Getting Married at St. James’ Church
At St James’ we welcome enquiries about marriage. We aim to support couples – both spiritually and practically – as they prepare for their wedding and we try to conduct the service in a way which both reflects the importance of the occasion but also cherishes the individuals and families involved: a wedding at St James’ is, we intend, both a holy and a very happy occasion! You can read here a reflection on marriage by Vicar Philip.
Frequently asked questions
Do I have to be a Church member in order to get married at St James’?
No – just as Jesus did not make such distinctions, nor do we. The marriage service in Church, however, is a Christian celebration and will normally include an address by the priest with reflections on the event from a Christian point of view. At least one of you should have been baptised (‘christened’) but if not we will happily discuss the matter with you and it need not prevent you going ahead. We hope, however, that your experience of the Church here both before and at the wedding will lead you to continue feeling a part of this or some other church.
Can I get married at St James’ if I do not live in the parish?
It is now easier for couples to be married in a church other that their local church. If you do not live in the parish you may have connections with St James’ that mean you qualify to have your marriage conducted here. You can read more by visiting www.yourchurchwedding.org.
What are ‘banns’?
Calling ‘banns of marriage’ is the normal preliminary to a church wedding so that, in principle, if there was any legal impediment to your marriage a member of the public could raise it. In practice it is often a significant way-mark to help you prepare for the ‘big day’ knowing that you have the support of others in the community. Over three Sundays during the three months prior to the wedding, ‘banns’ will be read at the main Sunday service in Church. Banns also need to be read in the parish where you or your fiancée live, if this is not Alderholt, and you will need to arrange for this to be done.
How much does it cost?
Most of the fees charged are according to an annual act of Parliament. They are not so much a ‘payment’ for the service as a means of helping preserve the continued availability to all of the Church and its ministry both nationally and locally. The Vicar is paid an annual stipend and does not receive anything from fees.
The fees in 2014 for the wedding service (including administration, publication of banns, wedding service, verger’s fee and the Marriage Certificate) are £442.00 plus £40.00 for music (organist’s fee): in total £482.00.
The choir is available for an extra £40.00 and if you wish to arrange a professional-style video of the service this will require an additional fee of £50.00 payable to the organist as advised by the Royal School of Church Music.
We ask that fees be paid at the latest 14 days before the wedding. If there is any difficulty in this matter, please discuss it with your priest: we’ll be glad to help you if we can.
Flowers will gladly be arranged by the Church’s team of volunteers: a donation of around £90 towards the cost of flowers is requested.
What if I can’t afford to get married?
A wedding need not be a massive expense, no matter what the magazines and websites imply. We can help by reducing the fees whenever necessary. Of course, in most cases the reception is the much more expensive part of the day
How far ahead do I need to book?
In truth it is far easier to book the service than it (usually) is to book the reception in popular venues. You can book the date with us a long or short time ahead and because we are fortunate to have two priests available most dates are possible: which of us will conduct the service may sometimes be left undecided until a little nearer the time.
Do I need to get some kind of licence from the registry office?
No – most Church weddings take place after banns and in these cases the Church and vicar carry out tall the legal preliminaries to marriage. In a very few cases – e.g. when a foreign national is getting married – it may be necessary to obtain a separate licence and this is administered by the Salisbury Diocese.
Can I still get married in Church if I am divorced?
If one or both of you is divorced I will need to discuss the situation with you prior to arranging a date for the wedding. My purpose is not to make a ‘judgement’ on the past (the Bible has things to say about the permanence of marriage but far more to say about forgiveness and the possibility of new beginnings.) But I will wish to ensure that the arranging of the marriage in Church is appropriate using such criteria as:
1. There is a serious desire for Christian – and life-long – marriage.
2. The feelings of a previous partner have been taken into consideration.
3. The needs of any children from a previous marriage have been well looked after.
4. There has been sufficient time for healing of wounds and for personal readjustment.
Usually this means I will not normally conduct a marriage within two years of divorce. Please understand that while this policy is regularly reviewed with the Church Council, the decision remains mine alone and is final. It should also be remembered that any future vicar here has the right to decline to conduct any marriage where one or both partners is divorced.
Can a civil partnership be celebrated in Church?
No, but prayers can be arranged with you to mark any significant event in your life.
Can I renew my marriage vows in Church?
Yes – we conduct several such occasions each year. They can vary from very small events involving just the couple with perhaps the immediate family, to big events with a full church and hymns and music arranged. Please contact the clergy who will be glad to help you explore what is right for you. The fees in this case are usually about half those of a ‘normal’ wedding.
What do I do next?
If you wish to go ahead I’ll be delighted to hear from you at The Vicarage, Alderholt. Telephone: 01425 653179 or email
I will discuss a provisional date with you but we will need to meet again (usually one Sunday after our 10.30a.m. service) and complete the application form. There is also a ‘Weddings Evening’ early in the year in the Church Hall for all those intending to be married in our Church which all who take part tell us is very helpful indeed.
Celebration of marriage
God’s rain, bringing life and refreshment, falls everywhere, but cuts deep channels in the earth that we call rivers…
Likewise, God’s love is poured, freely and profligately, on all, but forges channels into life that we call sacraments.
As rivers collect and distribute water, so sacraments such as baptism and Holy Communion collect and distribute God’s love. They are founts of grace.
Marriage, too, is a sacrament, a fount of grace. Through it we learn what is the cost, and the kindness, of love. We begin to understand and live the Lord’s Prayer: to forgive and be forgiven, to receive and share daily bread. Marriage is the place where laughter, and tears, can be shared and where we learn that both are felt in the heart of God. We learn, too, that true freedom entails commitment; that personal fulfilment, and self-sacrifice, also belong together. And in most cases, of course, marriage is the arena for the biggest responsibility of our lives, that hardest, funniest, most rewarding and demanding of all jobs: the care and raising of children.
In celebrating marriage we do not wish to diminish the value, or the blessings, of being single or celibate. Nor do we overlook the painfulness of divorce. We do not forget as well to rejoice in all instances of friendship, love and long-term commitment, however these are experienced, between people who are not married.
But marriage remains the template and symbol of God’s purpose in creating men and women for each other and for fullness of life in Christ. So we celebrate and give thanks to God for the sacrament of marriage.
The vows you make at your marriage service:
I, (name), take thee, (name), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.
With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee honour; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.