Congratulations on your decision to be married! We are delighted to know that you are interested in having your wedding ceremony at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. We believe that "marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family" (Directory for Worship, from the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA), and for that reason we take very seriously our role in assisting couples to plan for their wedding day.
Marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman, and some guidance is given in this booklet for obtaining a marriage license. Christian marriage, within our faith tradition, is a covenant "through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship" (Directory for Worship), and ordinarily the marriage covenant is acknowledged and celebrated in a public service of worship.
Couples seeking to be married at First Presbyterian Church should contact one of the pastors as soon as possible. After meeting with the couple, the pastor will schedule the wedding on the church calendar. (No wedding is officially scheduled until one of the pastors has given consent to officiate.) Guest pastors are frequently a part of the wedding ceremony, and this booklet provides some direction for those situations.
The wedding ceremony in our tradition may be characterized as one of simple dignity. "Flowers, decorations, and other appointments should be appropriate to the place of worship, enhance worshipers' consciousness of the reality of God, and reflect the integrity and simplicity of Christian life" (Directory of Worship).
The key to understanding wedding ceremonies in a Presbyterian Church is to remember that weddings are, first and last, a service of worship.
The information provided here, including all policies and procedures, should assist couples to plan for a wedding ceremony that is simple, joyful, beautiful, and appropriate for our faith tradition.
Planning and Preparing for Your Wedding (and Marriage)
The pastors at First Presbyterian Church take seriously their responsibility to prepare couples not only for the wedding ceremony, but for their life after the ceremony. Couples who are married at First Presbyterian Church are asked to prepare for their wedding (and marriage) in at least two ways.
First, as mentioned in the introduction, couples must schedule an appointment with one of the pastors as soon as possible. After meeting with the couple - and discerning their "commitment, responsibility, maturity, and Christian understanding" (Directory for Worship), the wedding date can be placed on the church calendar. Each pastor will have his or her own strategy for preparing couples, and this information will be shared in the initial meeting.
Some of the areas to be discussed include:
- The nature of their Christian commitment, assuring that at least one is a professing Christian
- The legal requirements of the state
- The privileges and responsibilities of Christian marriage
- The nature and form of the marriage service
- The vows and commitments they will be asked to make
- The relationship of these commitments to their lives of discipleship
- The resources of the faith and the Christian community to assist them in fulfilling their marriage commitments.
(Directory for Worship)
Second, couples married at First Presbyterian Church are required to participate in a marriage preparation workshop. Our hope is to provide couples with as many tools as we can to assist them in their new life together. Details about these workshops will be shared during the initial meeting with the pastor.
Washtenaw County Marriage Licence Requirements
- Men and women 18 years and older may be married without parents' consent.
- Michigan residents must apply in the county where one of the applicants lives (the license is then valid throughout the state). Out of state residents must apply in the county where they plan to be married. The license is then valid only in that county. Marriage licenses in Michigan are valid for 33 days after application.
- The following is required of both persons at the time of application:
- valid driver's license
- birth certificate
- a certified copy of divorce judgment, if divorced less than 12 months
- Fee of $20 for Michigan residents and $30 for out of state residents.
- Only one applicant need appear to apply for the license, but that person must have all of the items listed in #3 above (a photo-copy of the other person's driver's license - front and back - is acceptable).
Reminder: The marriage license must be presented to the pastor or wedding coordinator at the time of the rehearsal. Please plan ahead. The license will be completed, signed, and sent to the County Clerk's Office by the church staff after the wedding ceremony.
Other info: www.ewashtenaw.org or call (734) 222-6720
(Note: First Presbyterian Church provides this information as a service to couples, and we of course try to be as accurate as possible. However, final responsibility rests with couples to determine exactly what the county requires to secure a valid marriage license.)
Not every day or weekend is a good time for a wedding at First Presbyterian Church. Sundays, for example, are ordinarily not good days for weddings. Weddings also may not be scheduled where there are conflicts with the church schedule, which must take priority.
Finally, weddings may not be scheduled on:
- The Saturday before Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (which is the period known in the Christian faith as "holy week")
- The month of December,
- The week of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs,
- Saturdays with University of Michigan home football games
- The weekend of the University of Michigan spring commencement.
Weddings for Non-Members
Members of First Presbyterian Church, as well as members of their immediate families, may be married at the church. In certain circumstances, non-members may be married at the church as well, though there will be an additional fee for building usage.
Consideration will be given to non-member members...
- if the couple are or have been active members of another church and wish, for a variety of reasons, to be married in Ann Arbor,
- if the couple has been regularly involved in the life and worship of First Presbyterian Church for six months or more,
- if the couple commits to uniting with First Presbyterian Church soon after the wedding or if they commit themselves to uniting with another church in their new community
Couples who are not members are asked to prepare an essay responding to the following questions:
- What are your individual faith backgrounds?
- What are your present perspectives on Christian faith?
- What participation in a church do you envision for the future?
- Why do you wish to be married in a Christian wedding ceremony?
- Why do you wish to be married at First Presbyterian Church?
The process for scheduling a wedding at First Presbyterian Church begins with making an appointment with one of the pastors. Requests will be honored to the extent that their schedules permit. It is the policy of the church that one of the pastors of First Presbyterian Church participates in every wedding. When a couple requests the participation of a guest pastor, the pastor from First Presbyterian Church will extend the invitation to the guest pastor.
Life circumstances vary, but ordinarily couples should make contact with the pastor no less than three months before the wedding.
As with all other elements of the wedding ceremony, "music suitable for the marriage service directs attention to God and expresses the faith of the church" (Directory for Worship). The church's director of music/organist will provide guidance and suggestions for music appropriate to a service of worship.
The couple must schedule an appointment to meet with the church organist, who plays at all weddings or arranges for substitutes.
A list of soloists and instrumentalists for weddings is available from the director of music/organist. First Presbyterian Church does not use pre-recorded music.
The sanctuary has a beauty of its own that requires little additional adornment. A floral arrangement in the church's vase may be placed under the cross. The liner size must not exceed 10-1/2 inches in diameter and 5-1/2 inches in height, and must be provided by the florist. The arrangement cannot be higher than 17-1/2 inches above the top of the liner.
A simple flower, fern, and/or bow may be attached to the sides of alternating pews along the center aisle to a total of 10 pairs of decorations. This must be provided by the family or florist. No other floral arrangements or decorations are allowed in the sanctuary.
Aisle runners (no plastic, please) can be provided, if desired, by the florist. The aisle is 114 feet long.
For Sunday worship two candles in the chancel are lit, and these are available for weddings as well. A pair of floor candelabrum (7 candles per stand) may be used on either side of the communion table. A full candlelight service requires 24 candles on the walls (sconces) and 18 aisle candles. Please note that there will be an additional fee for a full candlelight service.
"Unity candles" are not a part of a Presbyterian wedding service, but may be used, if supplied by the couple. A holder can be supplied by the church. The candle should be at least 6 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter, but the most appropriate size is 12 inches tall and 3-4 inches in diameter. If a unity candle is to be used, please take it to the rehearsal.
Rehearsals take place the evening prior to the wedding day, and ordinarily all rehearsals begin promptly at 5:00. The couple should clearly communicate the starting time of the rehearsal to the wedding party. Every detail of the wedding will be carefully covered at the rehearsal, and so the entire wedding party, plus readers and other participants, should plan to attend. Rehearsals are not required for smaller or informal weddings, but may occur in consultation with the pastor.
There is no assigned or reserved seating at wedding ceremonies. The family ordinarily sits in the first few pews, and behind those pews there will be general seating. Because the wedding ceremony is a worship service, people will be seated on both sides of the church, rather than dividing the guests into a bride's or groom's side.
Rooms with mirrors are available at the church for both women and men. The Wedding Assistant will direct members of the wedding party to these rooms.
Rice, Confetti, Bird Seed, etc..
First Presbyterian Church requests that no rice, confetti, bird seed, or anything else be thrown at the conclusion of the service - either inside or outside the church. Soap bubbles may be acceptable, but just about everything that is thrown afer a wedding creates a hazard of some kind or else a long clean-up for custodial staff.
Cigarrette Smoking and Alcoholic Beverages
There is a no-smoking policy on church property, and no alcoholic beverages are allowed either in the church or on the grounds. We regret that failure to abide by these conditions will necessitate the cancellation of the wedding.
Since a wedding is a service of worship, photography is considered inappropriate; therefore, working within the parameters at First Presbyterian is essential. Flash photography, in particular, is not permitted, and couples should advise their guests that the church allows no pictures during the wedding ceremony. The official wedding photographer will be able to photograph unobtrusively, but even official photographers need to be reminded of the church's policy. During the wedding service, the photographer must remain in the rear quarter of the Sanctuary, closest to the narthex, and take only non-flash pictures. Ample time is available both before and after the service for picture taking. Please be sure to convey these restrictions to your photographer before the wedding date.
If pre-wedding photographs are desired, the photographer should begin no earlier than 1-1/2 hours before the service and end no later than 45 minutes before the service.
If post-wedding photographs are desired, the church asks that these be completed no more than 30 minutes after the conclusion of the service.
Video taping of the wedding ceremony is permitted, and arrangements should be made with the church executive pastor at least a week prior to the ceremony. Extra lighting or other equipment is not permitted. The church requests that the ceremony be filmed from the balcony.
The church does not provide bulletins for the wedding ceremony.
Use of church building: (There is no fee for church members, and a membership of at least one year prior to the ceremony is required for this waiver.)
Chancel only (up to 35 people) $100
Nave (more than 35 people) $750
John Monteith Hall (up to 100 people $150
Hillegonds Chapel (up to 10 people) $40
Additional Fees: (These are required for both members and non-members,)
- Wedding Coordinator (scheduling and details) $100
- Wedding Assistant (assists during rehearsal and wedding) $150
- Organist $225
- Pastor $300
- Soloist, instrumentalist, or other musician - contract price varies
- Candle Fees
- Communion candles No Fee
- Candelabra only $35
- Full Candlelight $80
A non-refundable deposit of $400 for members and $850 for non-members is due when the wedding date is reserved. The deposit will be applied to the total charges for the wedding. All additional fees incurred, except for pastors or guest musicians, should be included in a single check, which will be due two weeks before the wedding. All checks are to be made payable to First Presbyterian Church, with the exception of the check for the pastor. The check for the pastor's fee should be made payable to him/her and presented to the pastor at the rehearsal. An itemized statement of charges will be sent to the couple one month prior to the wedding, with payment due two weeks prior to the wedding.