Marriage Instructions and Customs of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, North Billerica, MA
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. This is a very exciting time in your life and St. Anne’s is pleased that you are considering a church wedding. Before deciding, please carefully read through this information regarding how the Episcopal Church at large and St. Anne’s view marriage, and what the requirements are.
The Church views Holy Matrimony as a sacrament, which is an outward and visible sign of God’s grace, because you are asking God’s blessing upon your marriage. By being married in the church, you are also choosing to be part of a community of faith that will support and nurture you in your married life.
Please read the following policy carefully. If you wish to continue the discussion, please come to a Sunday service (8:00am and 10:00am) and speak with the clergy.
Please request a date no less than six months in advance. In Episcopal tradition we normally do not perform weddings on Sundays, or in the seasons of Advent (4 weeks before Christmas) or Lent (6 weeks before Easter) and it is normally expected that those who are married are members of St. Anne’s, or desire to become members.
The permission of the Rector is required for every wedding at St. Anne’s and weddings are performed at the discretion of the Rector.
We must abide by the Canon Law of the Episcopal Church for all weddings. Below are the requirements as set forth in the Canons.
CANON 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony
Sec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.
Sec. 2. Before solemnizing a marriage the Member of the Clergy shall have ascertained:
(a) That both parties have the right to contract a marriage according to the laws of the State.
(b) That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.
(c) That both parties freely and knowingly consent to such marriage, without fraud, coercion, mistake as to identity of a partner, or mental reservation.
(d) That at least one of the parties has received Holy Baptism. (e) That both parties have been instructed as to the nature, meaning, and purpose of Holy Matrimony by the Member of the Clergy, or that they have both received such instruction from persons known by the Member of the Clergy to be competent and responsible.
Sec. 3. No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize any marriage unless the following procedures are complied with:
(a) The intention of the parties to contract marriage shall have been signified to the Member of the Clergy at least thirty days before the service of solemnization; Provided, that for weighty cause, this requirement may be dispensed with if one of the parties is a member of the Congregation of the Member of the Clergy, or can furnish satisfactory evidence of responsibility.
In case the thirty days’ notice is waived, the Member of the Clergy shall report such action in writing to the Bishop immediately.
(b)There shall be present at least two witnesses to the solemnization of marriage.
(c) The Member of the Clergy shall record in the proper register the date and place of the marriage, the names of the parties and their parents, the age of the parties, their residences, and their Church status; the witnesses and the Member of the Clergy shall sign the record.
- (d) The Member of the Clergy shall have required that the parties sign the following declaration:
- (e) “We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
- (f) “We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
- (g) “And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.”
Sec. 4. It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage.
If one or both parties have been divorced, proof of divorce must be supplied. An application must also be sent to the Bishop’s office for approval.
It is possible to have a blessing of a civil marriage if so desired.
The Diocese of Massachusetts permits the marriage of same gender and opposite gender couples as allowed by MA State Law.
The Episcopal Church requires that “sufficient counseling” be given to the couple prior to marriage. Traditionally this equals three, one-hour sessions with the clergy person. If counseling has been completed with another clergy person or therapist, a letter stating as such must be sent to the church office.
An Episcopal wedding is first and foremost a time of worship and the solemn exchange of vows. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is our primary guide for worship and weddings. A service without Holy Communion is around 30 minutes long. A service with Holy Communion is around 1 hour long. Only the vows from the BCP are permitted during the service. If you would like personalized vows, we suggest you make time at the reception to recite them. Please see the service outline on page 7.
Our organist gets right of first refusal for weddings at St. Anne’s. If you wish to use a different organist, you must discuss it with the Rector. Please be sure to call the organist right away to make arrangements. Music should be sacred in nature.
You need to provide the flowers. Florists must call ahead to arrange for set up and clean up. Unannounced visits are not permitted.
You are responsible for providing bulletins for your wedding. A sample bulletin is available upon request.
St. Anne’s traditionally has two candles on the altar. We also have candles that attach to the pews, you may request use of these. If you wish to use additional candles, please consult the Rector. We do not allow “unity candles.”
Rice, Rose Petals & Birdseed:
Throwing rice at the couple is not allowed, as it is unhealthy for birds. Additionally, the dropping of rose petals or other flowers inside the church is not permitted. If you desire to throw something at the couple, birdseed is allowed (outside only). Bubbles or biodegradable confetti are also acceptable (outside only).
We understand the desire to capture the joy of your wedding day in pictures and video. Due to the sacred nature of the wedding service, photography inside the church must honor the sacredness of the service. Flash photography is not permitted except when the bride/groom enters at the beginning and when the couple exits at the end. Photographers/videographers are not to approach the altar or act in an obtrusive or distracting manner. Please share this information with your photographer before the day of the wedding.
For members of St. Anne’s in good standing who are on record as financially supporting the church, there are no usage fees for the building. If you are not a pledging member or “giver of record” the fee for use of the church is $350.00. There are other customary fees: an honorarium for the priest (check to be made out to St. Anne’s, and will be used for charitable purposes) and a fee for the organist (check made out to organist). The suggested honorarium for the priest is $200.00. The fee for the organist is $400.00 which includes the rehearsal and the service. The fee for the sexton is $75.00. All fees and gifts to the church are best done at the rehearsal or directly prior to the service.
It is the responsibility of the couple to obtain and properly fill out the marriage license. Sometimes in the excitement of the day, couples forget this important detail. It is best to have the marriage license, church registers, and declarations of intent signed at the rehearsal. The priest will sign and date the license on the wedding day. If you do not bring the marriage license, there will be no wedding.
Alcohol and Drugs
It is not permissible for the wedding party to have alcoholic beverages or other intoxicating substances before the ceremony. If the couple, or any of the members of the wedding party, are visibly intoxicated or under the influence of illegal substances, they will be asked to leave the church and will not be able to participate in the service.
- Come worship with us. (Sundays at 8am or 10am)
- Introduce yourself to the rector and schedule a meeting.
- At that meeting we will go over all of the above and discuss details.
- We will then set the date.
- If you have already locked in the date for your reception before you talk to the church, you may be disappointed that your date is not available.