Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between two people made in the presence of God. Marriage in the Church is a Sacrament – that is, the ceremony is an outward sign of the invisible work God accomplishes in joining two human lives together in one common bond. We rejoice to be the bearers of this Sacrament when two people come before God seeking to join their lives together in love.
The Church of the Atonement takes seriously its responsibility to help engaged couples enter into this sacred covenant. We want to nurture successful, life-long marriages and healthy families in the Church and to contribute to your happiness as a couple. With great joy and seriousness we honor the promises you are about to make.
Some FAQ’s about Weddings at Atonement
Who may be married at Atonement?
Members of the Parish in good standing may, of course, be married in this, their Parish Church, and should contact one of the clergy to make plans for a wedding. Couples who are not members of the Parish are also welcome to be married in the church, by permission of the Rector. The Episcopal Church requires that at least one of the parties be baptized. To determine if marriage at Atonement is appropriate, couples who are not members of the Parish should contact one of the clergy to arrange for an introductory meeting. If after this meeting it seems agreeable to both the couple and the priest, preparations and planning for the wedding will proceed.
What kind of preparation is required?
The clergy are required to ensure that “both parties have been instructed as to the nature, meaning and purpose of Holy Matrimony.” At Atonement we generally try to accomplish this preparation in discussions that take place between the couple being married and the priest performing the ceremony. Normally, three hours of preparation is required (i.e. three separate one-hour sessions). These discussions would normally cover topics ranging from the Church’s theology of marriage to specific arrangements for the wedding ceremony. The discussions are meant also to provide the priest an opportunity to get to know a couple (and vice versa) and to assess their readiness to enter into a life-long covenant. This requires a measure of openness and self-disclosure on the part of the couple, as well as fairness and discretion on the part of the priest. The clergy retain the right to decline to perform any marriage as a matter of personal judgment and discretion.
May a divorced person be married here?
Episcopal Church rules allow for the marriage of a divorced person with the consent of the diocesan bishop. As a part of the preparation for marriage the priest will inquire about previous marriages and the circumstances that resulted in divorce. If the priest is satisfied that the issues that resulted in the failure of a previous marriage do not constitute an impediment to another marriage, he or she will request permission from the diocesan bishop to perform the marriage.
May a same-gender couple be married here?
Yes, same-gender couples may be married at Atonement and should follow all of the same steps outlined in this pamphlet.
How do we plan the wedding ceremony?
Wedding ceremonies at Atonement must conform to the regular pattern of the church’s worship as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. The somewhat traditional structure of the marriage rite laid out there allows for some significant variation, which must all be discussed with the priest performing the ceremony. The priest is required to use the vows as they are set out in the Prayer Book and does not have discretion to allow the couple to write their own vows. The priest will work with the couple to help select readings and make other choices about the service.
May we have a Mass as part of the wedding ceremony?
There are two kinds of wedding ceremonies. The Wedding Office is a short service (about 30 minutes, with music) that includes a procession, readings, prayers, a homily, the exchange of vows and rings, and a blessing of the marriage. The Nuptial Mass includes everything in the Wedding Office and then continues with a celebration of Holy Eucharist, offered in thanksgiving for the couple’s marriage.
At Atonement we are happy to perform either kind of wedding ceremony. Since the Mass is the principle act of Christian worship, offered every day at Atonement and one of the chief Sacraments of God’s love and grace for his people and an offering of praise and thanksgiving, it is almost always appropriate to include a celebration of the Mass with the Marriage rite, but it is not required. The priest will discuss this matter with the couple during the course of preparation.
How do we make arrangements for music at our wedding?
All musical arrangements must be made with the Atonement Organist and Choirmaster. They will assist with the selection of music and with the hiring of additional musicians, should you wish to have a soloist, choir, or other instrumentalists. In most cases, they will also play the organ for the wedding. All music for weddings must be strictly sacred, in keeping with Atonement’s usual liturgical customs, and all music requested is subject to approval by the Clergy and the Organist & Choirmaster. Details about your wedding music must be worked out well in advance of the date of the wedding. Please note that only soloists hired by the Organist & Choirmaster are permitted to sing as part of liturgies at Atonement.
Flowers & Decorations–Flowers and other adornments are placed in the church as offerings to God in thanksgiving for the marriage of two people. Generally speaking, elaborate displays of flowers are unnecessary in such a beautiful church. We do not encourage the use of aisle runners, which seldom add to the dignity and beauty of the space. The Episcopal Marriage rite does not include the lighting of a Unity candle. We have well-established relationships with several area florists whose use we recommend. Before contracting with a florist other than those we recommend please be in contact with the Parish Office.
Rehearsal – A wedding rehearsal, lasting about one hour, conducted by the officiating priest is normally held on the evening before the wedding at 6 pm.
Seating – The seating capacity of the church is about 350.
Photography – In order to ensure the dignity of the ceremony we ask photographers and videographers to respect some limits, remaining discreet and unobtrusive. This generally means that they should remain in the side aisles or at the back of the church except during the procession, when photographers may be in the center aisle. We request that photographers not take flash photos during the ceremony. If you desire time in the church before or after the ceremony for picture-taking, please be sure to arrange this time in advance with the Parish Office.
If you are interested in a wedding at Atonement, please contact Mother Erika.