Not In My Chapel You Won’t!

by admin on January 24, 2011

I know so many people who get married in a church or who see a church and what to get married because of how pretty it is, etc etc. I even know people who claim to be Hindu or Buddhist, but want that traditional church wedding- so they offer money to the church and hire a preacher.

I personally believe that if you are not a Christian and are not attending that church, then you should be married within your own religion at your own place of worship- OR at a court house by a judge. My father is a pastor, and it’s just so weird to have people who have no interest in our beliefs or attending our church, randomly stop in and if they can be married at our church. Sometimes they even ask if my father will marry them- a very ‘package’ deal, you might say. The question that normally follows is, “What about your own church?”

“Oh, we don’t normally attend any church. But we believe in God!”

or

“Oh. We only go to church on Christmas/Easter.”

or

“Well, we’re thinking about maybe something attending church here…”

My father’s normal response to these people is, “Tell you what. You come to this church for one month and attend four marriage sessions that I’ll give to you. And then I’ll let you know if I am willing to marry you in this church.”

That normally makes the people disappear right away. The serious and sincere ones- and yes, we have had a few who truly meant that they did want to start coming to church- followed through. Even more people pretend they are okay with it, come for one week, two sessions and… fall away.

Okay, can you please try to understand? This is our CHURCH. People come here to connect with God. It is a sacred, religious place to the people who attend. You cannot just adopt a church and a religion for a day just so your wedding pictures look nice. If you and your partner aren’t religious people or have no interest in Christianity, you have no business getting married in a Christian church. Go to a judge in a court house. Get married on the beach. Get married in a flower garden. There are plenty of beautiful locations to get married that are not the church.

And hey, I’m not just saying it happens in Christian churches. It applies to ALL religions. If you are not part of that religion, you have no business pretending you are for one day. It’s just rude.

Are there some exceptions where it is okay? Yes. If the couple is trying to find a location that is more accessible for family, or a similar situation, then we have no problem allowing them to use our church. Usually those people are so kind, and they ask if their own pastor can deliver the service, which is exactly the way it should be. We do everything we can to make it a special day.

And I’m sorry if this offends people, but I think I’m right. And the real reason that convinces me of this is that the majority of people who are religious and attend a place of worship regularly agree with me. The people who don’t follow a particular religion or are undecided, normally disagree. I’m interested to see how readers will respond to this, and if it will follow the normal pattern. 0123-11

I’ll start the “pattern”.   In my church, you cannot use the building to be married unless you are a member of our church and attend 6 hours of premarital counseling OR you are a member in good standing in another church that has required counseling.   We do not believe that a building is sacred but that entering into the covenant of marriage is a serious commitment that should not be entered into frivolously or lightly hence the requirement for extensive premarital counsel and a relationship to the church congregation who will help hold the couple accountable to their vows.

Count me among those who think it very bizarre that someone of different religion wants to use another religion’s place of worship as their wedding ceremony venue.

{ 153 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy January 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

On the whole I agree with Yertle and JS. Most of the churches I have attended consider allowing weddings part of the church — and I hate this word — “outreach.” Perhaps being married in a church will eventually have an effect on the couple’s churchgoing or even that of someone who attends.

However I also believe a church organization has the right to require certain things of a couple who want to be married in their church building — whether it is a fee for the janitor, no alcohol at the reception, counseling, church attendance or whatever else they may dream up.

And finally, I am appalled at the idea that someone would want to marry in the place of worship of any religion they don’t believe in. That gets very close to mockery and is very offensive to me.

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Chelsey January 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

My husband and I are not religious, but we were married in a church. We didn’t want to be, but my family refused to acknowledge our marriage if it wasn’t done “in front of God.” Whatever. They paid for it, they wanted it, and it made them happy, so we did it. And we had to get married in a church we didn’t belong to because we live a few hours away from our families. We didn’t want all of them to have to travel since we’re the only ones who live away. It would just be easier for us to go to them. So there’s reason number two we were married in a church we didn’t belong to.

So maybe you should stop and actually think about reasons why people might be getting married in a church they don’t belong to before making judgments like that. Considering people who want to be married in a church they don’t belong to have to pay more for those services (at least in my experience–all the churches we looked at charged us, but don’t charge members), just look at it from a business perspective and get the hell over it.

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bansidhe January 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

This doesn’t bother me a bit, actually. Sounds like it could be an excellent source of income for the church, too. What would be tacky to me is if a couple asked for the full, traditional religious service that went along with the church they were using if that couple didn’t belong to or believe in that religion.

My church (Unitarian Universalist) performs weddings for all sorts of non-church members. Often, the couples belong to two different religions and don’t want to choose one or the other so as to (hopefully) prevent fights among their families.

I just don’t see this as a big deal. (Then again, I’m an atheist.)

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RP January 24, 2011 at 12:58 pm

@The Elf – With a law like that in place I can see how that would happen. It’s such a weird law though. I wonder why they passed it and how many other places have something like it.

@yertle turtle – Since your church is generally open to the public ti makes sense that they allow anyone to be married there.

So there are good reasons why someone would ask and good reasons why a place of worship would allow it. Still, I have to agree that someone trying to use your house of worship as nothing more than a pretty backdrop would be offensive. It’s OK to ask if you are being respectful and aren’t just treating the house of worship as part of your theme.

I have to say however that:
“…And then I’ll let you know if I am willing to marry you in this church.”

the “if” in that statement will put people off even if they are serious about attending church. I’m betting some people don’t want to risk losing time on finding a venue if they attend the church and sessions only to for him to decide that he still isn’t willing to marry them in the church.

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Harley Granny January 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I find this very amusing…..I’ll start with that as a Christian, I would never even think of using another religion’s facility for a Christian ceremony. And I would expect the same in return…..but…oh come on now!! You knew there was a “but”…

When we got married a million years ago I had just arrived in town and really hadn’t established myself in any one church yet but my dream was to have both my father and grandfather (both very high ranking Pastor’s in the Methodist Church)perform the service.
So I went to the local Methodist churches and explained my situation and most were very kind about saying yes or no…no forced counseling or sermons about the sanctity of marriage.

The one that got my goat was the one that said we could rent their facility but they didn’t think my pastors were worthy of doing a service in their church. I hadn’t even mentioned their names yet (I’m not a name dropper)!

As our family feels it’s the ceremony itself is the important part not the building that it’s in I my options were open and kept looking for the right place.
I actually found a community center that fit our needs for everything and mentioned it to both my dad and grandfather….My grandfather asked why it wasn’t in the church and I explained what happened and EACH Church not just the last one basically stating that none were a good fit.
He started chuckling and said I’ll call you right back.
The next call I got was the pastor of the Church that said my grandfather and father weren’t worthy of doing a service in their Church. Both begging me to reconsider and yelling at me for not telling him that my father was his district superintendent and my grandfather was his Bishop.

I see nothing wrong with renting a Church. It’s a building…a facility. The people is what makes it a Church. And if a Church benefits financially from it…good for them.

So I guess every Pastor has a price.

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Thel January 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I am not religious and I fully agree with the views stated by the OP. Like others, I think it is disrespectful to want to get married in a church, following that church’s rite, just for the picture, but that being said, there are times when the church seems to be asking for it. In my European country, our main religion is making a pretty penny out of wedding “packages”, and I am not aware that much is done beyond a cursory meeting between the couple and the priest in the way of premarital counselling, generally speaking. Of course, there are priests (and I have met some of them, wonderful people) who share the perspective of the OP’s father, and rightly so, but sometimes the church does seem to look mercenary, and then there’s no wonder some people would believe this was all right and that money could, indeed, buy them everything.

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Abby January 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I have been part of a particular church since the day I was born, and when I was 14, I was confirmed as a member, which I still am to this day. But I (quietly) disagree with a lot of the stuff that goes on within that church and in organized religion in general, and in the 10 years since I became a legal adult, my attendance has dwindled to the Christmas/Easter schedule. So when my completely non-religious husband and I decided to get married, we didn’t even consider the church, and instead were married by a justice of the peace on a lawn in the center of our county seat. My family was confused why I wouldn’t want to get married in “my” church, but I felt like it would have been wrong for all the reasons the OP stated. I completely agree with OP’s stance.

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Cordelia January 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I wouldn’t think it was rude to simply ask, since some churches don’t have a problem with it. Perhaps the couple is a member of that denomination (or a closely-related one) but wants to use your church because it’s bigger or otherwise more accommodating to the hoped-for wedding.

Also, I don’t see a problem with *asking* the parish pastor if he would do the wedding. He’s free to decline, but again, I don’t see a problem with asking. If he wants to require premarital counseling of some kind, that’s his prerogative, but if he wants no part of the ceremony he can just say he has pastoral duties and cannot participate (even if his “pastoral duty” is “not participating in a wedding I don’t believe in”).

I don’t think pressuring them into attending services for a specified period of time will do much, though. Even if they come, do you really want them to think of church as something they “get over with”? Something they do to get a reward? The best thing you can do to encourage them to come is be kind and caring.

But I agree that it’s rude to have a wedding in a church simply because it’s pretty, and you couldn’t care less about what all the crosses and imagery are there for. There are plenty of secular/neutral places you can get married without hypocrisy. And if family members are pressuring you to do this and that for religious beliefs that you don’t have, be honest but firm with them about what you want to do with your life. If they have a problem with your wedding, that’s their problem. YOUR problem is taking care of this serious committment you’re about to make, not worrying whether Grandma is rolling her eyes during your handfasting or whatever.

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Bryton January 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I also do not understand why people who do not adhere to a particular faith would want to be married in that faith’s house of worship. There are some churches that will allow it and some won’t. It sounds like this particular church is not too keen on it. And, that’s ok. And, it’s ok for the person in the original story to feel as s/he does.

What I don’t find ok is Chelsy’s comment to the OP to “get the hell over it”. That was completely and totally inappropriate. It’s ok to disagree but, that was way over the bounds of etiquette.

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Kammy January 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Me and my husband were married in a church that at the time we weren’t currently attending. The pastor of our old church had died and in the months following, the new pastor started changing the church in a way we didn’t believe was the way God wanted for us. So we were going to a church one Sunday to see how their preacher was and we realized then that we wanted to get married there. We sat with the preacher and talked to him. we explained our situation and he gladly agreed to marry us. We attended that church for about 6 months after our wedding till the army forced us to move away for my husbands job.

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Anastasia January 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I agree with the OP. Realize that these places are there for a purpose: to worship the divine in whatever way their religion asks. If their religion happens to be one of the ones which require the couple to attend, fine. That’s the way they believe, and that should be respected. As with so many wedding-related issues, keep repeating “It’s not all about ME”.

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Brenda January 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Some very good comments. My husband is not religious, although his family is Jewish. I was not religious at the time we married, having left my parent’s cult, and wanting nothing to do with any religion. We were planning to have a small wedding in his uncle’s backyard, which is on a beautiful hillside. Then his grandmother took an interest. She suggested a rabbi who would marry interfaith couples, so I started doing research on the Jewish wedding ceremony, and all the symbols involved. The guest list began to grow. One night, I had a small meltdown. My husband (and this is why I love him) held me and said the magic words, “Let’s go to Reno.” We left the next morning, were married in a small chapel across from the government building where we got our license, and I haven’t regretted it at all.

Xtina, I do want to say that Christianity has not been in the marriage business for “millennia.” It wasn’t until around the 9th century that the Catholic church got into the marriage business. Jewish marriages are now a religious celebration, but most of the ceremony is not religious, but the evolved solemnizing of a wedding contract, which is read as part of the ceremony. Throughout history, in all religions marriages were traditionally contracts between families, with the involvement of a priest being a much later addition to the ceremony.

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Nestholder January 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Back when I got married, there would have been another reason for getting married in church: size. In my country, at that time, there were two options: marry in a church or marry in a registrar’s office. The latter were (in my admittedly limited experience) usually rather small, and would accommodate perhaps thirty or forty people at most. Our wedding wasn’t huge, but we had about a hundred guests. (Not that we decided to pick a church on grounds of size—we were married in a place that was of importance to my father, his garrison chapel, and had the reception in the Mess.)

These days there are more options, as there are a lot of stately homes, hotels etc which are licensed premises for weddings, so people who are not churchgoers are unlikely to go out hunting for a ‘pretty church’, which I think is a good thing. It’s a pity we aren’t allowed to get married at home, though.

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Leslie January 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I must say that I agree with the OP. We’ve been struggling with an influx of such requests in our own church, and it’s something we’ve discussed as part of the leadership team extensively. A church is not simply a building – once it’s consecrated, it’s far more than that, and it’s emotionally very much more than “just a building” to it’s parishioners. The marriage rite itself is a holy thing in most denominations. So simply “renting out” the entire thing (the church, the pastor, the service) is offensive to many people.

The OP’s reference to the Pastor requiring the couple to attend services and counseling before he commits to officiating isn’t pressuring them. It’s giving him a chance to get to know them and to better judge their sincerity in what they’re asking him to do and to allow in a sacred space he is charged with maintaining. If you can’t understand that or won’t respect that, it only highlights how wrong it is to even be asking in the first place.

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Cordelia January 24, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Harley Granny, I don’t want to pick you apart, but some Christians would not agree that a church is just a facility. Many denominations, especially older ones, see them as highly sacred and sacramental spaces. Some will have a service for consecrating the building, setting it apart from profane use. In some churches, the altar is in a special walled area where no one but clergy and their assistants ever set foot.

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Susanna January 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The church I got married in was very much in demand for weddings because it was pretty and in a fashionable neighborhood of a large city. So the rector instituted a few rules, such as premarital counseling, just to make sure that the people who were church members got priority in scheduling. He did the same thing for baptisms – yes, believe it or not, there were people who called up the church and said they thought it was time to “get the baby done,” and requested such-and-such a date. So he decreed that baptisms would only take place on specific dates (usually coordinated with church holidays), and one must be a church member or child or grandchild of a member to be baptized in that church. Certainly, he wasn’t going to turn away anyone who really wanted to be baptized – he was just trying to deter those who only wanted a cute picture of the new baby in the heirloom christening gown.

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LonelyHound January 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

My husband and I have faith in the Divine and the belief that there are things on this planet that one as small as us cannot comprehend. When we got married we wanted to acknowledge the Divine in our ceremony, but, not having attended Church for quite sometime, did not want to get married in a Church (which I believe is right and proper). We hunted around and finally found a wonderful pastor whose ministry was in line with our beliefs. He required that we fill a questionaire out about why we were getting married, what we wanted out of the marriage and various bits if trivia about our relationship. He required that we write our own vows without any examples so that our vows came from the heart. What we ended up with was a marriage ceremony delievered before the Dinive tailor made to our relationship.

That seems more important than marrying in a Church because it is pretty.

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Jillybean January 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm

@Harley Granny – I love it! It alwasy cracks me up to see people treat people different when they “know” who they are. I too, never name drop – but had a friend who accidentally did. She dabbled in acting for a while and while on an audition the person in charge noticed her name. Her last name was that of a famous director – her father shared the director’s name. So when the auditioner said, “Are you related to … ?” she, hearing her dad’s name, said, “Yeah, he’s my dad.” Well, they fawned all over her after that. Took her a bit to figure out the mistake, at which point she thought it was hysterical.

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AshtaraSilunar January 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I was rather annoyed at the OP’s assumption that people are ONLY asking to use the church because they think it’s pretty, with the caveat that if they need a venue closer to family, well, that’s all right then.
I see nothing wrong with a priest/pastor/officiant declining to host a wedding, but I also see nothing wrong with asking. There are many, many reasons to pick a different church, and the OP seems to have ignored that.

“You cannot just adopt a church and a religion for a day just so your wedding pictures look nice. If you and your partner aren’t religious people or have no interest in Christianity, you have no business getting married in a Christian church.”
What are couples of different religions expected to do, may I ask? For a Wiccan and a Catholic, perhaps a non-denominational Christian or UU church would be best. My impression of the OP’s thinking is that they should choose one religion or the other, period. Life isn’t that simple. And starting a married life together by offending half the family is less than ideal.
“If you are not part of that religion, you have no business pretending you are for one day. It’s just rude.”
So is one person in a couple “pretending” if they’re married in a church that their SO belongs to?

“And the real reason that convinces me of this is that the majority of people who are religious and attend a place of worship regularly agree with me. The people who don’t follow a particular religion or are undecided, normally disagree.”
Well, I was raised Catholic, now atheist, so I suppose I fall under the OP’s guidelines. I left the church partly because I no longer believed in God or many aspects of Catholicism, and partly because the priest whose sermons I enjoyed moved away. If I ever get married, my family will likely cause a fuss if I get married anywhere but a Catholic church. So tell me, what are my choices?

I have been to a wedding with a JOP. The space was tiny (fifteen people fit, 20-25 if they stood along the walls), photos were forbidden, and the justice himself seemed annoyed to be marrying the couple. I’m sorry, but that’s not something that strikes me as a good way to start married life, either.

To the OP: So people find your church pretty. How dare they want to have one of the most important events of their lives there, especially if they (gasp) only go to church on Christmas and Easter! But nothing you’ve said has convinced me that a polite inquiry is out of order, and your church is welcome to politely decline.

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Chocobo January 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

One thing — instead of getting angry, why not use this as an opportunity for grace? If you or your religion are offended at the suggestion of a non-member marrying or using the church for non-church-related reasons, perhaps take that time to educate them on why that would be inappropriate.

One woman mentioned a growing popularity of the “double wedding” in Japan, where couples sometimes have a whole second wedding in the Western tradition (read: white dress, church stuff, English gardens), celebrate a secular Christmas/Valentine’s Day, and other events. That is not surprising. Many cultures co-opt bits and pieces of other cultures without any understanding of what they mean. I wonder how many Japanese would be offended to see so many pseudo-tea-ceremonies for sale at Teavana, or brass Buddha paperweights? How does a person know they are offending if they are not informed?

Again, this is the perfect opportunity to gently share your culture and the significance of these objects and symbols to you.

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Tara January 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Ugh, why would a non-religious couple WANT to get married in a church? The only reason I can think of would be to appease religious friends and family. I think that’s a good enough reason to ask some random church if you can get married there, and then grandma won’t complain about the marriage not being done in God’s house or whatever.

Personally, I got married at the courthouse, with only parents present, cause I hate all that ceremony for what should be a private commitment between two adults. Making it legal doesn’t take much effort… at least one trip to the courthouse to get the license and then you can have a registered friend sign off on it. We had a judge do it, because it made the whole process a lot easier, and we let him say stuff about God in the vows because our parents are slightly religious. But God and the government have nothing to do with our commitment, but we did it that way anyways for the recognition among our own family; the same way that the church may have nothing to do with another couple’s commitment, but they want a church wedding anyways for other peoples’ sakes.

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Rebecca January 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I don’t believe in God, and I don’t attend any church, and I agree with the OP. I think churches are very aesthetically pleasing and I can see why people like the idea of it, but I can’t for the life of me think why anyone who wasn’t of a particular faith would want to pretend they were for their wedding day. You can get married in all kinds of pretty places, so why does it have to be a church if you aren’t a member of that faith? I would feel like a hypocrite, myself, and I would feel uncomfortable making vows under a deity I didn’t believe in.

If a particular church doesn’t have a problem with someone using the space and bringing in their own pastor, that’s up to the church in question.

If family members are pressuring, well, my view is that if you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to decide how you get married.

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airlinepass January 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

My husband and I were in the military during our engagement. Because I was living overseas and he was in another state, we worked with my hometown church and the military chapel to get married in a New England church on a military installation. During our year apart we did our marriage prep seminars via email and with the priests at our respective bases. Turned out it worked out for the best.

All in all it was wonderful. Funny note was that the priest who married us was deployed with hubby prior to the wedding. So the first thing the priest asked my hubby (when we first met to go over the wedding arrangments) was, “So, you’re the guy to helped clean up the sewage spill in front of the chapel at location X?”

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Jess January 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Well by your think I guess I’m out of luck. My fiance and I attend a mission church that can only seat fifty people, maximum. We aren’t members because we are in a transitionary period and my be moving soon. I’m paying a lot of money to marry in a larger church down the street so we don’t have exclude family members. Send me to Ehell if you must but believe me when I say that the flames won’t burn.

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Insomniac January 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm

My own church had a similar incident not too many months ago. We are a very small (less than 50 members) community and hold very traditional “old-fashioned” beliefs. Our church is located in a very developed suburban neighborhood, but not visible from the main road. As a result, our church building (which is a very small, modest white clapboard building) is located in a very beautiful, wooded area. We are not large enough to offer ministries and outreach programs like other churches do. Back in the summer, our pastor was approached and asked if he would perform a ceremony for a couple in the church. They had never attended our church, nor did they ever intend to (their back yard backs onto church property). The couple was of Islamic faith, and our community is Christian. This comes into play because they asked us to cover or remove all Christian symbols in the building temporarily. Our pastor explained that this would not be possible. An amiable compromise was reached (no symbols would be removed or covered), and the couple was given permission to bring their own officiant (a state court judge) and use the church for their wedding. We charged them a small cleaning fee (less than $100), and everyone was happy.

My point is that not everyone in our small congregation was comfortable with this, but we were all able to come to a compromise. Our church has monthly business meetings, and the issue was discussed and voted on by all members.

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MHW January 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I worked as a office administrator for a church with an absolutely beautiful sanctuary. We got several calls each month from people who had no connection to the church, but wanted to marry in the sanctuary “for the pictures.” To try to offset this, the pastor called other “venues” in town and found what they were charging, and set the non-member use fee around that level. The member use fee was considerably less. He had to charge something, because the church had to pay liability insurance, utilities, not to mention the time/labor for the woman who cleaned the church before Sunday services.

I could not believe the number of people who thought the church would be “free” because it was a religious institution. Or asked, “Well, what if I just joined the church for the wedding and then stopped coming?” Or just straight up said they weren’t going to pay anything, like I would say, “Oh, OK, well, nevermind the charge then, come set up your flowers and unity candle.”

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Elizabeth January 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I had a wedding in a church that was not my own and I do not attend church regularly, but I do agree with OP 100%. We had a church wedding because it was what my husband really wanted. We had many arguments before I finally caved in. You see, he does not believe in God. I do, but being that I don’t attend services I have felt I have no right to judge. Then the wedding planning came. The only reasons he wanted a church wedding was because “hotels look tacky” and one of his grandmothers is SUPER religious and would want it that way. (Note that his sister got married a year before us in a beautiful outside park/art retreat and no one had any words about the lack of church.) I found a few non churches he liked, but they were all out of our price range. When I tried to explain how I felt it was blasphemous for us to get married in a church since I did not observe and he didn’t believe he flew off handle. Apparently the phrase about “blasphemous because I don’t observe and you don’t believe in God” meant to him that I thought he was a heathen. The argument was never truly resolved, unfortunately. We were married in a church where is other grandmother was a member. They were kind enough to let my cousin officiate. (Up until then, my uncle who was a minister had married most everyone is the family. He died when I was 16, but various cousins had helped carry on the tradition.) There was no mention of religion in our ceremony. I think what bothers me most is that I honestly do think I know where he was coming from, but he can’t seem to comprehend why I was so upset.

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JS January 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

A number of posters here have said something along the lines of “it’s offensive to even ask to use a church for a wedding just because you think it would provide a pretty backdrop.” I don’t understand why this would be offensive. Churches, in addition to being houses of worship, can also be beautiful architectual achievements, centers of community activity, and/or particularly well-suited (practically speaking) towards housing a wedding and reception. Clearly, many churches (and other houses of worship) also feel this way, as they make themselves available for hire for weddings. Obviously, the church can and does have the right to limit who may be married there.

But I just am not getting why it is rude for a non-attendee to say “your church is beautiful, and perfectly located, and would be wonderful for our wedding. May we have our wedding here?” Can someone please explain to me why the act of asking is in and of itself rude?

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Kat January 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Here’s a question then – when I was getting married, I did so in the church I’d been brought up in, although neither I nor my husband are currently of that faith. We did this primarily to please our grandparents, who would have been very upset by a non-religious ceremony. Our parents also preferred a church wedding, and DH and I didn’t mind either way.

We went to the counseling sessions our pastor requested, but each time we were heading off to meet with him, my mother reminded me that if he asked if we were believers in his faith (she was convinced he’d ask), that we should say yes, even though it would have been a lie. I was convinced it would be wrong to lie to the pastor marrying us about such a thing, and so told my mother I wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to stand up and announce to the man that I didn’t believe what he did, but neither would I lie to him about it if asked. After several arguments, my mother and I both began avoiding the subject.

The pastor never did ask, but what would have been the correct way to handle it, if he had?

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Michelle January 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I’ll admit, when I chose a church for our wedding, I chose the prettiest. DH and I had just moved cities and needed a new church (with the idea we’d be getting married in a year) and of the several in our city within our faith, I chose the prettiest. However, we attend services regularly and my DH has been a member of that faith his entire life (I’m a convert).

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The Other Me January 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm

To all the people who disagree with the OP, do you also think it would be okay to have your wedding at a pretty synagogue or shrine if you weren’t Jewish or Buddhist, or is it just the Christian’s who have to ‘get the hell over it’?

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Maitri January 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm

My husband and I are Methodist but do not attend church. He was raised going to a church in his hometown. We were married in that church because it was important to his parents, who still attend services there. Just because we do not attend, doesn’t mean we don’t revere the location and want to get married in a church.

So just so I understand, just because we choose not to attend physically, but may worship and pray at home in our own way, we are not allowed to have a church wedding? I find that rude, personally. Who the heck is anyone else to tell us we can’t get married in the church where my husband grew up? We did attend marriage counseling with the pastor and we know him well. But I guess that means nothing. Wow.

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phoenix January 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Yet another example of someone being personally offended and trying to turn it into a blanket etiquette issue. OP, your church is not every church, what your congregation wants is not what every congregation wants. How can you tell people they’re rude for not doing what you specifically think is right for your particular situation when the world is a wide and varied place?

IMHO, it’s poor etiquette to assume on behalf of every congregation that you know what they want done with their sacred spaces, and thus start warning off “outsiders” that it’s rude to even ask. The fact that the Admin backs this up disturbs me. In my area the local churches would hate to see this type of opinion catch on. When a local son or daughter gets married the church WANTS them to use their space, even if they aren’t members. It means the event can be local, community centered and help keep the lights on.

In short- since when is “well, we don’t like it” a valid reason for an etiquette ruling? Maybe check with more than your local pastor before making far-reaching assumptions about populations you’ve never met.

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1st-Time Mommy January 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm

My husband and I devoutly attend and volunteer in the same church every week. We’re friends with a good bit of the pastoral staff, as well as many other church members, and we all do city outreach together.

However, if my husband and I were not married but engaged, there is still no way we would ever get married in our church.

Our church meets in a movie theater.

Hey, it saves us money on a big fancy building. Money that we funnel back into our community. Besides, a church is a group of believers in fellowship IMO, not a pretty chapel.

(For those who are curious, my husband and I *did* get married in a pretty little chapel. It’s part of a city-owned historic park.)

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Goldie January 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

For me, it’s pretty cut and dry – I was religious at the time I got married, so we got married in a church. I am non-religious now, so, in the unlikely case that I ever get married again, I’m pretty positive it won’t be in a church. However, I’m not sure about general statements like “it’s offensive to even ask to use a church for a wedding” etc. etc. and here is why. These days, because we’re in a recession, as well as because the old members leave church or die of old age, and fewer new members come in to replace them, a lot of churches are hurting for money. I got a letter from my former church last year regarding their financial situation, and the drop in the number of its members is staggering. So, I suspect that a number of churches would be very open to performing weddings for non-members for a fee – and there’s no way to find out whether a particular church would be okay with it or not, unless you call and ask. Chances are, if you treat them with respect and reward their work financially, they’ll be thankful.

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Iris January 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Most of the arguments here run completely counter to my religious education, so I’m finding it intriguing. The way I was raised the church is the house of God, and ALL of them are the house of God. So if you usually go to Church A but want to get married in Church B because it’s prettier, to me that is no different from “We usually hang out in the family room, but we’ll have the ceremony under the pergola because it’s so nice out there”. I can see wanting a particular minister to marry you because that is the one you have a relationship with, but the building? It’s just bricks. God isn’t in the bricks, he’s in the people that are there. So you can have your wedding in a park, on a mountain, in a fiery pit of hell, but if your church family is there, then the church is there.

So I also have a different attitude to allowing non-Christians to marry in a church. I would expect them to be willing to submit to premarital counselling and enough education that they realise that this is a place where marriage is taken very seriously. But, again under my own beliefs, the church should be a welcoming place to all. Being offended by people who even ask is not a welcoming attitude. Saying “We’d love to have you, but our policy is that you must do a, b and c. You’re not willing to do that? I’m so sorry to hear that, but we hope to see you another time” would surely work just as well to preserve the sanctity of the church while still being open to newcomers.

As well as this there are many people who see themselves as christians but don’t agree with the teachings of the church. Why not give them the chance to marry in front of their God? After all, it’s His house, not yours.

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ashley January 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I don’t see what the big deal is. Many people in the US are culturally Christian and may have been baptized but haven’t attended church but go for life events like marriages, funerals, etc. Its perfectly reasonable for them to try to find a church to get married in. Not sure why the OP seemed so hateful towards people who don’t have a home church.

Honestly, this is why there should be civil marriage only in the US so the church can be taken out of it. Then after the civil ceremony, if people want to have a minister bless it they can.

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SJ January 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I get where the OP is coming from, but for me, this isn’t something I get too worked up about.

Certainly, the church/pastor whoever has the right to say no, so . . . that’s that, I guess.

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Brenda January 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I agree with JS in that I don’t see how it’s rude to ask. If a couple asks and the minister turns them down, then to continue to ask, cajole, etc. would be rude.

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nannerdoman January 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm

The church I’ve attended for the past 20 years is a very pretty one and our pastor is periodically asked if a couple may use it for their wedding. He has pretty much the same strictures as Miss Jeanne’s, and at least one member of the couple must be an active, practicing Christian.

His reasoning is simple, and, in my opinion, sound. The church is a house of worship–not a stage set.

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Catwhisperer January 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Some years back, my husband and I had the chance to visit the church on the island of Maui where aviator Charles Lindbergh is buried on the grounds.

We were told that the congregation and pastor of the church had had to ask the tour companies to NOT make the church a stop on their tours. People didn’t seem to understand that the church is an active church, with a devout congregation that conduct services and have other church-related activities there on a regular schedule.

Lindburgh’s gravestone had been stolen and vandalized repeatedly, and the church itself had been the subject of vandalism by souvenier-hunters as well as disruption of worship services by tour groups. So the church finally had enough and banned the tour groups from coming.

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ERHR January 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

My husband and I were married within the last year at the church that we attend. In our denomination and particularly in the church we attend, buildings themselves are of very little import. In fact, our church building is not owned by our church and is shared by several religious groups. We were charged a pretty penny to use the building but I’m not sure that people unaffiliated with any of the groups using the church would have been allowed to use it. It wouldn’t really bother me if non-affiliated people wanted to use the building and bring in their own officiant as long as it didn’t delay the marriages of church members, but I’m not the one who gets to make those decisions.

What is more important to me is the officiant and the content of the ceremony. My husband and I were married by our pastor with a Christian ceremony. I know that none of the pastors on staff at my church will marry non-Christians (to the best they can discern, of course) and a very extensive 6-month course of premarital counseling is required. However, our area is populated by several large universities and our church is very popular with college and graduate students so transient people are expected, and I think the pastors modify the requirements if the people being married are not living in the area directly before their wedding. I think the main point is to discern that the people are sincere Christians (even if attending another church) and that they are ready to be married.

While it would not be offensive to me if non-Christians ask to use a Christian church (not Catholic, as I know they view the building differently), it would be VERY offensive to me if the people being married deceived the pastors or church staff in any way to facilitate getting married in that location. I have also shaken my head when I have attended the weddings of friends I know to be agnostics or atheists who are being married by a reverend of some kind. I try to remind myself that not all Christian pastors agree with me/my church on who they should be marrying and hope that my friends did not hedge their beliefs to that officiant.

Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree with Rebecca above. That a couple has religious parents or grandparents does not excuse the offense of being married by a religious officiant under false pretenses. It’s well past time to be honest with their families and stand up for what they believe in. My parents (who are not Christians) expressed their disagreement with several of the religiously-motivated components of our ceremony and reception, but we did not yield on those points. Wedding planning can be a time of great stress in families but it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate maturity and independence by telling the truth about these most important issues.

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Rebecca January 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm

“they asked us to cover or remove all Christian symbols in the building temporarily.”

I think this is asking a bit much. I’m glad a solution was found that worked for everyone, but if you don’t want to see Christian symbols, don’t go into a Christian place of worship!!

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Marie Anne January 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I just finished reading through all of the comments, and noticed that several people asked why the OP was so “huffy” over someone not of the Christian faith using her church. I’m in the middle of planning my wedding at my local church, so this is an issue I’ve recently talked about my pastor with. As he explained it (and I agree) the church is a sacred space. Many of the people who want to rent the church for the day are not insulting, and do want the pretty space, and they are politely told that the church is only available for members or other Christians who cannot marry in their home parish for whatever reason. The problem is that some people will become insulting and ask why we put such value on a “building” which is very, very upsetting to someone who attends church there every Sunday and really does believe that it is a sacred space were God joins them once a week.

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Bee January 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm

This was the very reason my husband and I refused to get married in a church. It seemed so hypocritical to be in a church and have a religious ceremony when neither of us have attended church since we were children, except for other weddings and for funerals. None of our guests had a problem with not being in a church (we were married in a national park instead). No mention of God in our ceremony, and it suited us just fine. I don’t believe in religion, neither does my husband. My nan regularly attends church (I almost wrote “religiously” ha!) but she accepted that this was our way, and there were no problems.

I find it odd that couples choose their venue based on aesthetics, and not on religious affiliation (or lack thereof). I remember reading a story on here some time ago about a woman who got a phonecall from another bride requesting that she change her wedding date because she also wanted that church on that day. The contributor says her family had attended the church for many years, and the second bride just liked the building!

I think pastors/reverends/etc are well within their rights to charge a fee. Why should they provide a venue, their services and the grounds for free, when a couple have no ties to the church or the community?

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babs January 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I work in a large church in a large city with beautiful facilities. We could make 1/2 our yearly budget on what we could get for weddings and other events, but our staff decided years ago to use our buildings for ministry purposes, and not rent them out. You can get married there if you’re a member, or your immediate family (such as parents) are members. If we rented out our facilities, we would never be able to use them for what God intended them for, as they would be tied up constantly. We’re a growing church of around 6500 people, and we’re bumping into ourselves already. That’s just our policy and it works well for us. Coincendently, I had 2 back to back calls about it today, and when I explained our policy, both people said “how quickly can we join?” HUH?? One even said they were members of another large church in the same city, but because they wanted to use our worship center, they would leave their church and join ours! WOW, that’s just the commitment level you want out of your people, right?? haha… No.

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admin January 25, 2011 at 12:55 am

I really don’t think people realize how much weddings in a church do monopolize the building facilities. A wedding every weekend means that the facility is not available for other ministry events and functions that are meant for the immediate community and congregation. More happens in a church every week than just Sunday morning services.

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Lauren January 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I am an athiest, I have no interest in religion of any sort and I am getting married next summer. My fiance and I are getting married in a church. I don’t know what one, but we will use whatever one that will allow us to get married in it. Heck I will pay to rent the place for an hour.
I am not doing it to offend anyone. I am not spitting on the ground you worship. We just want to use a beautiful piece of architecture for our ceremony, and we will pay you or donate to the church to help in any way shape or form. It’ll look just like the way it was before I arrived. And if no one told you I was married there, and you arrived the next day, would you REALLY notice anything?

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Cooler Becky January 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Back where I come from, there are a few exclusive schools that allow extra students in on scholarship if they were Christian students (the scholarships are sponsored by a church, I think). I remember that during one year, there was this woman who insisted that our pastor write a baptism certificate for her son but refused to attend church or let her son be baptised.

Our pastor told her that he would not do so unless her son was baptised and she attended church for a year. I think she left quite angry about it.

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Jolie_kitten January 25, 2011 at 1:58 am

Good attitude! I hope this will make relatives of non-religious/non-affiliated/agnostic/atheist people who wish to get married stop pressuring them into getting married in a church of a faith they don’t belong to!

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FunkyMunky January 25, 2011 at 2:46 am

I and my fiancé are not religious. We are getting married in a church. It’s a beautiful, central location that pleases my more-religious relatives.

In return, the church gets $1,500AUD. I feel it’s a fair deal.

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