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 }

Bint January 25, 2011 at 5:07 am

Precisely why I had a civil service. I don’t believe in any religion, so why would I make vows to a god I don’t think exists? My marriage is a legal contract and we both wanted it that way.

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Bint January 25, 2011 at 5:19 am

Also, do these non-religious couples actually know what that church believes? Because several religious institutions hold views I find appalling, and people who I know also find them appalling will still want to get married there! Way to support views you claim to actively oppose.

Also, some institutions believe that non-believers are going to burn in hell. Right – this is their prerogative – but would you really want to be married in a place thinks that about you?!

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Enna January 25, 2011 at 6:34 am

Using a Church purely for matralistic reasons to make the photos look good is wrong on so many levels. If a couple are Catholic for example getting married in a Baptist Church does sound strange – but then if the Baptist Church is in a more convient place and has enough space for the guests then that is different. There could be other sitautions: for example if something happens to the couple’s orginal venue which means it can’t be used – roof collapses, fire, vandalism etc etc.

However if a couple do believe in God and have simlliar religious/theological opinions to a demoniation I think they should be allowed to get married in that Church. It doesn’t take that much for the Pastor/
Vicar/Reverand/Preist/etc to find out a couple’s real motive for 1) getting married and 2) in that particular Church.

For those people who critise couples who get married in Church because their families force/expect them too take another look at Chelsey’s comment – her saying “get over it” was harsh but her saying her and her husband’s family wouldn’t recognise the marriage if it wasn’t in Church can cause serious complications. Sometime families will accept what has been advised in the comments when it comes to difficult families. Others won’t: these who won’t could do some really unpleasent things such as not recognise the children of that marriage – considering them illigitimate and the product of sin and not recognising them as an example. It could be a point of conflict.

Is it really bad that a couple only attend a Church at Christmas and Easter? If they have jobs that means they travel a lot (army) or can’t always take time off work (police, doctor, nurse) or look after elderly relatives/neighbours is that a bad thing? Faith is about the person’s invidual belief not how many times they attend a Church. If they attend Chirstamas and Easter services it does show that they believe.

As for the OP saying the pastor asks the couple to attend a couple of church sevices so long as it is to get to kn#6=0o

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Enna January 25, 2011 at 6:41 am

(Sorry keyboard playing up)

So long as it is to get to know the couple then I see nothing wrong with that. When my parents married 25 years ago they got married in Church, they were brought up as Angalicans and so they may not believe 100% but it meant more to them having it in an Anglican Church. Not because the Church was pretty.

I think what doesn’t help is there are so many bridzillas and groomzillas and weddings seem to becoming more comercilaised this is what is frustirating the OP and the Pastor. My Mum always said it was about taking the vows. She couldn’t care less if the cake collapsed or red wine got spilt on her dress – in fact she would’ve laughed if that happened. So long as the vows were taken that is what mattered to her and Dad the most. My parents hate the idea weddings are so commercilaised.

If the couples have different religions/faiths they may want to marry on religious but neutral ground. There is nothing wrong with this whatsoever.

As for Churches charging – it depends how much they charge – if it is for maintance, insurance, cleaning and general upkeep then that is fine. But making £20K profit I think is silly. Members may not be charged because they may have carried out duties or given duties for the upkeep of the Church so they have paid in other ways.

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JS January 25, 2011 at 9:18 am

But admin, isn’t it then incumbent upon the church to limit the number of weddings it allows? Even if non-members were, for some reason, aware of how full the schedule was, I think it’s more appropriate for the church to assume the burden of balancing weddings with membership access.

“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’?” Yes, I also think that’s ok. I also don’t see any reason to assume that people in this thread have been implying that Christians are the only people who should have to “get the hell over it”–people have been refering to “churches,” IMO, because that was the fact pattern that OP presented.

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Sarah January 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

My husband and I are athiest and were very firm about not wanting to get married in a church or religios ceremony. It would mean nothing to us, be insulting to those who are of a faith (and to be frank, churches scare me!). We got married in a 17th century barn (all lovely oak beams) set in beautifully fragrant gardens. Most of our family members were happy with this, and many were quite pleased to be attending a different type of wedding to what they were used to (Husbands family have a history of marrying in churches despite not being religious). However my great-aunt refused to attend as it was a non-religious ceremony, which was a shame but her choice – she also declined to attend my younger brothers funeral the following year as it was also non-religious, I was quite hurt by that on my brothers behalf.

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Just Laura January 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

For people who are just “looking for great architecture”:

Try an art or history museum.
Try a historic house that’s open to the public.
Try a library that’s on the register of historic places.
Try one of the resorts at Disney World.
Try one of your state’s universities or colleges.
Try a ski lodge.
Try a cave (hey, that’s some pretty cool natural architecture).

As I previously said, I wanted lovely architecture as well, so I’m choosing our state’s capitol building. Plus, it’s free to use.
A church/synagogue IS a sacred space. This reminds me of the people who demand to climb Devil’s Tower of Wyoming in June, which is an important time of the year for the Lakota tribe (as well as other area Amerindian tribes). The tribe asks that their sacred space not be invaded for just one month, but our entitlement culture gets the better of us, and people complain that “it’s just giant rock -what’s the big deal?”
Source: http://www.nps.gov/deto/planyourvisit/climbing.htm

A church may be just a building to some (including to me, a non-Christian), but to others it is more.

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RP January 25, 2011 at 9:47 am

Frankly, I’m surprised that so many people are offended that religious people see their houses of worship as more than just a pretty building. Is it so unreasonable that it actually be important to the people who worship there?

This reminds me of that invitation that implied that the party was taking place in a real graveyard. While people figured it was just a theme and not to be taken literally it was generally agreed upon that having a party in a graveyard for the spookiness was in poor taste; it’d be disrespectful of the dead and their surviving loved ones.

I just don’t see why the one place being important is OK but it’s not OK for other places to be considered important.

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JS January 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

RP, I don’t see any indication that anyone here is offended that religious people see their houses of worship as more than just a pretty building. And I certainly don’t see anyone here saying that a church/synagogue/whatever would be rude to say “I’m sorry, but we don’t do weddings here for non-members.” I think it’s certainly their right to restrict their use, if they so choose. People here may disagree with the wisdom of that decision (I don’t, but some may), but not the right to make that decision.

Just Laura, are you saying that it’s rude simply to ask to use a church for non-religious reasons (it’s pretty, it’s convenient, etc)? Even if you take “no” for an answer? Why on earth would it be rude to ask?

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TheOtherAmber January 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

I was going to stay out of it but…. I think if the church/place of worship is willing to rent itself out to non-church groups for reasons other than weddings than having different rules for weddings is ridiculous. If they don’t rent out space for other purposes, then fine they can go ahead and impose whatever restrictions they want.

A church closeby rents out space to a local fitness centre to be used as additional workout space. Several churches in the city have been rented by chamber music groups as venues for performances (where admission is charged). If the church is willing to be used as a rental facility for those purposes, then I don’t think they can say to someone no sorry you can’t be married here without being a member of this church.

Also, I’m more agnostic than anything else but I did go to Catholic school and the nuns taught us that a church is just a building. God doesn’t live in the church, God is everywhere and there’s nothing special about a church other than it being a place for people to gather.

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rifish January 25, 2011 at 10:19 am

I don’t think it’s rude to ask. As we can see from the posts, many churches are willing to marry non-members. However, if you get married in a place of worship you have to accept that religious symbols and rhetoric naturally come with the territory.

My brother and his wife were married in a church despite being atheists. They needed a venue, and a family friend suggested her church and pastor. The pastor incorporated religious language into the ceremony, which I thought was a little awkward knowing my brother’s beliefs, but then you really can’t be too surprised when a Christian pastor starts talking about God. For all I know, they had discussed it in advance and agreed to it. Either way, the couple and the family were able to accept it and move on, but one guy couldn’t keep his mouth shut- the best man. Also and atheist, he made it known during the ceremony that he disapproved of the “God stuff”. Luckily, I couldn’t hear him from where I was (I learned about it later from another groomsman) but the pastor was within earshot. I wonder if he’s changed his mind about marrying non-religious people after this incident.

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livvy January 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

Personally, I would have felt like a giant hypocrite getting married in a church to which I didn’t believe/belong. The same way I never would have vowed “to obey”. A Marriage involves serious promises to your spouse – why would you want any part of it to be a lie?

(For me, this also applies to people who hire their own pastor/rabbi/priest for the funeral of someone the officiant doesn’t know. Generic condolances, or references only to the loved one who asked for the officiant. It makes me angry when someone who knows NOTHING about the deceased talks about them, their beliefs, etc. and gets it WRONG! Incredibly offensive.)

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winter January 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

One last point –many posters here are assuming that ‘non-religious’ people are wanting to get married in the church for ‘architectural’ or ‘beauty’ reasons. I can assure you this is not the case (believe me, I know what I am talking about) We once were in a church that was 100 years old, had not been cared for, had in fact been condemned by the public health department, the basement flooded periodcially—and yet, people still called routinely to ask to be married there and since it was a hovel, I can only imagine it was because they felt they had to get married in a church to make it official? who knows? And the poster who says they should be allowed to be married in front of their God, good grief, the park would better serve that purpose! Some older folk once said that marriages in churches had a better chance of succeeding then those not in a church building?

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Just Laura January 25, 2011 at 10:57 am

Because I feel it is rude to impose upon a sacred space, and force others to come up with a reason to say no, or otherwise make them uncomfortable.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of taking a religious course, a sacred space isn’t necessarily a building; rather, it is what that building, grove, natural formation or memorial site means to someone else.
sacred space: Space—tangible or otherwise—that enables those who acknowledge and accept it to feel reverence and connection with the spiritual.

An atheist or pagan would not accept the specific religion (or reason for the sacred) offered by a Catholic Church. So yes, I find that rude if they chose to have their ceremony there. Likewise I think it’s rude for hikers/climbers to invade Amerindian sacred spaces at certain times of the year. Even asking to do so is rude – now they are put upon the spot to explain why such an imposition is improper.

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Mucey January 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

I do agree with the OP. When my husband and I got married this past summer, the church we attend didn’t (and still doesn’t, but we’re working on it) have an actual church building. We meet in a high school auditorium. As such, we had to find a location. His grandmother’s church (same religion) would have been a nice place for the size of the wedding, but they said no, they don’t do weddings for non-members, even if they attend another church regularly. We didn’t get up in a tiff about it–it did make sense. We ended up finding a beautiful place that does garden weddings, and a preacher from our church conducted the service. We weren’t really set on a church wedding to begin with, though, because of the initial situation. I think the reason some non-religious people want to use a church is not always because it’s pretty, but because it’s “traditional”.

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Robert January 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

I was married in my back yard by a JP who is a practicing Wiccan on the summer solstice so I suppose you can figure which side of the coin I am on (I’m a lapsed Roman Catholic – we didn’t realize it was the summer solstice until months after we picked a date and we didn’t know the JP was a Wiccan until after we had chosen her as the JP but we both liked the coincidences!).

I agree with the OP on people who are not of the churches religion and/or have no interest in the religion. If you are just looking for a pretty place there are other choices.

If they are lapsed and have no church of there own then I think the OP’s fathers method is excellent (and I thought all catholic services required marriage counseling with the officiant prior to the wedding?).

The one thing I am undecided on is couples who are not religious but have close family, friends maybe parents who are. I know some people who went through with a church wedding only because it would have devastated there parents if the wedding had not been held in a church.

So…what do you do with the people who have no interest in the religion themselves but are trying to have a formal church wedding out of respect for the beliefs of their loved ones?

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Enna January 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

Like with so many cases I think it depends on the individual couple as there are so many variables and so many extremtites. If a Church has people queueing round the corner, I understand why a Church would want to limit who gets married there. One of my firend’s firend’s got married in a Church as was requested to attend services – when it came to shaking hands at the end of the service the woman who was getting married turned it into a compeition of hand shaking. I think that was childish.

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Just Laura January 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

Robert – I like your comment. :)
I wonder, though, why the beliefs of the loved ones trump the beliefs of the two people who are actually entering into this life-long agreement?
My mother is a Southern Baptist, and attends every single Sunday. My fiance’s mother is very active in her own church, including singing in the choir and attending the Sunday school before the regular sermon. My grandparents attend chapel on the Air Force Base every Sunday. Religion is very important to our families. But they know that this is OUR wedding, and if we don’t have it in a church because we aren’t Christian, they don’t mind – everyone has told us that they want US to be happy.

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JS January 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

But JustLaura, it’s clear from this discussion that some religious institutions DON’T consider it improper, and therefore wouldn’t need to come up with a reason to say no. In fact, it’s clear that some religious institutions actually welcome the revenue and it would be a hardship for them if people stopped asking. How are people to know the position of a particular religious institution without asking?

I also have to say, if it’s that uncomfortable for a religious institution to say “we consider this space sacred, so we don’t perform weddings for non-members here,” then they’re a bit oversensitive. Just as if people are offended by the idea that a particular religious institution limits weddings to members only, they’re being a bit thin-skinned.

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LovleAnjel January 25, 2011 at 11:53 am

As an atheist who was married to another atheist by a family friend (who also happened to be a priest) in a very nice country club: I agree with the OP. It is disrespectful to get married in a house of worship JUST because it’s nicer than yours. It’s disrespectful to be married by clergy in a house of worship if you are areligious.

While I am an atheist, I did once believe and I therefore respect others’ beliefs. that means I also respect their places of worship and the time of clergymen. (The priest who did our service had it approved by the Bishop first and I would not have had it any other way. We also gave him a nice tip.)

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kingshearte January 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

My take as a pretty much non-religious person is that, at the end of the day, a church absolutely has every right to decide what kind of events take place there. I for one had no interest in getting married in a church, and frankly, I don’t really understand those who do despite otherwise having no affiliation with that or any other church.

That said, given, as others have pointed out, how often churches do have non-religious events, meetings, etc., I think that couples can be forgiven for asking, provided that they accept any refusals and/or conditions graciously. If a church doesn’t want to be treated as a general meeting space, it shouldn’t treat itself as one by having all kinds of other non-religious activities going on there. And if you’re going to allow those activities, then you shouldn’t get too upset if people are interested in having their weddings be among them.

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Michelle P January 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I agree with admin and kingshearte. It’s inappropriate to expect to have a wedding at a church in which a person is not a member of, or at least the same religion. It’s disrespectful to the pastor and the religion. Church is a sacred place, and should not be treated as just another public place. My husband and I were not particularly religious nor did we attend church at the time of our wedding, so we got married in a public park with a JP.

As for “Well, what if other family members don’t recognize the marriage/want it in a church”, oh well. It’s not their wedding. Anyone truly religious will recognize that the couple are trying to be respectful of the religion. Frankly, if parents or in-laws don’t recognize children born out of a marriage just because it wasn’t held in a church, the bride and groom have far bigger problems than not being married in a church.

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kero January 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I agree with what JS and phoenix said.

If people get so worked up about “outsider” couples getting married in their church and taking up time/space, shouldn’t they be complaining to the minister since he was the one that approved of it? That’s like complaining about the one guest to other guests but really the host should be told about this.

I still don’t think there’s anything rude or wrong to ASK. If rejected, the couples should respect the ‘no’ and move on. If the couple makes a fuss, then they are rude.
Churches have the ability to use the good ol “I’m sorry, I cannot accomodate your request.” It is silly to be offended when one asks for permission.

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BluePaint January 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I’m Unitarian Universalist. I know this may sound pretty crazy to you guys, but there are plenty of people who belong to different religions (or no religion at all) who attend my congregation EVERY SUNDAY. They have plenty of reasons for it. Some of them married members and don’t want to attend separate services from their spouse. Some of them don’t live near a place of worship of their chosen religion. Some of them have have been turned away from the religion they identify as. But all of them, every single one of them, feels a connection to the divine in whatever form they might believe in when they listen to my reverend speak. It is that religious connection that keeps them coming to my church.

My church doesn’t take the stance that their presence there is sacrilegious. If yours does, that’s totally their choice, and they are welcome to decline anyone who does not belong if they ask to be married there. But I firmly believe there is nothing wrong in just asking. There are plenty of reasons to have a religious ceremony in a church that is not the one you attend every week, and many of them have nothing to do with photographs.

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RJ January 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm

“There are plenty of reasons to have a religious ceremony in a church that is not the one you attend every week, and many of them have nothing to do with photographs.”

True. We got married in a beautiful Anglican cathedral, stained glass and all – but we would definitely have preferred to be married in our own home church (Mennonite) even though it’s in a very plain-looking building. But we had an open ceremony and we knew we’d have a minimum of 140 people (who rsvp’d to the reception) and our home church would be maxed out at about 100, so we had to be married elsewhere. Also, the Anglican church was downtown and within walking distance of both our reception location and our photograph location, which was a huge plus for people coming from out of town.

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Fox January 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm

1. At least around here, churches tend to have large secular components – gyms, dance halls, etc. They also tend to host many secular activities – my graduation ceremony (from a public school) was held in a church because they had the space and offered it. Should I have skipped my graduation out of deference to people who worship there because I don’t believe in their religion? It seems to me that it’s up to each individual church to set their own policies.. and if weddings don’t interfere with your services and bring in some extra money for the church, how is that offensive? Obviously no one is suggesting we force churches to allow anyone to marry there, and they don’t. But I have a hard time seeing how merely *inquiring* about using a space for your wedding, when many churches do “rent out” the space, is rude.

2. Even though the couple may not be religious, they may have family who are, or family who expect them to be married in a church. It’s sometimes easier to go along with the societal expectation than to deal with a mortified granny who now thinks your marriage isn’t “official” before god.

3. Who are you to judge their conviction? Why do they need to be a member of your congregation in order to be fit to be wed there? They may have a variety of reasons that they do not or can not attend church services, but they may be just as sincere and devout in their faith as you are. The idea of a litmus test for who is “good” enough to use your church (and typically pay a bundle for it) is a bit off to me.

4. As for other religions.. I’ve attended church services of quite a few sects in order to accompany a relative or friend. (In college I actually kept a friend company while she “tried out” a bunch of churches in the area to find one she liked.) I’ve also participated in rituals at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, and taken photos there and in famous churches (like Notre Dame). In every instance actual practitioners of that religion have been friendly and polite and did not seem bothered by the presence of “non-believers.” The fact that these places were open to “tourists” and visitors (sometimes for a fee, sometimes a requested donation, sometimes free) indicates to me that the practitioners recognised that their place of worship was also a place of beauty and wanted to share it. Assuming that the couple who want to get married in your church are respectful of your religion, I don’t see why you are so offended that they want to exchange their vows in a place they obviously find beautiful and fitting. Is the OP suggesting that no one who doesn’t attend church regularly should be allowed to marry in one? If they profess that they are Christian and want to be wed in god’s house, shouldn’t that be enough?

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Cat January 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

I agree with the OP. For a Christian, the church is the House of God. It stands for a certain belief, a certain way of life (morally and ethically), and a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus made his opinion of money changers in the Temple very clear. (Imagine Jesus chasing you with a whip!) You don’t just rent out His House so your family doesn’t cut you out of the will or because you think claiming to be Christian is sufficient ( Remember what He said about the lukewarm in faith being spat out).

If you are not a Christian/Jew/Moslem/whatever deeply held religious faith, you will never understand. People have willingly died in horrible ways because they would not renounce their faith. I cannot imagine someone who is not Jewish asking a rabbi to perform their wedding just because they think it’d be neat to be married by a rabbi.

Find a pretty building, lake, seashore, or marry at home. As we have the courage to publically proclaim that we believe, have the courage to say that you do not believe.

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Cat January 26, 2011 at 1:04 am

Quick note to theotherAmber. You either misunderstood the “nun” or she was not informed about Catholicism (there are plenty of Sisters going around telling children that original sin is “spots” on their souls and other misinformation).

Catholic churches are consecrated: there are small crosses in the walls and holy oil is used to anoint the altar of sacrifice (which also contains relics of a saint) in a special ceremony by a bishop. When the church is to be sold/demolished/the use changed, there is a special deconsecration ceremony. That’s why we make the sign of the cross when we pass by a Catholic Church (the Holy Sacrament means that Christ is physically present within) and we bow to the altar when the sacrament is not present (Good Friday).

Catholic churches are “not just buildings” because God is omnipresent. I certainly hope that the teaching sister (they are not nuns-nuns are enclosed and don’t teach) was not a FMDM-my former congregation.

I was a theology teacher and the misinformation my students had after years of Catholic schooling was astounding. They even thought they “turned into angels” when they got to Heaven. Holy Mother Church does not believe in the transmigration of souls. I hope this helps those who don’t know much about Catholicism.

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lkb January 26, 2011 at 6:01 am

@Cat: I agree with you and salute you for stating this so well, especially the second paragraph.

While there is nothing wrong with somebody merely asking if they can use the site for their wedding — as long as it’s done respectfully. But it’s up to the church to decide so don’t get in a snit if you get a respectful “No, that isn’t possible. The church is very meaningful to those who belong to that particular denomination. That’s where the words “holy” and “sacred” come in: These are places especially for worshiping God.

Yes, there are churches and other places of worship that allow tourists in for tours and pictures. I happen to be Catholic and whenever I’ve visited/toured particularly historic churches (like Notre Dame in Paris, Chartre in France and the first U.S. Roman Catholic Church, in St. Augustine, Fla.), there were guidelines even for the tourists. In some, there was a particular area that was reserved for people who came to pray — you were politely directed away from there otherwise and certainly forbidden to take photos. Most had requirements for proper attire. Tours were very restricted, especially if there was a Mass or some other service taking place. That’s because these are primarily places of worship — not just pretty buildings that someone built on a whim.

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JS January 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

Cat–are you saying that the churches/synagogues/mosques that currently rent space out for non-member services (like weddings and graduations) aren’t really Christian/Jewish/Muslim?

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irish January 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

@Cat: In fact, many nuns (not just sisters) do carry out teaching within convent schools, depending on the order’s strictness of enforcement. There is a common area that doesn’t involve the nun leaving the cloister or outsiders entering.

My mother worked for many years in a convent school and one of her colleagues, a teaching sister, recently announced her wish to become a priest in a national newspaper. The mother-in-law of one of her other colleagues (who is the sister’s best friend) wrote a letter to the paper blaming the sister for the decline in religious belief in society. In effect, she said the sister was an unfit religion teacher because she believed women should be allowed to become priests. To be honest, I was reminded of this when I read your comment saying that you hope the misinformed sister was not from your congregation. She may have been using a teaching symbol for young children, or saying that one does not have to be in a church to be close to God.

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jenna January 26, 2011 at 10:24 am

I just want to weigh in with my own wedding experience, which was sort of a combination secular / religious ceremony that we held for very specific reasons that some may disagree with (and they are free to), but I do feel were appropriate for our situation.

My husband and I were not married in a church. We are not religious in any sense (I think the right word for us is “secular humanist” but really, we’re just agnostics who do not believe that we have the “right” answers, nor does anyone else – but everyone has the right to believe as they like). We were, however, married by a pastor.

I was raised Protestant and did attend church growing up: at first I took it for granted that I was “Christian”, then I began to question, did some spiritual soul-searching and came up with “I can’t possibly know the answer. Nobody in the history of humanity has truly known. I am OK with not knowing and at peace with it”.

However, the church my parents attended and still attend has always been a liberal, progressive one. This is not a story of a young person rebelling against conservative or overly strict beliefs and practices. Their church has always been about tolerance, love, acceptance, kindness, openmindedness, equality and justice – as all people should be, and as was the true word of Jesus (whom I do not necessarily take to be a divine being but do believe had a philosophy well worth studying and following).

As such, I deeply respect the pastor of that church as a person and as a leader, even if I differ on some key points with the religion as a whole.

My husband and I were married in a garden, and it was important to us that the person who marry us be someone who knows at least one of us: a random officiant who was familiar with neither of us was…well, it wasn’t out of the question or an intolerable proposition, but not our first choice. So I asked my parents’ pastor to do it, and he accepted.

Yes, the ceremony had religious references in it that we’d have preferred not be there, but there was no way to ask that they be removed to create an entirely secular ceremony and to still have my parents’ pastor marry us. The music, venue, readings and our personal vows were secular, and we felt that was an acceptable compromise.

Basically, it was more important to us – especially me – that someone I respect, admire and know – someone I grew up around – marry us than it was for us to find any old officiant.

I know there are people out there who will disagree with our decision, and that’s fine. I can accept that not everyone would reach or approve of the same compromise we did, but I do feel that what we chose was right for us.

It’s not the same as the OP’s complaint (which I believe is entirely valid), but thought it was worth sharing to shed light on how many different arrangements, situations and outcomes there can be, and that there are many factors to consider – not just faith.

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jenna January 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

BTW, the Japanese, as always, have found a way around this.

Across Japan one can find white-plaster “Wedding Cathedrals” in which to get married. They are secular venues (some people do get married in temples, in more ‘normal’ secular venues or at the town hall) – and they look like cathedrals with soaring white spires (no cross on top). Steps, stained glass, rosette windows, arched windows and everything. Other than not being “Christian”, they are exact replicas of churches and, in fact, it’s hard to tell what buildings are real churches (there are Christians in Japan) and what buildings are “Wedding Cathedrals”.

Ah, Japan.

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Leah January 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

quote: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’?: unquote
Many in my family are Buddhist. There is no problem having ‘other’ weddings at the Temple, provided those attending are serious about their ceremony.

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Ali January 27, 2011 at 3:10 am

I want to get married at the Chapel for my University. It’s a beautiful church, but I also worked there and sang in the choir (technically a school choir) for 3 years. My only problem is that I am close to all three of the Chaplains and could not pick one to ask to perform the ceremony. Even though I’m not of the exact same denomination, it was close enough that it didn’t matter.

You’d be surprised the crazy requests we’d get. Only people with an alumni connection are allowed to get married there but people wouldn’t understand.

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jenna January 27, 2011 at 8:18 am

The Other Me: I live in a predominantly Buddhist and Daoist country. I honestly feel that if the temple (no matter the religion) allows outside weddings and functions, then it’s fine. If that temple does not, then it’s not fine, and no, I still see no harm in asking.

If there were a set rule on this: ie all congregations agreed on the same set of rules (which they do not) and that rule was “no outside weddings”, then yeah, it’d be rude to ask. But some congregations do allow it. When there is no set rule on what is and is not allowed, then how can there be a blanket judgment on what you can and cannot ask?

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OP January 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

Hello, thank you all for your comments. You’ve both supported me and given me some things to consider, as it should be.

I only wanted to make a comment on behalf of my father, since I mentioned him, I feel a slight need to defend him :)
One of my Dad’s dislikes is marrying people with which he has little connection or relationship. It worries him, as a minister, to take responsibilty for the wedding of a couple who may not be ready to be married or who’s marriage may ultimately lead to disaster. That is why he says, “After four counseling sessions I will tell you IF I am willing to marry you in our church.” Marriage sessions ask both hard and practical questions. If he doesn’t recieve an answer that leads him to believe this will be a serious commitment, he states his concerns, advice, and wishes them well.

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Iago Splatter January 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

“The people who don’t follow a particular religion or are undecided, normally disagree.”

Somehow I doubt that. I am not a Christian, and I totally agree with you. And I would presume that my fellow non-Christians would side with. If you like, OP, I’ll ask them and give you a report.

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JS January 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

OP, I think what your dad does is not only acceptable, it’s laudable. My only objection was to the idea that non-members are being rude simply by asking whether a church/synagoge/mosque is available for their wedding.

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Jillybean January 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Sort of off topic – but I think this story, and many like it are also illustrations of the fact that many people do not think before they pick up the phone (or in this case, stop in). What I mean by that is, I’m sure the conversation goes very differently when a person says, “Hi, my name is Jilly and I was wondering if you could tell me about your policy for marrying people who are not members of your church.” vs. “Hi, my name is Jilly, I want to rent your church for my wedding.”

I work in a setting where I take a lot of phone calls, and I’m always amazed at people who call, and can’t form a conherent sentence about what they are calling about. Take a moment, think about what information you need, and how to best ask for it, and compose your thoughts before dialing (or visiting). And always have a pen and paper handy, but that’s another issue. :-)

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Comosum January 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I have to agree with Jillybean: whilst I cannot (along with many other posters) reconcile a devout non-believer marrying in a religious building of any denomination, one’s frame of mind is paramount.

Even if you are neither a member of either the congregation nor indeed that particular religion, I think that if one approches the relevant officiant with respect and courtesy then merely asking cannot be deemed as rude, surely?

My husband and I married in a register office; I am an atheist and he is a non practicing Jew. Here in the UK it is actually illegal for anyone not of the Jewish faith to marry at Synagogue! Also, the poster who mentioned that many register offices are converted churches et cetera is quite right, until it was moved Quaker’s Friars register office in Bristol was formerly a Friary. Another example to add to Kidderminster.

“Double” weddings as mentioned in Japan are a point of law in France; only the secular marriage which takes place in the Mairie (Register office) is acknowledged as legally valid. Any subsequent religious service – a Catholic Mass for example – is purely as and if the married couple wish it so.

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madame-mim January 29, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I am not a practitioner of any religion, and I couldn’t agree more with the OP. My mother was appalled when my husband and I didn’t want to get married in a church, and I was equally appalled that she would have us go and be day-trippers in other people’s most heartfelt beliefs for the sake of appearances.

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Molly January 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm

If it’s not your (or your partner’s) religion I agree that it’s weird, but the “nonreligious” people who still maintain the beliefs should have every right to get married there if they choose. I’m bothered by the idea that someone else gets to make the call about where I can get married. It’s God’s house. This is actually why I’m just now getting confirmed into the Catholic church after a many-year absence. I realized that I don’t care if the Church denounces who I am. They don’t have the right to say who’s good enough for God.

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Kay January 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm

My husband and I were married in a church that we do not attend, although we are of the same religious background as the church. My husbands family had a history in that church but neither he nor I attend it. I just though the church was beautiful. We approached the Reverend and his rules were fair. You must have some history tied to the church (my husband was Baptisted there) and you must attend 3 counseling sessions. You must follow the Anglican marriage ceremony during the service and there would be nothing that wasn’t part of the Anglican faith involved in the ceremony. We thought this was fair. There was a a fee of $600 to be paid to the church as a donation. If we were regular member’s of the church there would be only a small fee for the organist. Again, very fair in our opinion. I don’t understand why it’s such a big issue to be married in a church that you don’t attend. I could understand though, if you were not respectful of the church’s wishes or weren’t of the same faith as there are plenty of churches out there for every faith so I’m sure you could find a church to match your own religious beliefs but again that’s just my opinion.

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hahahathud February 1, 2011 at 9:28 pm

OK, slightly off-topic, but this post is bringing to mind my godson & his charming mother, with whom I am no longer friends. They lived in a rather posh suburb & wanted to keep up with the Jones’, so much so that she tried to enroll her boy in the local private school, which was Catholic.

As godmother, I attended the initial interview to have him admitted. It did not escape the priest’s notice that both of the lad’s godparents were non-Catholic. He was extremely polite & mildly amused while trying to explain that “actually being Catholic” was a prerequisite of attending the school. My friend was appalled that she would be expected to attend mass.

Whether you like it or not, you wanna play in their yard, you gotta play by their rules. I agree it’s not rude to ask, but it is rude to be nasty when they turn you down.

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Nina February 16, 2011 at 4:40 am

I will start my post by stating proudly that I am not a Christian. I also will state openly that it is utterly DISRESPECTFUL to get married in a church if you are not a member of the congregation with a few exceptions.
1) Getting married in a church that is located closer to family and friends than where you normally attend (i.e. across the state or country).
2) If you are marrying a member of that congregation, and that religion allows the union of two people of different religions. OR
3) If you are new to the area and haven’t settled in enough to decide on a church to attend but have been to AT LEAST one service in said church.

Notice: All three options state that someone is a member of a congregation.

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Margo February 21, 2011 at 7:26 am

I don’t think it is rude to ask; The priest / pastor / rabbi can always say no if s/he is not comfortable, or could require conditions (such as counselling, or joining the congregation) if thats what he r she feels is appropriate.

I don’t see it is disrespectful for people who don’t have a formal belief, or who are not regular churchgoers to wish to be marrried in church, and it seems to me that a church which is welcoming and willing to, in effect, give those people the benefit of the doubt, is one which is more likely to bring people closer to their god.

If you ‘believe in god but don’t attend church’ which is more likely to encourage you to go to church, or to learn more about formal religion? A pastor who says “You are not welcome here” or one who says “OK, lets talk about what would be involved if you wished to get married here”

I would not wish any church (Or other religious organisation or building) to be forced to offer marriage services to those who are not members of their own congreations or wider churches, but surely a welcoming approacj,and a servie which might cause the participants to think more deeply and perhaos to move into a (greater degree) of faith is something which the church could see as a positive opportunity?

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sally February 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I would think that a benevolent pastor would be welcoming to a new parishoner under almost any circumstance, and certainly for the purposes of performing a sacrament in a holy setting.

Maybe you can look upon these couples wanting to use your church for their weddings as new families looking for inspiration to join your faith; and rather than turn them away you could welcome them with a giving spirit.

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Lenera March 3, 2011 at 4:08 am

OP, I think your father is very wise to insist of pre-marital counseling for the couples he is uniting, and I wish more officiants did the same. It’s important to have tough discussions before the wedding day and iron out any serious issues before they can create conflict.
I’ve noticed several people commenting that churches loose their right to refuse to marry someone if they also act as a community center, hosting secular events or renting the space. To quote one poster: “If a church doesn’t want to be treated as a general meeting space, it shouldn’t treat itself as one by having all kinds of other non-religious activities going on there.”
At my church, we sometimes rent out the gymnasium or allow secular events to be held there. The chapel, however, is where Sunday services are held, and while anyone who wishes to attend is welcome, it is not available for use by the general public. Since the chapel is where a wedding would be held, no, non-members are not allowed to be married there.
On a related note, there is a difference between a community event (like a town meeting, service projects, a non-religious youth group or sporting activity) and someone’s wedding. Most religions hold marriage to be a sacred covenant the couple is making with God and each other. To ask to be married in a church without respecting that religion’s institution is rather rude, and could be seen as making a mockery of God. So while it may seem like an innocent question on the surface, please be understanding of those who see it as something more serious.
If you really must get married in a church – for whatever reason – and don’t actually want to join one, might I make a suggestion? Obviously, someone in your wedding party (be it parents, grandparents, or someone else) is religious, or no one would be insisting on a church wedding. So why not ask that person to speak with their own pastor/bishop/priest, etc. and see if you can hold the wedding at their church? Or, if it’s too far away, at another church of the same faith?
But even with that tenuous connection to their congregation, don’t be surprised – or offended – if the answer is “no.”
As for getting married in a church simply because it’s pretty, my answer would have to be “I’m so glad you appreciate the beauty of our building, but only members of our congregation may hold their weddings here. But have you looked at Thus-and-Such-Place yet? It has lovely architecture, and I hear their fees for renting the space are quite reasonable.” After all, a building coordinator would probably be familiar with the area, and a recommendation like that could be very helpful to the couple and may help to avoid any misunderstandings or hard feelings. If they’re new to the area, you could very well save them a lot of stress and work! Besides, it’s fun to help people have a nice wedding.

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Kathlee July 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Ugh, gross. This is why I convinced my parents (my father, being a pastor, and also the one who will serve as the officiant) that we should not get married in a church. Even though it would mean SO much to them (and by contrast, means nothing to us) to get married in a church, I don’t want to have to deal with this aspect of it. “Do you go here?” “Do you believe in God?” “What are your stances on gay marriage?” “Do you live together?”

Frankly, it shouldn’t matter. I’m sorry, but if I’m tainting your church by getting married there, then I don’t really want to be there anyway.

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