A WEDDING GUIDE
St. Paul United Church of Christ, Taylor
-OUR CHURCH'S HISTORY AND SPIRITUAL HERITAGE-
St. Paul United Church of Christ provides a beautiful setting for weddings. Founded in 1883, our church is one of the oldest congregations in the Downriver communities. The present red-brick Colonial Revival building, which was erected in 1948, is our third church home on the same historic Taylor site. Our Protestant congregation has both Lutheran and Reformed roots. Today, we are a part of the United Church of Christ, a denominational family of congregations with a million and a half members nationwide.
Our church, which is active in ministry and outreach to the wider Downriver area, welcomes to worship and membership Christians from many different backgrounds. Our Sunday morning worship services are held at 9 and 10:30 a.m. from September to mid June and at 9:30 a.m. during summer months. As you consider St. Paul United Church of Christ for your upcoming wedding, we invite you to regularly worship with us.
-THE MEANING OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE-
Marriage in the Christian tradition, as described by the Book of Worship for the United Church of Christ, is a covenanted commitment that has its foundation in the faithfulness of God's love. The marriage ceremony is the glad occasion, on which two people unite as husband and wife in the mutual exchange of covenant promises, publicly declaring their commitment to be faithful and loving according to the spirit of Jesus Christ. The congregation gathered for the occasion joins in affirming the marriage and in offering support and thanksgiving for the new family being created. The presiding pastor acts as an official representative of the church and gives the marriage the church's blessing.
Accordingly, a Christian marriage ceremony is in every sense a worship service, invoking God's presence, guidance, and blessing. Couples contemplating marriage should always keep this mind as they make wedding arrangements with the pastor and church staff. Those not comfortable with the religious purposes of a church wedding service may wish to consider a civil ceremony before a magistrate.
-SCHEDULING A WEDDING DATE-
Couples interested in getting married at St. Paul United Church of Christ are not required to be church members.
All couples, however, are encouraged to contact the church office (313-291-1221) as far in advance as possible. The church's administrative assistant personally schedules all wedding rehearsals and services which are to take place in the church sanctuary. Upon receiving your request for particular dates and times, the administrative assistant will forward to you by mail or fax a wedding information form to be completed and returned with a deposit. The dates and times you reserve for a wedding rehearsal and wedding ceremony will be held for ten days, pending receipt of your completed wedding information form and deposit. After that time, in the absence of a deposit, your reservation lapses and is cancelled. Rehearsal times and wedding dates can be changed depending upon the availability of the sanctuary. Also, your deposit may be refunded if you cancel your reservation with the church's administrative assistant at least forty-five days in advance of your planned sanctuary usage. All cancellations and requests for a deposit refund must be received in writing.
-SANCTUARY SEATING AND OTHER FACILITY INFORMATION-
The main floor of the church sanctuary has two banks of pews and three aisles. The center bisecting aisle, which is used for all wedding processionals and recessionals, is the widest. Approximately four and a half feet across, it is also 90 feet long, which is something to keep in mind when ordering an aisle runner. With seventeen pews on each side of the sanctuary, there is main floor seating for 238 worshipers. In addition, there is seating space for 50 worshipers in the sanctuary balcony and for another 21 worshipers in the chancel. During wedding services the first pew at the front of the sanctuary is generally not used. Meanwhile, the second and third pews from the front are respectively reserved for the immediate families of the bride and groom.
Couples may dress at the church prior to their wedding service but are asked to leave all borrowed rooms as clean and orderly as they were found. In awaiting the start of the wedding service, the bride and her attendants usually make use of the small ushers' room off the narthex at the back of the church. The groom, the best man, and ushers customarily wait in the pastor's office or in the hallway adjoining the chancel area at the front of the church. Lavatories’ are located in the east and west -wings of the church building. Please ask the presiding pastor for directions at the time of the wedding rehearsal.
The sanctuary is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Those arriving in wheelchairs are encouraged to make use of the ample space near the front pew. Outside handicapped parking spaces for cars are located near the front exterior door to the church.
Couples who are planning a smaller wedding with twenty or fewer guests can opt for a chancel ceremony, instead of using the entire sanctuary. For a chancel ceremony, guests join the wedding couple at the front of the church and are seated in the "choir pews" in the immediate vicinity of the altar. The lights in the rest of the sanctuary are usually kept dim, transforming the chancel into an intimate chapel for the wedding couple and guests. Chancel weddings are generally more simple and informal. The charge for the use of the chancel is less than for the full sanctuary.
-THE PRESIDING CLERGY AND PRE-MARRIAGE COUNSELING-
Only pastors or ministers affiliated with St. Paul United Church of Christ can officiate at chancel and full sanctuary wedding services, except where special arrangements have been made. Our church's senior pastor is generally available to officiate at all member couple services. Other affiliated pastors are available to preside at non-member couple weddings held at St. Paul Church. Names and telephone numbers of available pastors are provided when the initial wedding reservation is made. Couples are encouraged to promptly contact the designated or recommended pastor.
Considerable research has shown that men and women who engage in a reflective process before marriage are better prepared for the ordinary challenges of living together as husband and wife. All couples should plan on meeting with the pastor for pre-marriage counseling, as well as to discuss the actual wedding service. The pastor will be able to recommend resources that couples may want to consult in order to learn more about appropriate expectations, good communication, and effective conflict management in healthy Christian marriages.
-THE ORGANIST AND SPECIAL MUSIC-
The church organist is generally available to provide musical accompaniment for all wedding services. The name and telephone number of the church organist can be provided at the time the wedding reservation is made. It is the responsibility of the wedding couple to make advance arrangements with the organist. A non-church organist may be used for wedding services only if the church organist is not available. Upon request, the church organist can provide special music that the wedding couple has selected, as well as accompany vocalists or instrumentalists whom the couple has designated. It is customary to compensate the church organist accordingly for additional preparation. You may wish to discuss this with her or him in advance. Often the church organist can also recommend qualified vocalists or instrumentalists to the wedding couple.
Although taped musical soundtracks are not prohibited for wedding services at St. Paul Church, they are discouraged due to the difficulty of coordinating their timing with the events of the wedding service. Apart from the microphones in the chancel area at the front of the sanctuary, the church's sound system is not available for wedding use. Popular music today is enormously varied. Many "love songs" are simply not tasteful or appropriate for use in church worship. Discretion is important. Please speak with the pastor and organist about music that you would like to use. If there is a question, they can provide guidance as to what is musically appropriate, given the worship setting.
Couples often hire professional photographers and videographers to record their wedding rehearsal and marriage ceremony. Our church allows the use of cameras in the sanctuary but with certain restrictions or limitations. No flash photography is allowed in the sanctuary once the presiding pastor has begun the actual words of the wedding ceremony. Also, due to concern about possible distractions, neither photographers or videographers are allowed to move through the sanctuary after that point. The official photographers may resume the use of flash photography and personal movement on the sanctuary floor only when the wedding couple has received the final blessing from the pastor and are ready to descend from the chancel and begin their recessional down the center aisle. Provided the camera clicking is not loud, non-flash photographs can be taken during the wedding service from the back narthex or the sanctuary balcony. In addition, the wedding service can be videotaped either from the balcony or through an open side doorway leading into the chancel where the wedding ceremony is taking place. Sometimes videographers have chosen to place a non-staffed video camera on a tripod in the chancel to record the service. Within these limits the presiding pastor usually tries to be accommodating as possible in working presiding with your photographer or videographer. Please encourage those who are recording your service on camera to speak with the pastor prior to the start of the service.
Posed photographs of your wedding party may be taken inside the sanctuary or outdoors before or after the wedding service. However, any use of other church rooms for formal photography sessions must be requested and approved in advance of the wedding day. There may also be an additional charge for such special room use. Please alert your photographer to this church policy.
-FLOWERS AND OTHER SPECIAL DECORATIONS-
Couples customarily order cut or artificial flower arrangements for their wedding service. Through advance arrangement two antique brass vases on the altar may be used, provided they are not removed from the sanctuary at any time. But couples often prefer to have their chosen florist deliver flowers in their own vases or baskets for placement on the altar. Some couples opt for a single floral arrangement to be set at the center of the altar as a backdrop to a unity candle. In addition, they occasionally purchase twin floral arrangements to be placed on pedestals flanking the steps to the chancel area.
Often florists provide other decorations besides flowers, such as pew bows, aisle runners, unity candles sets, and candelabra. The sanctuary is opened an hour in advance of the wedding service by the sexton to provide time for the florist to deliver flowers and to decorate the church as requested by the wedding couple. If there is no earlier use of the sanctuary scheduled, decoration may be done either during church office hours on the previous day or at the time of the wedding rehearsal. After the wedding service, the florist or the wedding couple is responsible for retrieving any special furnishings or decorations loaned and installed for the occasion. The church does have a set of standing brass candelabra metal pedestals, which can be made available to couples who request them with an appropriate check mark on the wedding information form. Please speak with the administrative assistant if you have questions about reserving these furnishings or decorations.
To safeguard the sanctuary and outside areas from damage or unnecessary clean-up, there are certain rules that we ask all florists and wedding parties to follow. No tape may be used on the pews or other woodwork in decorating the sanctuary. Also, because our brass sanctuary furnishings on the altar and elsewhere require special handling care, only the sexton should move or remove them. Finally, no confetti, glitter, flower petals, rice, or bird seed may be strewn inside or outside the church. The outdoor release of balloons is also discouraged because of environmental hazard to birds and other local wildlife.
Of course, our church always welcomes the donation of flowers for Sunday morning worship. Please let our administrative assistant know if you wish to donate your flowers so that you can be honored as a couple on the occasion of your wedding by mention in the Sunday worship bulletin.
-THE MARRIAGE LICENSE-
Before a wedding ceremony can take place, a marriage license must be obtained in the Michigan County where
either the prospective bride or groom resides. Where both the bride and groom are from out-of-state, the marriage license should be obtained from the county where the marriage is to take place. Marriage licenses for Wayne County can be obtained from the County Clerk at the City-County Building in Downtown Detroit at the corner of Woodward and Jefferson Avenues. The Wayne County Clerk's office is open from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.
In applying for a marriage license, health certification is required, indicating that HIV counseling has been received and the HIV testing was offered. These health certificates may be secured from your local health department or physician. For more information, contact the Wayne County Health Department at 313-467-3300. The health certificates are valid for 60 days.
Along your health certificates, the Wayne County Clerk requires marriage license applicants to present full-sized certified birth certificates, plus a current driver's license or State of Michigan personal identification card. Hospital certificates and wallet-sized birth certificates do not qualify for identification purposes. Foreign birth certificates must be certified and translated into English to be acceptable.
There is a relatively modest charge for the marriage license at the time of application, which must be paid either in cash or by money order. No personal checks are accepted. After submitting the marriage license application, there is a three day waiting period. The issued marriage license is valid for 33 days. It may only be used in Michigan. More information is available via recording at 313-224-5520 or by contacting the Wayne County Clerk's direct line at 313-224-5514.
To avoid unnecessary stress as your wedding day approaches, you are encouraged to apply for your marriage license three weeks in advance of scheduled ceremony. Your marriage license, which comes in triplicate copies, should be presented to the presiding pastor at the time of your wedding rehearsal. After filling in information required by the County Clerk and personally signing the license on your wedding day, the pastor will invite two witnesses from your wedding party to sign the license as well. The pastor will return one copy of the marriage license to you and return the other two license copies to the County office, where they are kept on record. Official certified copies of your marriage license can be obtained by contacting the Clerk's office.
-THE WEDDING REHEARSAL-
In completing the wedding information form, couples are asked to specify a time for a wedding rehearsal prior to the actual wedding service. Although a wedding rehearsal is not required, it is usually advisable if you anticipate more than thirty guests at the wedding service. Most wedding rehearsals are held on the evening before the service so that rehearsed details remain fresh in the minds of the wedding couple and other participants. But in some cases the rehearsal is scheduled more than a day in advance of the wedding or, alternatively, on the morning of the wedding day.
It is important and helpful to have all wedding attendants, as well as participating parents, on hand for the rehearsal so that they are properly oriented as to their own special roles. If the rehearsal begins on time, it usually, lasts from an hour to an hour and a half. After briefly conferring with the wedding couple, the presiding pastor will usually ask them to introduce their family members and attendants. The pastor will then explain and talk through the order of ceremony before inviting participants to walk through it. In some instances, the pastor or wedding couple may opt for a second service "walk through." Unless there is special music to be rehearsed, the presence of the church organist is not necessary. Nevertheless, the wedding party may find it beneficial to have an organ accompaniment at the appropriate moments as a part of a full "dress rehearsal." The rehearsal is serious work. But it can be fun too and a wonderful occasion for wedding participants to meet and emotionally ready themselves for the big day ahead. At the end of the rehearsal, the presiding pastor may take the opportunity to offer a prayer for the wedding couple and participants.
-FAMILY PARTICIPATION IN THE WEDDING SERVICE-
When two people marry, they are not only marrying one another but also marrying into each other's family circles or networks. Recognizing this, the marriage ceremony from the Book of Worship for the United Church of Christ specifically asks the parents of the bride and groom whether they offer their "prayerful blessing and support" to the impending marriage. Other family members and friends are also asked in unison whether they will respect and honor the new marriage relationship.
As a further token of blessing and support, it can often be helpful to invite family members and friends to participate in the wedding service in other ways as well. Mothers and fathers can be asked to light family candles as a part of a larger "unity candle" ritual. Siblings can be invited to serve as wedding attendants or ushers. Aunts, uncles, cousins, or friends who feel comfortable with public speaking can also be recruited to serve as lectors, sharing selected scripture readings for the wedding occasion. In addition, couples sometimes choose to honor parents or other family members during their marriage ceremony with the presentation of individual flowers placed on the altar before the start of the service. You are encouraged to speak with the presiding pastor about those ways in which you, as a couple, would like to meaningfully acknowledge some of your closest family members and friends in meaningful ceremony and festivities marking your important, life-changing day.
-THE WORDS OF THE WEDDING SERVICE-
Wedding ceremonies at St. Paul United Church of Christ generally make use of the marriage service from the Book of Worship for the United Church of Christ. This marriage service blends both contemporary and traditional elements. Most importantly, it emphasizes the special responsibility which Christian couples have to love, nurture, and care for one another as husband and wife. It also affirms the equal standing of the man and woman who are entering marriage.
In invoking God's blessing for the couple to be married, the wedding service from the Book of Worship anticipates, among all the other important elements. scripture readings, a brief sermon or homily on the nature of Christian love delivered by the pastor, and several prayers. Both scripture and the sermon provide a context for the wedding covenant to follow. Although the pastor sometimes has his or her own scriptural preferences, given the focus of the wedding sermon, couples may request that particular scriptural readings be included as a part of worship. Favorite biblical passages at wedding occasions include Genesis 2:18-24; Song of Solomon 2.8-13, 8:6-7; Romans 12:1-2, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 13.1-13; Ephesians 3:1421; Colossians 3:12-17; Mark, 10:6-9; John 2:1-11, 15.9-17.
As a part of the covenant commitment uniting them as husband wife, couples subsequently vow to "give" themselves to each other and to "love and sustain [one another] in the covenant of marriage, from this day forward, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow as long as we both shall live." Special words affirming mutual love and fidelity are also shared as rings are exchanged. All pledges and vows are exactly the same for husband and wife.
-A WEDDING "WALK-THROUGH"-
Not all weddings are alike. But based on the Book of Worship, most marriage ceremonies at St. Paul United Church of Christ follow a similar pattern, which can be readily outlined for use in a wedding program if the couple desires to provide a printed order of ceremony for the convenience of their guests.
As the wedding service first begins, mothers and fathers of the couple, as well maternal and paternal grandparents are customarily seated by an usher in the front two pews of the sanctuary [Prelude]. In some instance, parents are also invited at this time to light family candles on the altar next to a "unity candle" which the bride and groom light later in the service [Lighting of Family Candles]. Immediately afterwards, the presiding pastor enters the chancel through a side door. The groomsmen, the best man, and the groom follow through another side door, standing shoulder to shoulder just below the chancel steps on the east front side of the sanctuary. Then the bridal processional begins down the center aisle with the maid or matron of honor immediately preceding the bride and any family escort [Wedding Processional]. As the bride and groom meet at the base of the chancel steps, the bride's family escort is seated. Together, the bride and groom ascend the chancel steps where they are greeted by the presiding pastor. The wedding couple is joined by their best man and maid or matrons of honor, who stand on each side of them. Other wedding attendants remain standing below the chancel steps or can be invited to stand in the choir pew area in the chancel itself, where they are closer to the bride and groom. The pastor opens the words of the service with a greeting to the wedding couple and congregation, reminding everyone present of the holy and worshipful purpose for the gathering [Greeting], followed by a prayer [Pastoral Prayer]. One or more scriptural readings are offered by the pastor or a family member or friend [Reading of Scripture]. The pastor then offers the brief wedding sermon or homily, [Wedding Sermon]. The Wedding couple is then asked to offer pledges of their willingness to enter marriage [Declaration of Intention]. In turn, the parents and congregation are usually invited to affirm their own blessing and support for the couple's marriage [Pledges of Support]. Many couples take the opportunity at this moment to light a "unity candle" on the altar, accompanied by special music [Lighting of Unity Candle]. Afterwards, the couple traditionally kneels (using a kneeling rail) for a pastoral prayer [Prayer for Unity]. Upon rising from prayer, the wedding couple is asked to recite their vows, repeating the words phrase by phrase as provided by the pastor [Vows of the Marriage Covenant]. Wedding rings are then customarily exchanged by the bride and groom [Exhange of Rings]. The wedding ceremony concludes as the pastor pronounces the couple married [Announcement of Marriage], blesses them [Benediction], and introduces them to the congregation as husband and wife [Introduction of Mr. and Mrs.]. The couple immediately recesses from the chancel down the center aisle, followed by all of their wedding attendants, pastor, and immediate family [Recessional]. In order to greet their guests and well-wishers, couples sometimes choose to have an outdoor receiving line along the sidewalk just below the front steps of the church or, in the case of inclement weather, in the church narthex. The other alternative is to reserve the receiving line for your reception gathering.
Couples who wish to have the pastor offer words of grace prior to the wedding dinner at the reception hall are encouraged to invite him or her to do so as you meet for your pre-marriage counseling session. If the pastor is unable to provide the prayer at the reception because of other commitments that night, he or she can assist you in preparing a prayer that be shared with your gathered guests by a designated member of your families or someone from your wedding party.
-FEES AND CHARGES FOR WEDDING SERVICES-
There are various fees and charges for use of the sanctuary and church facilities for a wedding. Information about these fees and charges is provided as a part of your wedding information packet. The basic charge includes a sexton's fee for the opening and closing of the church, plus light custodial duties. There is an optional fee for the use of church candelabras. Couples who expect to use the sanctuary for more than three hours or have other special facility needs may be assessed additional charges. Neither the honoraria for the pastor or organist are included in the fees and charges for church use. All couples should make honoraria arrangements directly with the pastor and organist as you meet with them prior to your wedding day.
The balance of your wedding fees after your initial deposit need to be received by the church office at least one week in advance of your marriage date. Your check should be made out to 'St. Paul United Church of Christ" and mailed or dropped off at the church office at, 24158 Goddard Road. Taylor, Michigan 48180. Wedding fees are non-refundable. If you have any questions concerning your wedding reservation or fees and charges, please contact the administrative assistant at 313-291-1221.