Weddings and Funerals
Should you/Can you get married in an Episcopal Church?
The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage is an expression of Christian community in which a couple makes their vows before God and the Church, and the priest blesses the marriage on behalf of the Church. Marriage in church is, therefore, much more than a matter of mere form. Churches are not marriage factories, and those who are not active members of an Episcopal parish should not assume that they will be able to marry in it. If you are from outside a parish in which you wish to get married, it is, therefore, very important that you do not announce a date for your marriage in one of our Churches until you and your future spouse have met with the priest and the suitability of the celebration of your marriage in our Church has been determined.
Place and Ministers of Marriage
Normally, the clergy of the parish preside at the celebration of marriages in that parish. If you want another cleric to preside at your marriage, you must obtain the consent of the ecclesiastical authority of the parish–the rector, interim priest in charge, or churchwardens. Our Church discourages weddings outside of the physical church building because having a wedding in a church asserts the importance of the Christian community in the marriage, while having it outside tends to diminish the role of the Church and to dilute its rules and traditions. If you do get married outside the church building, you need to bear in mind that Canon law requires that your marriage be celebrated with the consent of the ecclesiastical authority of the parish (i.e. its rector, vicar, or priest-in-charge) within the boundaries of which it takes place, and recorded in that parish’s register.
Seasons for Marriages
Marriages are not traditionally celebrated in Advent and in Lent because these are penitential seasons during which times festal liturgies, such as weddings, are not appropriate. Diocesan policy is that weddings during Advent or Lent should only happen in the case of serious, pressing, compelling pastoral needs. Some years ago, the Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of New York prepared a detailed discussion of the issues surrounding marriage, and the liturgies appropriate under different circumstances (e.g. inter-faith marriages, Roman Catholic-Anglican marriages).
In the Episcopal Church we believe that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, at death,
“… life is changed not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” (From the preface for the “Commemoration of the Dead” page 382, The Book of Common Prayer.)
Our burial services find their meaning in the Resurrection; because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too shall be raised. The services are characterized by joy in the eternal love of God in Jesus Christ, and by our human grief at the death of a loved one. While we rejoice that a loved one is now with God, we are sorrowful with those who mourn.
A death should be reported as soon as possible to the clergy of the parish – see Find a Church. All arrangements for burial services are made in consultation with the clergy of the parish. Burial services follow the rites authorized by the Episcopal Church. The death of a child usually occurs long before his or her expected span of life, often under tragic circumstances, the Episcopal Church has a particular service which addresses these special needs. Christian burials are customarily held in the church but for pastoral reasons may be held at the funeral home or graveside. When possible burial services are to be held at a time and place when family, friends, colleagues and the congregation of the deceased have the opportunity to be present. If cremation is to take place, burial services may be held prior to this, or if held afterwards, the ashes should be present at the service.
A Memorial service will often take place weeks, months or a year after death has occurred. All arrangements for the services are made in consultation with the clergy of the parish – see Find a Church – and follow the rites authorized by the Episcopal Church.