Sessions have authority over the use of church property, and approaches to the use of the church for marriage services vary. Some consider each request on a case-by-case basis, while others leave the decision to the discretion of the teaching elder.
Here’s the process one Session used in adopting the policy that “requests for Session consideration of marriage will not be denied based upon sexual orientation.”
An elder from another congregation collected resources from his Session’s process of deliberation.
For those who are considering a written policy, here are some samples.
The Session of _______ Presbyterian Church authorizes its minister(s) to use their discretion in deciding whether to conduct any marriage on church property, regardless of gender, as permitted by the laws of the State of _____, provided that they have exercised their pastoral responsibility to counsel with the couple and to assess the capabilities, intentions, and readiness of the couple to be married and to live according to the values of the marriage covenant.
A policy based on the pre-Amendment 14-F Directory for Worship as interpreted by the 221st General Assembly (2014):
Weddings at ____ Presbyterian Church
Active members of _PC are invited to use our church facilities for their wedding. _PC members’ adult children who are active members of another congregation as well as other Presbyterians in good standing are also welcome. Please refer to the last page in this brochure for a listing of fees for member and nonmember weddings.
The Wedding Service
God gave us marriage for the full expression of the love between two people. In marriage two people give themselves to each other with affection and tenderness. God gave us marriage for the well-being of human society, and for the ordering of family life. God gave us marriage as a holy mystery in which two people are joined together, and become one, just as Christ is one with the church. In marriage, two people are called to a new way of life, created, ordered, and blessed by God. In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by two people to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith. This way of life must not be entered into carelessly, or from selfish motives, but responsibly and prayerfully.
These are sentences adapted from the Book of Common Worship and the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA). They assist our understanding of what Christian marriage is all about.
Planning the Wedding
If you desire to have your wedding at ___ Presbyterian Church, the following steps need to be taken:
- Request the date and time for the wedding with the church secretary, who will then check with one of the pastors.
- Meet with the officiating clergy and the wedding coordinator.
- Return the proper forms and make deposits where applicable.
After these steps are completed, your wedding date will be confirmed on the church calendar.
A wedding coordinator is present at all _PC weddings. The wedding coordinator is arranged through the church office and will meet with you prior to the wedding to share _PC wedding policies and to coordinate your wedding plans with the actual layout and physical limitations of the facility. The wedding coordinator will open and close the building for your rehearsal and will open appropriate building areas for the wedding party three hours before the ceremony. The wedding coordinator will be present and available for the rehearsal and the wedding.
We believe that your marriage will be enhanced and the ceremony made more meaningful with thoughtful counseling and preparation. Our Directory for Worship requires the minister to provide for discussion with the couple concerning the following topics:
- The nature of their Christian commitment, assuring that at least one is a professing Christian.
- The legal requirements of the State.
- The privileges and responsibilities of Christian marriage.
- The nature and form of the marriage service.
- The vows and commitments the couple will be asked to make.
- The relationship of these commitments to their lives of discipleship.
- The resources of the faith and the Christian community to assist them in fulfilling their marriage commitments.
_PC’s pastors provide pre-marital counseling sessions. Together with the pastor, couples will discuss their strengths and growth areas as they prepare for marriage. They will practice in areas such as couple communication, reflective listening, conflict resolution and financial planning. It is your responsibility to make an appointment with the officiating minister to begin the counseling process.
Music is a beautiful and meaningful part of the marriage ceremony. We are eager to assist you in providing appropriate music of high quality for your wedding.
It is expected that the selection of music to be sung or played will be appropriate to the sacred nature of the wedding service of worship and that reverence and discretion will be the principal guidelines. As stated in the Directory for Worship: “Music suitable for the marriage service directs attention to God and expresses the faith of the church. The congregation may join in hymns and other musical forms of praise and prayer.” Secular love songs, popular songs and show tunes may be appropriate for the reception and other wedding social events, but they are generally not appropriate at the wedding ceremony. The officiating minister will make final approval of all music.
If an organist is wanted, you are responsible for communicating this to the wedding coordinator who will contact the organist. The organist will play for the service and will accompany any soloists. As soon as the tentative date for the wedding has been placed on the church calendar, you should make an appointment with the organist. Time must be allowed to review, select, and in some cases, order music.
Piano, strings, brass and woodwinds may be used, as well as vocalists. The organist can assist you in selecting your instrumental and vocal music. The church has a ___ organ in the Sanctuary and an ___ electronic organ in the chapel. The church also has pianos in each of these locations and a ___ for use as well.
___ Presbyterian Church is located at ____. The church has parking lots and there is some street parking nearby. All areas of the church facility are handicapped accessible.
The sanctuary seats ___ people, and is air conditioned. The center aisle is __ feet long.
The Chapel seats ___ people and is air conditioned. The center aisle is __ feet long. Coat rooms are adjacent to the Sanctuary and the Chapel.
Dressing rooms are available for each partner and his/her attendants.
A room is available for childcare during your wedding if you choose to provide this service for your guests. The couple is responsible for arranging for a sitter.
Sanctuary decorations, including band equipment, may not be removed for any reason. We will do everything possible to maintain a worshipful space for your wedding.
Out of concern for the environment and the safety of your guests, the throwing of rice, birdseed, and confetti is prohibited both inside and outside the church. Alcoholic beverages and narcotic substances may not be brought into or served on the church premises at any time. Smoking is not permitted inside the church building.
The custodian for your wedding will do all necessary cleanup and lock up the church after the service and reception.
There are specific fees for the use of the church facilities and the services of the staff. All fees are due and payable three weeks prior to the date of the rehearsal. Payment of all fees is by check to __ Presbyterian Church. The fee schedule is included with this booklet.
Flowers and Decorations
“Flowers, decorations, and other appointments should be appropriate to the place of worship, enhance the worshipers’ consciousness of the reality of God, and reflect the integrity and simplicity of Christian life.” ~ Directory for Worship, PC(USA)
Flowers, candles or other decorations are generally not to be placed upon the Communion table. The church has two candelabras which may be used. These candelabras hold seven candles each and the church will supply dripless candles of the proper size at cost.
If you wish to use pew or door decorations, please see that they have fasteners that will not damage the wood. The use of nails, tacks, adhesives and duct tape is not permitted for this reason. Please do not place any decorations on plaster or painted surfaces. If the Sanctuary or Chapel is decorated for a Church season, such as Christmas or Easter, please plan your decorations to include those already in place.
Please clear the time for delivery of your decorations with the church office.
Photography and Recording
Pictures may be taken before or after the ceremony in the Sanctuary or Chapel. Flash pictures may not be taken after the ceremony begins.
Available light photos and videography are permissible during the ceremony from the balcony. Audio recordings of weddings may also be made by your arrangement. A sound technician from _PC is necessary to run the sound system. This person will be available for your rehearsal as well as the wedding ceremony itself. The fee for this service is listed at the end of the booklet.
Before any clergy may perform a wedding service, a marriage license must be issued by the clerk of a county court in one of the counties in the State of ___. The license is to be brought to the church office no later than the day of the rehearsal. Information about the wedding and its participants will be entered into the permanent records of the church.
A rehearsal is necessary for all weddings. The rehearsal time will be set in consultation with the officiating minister. You will then be asked to advise all members of the wedding party of the rehearsal time and emphasize that it is essential that all participants be present. Rehearsals are scheduled for one hour duration and will be directed by the officiating clergy.
You are welcome to hold your wedding reception in the church building. You would need to make your own arrangements for decorations, service and catering. The church has serving equipment, dishes and dishwashing equipment, available by arrangement. If you have special items you wish to use, that can also be arranged.
Reception rooms include ___. The room used will depend on the number of guests expected and the type of reception desired.
Whether or not you use our total services, you need to schedule a conference with a church staff member before planning a church reception. Please consult the church office at least six weeks in advance of your wedding date.
After the Wedding
Because we may have several weddings/events on the same day, we ask that your flowers, decorations, and personal items be removed from the church as soon as possible after your ceremony. You may choose to leave a bouquet for the church after consulting with the officiating pastor or wedding coordinator.
Our staff and facilities are here to help make your wedding a joyful occasion.
We ask that you, your families, and guests respect the guidelines set form in this booklet.
If you have questions or concerns,
we will be happy to discuss them with you well in advance of the wedding day.
Our best wishes go with you for a long and happy marriage!
Below are listed the fees for the use of the church facilities and the services of the staff. All fees are due and payable three weeks prior to the date of the rehearsal. Payment of all fees is by check to __ Presbyterian Church.
*Deposit refundable two weeks after wedding, provided church policies have been adhered to and there is no damage to the facility. Must be paid before wedding date is confirmed.