JUNE 2005



















Table of Contents


A.     Definition of Christian Marriage

B.     Reserving the Date

C.     Place and Time

D.     Pastor’s Statement Regarding Premarital-Counseling

E.      The License

F.      Invitations

G.     Music

H.     Coordinator

I.       Decorating the Church

J.      Photographers/Videographers

K.     Recording

L.      Custodian

M.    Dressing at the Church

N.     Rehearsal

O.     Receptions

P.      Expenses

Q.     Change of Plans

R.     Questions

S.      Additional Information

T.      Final Comments from the Pastor

U.     Notes

The First Presbyterian Church is eager to make your wedding a beautiful and memorable occasion.  The following information is given to help you plan for this important event.

A.    Definition Of Christian Marriage

A marriage is a sacred, beautiful and joyful happening.  In it, God unites a man and a woman in a sacred relationship.  The church celebrates this holy matrimony and asks God’s blessing and sustaining presence on the marriage.  A Christian Marriage Ceremony is a service of worship before God.  Likewise, all of the preparations should be undertaken in light of this fact.  Preparation time should take into account the uniqueness of each couple’s relationship and the rich tradition surrounding marriage services.

 The Presbyterian Church (USA) Directory Of Worship (from which this church policy is designed) says this about marriage.  “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well being of the entire human family.  Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man.  For Christians, marriage is a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.  In a service of Christian marriage a lifelong commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other, publicly witnessed and acknowledged by the community of faith.” (W-4.9001)

Just as a marriage service is a place to celebrate the love that God has given to a couple and to ask His blessing upon that new relationship, premarital counseling is a place to more fully understand that love and the relationship that God intends for the couple.  Premarital counseling affords each individual the opportunity to discover more about themselves and to gain new insights into their own behavior, as well as to discover more about the other person and to gain new insights into that person’s behavior.  It is a time to look to the future and note possible areas that could be a challenge and/or require outside assistance to deal with in the future.

All couples that desire to be married in this church must participate in premarital counseling, directed by the pastor (or by an agreed upon alternative – for example, in another locale if the couple do not currently live here) prior to the wedding date.  Exact details of the premarital counseling sessions (length, content and time frame) will be established by the couple and the pastor.

The Directory of Worship (PCUSA) notes “In preparation for the marriage service, the minister shall provide for a discussion with the man and the woman concerning:  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; and the resources of the faith and the Christian community to assist them in fulfilling their marriage commitments.  This discussion is equally as important in the case of a first marriage, a marriage after the death of a spouse, and a marriage following divorce.”       (W-4.9002a)

Any couple may request to use the sanctuary for their wedding.  As previously stated, all such couples must complete premarital counseling.  The Directory of Worship is quite specific that at least one party of the couple must be a professing Christian.  It is the desire of this congregation that both individuals be professing Christians, however, final decision in this matter rests with the Session, upon the recommendation of the pastor.  Members of the congregation (and their children) have priority for use of the sanctuary until three months prior to the date.  There is a fee schedule (established annually by the Session and available from the church secretary.)

 B.  Reserving The Date

For ease in planning your wedding, as well as to avoid the possible need to change plans, please reserve the sanctuary (and whatever other rooms will be needed) as soon as you know a date.  This can be done by calling the church secretary (684-5465).  The date will also be discussed during the first premarital counseling session to clear the pastor’s calendar.  There must be at least twelve weeks time between the reservation request and the date of the wedding.

A “Church Application Form” will also need to be filled out.  The marriage service at First Presbyterian Church will normally be performed by the minister of the church.  In every case, the minister or their representative will be present to direct and take part in the service.  Friends or relatives of the bridal couple may assist with the service – at the invitation of the Session (and with the agreement of the pastor).

 C. Place And Time

It is the policy of this church that weddings not be held on Sunday, except in extreme circumstances, when Session approval will be required.  It is expected that all weddings will be held by at least 7:30 p.m.  There is no restriction on how early a wedding may be held during the day, but it is expected that the couple in making their decision will display good taste and common sense.  If a date for a wedding falls on a holiday, it will be left to the decision of the pastor if this will be permitted.

Weddings held in this church will normally be held in the sanctuary.  On occasion, in the case of a very small wedding, they may be held in the chapel.  The Directory of Worship says, “Christian marriage should be celebrated in the place where the community gathers for worship.  As a service of Christian worship, the marriage service is under the direction of the minister and the supervision of the Session.  The marriage ordinarily takes place in a special service, which focuses upon marriage as a gift of God and as an expression of the Christian life.”        (W-4.9003)

 D.  The Pastor’s Statement Regarding Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling is a time for the engaged couple (with a third party present) to discover more about themselves individually; to gain insight into their individual ways of acting and interacting (which are directly related to their families of origin); to offer the couple the opportunity to think out the “why”, “how come”, and “so what” of various situations; and to plan the order, content, and orchestration of the actual wedding ceremony.

My role, as pastor, in the premarital counseling is not to change the mind or opinion or point of view of wither or both of the couple.  However, as premarital counselor, I can facilitate the creation of an atmosphere where the couple can become aware of their own values.  With self-awareness, awareness of the other, and glimpses of personal growth (both growth taking place and growth potential) comes the opportunity for couples to be free enough to speak about issues they are facing.  As premarital counselor one goal is to discover those areas that (usually without directly saying so) the couple have agreed to not talk about – to each other or to anyone else.  Another goal is to “red-flag” (to point out) areas where there may be conflict or distress for the couple in the future.

The number one principle underlying the concept of premarital counseling and the planning of the wedding is that marriage is a covenant relationship of love.  With that in mind, it will be a focus of an early premarital counseling session with the couple, to discuss what “covenant” means and how that concept relates to marriage.  The reading and explaining of the marriage ceremony itself will be a part of the premarital counseling sessions.  A discussion of specific church policies on weddings will be held.

Decisions about the order of the service and the vows to be said by each will be talked about during sessions.  The time involved in premarital counseling is a time for the exploration of the couple’s readiness for marriage.

The premarital counseling sessions will be done in the following design of each session:

1.  JOINT MEETING WITH BOTH BRIDE TO BE AND GROOM TO BE.  Content:  Get acquainted, history taking, establishment of wedding date on church calendar, the sharing of church policies (in written form), and an explanation of the following weeks of sessions.  Time:  approximately 90 minutes.

2. INDIVIDUAL MEETING WITH GROOM TO BE, FOLLOWED BY INDIVIDUAL MEETING WITH BRIDE TO BE.  Content:  Completion of “Interview with Groom or Bride to be Form, collection of homework assignment and discussion of any concerns raised by the homework assignment.  Time:  Approximately 60 minutes each.

3.  JOINT MEETING WITH BOTH BRIDE TO BE AND GROOM TO BE.  Content:  Discussion of significant issues raised during individual sessions and/or homework assignment, continuation of a discussion of the concept of the covenant of marriage.  Time:  Approximately 90 minutes.

4.  JOINT MEETING WITH BOTH BRIDE TO BE AND GROOM TO BE.    Content:  Discussion of wedding vows – what, why and how.  Time:  Approximately 60 minutes.

5.  JOINT MEETING WITH BOTH BRIDE TO BE AND GROOM TO BE.    Content:  Planning the wedding ceremony.  Time:  Approximately 60 minutes.

6.  REHEARSAL.  Content:  A “walk through” of the wedding ceremony with all persons involved in the actual wedding.  Time:  Approximately 45 minutes.

NOTE:  If this is a second (or more) marriage for wither or both of the individuals, at least one additional session will be planned (between #3 and #4) to deal with any issues connected with issues surrounding the previous marriage(s).  If there are children involved, an offer will be made to explore with the children and the bride to be and the groom to be any issues of significance, if they so desire.

I look upon the time spent in premarital counseling with a couple as a real joy.  This is a time of great rejoicing as I share with a soon to be married couple the happiness they are feeling.  Over the years I have found it very helpful to explore with a couple those things which they perceive as strengths in their relationship; discover potential growth areas together; and share in the planning of the wedding ceremony itself.  If the couple planning to be married lives outside of the community I am not opposed to conducting the premarital counseling “marathon” style.  Additionally, I have developed a written program – that, with email and/or telephone, could be used for some sessions if distance to Ottumwa is a serious issue.  Such events would, however, need to be completed at least one month before the wedding.  All couples will involve themselves in some written “homework” as part of the premarital counseling with me.  If there is a special friend or relative that the couple would like to have be a part of the service, this should be made known to me during the first premarital session.

During the first premarital counseling session, the couple will be given my phone number and the number for the church.  Also included on that list will be the phone number of the church Minster/Director of Music, the church custodian, and the church secretary.  Supplying these numbers helps to insure good and prompt communication between all people involved in the wedding.  (If the couple wishes to have their reception in the church, the name and phone number of a contact person will be given to them, as well.)

I will officiate at weddings for non-members, but only with the usual premarital counseling, and, as with church members, reserve the right to decline to officiate at a service if I feel it imperative to do so.  Should this happen, I am not opposed to continuing to counsel with the couple to determine if problem situations can be resolved.  It is expected that such occurrences would be extremely rare.  The Directory of Worship states, “If the minister is convinced after discussion with the couple that commitment, responsibility, maturity, or Christian understandings are so lacking that the marriage is unwise, the minister shall assure the couple of the church’s continuing concern for them and not conduct the ceremony.  In making this decision the minister may seek the counsel of the Session.”    (W-4.9002b)

 E. The License

In Iowa, marriage licenses may be applied for only from a County Registrar of Vital Records.  These officials also perform County Recorder functions and have offices either in a county courthouse or county administration building.

Marriage licenses issued in Iowa are valid ONLY for marriage ceremonies performed within the boundaries of the State of Iowa by authorized officiates as defined in Code of Iowa, ch. 595.10

Marriages in Iowa are between a male and a female who are 18 years of age and older, not already or still legally married to someone else or each other; not closely related by blood or first cousins; and legally competent to enter into a civil contract.

Persons who wish to marry in Iowa, and who meet the above criteria, may complete an “Application for Marriage License in Iowa” form, available from the County Registrar of Vital Records.

All items on the application must be completed to process the request for a License to Marry, including the Affidavit of Competent and Disinterested Person on the reverse side of the application form.  Applications may only be obtained from a County Registrar’s office, either in person or by mail.

Applications can be returned by either of the marrying parties to the county in which the application and marriage certificate are to be filed.  The county of license does NOT have to be the same county in Iowa in which the marriage ceremony takes place.

Fee.  The fee is due upon application for the License to Marry.  Effective January 1, 2001, the fee is $35.00 and includes a certified copy of the Certificate of Marriage.  The fee is NOT refundable if the marriage does not occur.

When the officiate files the marriage form in the county of license, the County Registrar will review and register the record.  The bride and groom will then be issued a certified copy of their Certificate of Marriage in care of the couple’s most current address as know by the Registrar’s office.

By law (ch. 595.13), the person who performed the ceremony (the officiate) is required to return the completed and signed certificate form within 15 days after the ceremony.

It is the responsibility of the couple to be sure the presiding minister has the Marriage License so that needed signatures can be gathered.  The Marriage License will be given to the pastor at the time of the rehearsal and completed following the wedding ceremony.

F. Invitation

In printing invitations, the suggested form for the name and address of the church is:

First Presbyterian Church

228 W. Fourth St.

Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

 G. Music

The music of a wedding is a part of the act of worship during the ceremony.  Since we consider this to be a joyful worship service, the selection of vocal, instrumental and organ music should be worship centered.

An appointment should be made to discuss musical choices with the Minister/Director of Music, as soon as your wedding date is secured with the church office.  He/she is prepared with numerous possibilities for processionals, recessionals and prelude music as well as instrumental music.

He/she can also suggest vocal solos of varying texts and musical styles.  Texts of vocal solos and instrumental titles do need to be approved by the Minister/Director of Music and the pastor.  (Please note that romantic ballads of the day are appropriate for wedding receptions, not the wedding ceremony.)  These musical choices should be made soon enough that music can be ordered for your soloist. (Photocopying copyrighted music is illegal without permission from the publisher and not done in the church.)

The organ music should be provided by the organist (Minister/Director of Music) of First Presbyterian Church.  Should you desire another organist, you must first consult with the church organist and obtain permission from him/her and the pastor.  In such cases the church organist shall receive his/her normal wedding fee.  Only an organist who understands and knows how to make proper use of this church organ, and who is willing and able to present suitable worship music for weddings, will be approved. The same applies for the use of the piano.

Many qualified musicians exist within the ranks of this church’s music program and the community; upon request, the Minister/Director of Music will provide suggestions of vocalists and instrumentalists to participate in the wedding, do so only if they are well-qualified.

Again we consult the Directory of Worship for guidance.  In reference to music is says:  “Music suitable for the marriage service directs attention to God and expressed faith of the church.  The congregation may join in hymns and other musical forms of praise and prayer.”     (W-4.9005)

 H. Coordinator

A wedding coordinator from the congregation will be present at both the rehearsal and the wedding, for your convenience.  They know the church building well and will assist you in finding what you need.  They also serve as a liaison between the minister and the family to help the rehearsal run more smoothly, as well as handle those “last moment details” as the hour of the wedding approaches.

 I.  Decorating The Church 

Arrangements for floral decorations can be made through the florist of your choice or with flowers from your own garden.  They may be real, dried, or silk.  If you are married at a season when the church is already decorated, such as Christmas (with poinsettias) or Easter (with lilies) you are asked to plan your decorations around what will be present in the church, as all decorations will be left in place during your wedding.

If you wish to leave your floral decorations at the church, the church will be happy to make use of them, either in the sanctuary on Sunday morning or for the ill in hospitals or nursing homes.

Decorations on the Communion table are limited to a Unity Candle (with greenery).  No floral arrangements are permitted on the piano or organ.

Flowers are not necessary, but, if desired, may be as simple or as elaborate as taste permits.  The Directory of Worship says, “Flowers, decorations, and other appointments should be appropriate to the place of worship, enhance the worshipers consciousness of the reality of God, and reflect the integrity and simplicity of Christian life.” (W-9.9005)

Florists should consult with the secretary about the time to deliver, set up, and remove floral arrangements.  Pew bows are permitted, but they must not be secured to the pews with anything that will damage the finish on the pews.  Coated wire is a good method of securing bows. If a center white aisle runner is desired, it is the responsibility of the couple to make the arrangements to secure this.  A kneeling bench is available for use during the final prayer and blessing of the couple, if desired.

It is the preference of the pastor and the policy of this church, that if a “Unity Candle” is lit during the service, the original candles will also remain lit after the large one is lit, signifying that each individual still is an individual in the couple’s relationship.  The pastor has also developed a service of unity and symbolic blending of families when there has been a previous marriage and the bride, the groom, or both have children.  Please inquire about this, if you are interested.

 J.  Photographers/Videographer

Photographers are required to refrain from taking flash pictures during the wedding ceremony.  Time exposures can be taken from the balcony or the narthex entrance of the church.  Wedding guests are asked not to take flash pictures during the ceremony.  It is the couple’s responsibility to inform the photographer of this, and we suggest that such a statement be included in the wedding bulletin, if one is used.  A time can be provided before or after the service for formal pictures.  If pictures are taken before, they should be finished no later than 45 minutes before the wedding is to begin.  A stationary video camera (on a tripod) is permitted – if placed in a place such that it does not interfere with the normal movement/position of those involved with the wedding ceremony.

 K. Recording

The church has sound equipment and will record the wedding service on audiocassette tape.  A copy of this tape will be ready to picked up by the couple in the church office a week after the wedding.

 L. Custodian

The services of the church custodian are needed to prepare the church for the ceremony and the clean up afterwards.  He/she is also required to be on duty during the rehearsal and the wedding.  A wedding requires the custodian to spend additional hours beyond his/her normal workweek preparing the area for the wedding service.  The custodian’s fee varies, depending on whether there is a reception and depending on whether candelabra are used in the sanctuary.  As with all other fees, please consult the fee insert sheet for actual fees.

If you wish to use the church candelabra on the pews, 48 candles are needed for them.  Two seven-candle candelabra are available.  If you wish candles to be lit for formal pictures prior to the service, two sets of candles will need to be ordered.  Good quality candles should be ordered from the secretary of the church, calling 684-5465, for this purpose.  It is the responsibility of the custodian to place the candles in and out of the candelabrum.  Please do not remove your own candles from the candelabrum.

 M. Dressing At The Church

There are rooms available – for both women and men – to dress at the church prior to the wedding, if desired.  Please let the church office know as soon as you decide, if you wish to do this.

 N. Rehearsal

The wedding rehearsal is a very important event and is mandatory for all involved.  During the rehearsal (which will begin promptly and open with a prayer asking for God’s blessing and presence, not only for the time of the rehearsal, but the upcoming marriage) the processional and the recessional will be practiced first, allowing the organist to leave after that, if he or she so desires.  Details of the recessional and processional will have been discussed with the couple during their last premarital counseling session prior to the rehearsal.  Solos/special music will not be done during the actual rehearsal.

All participants will have the opportunity to establish clearly where they are to stand (or sit if that is planned).  Vows will not be said to one another.  (The vows will have been discussed – or perhaps written, depending on the couple and their wishes – during premarital counseling sessions.)  The importance of the rehearsal s not to make the wedding ceremony seem like a “production” but rather, to give all involved, the opportunity to become familiar enough with the procedure that they can come to the wedding and truly worship God during that time without having to worry about “what am I to do next?”

The rehearsal will last about 45 minutes (depending on the complexity of the details of the wedding).  During the last few minutes, the couple will be with those who will be in the receiving line, showing them the location, establishing the order in which people will be standing, and giving them any particular details the couple wishes to share with them.

The Pastor will meet with the ushers and give them some specific instructions during the last few minutes of the rehearsal.  The ushers are expected to arrive at the church at least 45 minutes prior to the wedding.  One usher will have been designated by the couple as head usher, and will have the smelling salts.  That usher will know where the fire extinguisher, the telephone, and the first aid kit are located in the church.  That usher will have emergency telephone numbers available.  All the ushers will be given specific instructions regarding the proper manner in which to seat guests, who the special guests are (and where they will be seated), and how to dismiss the guests following the wedding.  The wedding coordinator will be part of this instruction also.

 O. Receptions

Receptions of varying natures can be held in the church.  Questions may be directed to the church secretary if a church reception is desired.

The church can furnish some tablecloths and a table-skirt.  A crystal punch bowl and silver coffee service are used when women of the church supervise the reception.  However, additional arrangements are the responsibility of the couple must be made clear to all involved.

P. Expenses

Weddings involve extra services, which the church is unable to underwrite.  An insert is included explaining the various fees you will incur during the time of the church wedding.  These fees will be paid at least one week prior to the wedding rehearsal.

 Q. Change Of Plans

 When plans change to any degree, the church is often the last to know.  Please inform the church secretary and anyone else whose services you have secured that your plans are changed.  Thank you.

 R. Questions

 As you come closer to the date of the wedding, many questions will arise concerning the arrangements and readiness of the church.  Please contact the secretary with your concerns.

 S. Additional Information

Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the church.

Alcohol and all illegal drugs are not permitted anywhere within the building or on church property, at any time.

Birdseed or confetti (please, do not use rice) are to be thrown out of doors only.

The church building is here to be used for this joyful occasion.  However, we ask that you respect all guidelines set within this booklet, and that you treat the building with the utmost respect, and encourage your guests to do the same.

 T. Final Comments From The Pastor

It is possible that I would conduct a wedding ceremony in a location other than the church; however, this will be determined on an individual basis.  If the couple desires, arrangements can be made for the church office to print a bulletin for use during the ceremony by the guests.  Please advise me of your desire for this early in our work together.

Please remember, that I (as well as church policy) recognize the wedding ceremony as a worship service.  All readings will be scripture readings from the Bible.  (There are many other readings that are sometimes shared with the couple and/or guests at weddings.  If you wish to do this, please do so at the reception.)

It is a personal opinion of mine (and one that I uphold in planning weddings) that the bride is not “given away” – by her father or anyone else.  This is an ancient tradition left over from the days when women were considered the property of their father until marriage, when they became property of their husband.  It is, however, completely acceptable for the bride to be escorted down the aisle by someone – father, parents, other person, or even the groom.  A blessing from both families (read in unison or responsively) could then be offered. (Examples of such blessings are available if you wish.)  On occasion, it is appropriate to celebrate Communion during a wedding.  This is a subject for further discussion during premarital counseling sessions if the couple is interested.

Permission must be granted by the Session if Communion is celebrated.  And care should be taken that all baptized believers are invited to share in Communion.  The Directory of Worship states, “Celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the marriage service requires the approval of the Session, and care shall be taken that the invitation to the Table is extended to all baptized present.”   (W-4.9003)

 U. Notes

Use the following page to make notes to yourself, and to record the dates you have set to meet with the staff concerning your plans.