Before we dig in, let us say that we are neither encouraging nor discouraging anyone getting married in a church! When we refer to a church, we do not mean one specific religion or denomination. We are simply referring to a religious venue to hold your marriage ceremony!
We certainly understand that there are a lot of things to consider when deciding on this important venue. This blog is intended for those that are questioning if they are wanting to get married in a church versus other venues such as a ballroom, museum, on the beach, or in a park!
If you book a church for your ceremony, there are several factors beyond availability to consider. Capacity is generally not an issue, unless you have selected a quaint chapel, but often a large sanctuary can be a bit overwhelming for a small ceremony. Church rules are normally extensive and put in place to preserve the sacred environment. Count on regulations regarding decor, and don’t be surprised if you are required to donate any flowers used during the ceremony to the church! Some religions provide couples counseling or retreats prior to the ceremony and some still will not perform interfaith weddings. Before deciding on a church, look at the sanctuary carefully. A chief structural consideration is the width of the center aisle (or if there is a center aisle). There must be ample room for you and your escort to walk without fear of interfering with decor or having your dressed stepped on!!!
Church Ceremony Pros:
Infrastructure is in place, an altar is already present, musicians and instruments are accessible with an organ and/or piano usually, rooms for the bride and groom to get ready in, and sufficient parking!
Seating for a large capacity is available and you do not have to rent chairs! Be mindful of your guest count when choosing, you do not want something too big or too small!
Cost is usually low to medium range and most have a set fee plus ala carte pricing for other services like music, facilitation, and altar servers vary from church to church.
Weather is no issue!
Some have an on-staff coordinator that can help the day of your wedding!
Most vendors such as photographers have worked in the venue multiple times, they know what it will take to make it look perfect!!!
The officiant is a part of the pricing!
All you really need to do is provide altar arrangement, pew markers, aisle runner and programs!!!
Church Ceremony Cons:
*Most likely you will not be the only wedding ceremony on that day, you may feel rushed the day of the ceremony (especially is you do not have a planner). Also, for the rehearsal, you may be forced to rehearse on a Thursday evening instead of the typically desired Friday. There will probably be in and out windows such as a three-hour window from arrival, photos, ceremony and exit.
Customization options are limited. While you can bring in flowers, candles, etc., most churches will not let you transform the sanctuary to fit your vision.
You may not get the preacher / officiant you want. Some churches are fine with “outside” pastors conducting the ceremony, others require you to use their pastor. This can make things complicated if you have a family friend who you have always wanted to perform the ceremony!
Non – members of the church often pay more! In some locations, it can be close to double or even more!
Music!!!! Most churches will give you a set list of songs to choose from and that is it (keep in mind that most have a rule that only the chapel’s organist or his/her designated substitute can play on the organ for wedding ceremonies)! You cannot bring in your own music and you cannot play secular or pre-recorded music. Some will let other musicians audition, so check far in advance to see if this is an option!
Consider carefully the rules regarding photography! Most churches will not allow flash photography during the ceremony and will only allow photographers to shoot from the balcony or back of church! This can hinder the ability to capture such things as the ring exchange for instance.
And finally, the biggest con, if you are not a member of that church, they ask that you do not make your reservation for the ceremony site till 3-4 months before the wedding. They usually want to keep those dates open for church members which is completely understandable, but difficult when planning a wedding; especially if you are new to town and have not established membership in a specific church!
Non-church Ceremony pros:
The ceremony and the reception can often be held in the same location. Convenient, straightforward, and fewer people to get lost (it happens more than you think)…
BYOP – Bring you own Pastor! You can have whoever you want perform the ceremony!
More options to transform the space! You have full reign to create your special day!!!!
They can be indoors or out! (make sue to have a backup plan)!!
You could be the only service that day, letting your design team have plenty of time to make it all come together!
You can reuse items from the ceremony decor for the reception. For instance, if you create a gazebo for the ceremony, you can then put the sweetheart table under it or even the bride’s cake table. Saves money by utilizing these items all night rather than for an hour.
Non-church ceremony cons:
“Corporate” wedding? Often, hotel banquet rooms are perfect for receptions but may feel a little cold or corporate for ceremonies. This is where hiring a wedding planning AND designer come in handy. They can transform that space and leave you with a beautiful ceremony!
Infrastructure problems, parking may be limited. Safety, depending on the venue site. If at a historical site, things like hot water may be troublesome to your vendors and an added expense for you.
Expense!! Unless you get married in the backyard or at a park, it’s typically cheaper to hold your service at a church rather than another location. Keep this in mind as well, the price may increase or decrease depending on your date and time of day!
We certainly understand that this is a big decision! Ultimately, do what you feel is right for you and your future spouse!
First and Third Pro church ceremony pictures are from theknot.com
Ambiance photo is from brides.com
Angry bride photo is from marriedbyjosh.com
First non-church picture from ovandony.com
Second non church photo is from theknot.com
Third non-church picture is from iloveswmag.com
Rain photo from gabbagabbaborg.tumblr.com
Last picture is from http://www.strings-champagne.com/blog/rainy-day-weddings-some-helpful-and-fun-ideas/