If you would like to be married in church then we would love to welcome you to St Mark’s. Marrying in church has never been easier; you must be over 18 years of age, or 16 with your parents' consent. If that is you, then let us know the good news as soon as you can and we will enjoy helping you plan for your very special day. This information should help you think through what is involved; if there are any details which you are not sure about then please contact the Vicar Charles Royden who will be pleased to discuss your arrangements.
Even getting married in a modern church like St Mark’s is something very special because a church wedding will add a spiritual dimension to your marriage. For many people, a church is the proper place to get married and churches have an atmosphere that makes marrying there a particularly special experience. The ceremony includes God and looks to him for help and guidance. God’s blessing is the main attraction for many couples, whatever their beliefs. You make amazing vows, or promises, in a church wedding; these vows, made in public, will help you to stay together and grow together.
At St Mark’s we can blend ancient tradition and modern experience to reflect your own story. Your wedding at St Mark’s will be personal, memorable, meaningful and beautiful. St Mark’s has facilities which make it entirely suitable for your wedding ceremony. The church itself has attractive stained glass windows and one of the most beautiful chapels for the signing of the registers. Even in winter the church is warm with comfortable seating, great audio visual equipment and of course we have plenty of parking.
After your wedding, you’ll realise that a church is more than simply a wedding venue, we’ll always be here for you. We look forward to sharing with you as you prepare for a day which will change the rest of your life.
Vicar of St Mark’s Church
Who can get married at St Mark’s ?
You can get married at St Mark’s, whoever you are. We want to help offer you the best start in your married life, which means we want you to come to St Mark’s and we will help make that happen. The rules are very clear about who can be married in which church, but where there is a will there is always a way !
- The rules say that either one of you or your parents must at some time have lived in the parish or attended the church for at least six months.
- If that doesn’t work then you might have been christened or confirmed in the church, or your parents of grandparents were married in the church.
- If that still doesn’t work then all is not lost ! All you have to do is come to church once a month for six consecutive months. If you decide to do this, leave enough time after your attendance for the banns to be read before your wedding too – about another two months should be enough.
Talk to the Vicar Charles Royden and we can help sort this out !
How much does a wedding cost
Weddings are expensive as you will probably already have found out! The good news is that the actual wedding itself will probably be one of the cheaper items. If you choose to marry in church, it will be a day that is personal and special for you, but that need not mean you spend a fortune. There is no doubt that the choices you make about your wedding day can make a huge impact on the total cost. Part of the cost will be for the legal fees, and everyone pays this. There are also optional extras which you can choose or decline, according to your budget. We have tried to keep costs to a minimum but there are legal fees, payment to organist, church etc., copyright fees. The fee must be paid prior to the day of the wedding either by cash, cheque or bacs. If paying by cheque we must allow time for this to clear, this is unfortunate but necessary as we have had some disappointments. There is a non-returnable Booking fee of £50 to confirm your wedding (this will be deducted from your final invoice.) Please make cheques payable to The PCC of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mark Bedford.
There is a required legal fee for marrying in a church. This is set by the Church of England nationally and is the same for every church, so you can look it up by searching Church of England Wedding Fees. This basic legal fee includes the cost of the vicar, the church, calling your banns, a banns certificate, the marriage certificate, lighting and all administration.
This required fee has ancient origins and ensures your church can maintain essential services like weddings, christenings, funerals and all kinds of other ministries for you and your community.
The statutory wedding fee doesn’t include extras you may choose or decline, such as:-
- An organist will be required if we are to have music played and sing hymns. The cost for this is £80.
- Church flowers – we can assist you with providing reasonable priced flowers using our own church flower team.
- Extra copies of the marriage certificate. You do not have to have any of these , they will cost £10 each.
Please make cheques payable to The PCC of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mark, Bedford. If you’re struggling to afford your wedding costs, or finding yourself in financial difficulties, please talk to us.
Breakdown of costs when marrying in your home church
Legal fee set by law payable to the church: £424
Copy of your marriage certificate: £4
Charge for banns read at the home church: £28
Total for marrying in St Mark's (providing you both live here): £456
If you marry somebody who does not live in this parish then their home parish church will need to read banns too and provide a certificate for your marrying church to confirm banns have been read there. Having the banns read will cost an additional £28, plus £13 for the certificate.
The Legal Requirements
There are certain things that must happen in a church wedding to ensure the marriage complies with both UK civil and church law. In marriage you take on a whole new legal status. We know how to advise and prepare you for your wedding day and everything must comply with all relevant UK and Church of England laws. These are the main legal points to consider before you begin planning:-
- You must be old enough. If you are under 18 years old you will need your parents’ consent to marry and by law you can not be married in the UK until you are 16.
- Although same sex-marriage legislation is now in force, it remains the case that it is not legally possible for same-sex couples to marry in the Church of England. Although there are no authorised services for blessing a same-sex civil marriage, we can still support you with prayer. Church of England ministers can not carry out or bless same-sex marriages, but as your local church we are still here to support you. If you need a place to connect with God, worship, give thanks and join others in learning about the Christian faith, you will be very welcome here at St Mark’s Church.
- Marrying away from where you live is sometimes considered a problem but If you really want get married here then we can fix residence requirements, even if you come to Sunday service occasionally for six months.
- The wedding must take place between 8am and 6pm on any day.
- If either or both of you are divorced, you will need to bring your decree absolute for the vicar to see.
Reading of Banns
You will probably wonder what all the fuss is about with Banns; it is an archaic practice which hardly makes any sense at all in modern times, but nevertheless we have to do it because it is ancient law. Once upon a time people would have known who the people were who were getting married and they would know if there was a valid reason to object to the marriage. The reasons are quite specific and include such things as
- The bride and groom are blood relatives,
- They are already married to somebody else.
- One or other is under duress
It is nothing to worry about and it can be quite nice to come along to church and hear you name read out, so come along if you can.
Most Church of England marriages will require banns to be published before the wedding can take place. You won’t need to arrange banns until about four months before your wedding date. If there is not enough notice given for the banns to be read before the marriage is due to take place, or in the case of the marriage of people who are not British, or if one or both of you does not live in England or Wales, it is recommended that the Licence procedure be used rather than banns. This is especially recommended if there is any doubt as to the legal requirements of the home country of a non-British person for recognition of an English Church marriage. To find our more about the Marriage Licence click here
Here’s your essential guide to Church of England banns:-
- Banns are an announcement in church of your intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place.
- Banns are an ancient legal tradition and have been read out every week in churches across the land for millions of couples, over many centuries.
- Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you lives as well as the church in which you are to be married, if that is somewhere else.
- You must have your banns read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. This is usually done over three consecutive Sundays but does not have to be.
- As well as being a legal requirement, your banns readings are special public occasions when people in church hear of your intention to marry. It’s an exciting and happy time, so you’re welcome to invite your family and friends to hear your banns too, if you’d like.
- If there is not enough notice given for the banns to be read before the marriage is due to take place, or if one or both of you are British but do not live in England (or Wales), the Common Licence procedure needs to be used rather than banns.
- If one or both of you is a national of a country which is outside the European Economic Area, you will require a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to marry, rather than have banns read.
There are some circumstances in which you may need a Special Licence, Common Licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to marry in church. We will let you know if these apply to you.
If there is no time for banns to be read, or if you live abroad there can be a Common Licence issued.
A Special Licence
This exceptional permission can be granted by The Archbishop of Canterbury for those who want to marry in a church outside their own parish. It is relatively rare to require one and is used when people genuinely feel that they have a connection to a church that is not covered by any of the legally-recognised connections.
A Superintendent Registrars' Certificate
A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate is another alternative to having banns read. The application process involves the publication of a notice at the civil Register Office of the district where your marrying church is. All marriages of nationals from countries outside the European Economic Area which take place in England must have a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to go ahead. The only exception to this is if a Special Licence has already been granted. To apply, the bride and groom must have been resident for seven days’ within a registration district in England or Wales before applying for the Certificate. After receiving your application, the Registrar enters the details in a book which is open to public inspection and also displays a notice for 28 days at the Register Office. If no legal reasons to delay or prevent the marriage going ahead are shown within that time, a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate can be issued.
For more information about applying for an SRC, visit the Government’s web page. Contact details for local (civil) register offices and designated register offices are given. Each register office will usually have its own website explaining the procedures in greater detail. Our local office is at Bedford Register Office, Old Town Hall, St. Pauls Square, Bedford, MK40 1SJ
All couples will need to show the vicar their passport as proof of nationality. If you don’t have a passport, there are other documents which would be acceptable, so ask the vicar about this.
If all of this sounds complicated remember that we will help sort it out for you and ensure all is in order.
The Wedding Service
The wedding service will last for about an hour including time for the taking of photographs outside afterwards or inside the church if it is raining. Please do not be late as whilst we are patient there may be other services in the Church or Centre. If you arrive more late than is customary for a bride then the minister may need to decide not to proceed or shorten the service accordingly.
Most people prefer traditional wedding music as the bride enters and leaves the church - however our organist Mr Clive Simmonds is an accomplished musician and is very happy to vary music according to your wishes. Please contact Clive (firstname.lastname@example.org) prior to the wedding to discuss arrangements. Permission may be given for you to provide your own organist, however please note that the payment of usual fees to the church for the use of the organ will still be required. Please choose hymns with the advice of the organist, two or three would be normally be suitable. We are happy to use the church printing facilities to produce a copy of a hymn to enable you to include your choice. There is no charge for this and the church has copyright permission which will cover your wedding.
There are several other places in your wedding where music can be played, as well as the hymns that will be sung. There’s lots of scope to be creative with choices that make your wedding really personal to you. We will be delighted to help you decide on all the music for your ceremony and will want to make sure everything works well together. We have facilities if you wanted any recorded music playing from a CD or MP3 player.
Some popular choices of music are offered below, but you can discuss other ideas with us.
For the bride’s entrance
Music for this moment might be gentle, dramatic, emotional and touching, but always positive. The type of music you choose may depend on which songs or music really mean something to you both. These are some popular, classic pieces:
Clair de Lune, Debussy
Canon in D, Pachelbel
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, from ‘Solomon’, Handel
Trumpet Voluntary, aka the Prince of Denmark’s March, Jeremiah Clarke
Salut D’Amour, Elgar
Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin, Wagner
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J S Bach
During the signing of the register
Whilst the bridal couple move to the chapel for the signing of the register, there is a moment of pause in the ceremony and music is often played at this point.
For leaving the church
Music for this part of your ceremony is always upbeat and cheerful. These are some popular, traditional classics
Clair de Lune, Debussy
Canon in D, Pachelbel
Trumpet Voluntary, aka the Prince of Denmark’s March, Jeremiah Clarke
Wedding March- Incidental Music No.9 from Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mendelssohn
Salut D’Amour, Elgar
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J S Bach
Toccata from Widor’s 5th Symphony in F
There will be other parts of the service where a piece of music is appropriate for your ceremony,including during the signing of the registers.
All Church of England weddings should have at least one reading from the Bible, but if you wish, you can also include other special readings.
At your wedding ceremony, it’s possible for a guest to read out a poem, an extract from a book, or even something that has been specially written, providing you also have a Bible reading.
You may decide to use one or two rings, it has become increasingly popular for both partners to be given a ring. There are appropriate vows for whatever you decide.
You can see sample orders of service on this website, this will help you plan what you would like for the special day.
The vows that you make are at the heart of your wedding day and have been spoken by millions of couples over the centuries. They cannot be re-written or changed in any way for legal reasons – they are the words of commitment to a shared life that define you as ‘married’. The marriage vows are spoken before God and in front of your family and friends. Along with the vows, you will make ‘Declarations’, which confirm that you will always love and care for each other in a way that will please God.
The lifetime commitment of these promises and statements are represented when you give the rings to each other, as a symbol of unending love. This completes the marriage, meaning you can now sign the Marriage Register as a legal record.
At the point when the vows are said, you turn to each other, take each other’s right hand and say:
‘I, (name), take you, (name) to be my wife/husband, 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. In the presence of God I make this vow.’
From The Marriage Service, Common Worship
These vows are unique to church weddings. By making these promises in church, you invite a loving and profoundly caring God to help you keep them.
The wedding rehearsal provides unpressured time to go through the service, which helps everyone know what to expect, where to stand and what to do and say in all the right places. A rehearsal is usually organised by the vicar in the week before the wedding day. Most couples appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to rehearse their wedding service along with family and friends who will be involved. Along with the bride and groom, it will be really useful for the best man, bridesmaids, ushers, the witnesses and the person who will walk down the aisle with the bride to be at the rehearsal. It can also be helpful to invite the wedding photographer and videographer if there is one, so that they can get a feel for the church and run through their plans with the vicar.
Witness to the Wedding and Signing the Marriage Registers
All Church of England weddings legally require two witnesses. Witnesses might have another role in the marriage ceremony, such as the best man or a bridesmaid, or, being a witness might be their only role in the ceremony. A witness must be present when the bride, groom make the declarations and exchange vows. During the service after the marriage has taken place, the vicar and the couple sign the marriage register, and the witnesses are required to sign it too. The bride signs in her old name. All of these signatures are required to finalise the legal paperwork for the marriage. Virtually any responsible adult can be a witness – all that’s required is being capable of writing a signature, and understanding what you have signed. Most witnesses are adults, but occasionally, a witness may be under 18. The Vicar will need to judge whether this is acceptable in a particular case. This signing of the marriage registers takes place in the beautiful chapel at St Mark's which is ideal for photographs and the photographer may wish to take extra time to pose for some special photographs. Following the signing the Vicar will issue a marriage certificate and you may request extra copies.
Can we bring our children ?
Of course, whether you’ve already had children together, or have children from a previous relationship, we welcome them. One in five couples who come to church for a wedding already has children. As part of planning your ceremony, we will want to ensure they enjoy the day and can be part of it. They can walk up the aisle with mum, carry the rings, read from the Bible or say a prayer, and receive a blessing with their parents.
The children of your guests may be involved in the ceremony too, if you’d like them to be. We are used to welcoming and including families with children of all ages, so don’t worry about children leaving their seats or making noise.
Most grooms will choose a best man (or occasionally a woman) from their family or ask a close friend to support them in the run up to their wedding day and on the day itself. With a little advance planning, a ‘best man’ can help the day run like clockwork. It is a position of honour and pride to be chosen for this role. Sometimes a best man can be a young child, such as the groom’s son or a younger brother, with an adult supporting them with the duties, or, the groom may choose to have a ‘best woman’. There are no set rules!
Traditionally, a best man/woman may have the duties of:
- Attending the wedding rehearsal at the church so you know where to stand and what to do during the service.
- Supporting the groom on the wedding day, helping to ensure he gets to church on time – arriving 15 minutes early is a good rule of thumb.
- Liaising with the ushers to help the day run as smoothly as possible and help sort out any practical problems.
- Looking after the rings for the wedding ceremony.
- Signing the register if you are also being a witness.
- Making a speech at the wedding reception.
- Making the speech at the reception can often be the most nerve-wracking prospect of the wedding, but there’s lots of advice and examples of good speeches on the internet. Rehearsal is key, so prepare well in advance to give you confidence.
- For the ceremony, the biggest responsibility is looking after the rings. In a church service there will be a moment when the best man will be asked to step forward and hand them to the vicar, usually placing them on a prayer book. Make sure you know how the rings are being presented, especially if a younger child is involved.
- Plan in advance how you’ll care for the rings and how you’ll remind yourself to take them with you to the church.
- Check ahead on the day whether there are any roadworks or other possible obstacles that could delay your journey to the church.
- If you have a mobile phone, fully-charge it and keep it handy in case of problems, but make sure it’s switched off when the ceremony starts.
- A best man might even have additional things to do during the service, like reading from the Bible, or being involved in the prayers. The wedding rehearsal is a great time to prepare for what happens during the service and ask questions.
- It is said that once, if the Groom failed to appear the Best Man was obliged to marry the Bride!
Bridesmaids and Page Boy
Some people have many bridesmaids and a page boy; however you may not wish to have any at all. Bridesmaids are there to tend to the needs of the bride throughout the service, for making sure that your dress is arranged properly and 'waiting' on you. It must be said that few actually wait on the bride as they should, arranging her dress and taking care of her. You will pass your bouquet to the chief bridesmaid at the beginning of the service and if you wear a veil she may help remove it. Traditionally you made your vows with the veil over your face, in case the groom changed his mind!
The role of the Usher
It is helpful if you provide two ushers who will arrive early at church perhaps 40 minutes before the service to welcome your guests and assist people as they arrive. Ushers may be men or women of any age whose main role is to help guests feel welcome and comfortable in the church. It is good if they can come to the wedding rehearsal so
they are familiar with what will happen on the day – it’s a chance to ask any questions. Here is a list of some duties
- If the bride and groom are having a printed Order of Service, collect these the day before and keep them safe, ready to take to the church to give to people as they arrive.
- Check with the bride and groom whether they have any preferences for where guests are seated. Traditionally, ushers tell guests where to sit in the church, with the groom’s family and friends on one side of the church and the bride’s on the other. Increasingly this is a practice more honoured in the breach than in the observance and you may not wish to split the congregation in this way, especially if one family is very small. Nowadays, many families are happy to mix, so check what the couple would like.
- It is helpful if ushers remind guests that mobile phones should be on ‘silent’ before the service begins.
- On the day Ushers could bring an umbrella to the church if it’s wet weather.
- Ushers should be ready to assist less able guests from their cars into the church if necessary.
Film and Video of your wedding
Times have changed and these days most people have pictures and video of their wedding out on social media before they have even left the church. We do not place restrictions on photography and video of the service, actually it is impossible to enforce without removing devices from people as they enter the church. However we will not allow people to spoil your day and so folks must remain in their seats and not move around unless this has been agreed with the vicar beforehand and you have given your permission.
Whilst everyone will be taking photos and video at your wedding you may also want to have special memories recorded by a professional photographer or videographer, or a talented friend. There is no charge made for allowing professional video filming or photography to take place. A professional photographer using more than one camera will not need to use flash and will be unobtrusive. However we have encountered difficulties with some of the companies used and we have been forced to make restrictions on filming to prevent weddings being ruined. Film crews running down the aisle in front of the bride, cameras being thrust over the shoulder of the Minister during vows, large floodlights and umbrellas being erected at the front of the church, these are just some of the problems encountered before we have been forced to step in and filming was curtailed! It can be helpful if your photographer/videographer can come to the rehearsal so he or she knows where to be effective and unobtrusive. Choose a photographer with a good reputation – try to see examples of their work and meet them before you book them.
Prior contact must be made with the church office by the company concerned so that they understand that that we do not want your wedding turned in a fiasco to satisfy their creative juices. Once the service has begun it is difficult to stop disruption, but the verger will intervene if a photographer acts unreasonably in a way that disrupts your service. We hope that you will realise that the reasons for this are to ensure that your wedding is a very special day you will remember and not spoiled by insensitive behaviour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can we write our own vows?
The official vows cover all those things we hope for from a good marriage and are legally binding, so they can not be changed. However, there may be some special, additional things you and your partner want to say to each other in this setting. Some couples have done this by writing something as an additional reading, or using poetry or an extract from a book to say those things in a personal way. The vicar can advise you on how your ideas could work well as part of the service.
Can same sex couples be married at St Mark's Church ?
The law prevents ministers of the Church of England from carrying out same-sex marriages. Although there are no authorised services for blessing a same-sex civil marriage, your local church can still support you with prayer. Church of England ministers can not carry out or bless same-sex marriages, but as your local church we are still here to support you. If you need a place to connect with God, worship, give thanks and join others in learning about the Christian faith, you will be very welcome here at St Mark’s Church.
Can Roman Catholics marry at St Mark's Church ?
Roman Catholics are welcome to have a Church of England wedding. It will always be taken by a Church of England vicar, for legal reasons, but a Roman Catholic priest can be involved in the service by doing prayers, readings or even a talk/sermon.
If one of you is a Roman Catholic and you want the Roman Catholic Church to recognise your marriage, you will need to seek the advice of your Roman Catholic priest about the permission required for marrying a non-Roman Catholic.
What if my partner is of a different faith ?
This is not a barrier to having a church wedding if you’d both like one. We will help you develop a special ceremony that reflects your shared story. When you get married in church, vows are exchanged in the presence of God and witnesses. The Church of England ceremony will be of course be a Christian one – the vows and the Christian nature of the ceremony cannot be changed. However there will be places where you can bring elements of other traditions, cultures and even different languages into your service, perhaps through readings and music. To help you think about some of the common challenges, and also the positives, of an inter-faith marriage, the Inter-faith Marriage Network has a helpful website. www.interfaithmarriage.org.uk
When can I get married ?
There are no legal restrictions on which day of the week you can have a church wedding, but some days may be better than others.
Most weddings happen on a Saturday, but Sunday is the third most popular day for Church of England weddings. In fact, you could have your wedding on any day of the week, but we need to check availability. Whatever day you’d like to get married on, the wedding ceremony must take place between 8am and 6pm.
There are also no legal restrictions for getting married on special days, like those around Easter, Christmas and other Bank Holidays. However St Mark’s can be exceptionally busy around these times, welcoming many more people through their doors than usual, so we just need to make sure that we can offer you our full attention and support.
What do I do about flowers?
It is always a good idea to brighten up the church with some flowers for your wedding, although there is no need to be extravagant. We are fortunate to have people who will advise you and are prepared to make arrangements for you to your specifications at a reasonable cost. If you wish to have flowers please contact Miss Marion Prior (email@example.com). She will be delighted to discuss your colours and ideas with you. Should you decide not to have flowers or to have a florist or friend make your own arrangements you must still contact Marion so that she is aware what is going on and can co-ordinate other church flower arrangements. Please make contact early on do not wait until closer to the wedding.
Can we throw confetti ?
Absolutely - this may be thrown by your guests outside the church; it is helpful to do it on the lawn as this avoids confetti blowing back inside the church. Usually the photographer is the one to give permission, so as not to spoil his photographs!!
Should we have Orders of Service printed ?
Some people have their own orders of service printed. This would have the hymns included and it maybe a good 'keepsake' afterwards. We will happily help prepare the order for you so that it can be given to your printer. The church also has facilities to produce an order of service using different coloured or white card, and several designs are available. Samples are available to see, the cost is 65p each. You may also like to include a special item in the service. Please entrust your orders of service to a reliable person as they often arrive late having been locked in a car boot or forgotten.
Can we hire the church centre for a wedding party ?
St. Mark's Church is not usually suitable for hire for large weddings parties with disco's. However we will be pleased to recommend facilities in the Bedford area if you have difficulty finding a suitable venue.