Post Author: Stephanie Sorge Wing
It’s that time of year once again: Wedding Season! Young clergy women are here to offer some helpful advice and words of wisdom to the happy couples and their family and friends. Let the wedding bells ring!
- If you want to get married in a church and/or by a clergy person, contact the church and clergy person before finalizing the date! Make sure you have read and agree to comply with any policies of the church and the officiant. Make sure your vendors (photographer/videographer, wedding coordinators, etc.) have also read and agree to comply with the church and officiant policies.
- Do not assume that you can simply rent a church and bring in your own officiant. Most churches have policies about this. If it isn’t clear in the wedding policies, ask.
- Know that most clergy require some kind of premarital sessions with the couple, so plan accordingly.
- Research local and state laws regarding wedding licenses. It is the COUPLE’S responsibility to secure the wedding license, and you will need to do this within a certain time period before the wedding. Don’t come to the wedding rehearsal without it! Make a clear plan for how the license will be filed. Will you or a family member be mailing it? The clergy person?
- It’s a big day, but it’s not the only day. Be mindful of your budget. Starting off a marriage with a huge debt for wedding festivities is not advised! Also remember that just as your photographer, cake baker, and musicians are professionals paid for services they provide, so is the clergy person. For many weddings, clergy will put in 10-20 hours of additional work, often on days and at times where they would otherwise be off. If the clergy person is required to travel, all expenses should be paid, including a hotel room if overnight accommodations are needed. Clergy might have set fees, which will be communicated clearly, or they might have sliding scales or leave it to the discretion of the couple. Remember that the clergy person has at least one advanced professional degree, and is putting significant time and energy into your big day, and compensate accordingly.
- We know, we know – online ordination is a thing, and your best friend, your cousin’s uncle, or any Joe Schmo off the street can become credentialed to officiate. That’s not really equivalent to having an ordained, trained, and experienced clergy person as an officiant. If you do choose to go that route, please don’t ask a clergy person to lend expertise.
That “religious” thing:
- Clergy love the opportunity to get to know couples over the course of preparing for the big day! We hope to be a resource before, during, and after the wedding, and couples are always welcome to affiliate with the congregation if they aren’t already members. The community of faith can be a great place of support.
- That being said, if you don’t have any intention to get more involved with the church after the wedding, that’s ok, too. We appreciate your honesty, and we’ll still be happy to be a resource down the road if that is helpful.
- Weddings held in churches are worship services. Most clergy are willing to craft a service that is authentic and appropriate for each couple. While it will vary among churches and clergy, expect that there will be certain elements reflecting the religious tradition. Talk through those in advance to make sure all parties are on the same page, even if it means altering the service or ultimately finding a new venue and officiant.
- Plan for a rehearsal and take seriously the task of rehearsing. Make sure everyone shows up early, not having gotten a head start on the evening festivities. If you have a wedding planner or coordinator not affiliated with the church, make sure they connect with the clergy person before the rehearsal to clarify roles and expectations.
The family circus:
- Weddings can bring out the best – and the worst – in family dynamics. It’s helpful if you can give your officiant a heads up about any potential issues.
- Think of how you want people seated and how you want them to process into the wedding. Feelings might get hurt by who is perceived to have the places of greater honor. If you let us know your preferences, we can simply dictate them at the rehearsal.
- We know that couples are often being pulled in many different directions with family requests. We don’t have to spend holidays with your family and friends following the ceremony, but you do. Your clergy person can be a great ally! If there is something you feel strongly about that is in conflict with a friend or family member, you can ask us to be the “bad guy” and hold the line. We can take the heat and you can keep the peace.
- If you want to write your own vows, write them down. Give them to the clergy person in advance. Even if you plan to memorize your vows, if the clergy person has a copy, we can help you out if your mind goes blank in the moment! Recognize that vows are promises made to each other. Your clergy person might have suggestions or requirements for vows. Use them.
- You don’t have to memorize anything. We will feed you your lines and give you prompts for what you need to do.
- Mistakes will happen. They will. And that is ok. Take them in stride. You’ll laugh about them later, and they will be among the favorite stories to tell in the years to come.
- Don’t lock your knees. Many a partner has been felled by locked knees. Similarly, don’t forget to breathe. Don’t forget to eat before the ceremony. Don’t show up drunk or otherwise impaired. Get rid of the gum.
- Many of the details that you will spend time agonizing over will be forgotten before the day is over. Don’t sweat the small details. Don’t blow your budget. Remember that this is a celebration of your love and commitment, shared with the people you love the most. No one will care if everything goes wrong, but they will remember if your stress, frustration, or angst stamped out the joy from the celebration.
- Don’t forget the cleaning crew. Remember that in most cases, Saturday weddings will be followed by regular Sunday activities in the church. Make sure that there is a plan for everything to get put back in place and cleaned up. The church might have staff who can help with this, who should be paid for their additional work time.
- Remember to send in the marriage license!
- Your wedding is not your marriage. Put at least the same amount of care and work into nurturing your marriage as you did in planning your wedding!
We clergy people really do care about you and your marriage. We will be praying for you and with you long after the ceremony is over. We’re grateful for the privilege of sharing this important life event with you!
The Rev. Stephanie Sorge Wing lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband and sons. She serves Trinity Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a beautiful place where many happy weddings have been celebrated!
Image by: Jesse Kitt
Used with permission