Weddings at Saint Mary’s
In the Episcopal Church Holy Matrimony is the sacramental rite in which a couple enter into a life-long union, making their vows before God and the Church, and receiving the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.
It is required that one, at least, of the parties must be a baptized Christian; that the ceremony be attested by at least two witnesses; and that the marriage conform to the laws of the State and the canons, or official rules, of the Episcopal Church.
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, as found in the Book of Common Prayer (1979) of the Episcopal Church is the normal service used for weddings at Saint Mary’s. The Holy Eucharist is a central part of this liturgy and all baptized persons are invited to receive the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. Members of other Christian denominations who are baptized and who receive the Holy Communion in their own congregations are warmly invited to share in receiving communion. Marriage is a sacramental rite, and as such, the content of the wedding service is under the supervision of the officiating priest. Within the liturgy the couple selects scripture readings (see below) and may ask family members or friends to serve as readers. If music is used, this is another area in which, under the supervision of the organist and music director at Saint Mary’s, a couple may help to shape the liturgy.
In addition to the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, those who have already been married legally in a civil marriage may wish to have The Blessing of a Civil Marriage.
Arranging for a wedding at Saint Mary’s
The main church seats 600 and is appropriate for any size wedding. The Lady Chapel can seat approximately 50 persons comfortably. Saint Joseph’s Chapel, also known as the Nuptial Chapel, (over the altar is a depiction of the wedding of Saint Mary and Saint Joseph) can be used for very small weddings of 20 persons or so.
Because of the very full liturgical life at Saint Mary’s, weddings must be scheduled well in advanced. The time of the year may be a consideration since our church is not air-conditioned.
As soon as you think you might be interested in having your wedding at Saint Mary’s, call the parish office and ask to speak with one of the priests or complete the application form below. Once the form has been received a priest will review it and call you. Once a date has been cleared and a deposit of $500 has been received, the officiating priest will arrange the first of several pre-marital conferences and answer whatever questions you may have about the service or its preparations.
If the main church is to be used then music may be a part of the service. All music for weddings us under the supervision and direction of the parish musician at Saint Mary’s. He or she is the usual organist for a wedding, but if he is unavailable he will obtain a substitute organist. A choir, a soloist or other musicians are arranged by the parish musician.
Flowers & Decorations
Saint Mary’s is an extraordinary space and needs very little ornamentation. If flowers are desired, two large arrangements may be placed on the High Altar. For a wedding that takes place on a Friday or a Saturday, it is assumed that flowers will remain in the church to be used for the services on Sunday. The newly married couple will be listed as donors for the flowers in the church bulletin on that Sunday. The church strongly recommends your using a florist that is accustomed to our space and can recommend several to you. Runners, whether of fabric or paper, are not used in weddings at Saint Mary’s. Bird seed, bubbles, flower petals and such things also are not used at Saint Mary’s.
Photography and Videography
Formal photographs of the wedding party can be taken, by arrangement with the church staff, before or after the wedding ceremony. Photographers and their assistants should be discreet and not draw attention to themselves. If the photographer or videographer is uncooperative, the officiating priest may ask him or her to leave.
Photographers and videographers should acquaint themselves with the natural lighting at Saint Mary’s well before the ceremony. Flash photography and video lights are not permitted during any part of the service, including the procession and recession.
Dressing for the service & pre-service photographs
Saint Mary’s does not have adequate space for the bride to change and so we recommend that all members of the wedding party arrive at the church dressed for the service. Remember that photographers are interested in taking as many photographs as possible—this is their business—and they will continue to press for “one more shot” and can cause you to be late. Please be disciplined with these people for the sake of your guests.
The officiating priest will arrange a rehearsal with the couple. Typically, the rehearsal is held at 5:00 PM on the day before the wedding. Very small weddings may not require a rehearsal, but this decision is up to the officiating priest in consultation with the couple. It is expected that all members of the wedding party attend the rehearsal, unless excused by the officiating priest. The wedding license should be brought to the rehearsal.
Frequently Asked Questions
One of us is Christian and the other comes from another faith tradition. Can we be married at Saint Mary’s?
Interfaith marriages require particular care and counsel. If a couple is considering such a marriage, they should seek the counsel of their religious leaders long before attempting to plan a marriage service. Questions regarding relatives, the upbringing of children (if this is desired) and plans for the observance of religious holy days should be discussed thoroughly. If the priest at Saint Mary’s is confident that the couple can continue to express their faiths while fulfilling the expectations of Christian marriage, then the priest will be glad to officiate at such a wedding.
Does Saint Mary’s permit divorced persons to marry?
Yes. The Gospel is not about punishing people for their pasts, but about inviting them to new life in Christ. However, it is necessary that before moving ahead, there should be an honest assessment of the past with an eye toward growing toward the future. In the Episcopal Church, the officiating priest applies to the bishop of the diocese to request permission to re-marry. The purpose of this application is to ascertain the intention of the couple with regard to their relationship to the Church, that the Bishop might give his consent in good conscience. For information, a copy of the form can be found at http://www.dioceseny.org/index.cfm?Action=AboutUs.FormsWeUse
Who can serve as an officiating minister at a wedding at Saint Mary’s?
Normally, only a priest on staff at Saint Mary’s officiates at a wedding that is held in the church. If there is a guest priest the couple would like to involve, this should be discussed with the officiating Saint Mary’s priest at the very beginning of the planning.
Can we include family and friends in the wedding?
It is most appropriate for family and friends to participate in the wedding by reading one of the Lessons from Scripture or leading a portion of the prayers. Non-scriptural readings are not used, nor are musicians who are not associated with Saint Mary’s. Most couples find that by keeping the number of ushers, groomsmen, bridesmaids and other attendants to a minimum, a kind of dignity and solemnity is preserved for the occasion.
Does the church require pre-marriage counseling?
Yes. When a couple makes a commitment to be married at Saint Mary’s the wedding date is established and reserved. Shortly thereafter the officiating priest will contact the couple to arrange for counseling, which will vary in number and frequency according to the couple. Sometimes it is appropriate for the priest to recommend a therapist or other counselor for the couple.
Is the Holy Eucharist always included in a marriage at Saint Mary’s?
The normal form for Holy Matrimony includes the Holy Eucharist. Saint Mary’s welcomes all baptized Christians to participate in the Holy Eucharist, regardless of religious affiliation. Those who are not baptized Christians often come forward to receive a blessing from the priest. If there are compelling reasons, the marriage ceremony can be conducted without the Eucharist.
How long is the typical wedding at Saint Mary’s?
The typical wedding, including the Holy Eucharist, usually lasts just under one hour. Music, if selected, will naturally lengthen a service.
Is there parking available near the church?
The church has no parking of its own, though there are commercial parking garages on 46th Street and on 47th Street. Public transportation is the best method for guests to arrive. If the bride or another part of the wedding party plans to arrive by limousine, special care should be taken to plan for traffic congestion in Midtown.
Does the church have facilities for a reception following the service?
Yes. Saint Joseph’s Hall, the room adjoining the church, and its kitchen can be rented in addition to the church space. Saint Mary’s can recommend a caterer who is accustomed to the space. No smoking is allowed in the building. Alcoholic beverages are allowed.
Please complete the information request form or call the parish office at 212-869-5830 for more information.