What Wedding Guidelines Does Your Church Have in Place?
March 20, 2010
Updated May 14, 2019
7 comments 509 views
I'm trying to update our church guidelines for weddings in our church, and I'm wondering how other pastors and churches have gone about having policies or guidelines in place. Here are a couple of specific examples that I've encountered: 1) Will your church host non-Christian weddings, and if so, will you, as a pastor, be involved? 2) Will you marry non-Christian (that is, two non-Christians to each other)? 3) Do you charge a fee (for officiating; I assume that there is some charge for use of facilities)? 4) Any other guidelines or things that you have found useful to have in place? Thanks!
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Good questions. The first one I think of is 3. I don't charge a set fee, but leave it up to the individual situation. Sometimes I receive some sort of payment, sometimes a gift from the family, sometimes a card.
1) Not usually, nor do I encourage it. I do occasionally conduct weddings of two non-Christians when asked, and I see/use it as an opportunity to present the good news of God's love in Christ Jesus and his gift of and intent for marriage.
2) See answer to 1) above
3) I suggest an average fee of $200 to couples, leaving it up to them to decide if they can only afford to pay less or wish to pay more (that sometimes happens!). For most couples, this is a pittance compared to what is spent on the wedding/honeymoon, and suggesting a fee saves them from wondering what is an appropriate honorarium.
4) Our church has adopted a wedding policy, and I'm copying it here below:
GATEWAY COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
Standard Policy & Procedure
Marriage, Pre-Marriage, Divorce & Re-Marriage
This document is intended to be helpful to the pastors, leaders, elders and members of Gateway Community Church as well as to others are becoming a part of the church family in understanding what we believe that the Bible has to say on Marriage, Pre-Marriage, Living Together, Divorce and Re-Marriage. It is not intended to be prescriptive and to cover every potential situation that can occur.
It is our desire to be faithful to God’s Word and to live out our lives in a way that is pleasing to him in the midst of today’s cultural and societal pressures and in the process to be a blessing to one another.
GATEWAY Community Christian Reformed church is committed to building God-honoring relationships, strong marriages, and life-affirming homes/families.
The following scriptures concern community, sexuality, and marriage and are the basis for the following affirmations: Genesis 2:20-25; Genesis 1:27; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
That God lives in eternal community and people were created to live in community. We all have legitimate needs for physical, spiritual, mental and emotional intimacy. These desires are given by God.
That human sexuality is a good gift of God that is enjoyed and expressed by all human beings in the natural course of life.
That sexual intercourse is a life-uniting act that requires a life-uniting intention. Therefore this gift/intimacy is reserved only for those who have entered into the covenant of marriage.
That sexual intercourse outside of marriage goes against God’s plan for human beings and will ultimately lead to pain, brokenness, and alienation in life and relationships. On this basis, all those associated with the Gateway Community CRC community will be encouraged and taught to abstain from sexual relations before marriage. Where this Biblical principle is violated we will gently and humbly seek to correct the people involved.
That sexual immorality is not an unforgivable sin. God can and will restore to wholeness those who have deviated from his plan and who seek restoration through Jesus Christ.
That marriage is an exclusive, life-long, committed relationship of love between a man and a woman. What God intends in marriage is that the husband and wife become one flesh – a unity of body, soul, and spirit.
That it is the role of the church and state to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage.
Key Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:14-18; Malachi 2:11-12
Gateway Community Church is committed to helping people enter into the marriage relationship prepared for the joys and challenges that they will face. Marriage involves emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical unity. As a couple progresses toward marriage it is important that they be moving into a deeper understanding of each other and of themselves. We affirm the role of both the pastor and the role of pre-marital “counselors” in aiding this journey toward unity. Part of the pastor’s role is to insure that the couple understand God’s role in their lives and will be able to form a spiritual union. Part of the counselor’s role is to insure that people are emotionally, intellectually, and physically prepared to enter this union. Together they guide the couple toward the marriage day and beyond.
On this basis:
For marriages within the Gateway Fellowship, we require that there be sufficient time for the pastor to get to know the couple that is being married. This will allow the pastor to form an ongoing relationship with the couple that will be beneficial for their family in the years ahead. The couple wishing to marry under the auspices of the church should contact the Pastor at least 4 months in advance of their selected date. The pastor is expected to meet with the couple according to the need, seeking to be assured that both parties of the proposed marriage demonstrate a sincere commitment to enter into the marriage and build it on the foundation of Christ and to live in the context of the fellowship of the church. The couple will be expected to seek pre-marital counseling either through Gateway Community Church or a counseling agency.
Should the pastor be uncertain of the couple’s commitment to Christ, he/she will be expected to discuss the matter with the pastoral team (or an elder team) for further discernment. Our pastors will not normally marry couples who are not both committed to Christ.
There are often occasions where our pastors are asked to officiate at weddings where people are not connected with a church and/or maybe just beginning to seek God. We recognize that our church may be able to play a key role in these lives in helping them understand what a God-honoring relationship is and what a Christian foundation to their lives can be. The pastor may consider the possibility of a civil ceremony in some of these situations. Our pastors will avoid allowing our church to become a “wedding service” for people just looking for a church to marry them.
All invitations to officiate at marriages will be discussed with the pastoral team. The Marriage Act of Canada gives pastors the freedom to choose whether or not they will marry any particular couple that requests them to officiate at a wedding.
Key Scripture: Ephesians 5:3-6
There are many couples that choose to live together without entering into marriage. Most often this also involves sexual union between them. Our society condones this practice. As a church we cannot.
As a church we affirm that a man and woman living together, without a mutual, permanent and public commitment is a less than an ideal state. It exposes a couple to unnecessary sexual temptation and leaves an impression of sexual impropriety as revealed in scripture. We strongly discourage this practice.
When a couple is living together and engaging in a sexual relationship they are dishonoring each other and God. We will gently and humbly instruct those who are living this way to abstain from sexual intimacy. Our membership covenant is a promise to seek to live in relational integrity.
Sometimes, they bring children from previous relationships and are functioning as “blended” families. Where there are children in these situations there is almost invariably much confusion, pain, and brokenness. Many times these families are also estranged from God and his church. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve them and will:
1. Accept them as they are
2. Try to discern what unity they have achieved in their current living situation
3. Help them build God-honoring relationships
4. Help them work out marriage related issues
5. Help them deal with/settle previous relationships
6. Help them understand and evaluate their current relationship
In general we will counsel them toward:
1. Establishing a sexual boundary until marriage
2. Considering the option of moving apart until such commitment is made.
3. Entering a committed married state or moving away from the relationship
Our purpose is to reinforce the importance of the marriage relationship and to bring every husband/wife relationship under the authority of Christ. As every member of the Christian Community is connected in Christ, it is important to the unity of the body that all husband/wife relationships are understood to be publicly committed in Christ’s name. One option that our pastors and the couple may consider is a private ceremony to establish the marriage relationship.
Membership/baptism for these couples and families will wait until after these issues are resolved.
In all situations our first instinct will be to listen, discern, encourage, and help people move toward God-honoring relationships and life-affirming families.
Key Scriptures: Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 19:3-8
We have already affirmed that God intended marriage to be a life-long union. The Bible states clearly: “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together.” God also clearly states: “I hate divorce. So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth”. Jesus strongly admonished the people of his day for their quick and easy approach to divorce.
We believe God is calling us to stand against the tide of divorce in our society. We will hold people to and encourage them to fulfill the vows they have made. Understanding that all marriages face issues of sin, hurt, and alienation we will help people build into their relationships repentance, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and fresh starts. We believe that God can heal and reach and restore even the most broken of marriages if both parties are truly open to his work, his desires, and his power.
All of this being said, because of the deep fallenness of human beings, the Bible does recognize that the marriage relationship can be virtually shattered by the sinful actions of human beings. The Bible acknowledges immorality and desertion (desertion being defined as behavior equivalent to the abandonment of the marriage relationship) as two ways this can happen. We also recognize that other issues such as addiction and abuse can break down a relationship to a point that reconciliation of the marriage becomes overwhelmingly difficult. Hard-heartedness (the unwillingness to try/forgive), cold-heartedness (the inability/unwillingness to love), and spiritual incompatibility can also effectively end a relationship.
We reject quick and easy divorce as a way to end a relationship. We uphold the current law of the state for a one year of separation if divorcing. This law is meant to protect vulnerable persons and couples from taking quick and precipitous action that they will later regret. It also allows for a cooling off period. During separation we will consistently work for reconciliation between parties in a marriage, even if it may not lead to marital reconciliation.
We recommend people avail themselves of professional personal, marital, and family counseling as they seek to work through difficult issues.
We believe that dating another person while still legally married is sinful and often extremely offensive to the families involved and the community at large. It also does not allow the time needed to deal with the issues that led to the break-up of the previous marriage. We will not lend support to these relationships and will urge people to stay away from dating relationships at least until their marriage contract has ended.
Key Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 7
Scripture encourages those who have struggled deeply with previous marriages to consider remaining single and devote themselves in body and spirit to the Lord. The Bible also counsels that in regard to these issues one should not quickly move to change one’s status. Thus, for those seeking re-marriage we recommend a period of at least one year after divorce before even entering a new relationship or seeking marriage. This time should be focused on dealing with issues that caused the break-up of the first marriage, receiving healing, and establishing equilibrium in relationship to God, family, friends, and the former spouse.
We strongly recommend Divorce Care and personal counseling before entering any new relationship.
The Bible affirms that divorced people, like all who have failed in life, can find forgiveness, fresh starts, healing and intimacy by the grace of God. Under some circumstances the possibility of remarriage is left open in scripture following the dissolution of a previous marriage.
The remarriage of believers may not be approved when:
1. Divorce is being used as a vehicle to seek a different mate, since such pre-intent makes the divorce adulterous.
2. There is no evidence of repentance and brokenness over the circumstances that caused the divorce.
3. Restoration of the original marriage remains a viable option.
Each case of divorce or remarriage has to be dealt with on an individual basis from the perspective of God’s inexhaustible capacity to forgive human sin and to restore broken lives.
One thought in regards to #3: Money received for activities within one's role as a pastor probably ought to be surrendered to the church. A pastor ought not be paid twice for work that he/she is already being paid for in the salary. I think that this would include weddings for non-members (as well as funerals, etc.).
Re Mike's comment above re #3:
I wondered if that would generate some reaction. I respectfully disagree with Mike's opinion, however. I do regret using the word "fee" the first time instead of "honorarium," as the latter is really the more appropriate term. Moneys received for conducting either weddings or funerals are "honorariums," which are given as expressions of appreciation for extra work done (often on my days off - Saturdays, as in my case). Regardless of day, however, honorariums are similar to bonuses or tips, and as long as you do not make them mandatory and your council is aware that you receive such honorariums (which mine is) and have no problem with it, accept them gratefully and take your wife out on a nice date or buy yourself that new pair of shoes you - or your kids -have been needing!
Thanks for posting those; that was helpful. I do agree that honorariums are gift offerings, that need not be surrendered to the church, though if that is something a pastor would wish to do, that would certainly be a fine thing to do. Often, weddings or funeral require me to spend extra time away from my wife and kids, so we usally try to spend that extra money on something as a family.
There is another side to that whole money thing though, and that is the way that money can easily taint a ministry. Even subconciously, we can start to think of people in terms of money they have given. For example, it could happen that a couple did/could not give any honorarium, and personally, I know how easy it could be to remember that, and always be seeing that couple as "the ones who were cheap" -- and the opposite is also true; a generous honorarium can easily lead a pastor to think more favorably about a couple. Sad to admit, but last time I checked, pastors have a sinful nature too.
Best, I think, to expect nothing, work on the assumption that nothing will be given, and be grateful for anything beyond that.
I was wonderig if more churches have written policies concerning marriage? If they are out there, are they posted or somehow available? I'm trying to help an emerging church in Ukraine think about marriage and some resources would be very helpful. Thanks!
Here are our policies. The costs for members are generally half off on all costs except the premarital counseling arranged through the counseling center. Generally when we tell non-Christians and non-members about the counseling requirements they don't follow through.
Crossroads Wedding Policy
Beliefs about marriage:
Costs (1/2 price for all members):
Payment should be made to Crossroads Community Church prior to your wedding rehearsal
*Deposit of $100.00 is required to reserve your date
Please read attached building use information for more information on what your deposit covers.
Property and Facility Use
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