love Jesus has for his followers. He expressed his love by being prepared to sacrifice himself, even to die for the people he loved. This is amazing, unconditional love. Jesus never said ‘I love you, but …’. In our marriages we can try to follow his model by loving our partners in a self-sacrificial way, putting their needs before our own.
The marriage ceremony gives you a new legal status as husband and wife and a new stability within which your relationship can flourish and grow. Christians believe that marriage offers the right place for the fulfilment of our sexuality and that it provides a stable and secure environment for bringing up children.
God our Father
You have taught us through your Son
That love is the fulfilling of the law:
Grant to your servants that, loving one another
They may continue in your love until their lives’ end;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
There are usually two or three hymns during a wedding service. It’s a good idea to try to find hymns that are familiar to those who will be present – and are easy to sing! Your vicar will be able to advise you further.
The following are popular choices:
- Lord of the dance
- Morning has broken
- All things bright & beautiful
- Be thou my vision
- Love divine
- Guide me O thy great redeemer
- Praise my soul the king of heaven
- Shine Jesus shine
- Tell out my soul
Traditional tunes played:
- Wedding March, Wagner
- Bridal March, Mendelssohn
- Prince of Denmark’s March, Clarke
- Trumpet Tune, Purcell