Marriage is an exciting life event and one that is not entered into lightly or without great care. So in preparing you for this next phase of life, we have prepared some guidelines to help in the planning process for your upcoming wedding.
A little about Marriage
Lutheran Christians understand marriage in two ways. On the one hand, marriage is God’s gift. God intends to bring strength and joy to those who enter into marriage and, through marriage, to promote the well-being of the whole human family. On the other hand, marriage is a human estate. Two people make vows to each other, which are publicly witnessed, and society recognizes their status as legally married. Having a Christian wedding ceremony then means that the Christian community surrounds those who enter into this human estate with the gifts of their presence and support, the promise of God’s word proclaimed from scripture readings, and prayers of blessing and intercession.
Marriage starts at baptism
Baptism is the source of our most basic dignity and vocation. In baptism we receive our identity as children of God who are equipped to do many things. Some of us are equipped to be teachers and prophets, some to be students and pastors. We also understand our identity as partners in marriage to derive from our baptismal identity in God. In marriage, one particular human being can become an embodied expression of God’s unconditional love, revealed in Jesus Christ, for another particular human being. A particular marriage can be seen by others as one way God’s love is expressed. In baptism, God promises lifelong faithfulness and daily forgiveness to us – which is the model and source of our understanding of marriage. Marriage, like baptism, is daily dying to sin and rising to new life as the partners in marriage respond to God’s love by loving each other as God loves them. Relying on God’s forgiveness, they are empowered to forgive one another. Their love is also modeled on God’s love for us. Secondly, in baptism we become children of God and equal members of the body of Christ. Baptismal equality calls us to live with each other the way Christ lived with us. Within marriage, partners live together as equals.
Finally, marriage is one way the baptized participate in the life of the Christian community. The fact that you are engaging in a worship service is helping to show the world just how much Christ loves us. Christian marriage helps proclaim the gospel message of God’s love when it points to and is a sign of Christ’s marriage to the church and, through the church, the world. Marriage helps people, both inside and outside the Christian community, to glimpse the love with which Christ gave himself up for the world. To support marriage as a response to and proclamation of Christ’s self-giving love, the church celebrates marriage within the gathered Christian community and seeks the participation of the entire assembly in the service. Everything in the service attests to and celebrates God’s unconditional love for the whole world.
In preparation for your marriage:
Setting the Date – setting the date for your ceremony is to be done in consultation with the pastor and possibly the Organist at St. Mark’s. The most appropriate place for the wedding ceremony is in the context of Sunday morning worship, which is the primary gathering of the Christian community. It can however, be done at other times, generally Friday and Saturday are appropriate days of the week and times for the ceremony that are appropriate are 11am in the morning, 3pm and 6:30pm to capture the beauty of the stain glass in the sanctuary. It is requested that this date be selected at least 90 days prior to the ceremony, but the earlier the better.
Picking a Location – The pastor ordinarily performs all weddings in the church. However, other venues may be considered with the consultation of the pastor and musicians (if any) to make sure the setting conveys the appropriate symbols of Christian marriage. If travel is involved it is asked that you provide the pastor with a travel stipend. Usually the pastor does not officiate at another church, or vice-versa. The pastor will however, participate with other clergy – by either inviting them to participate with us at St. Mark’s, or be willing to participate with another clergy member at another location. While it is not the preferred location, the pastor is willing to travel to officiate at weddings outside of the church building.
Pre-Marriage Counseling Sessions – Persons planning to be married are expected to consult with the pastor as early as possible to arrange a schedule for these sessions prior to the ceremony. These could take up to six months prior to the wedding, so be prepared to commit to these appointments as soon as you are considering a wedding. The counseling provides the couple with an understanding of the Christian wedding and equips them with communication skills suited for sharing a life of faith together. Depending on the history of either of those seeking marriage, these sessions may address previous marriages or deaths of previous spouses. The pastor also reserves the right, that upon conversation with the couple sense that the commitment, responsibility, maturity, or Christian understanding be lacking from the couple that the marriage is unwise, the pastor shall assure the couple of the church’s continuing concern for them and not conduct the ceremony.
The marriage service is a worship service of the church. There should be several guidelines then for picking particular service elements.
Music – Music should be selected for its suitability to a service of praise and thanksgiving. A variety of songs and use of various instruments is encouraged, within the following guidelines:
Photos and Videos – Photographers and wedding guests are to refrain from taking pictures during the wedding service. Processional and recessional pictures are allowed. Video may be taken from the rear of the church only, but no artificial lights are permitted nor is the equipment used allowed to block any of the isles or pews. Pictures may be taken after the ceremony or earlier in the day. Upon arrival at the church, the photographer or video camera operator should consult with the pastor as to the rules concerning their operation and to let the pastor know that they have arrived.
Flowers and decorating the sanctuary or other areas of the church. The church has recommendations for local florists that have working relationships with the church, however the couple is welcome to use whatever florist they wish. We do ask though that the florist observe the following limitations:
The Rehearsal for the ceremony will be set up prior to the ceremony. Traditionally this is the night before, but could be the morning before an evening wedding ceremony. It is necessary that all participants in the wedding be present for this Rehearsal which will acclimate the wedding party and other participating in the ceremony with their roles in the worship service.
The wedding ceremony and rehearsal will be conducted in the Christian spirit with dignity. It is expected that members of the wedding party will refrain from alcoholic beverages before the rehearsal and before the wedding service. The bride and groom shall be under obligation to make this rule known to all other members of the party.
Rice, confetti, or birdseed is not permitted for safety reasons inside or outside of the church.
The marriage license for residents of Montgomery County (which is the county that St. Mark’s resides in) may be obtained from the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA. You may also apply for one at any courthouse in Pennsylvania. The license is good for 60 days.
Seating capacity for the sanctuary – the sanctuary at St. Mark’s can comfortably hold 250 people, should your guest list be larger than this, please consult with the pastor to consider alternative sites for your service.
Alcohol on property – the use of alcohol is prohibited unless provide by a caterer serving as part of a catered meal. In which case, the caterer or couple shall provide the church proof of liability insurance for the catering company for serving alcoholic beverages to adults who are of age. We also request that only beer, wine and Champaign be served and the caterer is in charge of making sure it is secure while it is in the building – many people use our building and so it should be secured while it is here.
Catered Food—We do have a professional kitchen but securing caterers is recommended. If you are having a catered meal it is suggested that the caterer coordinate with the church office to see what kind of facilities we have if they have not provided service here before.
Parking – St. Mark’s does not have a parking lot, but there is free street parking available along Harry Street and along portions of 5th Avenue.