This outline could be covered in two sessions or spread over four to five sessions. Topics 1-3 might be arranged in a different order.
1. Ministry, hospitality and Jesus' availability to people in need.
- Assisting couples to plan their wedding as ministry. Discuss and clarify the tension between serving couples as a ministry and being in business as a church. Discuss the differences between a church wedding and one performed in a secular setting.
- Warmth and responsiveness. Include reflection on the opportunity that planning a wedding provides for welcoming unchurched people into the church buildings and into a caring community.
Setting limits with grace (and doing so up front so people know the limits from the beginning).
The services your church offers to couples seeking to be married, including, but not limited to, the sanctuary, bride's room, groom's room, reception space, reception food service, premarital counseling, contacts with recommended florists and photographers, and so on.
2. The United Methodist Services of Christian Marriage (or your denomination's rite)
- The history of matrimony in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
- The history of the marriage service in Anglicanism/Methodism.
The Services of Christian Marriage in the Hymnal and Book of Worship. The tone and mood the pastor and congregation seek for services of Christian marriage.
Changes to the ritual . . .
- that the pastor will routinely make.
- that couples may request
- that are unacceptable by decision of The United Methodist Church and/or the local congregation.
3. Cultural expectations of weddings
- Explore the way weddings and family expectations are portrayed in the media. Watch a movie such as "Father of the Bride." Discuss the expectations of the parents, the man and the woman to be married, the clergy, and the people who work to make the arrangements. This can be fun. Enjoy it.
- List the expectations and discuss how they have an impact on the work of the pastor, wedding coordinator, other staff, and church members. Review the specific communication needed among these people to make a smooth wedding experience for all involved.
Discuss your feelings. This is the time to be honest about differences and to negotiate for agreement.
Agree on how you will handle conflict over expectations.
4. Local church policy
- Gather in the nave/sanctuary. Discuss the symbolism and significance of the worship space in which weddings will be performed. Give careful attention to the various furnishings within the chancel rail, commenting on the fact that these are symbols pointing beyond themselves to God. In light of the message of the space, review information relative to what can and cannot be moved/rearranged within this space. Also discuss any limitations regarding placement of people in certain areas; for example, some churches do not permit a soloist to sing from the pulpit or allow significant numbers of the wedding party to stand within the chancel rail.
- Review the local church wedding policy. (If this does not currently exist, then take several sessions to create such a statement and gain the support of the church council.) Be sure the policy covers issues of understanding the nature of Christian marriage and of weddings in the church building. Talk about what the church offers in the way of space, personnel, and services; what is allowed in the way of "decorations" and photography/videography in the sanctuary; music suggestions and restrictions and the process for selecting appropriate music; and the basic and optional charges.
To avoid confusion and conflict, it is vital that every participant in the wedding be acquainted with relevant portions of the policy. For example, relevant portions of the policy regarding photography should be available to the couple to give to the photographer in advance of the service. Some churches require that florists and photographers/videographers sign a copy of the church policy to indicate their understanding and agreement with the policy.
Discuss the wedding policy. What do you (pastor, staff, wedding coordinator) strongly support? What do you feel uncomfortable about that might be difficult to assert when working with couples? How can you keep hospitality and Christian service in view so that POLICY — the law — doesn't overshadow grace? See these web sites for some ideas:
You may search for more related web sites at http://www.google.com by entering "Wedding Policy United Methodist."
Discuss and clarify the specific responsibilities of the wedding coordinator and other staff and church leaders.
5. Pre-Wedding Responsibilities
- Discuss what the initial meeting with the couple should include. Who will be the first to meet with the couple, and what is that person's mission in that meeting? Who will next meet with the couple, and what is that person's mission? Think about whether or not to have and use a basic form that could be completed by the wedding coordinator or the pastor.
- Review the church's wedding brochure and policy.
- Review costs and means and time of payment.
- Review the process of calendaring the rehearsal and marriage service and related services (on church calendar, on officiating clergy's calendar, on calendar of other church staff or groups who will be involved with the wedding). Only one person in the church should do the calendaring.
- Review what the presiding clergy does in his or her initial meeting and subsequent meetings with the couple so that the coordinator and others can know what goes on behind closed doors and see the larger process.
- Review and identify the people who have responsibility during the rehearsal and the wedding for opening and closing the buildings and preparing for appropriate heating or air conditioning.
- Other: Tie up any loose ends. Put the "pre-wedding" process down on paper and make sure all involved have a copy of it as a checklist and accountability tool.
6. Rehearsal and Wedding
- Go to the worship space and walk through a typical rehearsal from greeting people and opening prayer to saying goodbye at the end. Think of it as a blocking session for a play: "stand here," "move there."
You can find online help, including:
Rehearsal guidance — http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/rehearse.htm
Ushers' instructions — http://www.believers.org/wedusher.htm
Wedding Rehearsal Checklist — http://www.believers.org/rehearse.htm
- Discuss the role and work of the coordinator at the rehearsal. Review specific information that will be presented to each wedding party at every rehearsal. This information will include arrival times for participants; specific special duties, such as lighting candles; location and use of additional rooms for dressing; The United Methodist Church's position regarding the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol on church property; and any other specific expectations the church has regarding this event.
- Now go through a typical wedding in the same manner. Review attending to when members of the wedding party should arrive, what the ushers do, how the presiding minister and men will know when to enter, what the coordinator does to start the entrance of the women and other members of the wedding party, and so on.
- Review "emergency" contingencies including medical requirements, simple sewing materials to repair hems, sandpaper to remove slickness from new shoes, and others. The church may prepare a kit for wedding consultants, which would include sewing materials, sandpaper, a copy of the wedding service, and a spare organ key.
- Set a date for the wedding coordinator to begin her or his duties. Agree to hold a pre-rehearsal and pre-wedding conference for one or two forthcoming weddings to deal with the specifics of those weddings. This will cap off the training with "hands-on" experience. Also agree to meet immediately after the wedding(s) to evaluate what worked well, what could be improved, and what you learned.