For those of you who are planning to tie the knot in a church, we recommend looking at all of the fine print on the documents you receive when reserving your date with your priest. Some churches are more strict than others, and some have rules that may be deal breakers for couples when deciding on which church would fit their needs best. We have listed some of the main questions we’ve needed to ask just so you know what to look for before signing that contract!
What flowers are allowed at the church, and where are they allowed?
Flower girls typically are not allowed to drop real flower petals down the aisle because of possible staining on the floors and the overall difficulty of cleanup. For those who would like them, fake petals are allowed on most occasions. If your church allows floral arrangements to be brought in, be sure check to see where you can place them. We have seen churches that don’t allow flower arrangements in the aisles or pews, hung on the railings, on the altar, or anywhere that obstructs the liturgical movements of the ceremony.
How long do you have at the church?
Many churches give you a two hour time frame for your ceremony. This allows time for floral arrangements to be set up, guests to arrive prior, the ceremony to take place and pictures following. Due to the fact that multiple weddings happen in one day at most churches, there is usually a strict time limit. Typically you are only allowed 20 minutes following mass until you are required to be out of the church in order to provide enough time for the next couple to prepare for their wedding.
Are you allowed a rehearsal?
Check to see if you are given a rehearsal, if you have to pay for a rehearsal and what times the rehearsal can be held. It may be very inconvenient for guests if a rehearsal is at 1:00 p.m., the day prior and they have to wait around until 6:00 p.m., for the rehearsal dinner.
What can guests use to celebrate outside of the church for the grand exit?
How covered up does the bride need to be?
Does the church require a bride’s shoulders to be covered? If so, depending on what dress the bride chose, a shall might be required. Low cleavage is usually frowned upon in church settings. We have also had brides have to cover up tattoos once the priest saw them at the rehearsal. When dress shoppings we recommend keeping the venue of both your ceremony and reception in mind.
What are the expenses associated with a ceremony at your church?
Make sure all the fees are acknowledged from the beginning. Churches in big cities tend to have higher fees than the smaller hometown churches that don’t do many weddings. Fees may include: Chapel fee, stipend, pastor fee, musician or organist fee, sound technicians, premarital counseling, honorarium, rehearsal fee and an optional additional donation.
Does the church allow flash from the photographer’s cameras?
Depending on how sacred the church is, and how old the church is, those in charge will determine if flash is allowed. If flash is not allowed, make sure that the photographer knows this prior so they bring the proper lenses to accommodate a darker room.
Where can a photographer stand during the ceremony?
Areas in the church that a photographer may not be able to stand include: Aisle, altar, above on a second floor or loft and in front of the bridal party. The hardest position for a photographer is when the church only allows them to stand behind the last row of pews. That does not allow for close up shots of the couple’s faces like this one below.
Where can you take pictures following the ceremony?
Most couples want to take pictures standing at the altar, but make sure you ask if that is allowed by your church. Some couples also like to take group pictures on the steps outside of the church, but there are some churches that don’t allow pictures outside.
What does the photographer and/or any other vendors wear at the church?
Make sure the photographer knows how to dress properly, so they do not get kicked on wedding day. Watch out for sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts.
Does the bridal party typically stand or sit?
This may not seem important, but when a bride envisions her wedding with all her ladies standing aside her, it may come as a shock that only her maid of honor will be there. Depending on the layout of the church, and how the priest prefers to run his or her ceremonies, the bridal party may be situated differently than expected (and we don’t like surprises on wedding day!).
Is there a bridal room and/or groom’s room?
It’s most common to have one room that the bride, bridesmaids and closest family members can hang out in before the ceremony. Sometimes, you get lucky and there is another room available for the gentlemen. But, there are also times when there is no room available for the bride or groom. This poses a problem if the bride wants to show up early because she will have nowhere to go. We sometimes see brides holding back in a limo until the ceremony begins, which is not comfortable or convenient.
Can you bring in a visiting priest to perform or assist the parish priest?
We have had a few couples whose relatives are priests, or they are close to their parish priest, and they wanted them to either perform the ceremony or at least assist the current priest. It’s as simple as asking your current priest his permission to bring in someone else; we have found in most cases they allow, depending on the parish.
What does the church provide for your wedding day?
Most churches require you to provide your own four candles (2 regular tapers, 1 large taper, 1 votive) and two taper holders. Reserve signs for the front rows sometimes are provided through the church, but most the time couples print their own to match with the rest of their stationary. Don’t forget the most important thing – your marriage license!
Does the church provide you with programs?
Programs are nice for guests that do not practice the same faith, or are not familiar with the process of a church wedding. Some churches provide a program (with the couple’s names and date) complimentary, and sometimes the couples need to make their own.
Will you receive a church coordinator to help out on wedding day?
It is common that the church will provide you with a church coordinator, but you may not know who your coordinator will be until a few days leading up to the wedding. One problem we have seen arise, is the church will have two coordinators for you, one at the rehearsal and one on the wedding day. With this inconsistency, information may not travel between coordinators and they may want to perform certain aspects in a different way. For example, the coordinators may prefer to have the gentlemen walk from the right side and ladies process down the aisle. The bride and groom may decide to change that to everyone walking down the aisle while at their rehearsal. If the first church coordinator does not pass that long to the wedding day coordinator, it will lead to confusion and potential mistakes on the wedding day.
Do you have to attend wedding counseling/pre-cana?
Having to go to your church multiple times prior to the wedding is sometimes tough for couples with busy schedules or couples from out of state. So, make sure that if your church requires any counseling or pre-cana, that you have enough time to properly complete it.
Are you allowed to bring in outside ceremony musicians?
Most churches will have ceremony musicians that regularly play at the church, that you can “hire” for a few hundred dollars. But, if you have someone in the family who plays, or know of a company you really want to work with, double check with your church first because some don’t allow outside musicians.
Does the church provide a runner? Are runners allowed in general?
The church may provide a runner or the couple may have to bring a runner, or in some situations churches don’t allow a runner at all. If you are purchasing and bringing your own runner, make sure that it is made from high quality fabric. There are many inexpensive runners that look good, but are thin so they wrinkle and trip people walking down. You also do not want it to be torn by a bridesmaid’s stiletto.
Is there parking nearby?
Unless you’re having a wedding in the city, this is not typically a problem. But, if there is not convenient or close parking make sure you tell your guests that on your wedding website, so it gives them extra time to find a place for their car or plan for an alternate form of transportation.
Can alcohol be brought into the church?
This is typically not a huge concern, but we have had bridal parties want to bring alcohol into their church so they could carry it onto the shuttle following the ceremony. Even if no one is drinking the alcohol, some churches have strict rules that it’s not allowed through the front doors.
– The Effortless Events Team