“God has established and sanctified marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.” ~So says the Presbyterian service
It is in this context that we wish to assist in making your wedding everything that God desires it to be. The following rules and procedures are established to provide for the smooth running of your ceremony and the avoidance of any misunderstanding between the wedding party and the church staff.
BIBLICAL AND LEGAL REQUIREMENTS: We believe that marriage is the exclusive, covenantal union of one man and one woman, which union was designed by God. Genesis 2:24 states, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus Christ affirmed this in Matthew 19:4-6: “And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ ” We will faithfully follow this scriptural definition of marriage in the teachings and practices of this church, and therefore, this church will not officiate, solemnize, perform or host a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman as instituted by God.
In the case of remarriage after divorce, only Scripturally-sanctioned grounds for re-marriage can be considered. God allows for remarriage according to the conditions He has set forth in His Word.
1. You may remarry if your former spouse is deceased. Romans 7:3, “So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” I Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
2. If you have been divorced, you may remarry under the following conditions:
a. If your former spouse has remarried. Where a former spouse has remarried and the Session or its representatives is convinced that the parties seeking remarriage are born-again, remarriage is permitted. Reasoning: Regardless of the reasons for the divorce or who was the offending party, if remarriage has occurred, the marital union is permanently broken. Marriage could never occur between the parties (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Reconciliation is, therefore, impossible and the remaining former partner is eligible to remarry.
b. If it is determined by the Session that you were the offended party in a biblical divorce.
There are only two scriptural grounds for divorce:
- Your former spouse was unfaithful. Matthew 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Marital unfaithfulness means sexual immorality that breaks the oneflesh union, such as adultery.
2. Your former spouse was an unbeliever and deserted the marriage. I Corinthians 7:10-16, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”
Desertion means physical abandonment or sins that are tantamount in extremity and consequence to actual desertion. The Bible gives no justification for divorce on merely inward, emotional, and subjective reasons.
* If you have become a Christian after an unbiblical divorce you should seek to reconcile to your former spouse if he/she has not remarried. If your former spouse refuses your serious attempts at reconciliation, it may be possible to marry another. Generally, a divorce decree should be final for at least a year before remarriage occurs.
(See the end of this article for an explanation of the Biblical basis for marriage, divorce, remarriage, as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.)
3. Can those involved in an unbiblical divorce every remarry? Or can the guilty spouse in biblical divorce remarry? Jesus was quite clear in saying that those who are involved in a remarriage after an improper divorce commit adultery. By this we understand not that they are in a continual state of adultery, but that they have committed an adulterous act by which they have entered into a new marriage relationship. It is a sinful act and should not be entertained as good or godly. Furthermore, the idea of seeking a divorce with the intention of remarrying someone else is clearly sinful. However, when one of the spouses in the former marriage remarries, we may conclude that the other is freed to remarry, because the former marriage relationship has been permanently broken by that remarriage. If a person is truly repentant, he or she will have a genuine desire to be reconciled with the estranged spouse.
4. But what about those cases where people have been in an unbiblical divorce and have already remarried? What should be the Church’s response to them? The gentle use of pastoral oversight will ask parties to seek God’s gracious forgiveness by repenting of their past sins in marriage and by rededicating their lives to Christ in the confidence of His forgiveness and His acceptance of their present marriage. That assumes, of course, genuine repentance on their part. We must remember that adultery and divorce are not the unforgivable sin, but that they along with other ungodly sins are covered by the blood of Christ.
* Even though remarriage may be allowable by God under these conditions, there may be consequences from past problems that continue, or destructive patterns from the past that can carry into new relationships. Thus, a new marriage should be entered into with due thoughtfulness and with the counsel of a godly pastor and elders.
THE DATE: A definite date for the wedding must be cleared with the minister and the Session and be put on the church calendar by calling the church office as far in advance as possible. Only after the minister’s approval will the ceremony be sent to the Session for approval (e.g. at least 90 days’ notice). No wedding or reception may interfere with worship services or regularly scheduled events in the church. No wedding will be scheduled on a Sunday, the week before Christmas, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Eve, Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, or Holy Week – Easter. Only one wedding will be scheduled per day.
PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING: Both the prospective groom and bride must meet with the minister or his designated representative for a series of six pre-marital counseling sessions, if neither or both of the couple have been previously married. If either the bride or groom is unable to attend the pre-marital counseling course presented by Trinity Presbyterian Church, then either or both may attend another premarital course pre-approved by the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian. If either the bride or groom has been divorced, a personal conference between the minister and the divorced party must be held before premarital counseling may begin. No one has the authority to make an exception to this rule. If some minister other than Trinity’s minister is desired to assist in the ceremony, this request must be submitted in writing to the Clerk of the Session for Session approval. Permission to use the church facility must be granted by the Session and the minister has full discretion to determine whom he will or will not marry.
LIVING TOGETHER OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE: Many couples live together before marriage. The logic is that by living together, they discover if they are truly compatible, and then marry if things work out. There are two problems with this. First, it violates God’s holy will. Second, it does not work. Statistics show that those who live together before marriage have a much higher divorce rate than those who do not. So, living together before marriage is not only a sin, it is a bad idea. It contributes to the failure of marriage.
If a couple is living together, and they wish to get married, there are two options that can be considered. A simple, private ceremony is possible for those desiring to get married quickly. This marriage will not take place in the sanctuary, and will be open only to family and a few close friends. Those who want to have a bigger public wedding must make the commitment to live separately until the wedding.
A large public ceremony will not be performed at Trinity Presbyterian Church for a couple living together who are unwilling to repent and commit themselves to living God’s way. To do so would be to publicly condone a living arrangement that violates God’s will, and to dishonor Him.
WEDDINGS FOR NON-MEMBERS: Weddings in which neither bride nor groom nor any of their parents are members of Trinity Presbyterian Church may be held at Trinity Presbyterian only with the permission of the Session. A letter to the Clerk of the Session making this request must be submitted their approval. Because Trinity Presbyterian Church members and their families have priority to use the church, the date for a non-church member wedding will not be confirmed until 90 days prior to the wedding.
THE LORD’S SUPPER: Normally, the Lord’s Supper (communion) will not be administered at Trinity Presbyterian Church wedding services. The reason for this is simple: the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not to be administered privately (BCO 56-2). Since weddings are private services, by invitation only, the sacraments cannot be administered.
REHEARSALS: A definite date and hour for the rehearsal must be arranged with the minister. The rehearsal should begin promptly at the time scheduled. The bride and groom should insist on members of the wedding party being as prompt for the rehearsal as for the wedding. The following suggestions will help guide you as you prepare for your rehearsal:
~ The minister or wedding coordinator will be in charge of the rehearsal. ~ Both sets of parents should be present for the rehearsal. ~ The ushers should be present for the rehearsal. ~ Deliver the marriage license and the honoraria for the minister and accompanist to the minister and accompanist at the rehearsal, if it hasn’t been done beforehand. ~ The rehearsal should be conducted in a dignified and reverent manner as befits any ceremony conducted in a place dedicated to the worship of God. ~ No food or drink is allowed in the sanctuary at any time. ~ No one who is using or under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be allowed on church property.
WEDDING SERVICE: A wedding is a Christian ceremony of worship and celebration in which two persons are joined together as one. It is a divine institution, though not a sacrament; therefore, all aspects of the celebration, including music, should be of an appropriate, sacred character. To ensure order, reverence, and biblical decorum, Trinity Presbyterian Church weddings will not include vows written by the couple and music not appropriate for Sunday worship. There is a wealth of beautiful wedding music, including contemporary, folk, and traditional styles. The church organist or choir director can help you in selecting music for the ceremony. Music which textually fails to reinforce a serious spiritual tone in the wedding service is prohibited. The church organist or an approved designee will play for all weddings scheduled at Trinity Presbyterian Church.
In order to allow sufficient time for planning, you should contact the organist to arrange for a conference at least one month prior to your wedding date (sooner if possible). This opportunity to discuss ideas for the service music is most important!
Absolutely no pets will be allowed to participate in any wedding service held in or on the church property.
COSTS: No charge is expected for the use of the church property, heating or air conditioning when either the bride or groom or their parents are members of Trinity Presbyterian Church. Non-members of the church who have the consent of the Session to be married in the sanctuary will be charged a usage fee of $300.00, in addition to the honoraria paid to the church minister and organist. This usage fee is due at Trinity Presbyterian Church two weeks before the wedding. Further, a $100 damage deposit is required to obtain a copy of the church key, which may be picked up by the responsible member at the church office any time within 3 days of the wedding and after the deposit is made. The member must return the key to the church office within 72 hours of the end of the wedding.
Suggested honoraria for: Minister (with counseling) $300 Musicians $100 Sound Board Operator $25
The custodial staff is not scheduled or paid for wedding duties. It is the responsibility of the bride and groom or responsible communicant member (host) to arrange for and pay for clean-up, or accomplish it themselves.
Cleaning Fee ($75)
NOTE: Any extra charges, such as linen and tablecloth cleaning, or damage to church property will be the responsibility of the bride and groom.
RECEPTIONS: Members of the church may reserve the fellowship hall for rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions without alcoholic beverages served.
DECORATIONS: The parties planning to be married may arrange for decorations with their florist, or they may do their own planning. No nails, tacks, or screws may be driven in the sanctuary. Plastic sheeting must be placed under all candles and candelabra to guard furniture and carpet from wax drippings.
TAKING OF PICTURES: The photographer may take pictures before or after the ceremony in any part of the building. The photographer may take pictures of the wedding party as they start down the aisle and the wedding party as they leave. Additional shots during the wedding service must be approved by the minister before the wedding begins.
A FINAL WORD: Your wedding should be one of the happiest and most sacred moments in your life. We pray for God’s richest blessing upon your union and that Jesus Christ will be exalted in your home. We trust that mutual agreement upon these procedures and rules will help make this joyous occasion beautiful, worshipful, and memorable.
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, CHAPTER XXIV (Excerpt) Of Marriage and Divorce
1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.
2. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the church with a holy seed; and for the preventing of uncleanness.
3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.
4. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.
5. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed, and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.