April 7, 2021
For those of you who are having a church wedding, we recommend looking at all the fine print on the documents you receive when reserving your date, or even asking in advance. Because let’s face it, some churches don’t even give much documentation at all! Some churches are stricter than others, and some have rules that may be deal-breakers when deciding which church is the best fit for you and your needs. We have listed some of the main questions we’ve needed to ask in the past, so you know what to look for before signing that contract!
Flower girls typically are not allowed to drop real flower petals down the aisle because of possible staining on the floors, and cleanup. Fake petals are allowed most of the time. If your church allows flower arrangements to be brought in, check to see where you can place them. We have seen churches that don’t allow flower arrangements in the aisles/pews, hung on the railings, on the alter, or anywhere that obstructs the liturgical movements of the ceremony.
Many churches give you a two hour time frame for your ceremony. This allows time for flower arrangements to be set up, guests to arrive prior, the ceremony, and pictures following. Because multiple weddings can happen in one day, there is usually a strict time limit for family pictures; maybe 15-20 minutes once the ceremony concludes. The church needs to have time to get ready for the next couple or prepare for public mass.
Check to see if you are given a rehearsal, if you have to pay for a rehearsal, and what times the rehearsal can be. It may be very inconvenient for guests if a rehearsal is at 1:00 p.m. the day prior, and they have to wait around until 6:00 p.m. for the rehearsal dinner.
You must ask what specifically you can or cannot throw. Examples are rice, confetti, birdseed, rose petals, bubbles, sparklers, bells, paper airplanes, balloons and ribbon wands.
Does the church require a bride’s shoulders to be covered? If so, depending on what dress the bride chose, a shall might be required. Low cleavage is usually frowned upon. We have also had brides have to cover up tattoos once the priest saw them at the rehearsal.
Make sure all the fees are acknowledged from the beginning. Churches in big cities tend to have higher fees than small hometown churches that don’t do many weddings. Fees may include: Chapel fee, stipend, pastor fee, musician/organist fee, sound technicians, premarital counseling, honorarium, rehearsal fee, and an optional additional donation.
We’ve come across a few churches that have a set list of photographers/videographers that you must choose from if you work at their church. Even if you contracted with a company before the church, they will not be allowed on wedding day and you’ll have to contract with one someone on the church’s list just for the ceremony portion of the day. This is one of the most unsettling surprises we’ve heard couples come across, so be careful!
Depending on how sacred the church is, and how old the church is, will determine if flash is allowed. Make sure that the photographer knows this prior, so he/she brings the proper lenses to make up for having no flash. Locations churches may not allow a photographer to stand: in the aisle, on the alter, above on a second floor/loft, in front of the bridal party. The hardest position for a photographer is when the church only allows the photographer to stand behind the last row of pews. That does not allow for close up shots of the couple’s faces to capture all the emotion.
Most couples want to take pictures standing at the alter, but make sure you ask if that’s okay. Some also like to take group pictures on the steps outside of the church, but there are some churches that don’t allow pictures outside.
Make sure the photographer knows how to dress properly, so he/she does not get kicked on wedding day. Watch out for sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts.
It’s most common to have one room that the bride, bridesmaids, and closest family members can hang out in before the ceremony. Sometimes, you get lucky and there is another room available for the gentlemen. But, there are also times when there is NO room available for the bride or groom. This poses a problem if the bride wants to show up early because she will have nowhere to go. In the case there is no room to hide in, we see the bride holding back in a limo until right before the ceremony begins.
This may not seem important, but when a bride envisions her wedding with all her ladies standing aside her, it may come to a shock that only her maid of honor will be there. Depending on the layout of the church, and how the priest prefers to run his/her ceremonies, the bridal party may be situated differently than expected (and we don’t like surprises on wedding day!).
If you’re doing a unity candle, most churches require you to provide your own four candles (2 regular tapers, 1 large taper, 1 votive). Usually the church has two taper holders but we recommend asking to confirm (also ask the width of the holders so your candle fits inside!). In addition the couple will have to provide a marriage license. Reserve signs for the front rows sometimes are provided through the church, but most the time couples print their own to match with the rest of their stationary.
It is common that the church will provide you with a church coordinator, but you may not know who your coordinator will be until a few days leading up to the wedding. One problem we have seen arise, is the church will have two coordinators for you, one at the rehearsal and one on the wedding day. With this inconsistency, information may not travel over between coordinators, and they may want to perform certain aspects in a different way. For example, the coordinators may prefer to have the gentlemen walk from the right side, and girls process down the aisle. The bride and groom may change that to everyone walking down the aisle. If the first church coordinator does not pass that long to the wedding day coordinator, it will lead to confusion and potential confusion.
Having to go to your church multiple times prior to the wedding is sometimes tough for couples with busy schedules or couples from out-of-state. So, make sure that if your church requires any counseling or pre-cana (most do!), that you have enough time to properly complete it. Also ask how they handle couples living in another state.
Programs are nice for guests that do not practice the same faith, or are not familiar with the format of a church wedding. Some churches provide a program (with the couples names and date) complimentary, and sometimes the couples need to make their own. If you want them to match your stationery or have any personal notes (relationships of the wedding party, or timeline of events for the remainder of the wedding) you definitely should print on your own.
Most churches will have ceremony musicians that regularly play at the church, that you can “hire” for a few hundred dollars. But if you have someone in the family who plays, or know of a company you really want to work with, double check with your church first because most don’t allow outside musicians.
The church may provide a runner, the couple may have to bring a runner, or some churches don’t allow a runner at all. If you are purchasing and bringing your own runner, make sure that it is a high quality fabric. There are many inexpensive runners that look good, but are thin so they wrinkle and trip people walking down. You also do not want it to tear by one bridesmaid’s stiletto.
Unless you’re having a wedding in the city, this is not typically a problem. But, if there is not convenient or close parking, make sure you tell your guests that on your wedding website, so it gives them extra time to find a place for their car, or get supplement transportation.
This is typically not a huge concern if you have the same shuttle before/after the church, but we have had bridal parties want to bring alcohol into their church so they could carry it onto the shuttle following the ceremony (if the shuttle started after the church). Even if no one is drinking the alcohol, some churches have strict rules that it’s not allowed through the front doors.
No one is sure how long Covid-19 will have an impact at churches but here are some questions that you may want to ask specifically if planning during the pandemic:
We hope you have a wonderful experience wth your church! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about churches in Chicagoland, we’re here to help.
Photo Credit in order: Ed & Aileen, Katherine Salvatori, Cecilia Harvard, Gerber & Scarpelli, Christy Tyler, Studio This Is