Christian Marriage is unique. The Christian attitude toward marriage is expressed throughout The Celebration of Blessing of a Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer (page 423). Marriage is to be entered into freely by both persons, brought under God’s blessing, and characterized by mutual respect, consideration, loyalty through “better” or “worse,” and the fullness of love. It is intended to be a lifelong union of two persons in a covenant relationship with each other and God.
Into this holy union children may be born and grow in the security of a stable and godly atmosphere where the family exemplifies the characteristics of a religious outlook: love, peace, mutual support, forgiveness, companionship, and a looking to God for His care.
Such a commitment needs not only personal devotion and the power of God, but also the support of family, friends, and the larger community within which the couple lives; a key role in the blessing of a marriage is the congregation’s vow to “do all in their power to uphold these two persons in their marriage.”
We welcome most heartily those who may not be members of any church, yet who come to us seeking God and a place for the Church in their lives. We see our role as helping to build the foundation of a good marriage through our ongoing pastoral care and community relationships.
We at times receive requests from people who desire to be “married in the church,” but who see The Church of the Advent as simply an idyllic place for a wedding. However, a church is not a place; it is a community, a community of God’s people who support each other in all life’s joys and struggles. We are not a “wedding chapel,” providing merely the setting for a day’s event.
For this reason, we require those seeking marriage here, who are not church members, to commit to actively participating in the life and worship of The Church of the Advent, during the time of preparation for marriage and afterwards, with the intent of eventual membership.
Who can be married in the Church? At least one of the partners must be baptized in the Christian tradition. It is not a requirement that either party be Episcopalian. The partners must be legally permitted to marry under the laws of Virginia. If either partner has been divorced, at least one year must have elapsed from the final decree of divorce. The priest is required to state that he/she has seen the divorce decree.
Setting a date. The date for the wedding should not be set until consultation with the priest, to ensure that the requirements of canons of the Church can be met, including premarital preparation, and to preclude schedule conflicts. Couples are cautioned not to expend funds or make commitments for other services prior to the clergy having approved a fixed date.
The first step is to contact the rector for an appointment to discuss the process leading to marriage, and to arrange for premarital preparation. At least thirty days advance notice of the wedding must be given under canon law, but practically speaking, more time is needed for adequate preparation.
A period of premarital preparation is required before a marriage can take place at The Church of the Advent. This instruction includes several sessions with the priest who will officiate or by “persons known by the clergy to be competent and responsible.” This requirement is canon law and as such cannot be waived. Sessions should include discussion of the details and meaning of the vows and the Christian understanding of marriage; they should serve as an assessment and discussion of the issues in the partners’ personal lives and histories that are likely to enrich, challenge, or disrupt their marital relationship. A minimum of four sessions is normal; however, the number and length of sessions is at the discretion of the rector. Participation in the Pre-Marriage Seminar sponsored by Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services is strongly recommended.
The Declaration of Intent. The couple is required to sign a “Declaration of Intention” affirming that marriage is held to be a lifelong union in heart, body, and mind intended by God for mutual joy, procreation of children (if it may be), and for the help and comfort of one another in prosperity and adversity.
In the case of prior marriage of one or both partners, one year must have elapsed from the final decree of divorce. This is to insure that issues left from a prior marriage have been addressed, and that ongoing commitments, such as child support, are accepted. If one or both parties have been divorced more than once, permission to remarry in the Church must be obtained from the Bishop of the Diocese, through the parish priest. This process can take a significantly longer time and couples should be aware the permission to remarry might be denied.
In the case of blessing of a civil marriage, one year must elapse between the civil service and the church service. All procedures listed previously for marriage in the church must be followed.
Marriage License. It is the couple’s responsibility to meet all the requirements of Virginia state law for the marriage, and to secure the necessary license. The couple should apply at the City/County Clerk of Circuit Court; both parties must appear at the court together, swear under oath they are legally permitted to marry, and must be 18 or older or have a parent or guardian present. There is a court fee for the license. The license must be brought to the rehearsal.
What about the Wedding Itself?
The Wedding Ceremony is under the direction of the Rector of The Church of the Advent and in keeping with the liturgy of The Episcopal Church. Canon law does not permit the couple to write their vows. The Holy Eucharist is normally celebrated in the context of service. At least two witnesses must be present at the ceremony.
For good reason, upon the invitation of the Rector at The Church of the Advent, another Episcopal priest may officiate, and clergy from other denominations may assist the priest during the wedding. It is encouraged that laypersons assist in the worship by reading scripture and leading the prayers.
The Church Organist/Music Director may be retained once the clergy has agreed to the wedding date. You may use other musicians at the discretion of the music director and at your expense; however, the church music director has the first right of refusal and should be consulted regarding all decisions concerning music. All music prior, during, and after the service should be appropriate, add dignity, and illuminate the presence of God in this place.
The church office may be available to assist in the printing of a bulletin. A draft of bulletins printed elsewhere should be approved before duplicated. Bulletins should be available at the rehearsal.
The Altar Guild will assist you regarding flowers and the physical arrangements of the church, in keeping with traditional church practices and adornment. The priest will assist you to contact the director of the Altar Guild when the wedding date is set. Guidelines for candles and flowers are the same as observed for regular Sunday service. Floral arrangements may be placed in the Narthex as well. Plastic and silk flowers are not appropriate. An altar guild representative will assist with accommodations for the wedding party prior to the wedding and with other questions of wedding procedure.
Photographs. So as not to distract from the religious nature of the ceremony, photographs should not be taken during the ceremony; flash pictures may be taken at the entrance before the processional and after the recessional. Ushers are asked to inform guests bringing cameras not to take pictures. Discreet videotaping may be made after consultation with the clergy. There will be ample opportunity for post-wedding photographs inside the church.
The Wedding Rehearsal, conducted and directed by the clergy, is held at a time agreed upon by the clergy. All principal members of the wedding party are expected to attend with necessary punctuality and decorum.
The Wedding Reception. The Parish Hall may be used for a reception. Policies on the use of the Parish Hall are available from the Church Office.
What About Cost? It is wonderful to have a festive wedding day, but extravagant weddings can place an undue burden on a couple. The wedding should not overwhelm the uniqueness and holiness of the blessing of the marriage. Couples are urged to be frugal in planning their weddings, and in keeping with the simplicity of the church, to avoid unnecessary expenses. There are nevertheless expenses for the use of the church.
It is appropriate that a monetary gift be given the church as a thank-offering for the church’s ministry – a rule of thumb is 10% of the amount budgeted for the other wedding expenses. An honorarium tendered to the clergy for their work in pre-marital consultation and preparation for the wedding itself is appropriate, though there is no set fee. Small thank-you gifts for the acolytes, readers, or other volunteers are also appropriate. The couple is expected to bear the cost of flowers or other decorations, and the printing of the service bulletins. Other costs are as follows and should be remitted to the church office (9629 Norfolk Ave., Norfolk, VA 23503) ten days prior to the wedding.
Organist $150 Altar Guild $20
Cleaning Fee $50 Parish Hall $350/$100 (members)