Services - Weddings
MARRIAGES, BLESSING OF MARRIAGES, CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGES, RENEWAL OF MARRIAGE VOWS, SPECIAL ANNIVERSARIES.
Thank you for your interest in the service I am offering. I hope I will be able to answer some of the questions you may have about weddings and wedding blessings/celebrations.
So much thought and care goes into the arrangements for a wedding but usually the couple have little choice when it comes to the venue and the content of the wedding ceremony. Often they find that the laws surrounding marriage restrict their hopes and dreams. What should be one of the highlights of the day remains an unknown, which sometimes turns out well but can leave the couple and their guests disappointed. What I offer changes this by giving the couple complete choice about the venue, content, style, and approach of their wedding ceremony.
There are a number of alternative ways a couple using my services could arrange the legal formalities and I can help explain these further by phone if you have any questions. Here I will describe which are the most commonly chosen methods.
By way of introduction, you may be aware that over the next few years the law concerning marriage registration in England and Wales is to be relaxed even further. It is hoped then that both the legal and ceremonial parts of the wedding will be able to be conducted together by a religious minister in a wide variety of settings. This is already possible in Scotland and Jonathan is registered in Scotland to be able to perform the complete legal marriage. However, this provision is not available yet in England and Wales and so the following explains what is available to ensure that you have maximum flexibility to encapsulate your dreams.
THE CONTINENTAL APPROACH; The option that provides the greatest flexibility and choice.
As you may know, in many continental countries It is the normal procedure in marriage to legally register the marriage at the municipal building first and then later that day or on a subsequent day to hold the full wedding ceremony with family and friends In a church or wherever.
When I began my new ministry I made that approach available in this country. Therefore a couple arranging a wedding with me would book in to visit the Registry Office either on the same day as their planned wedding ceremony or, as most choose, on the day before, or during the week before the ceremony. This leaves their main day uncluttered.
They often attend the Registry Office with two witnesses only, who can be, but don't need to be, known to them, and sometimes no one else even knows this has happened. At the Registry Office they answer the mandatory legal questions and complete the documents. They do not exchange rings. The whole process is short and without particular significance to the couple. However It Is Important to be clear that the legal wedding takes place here at the Registry Office.
Notwithstanding this, the couple themselves regard their real and true wedding, and the one that most will observe In future years as their anniversary, as the day on which I take their wedding service with their family and friends. As the legal formalities have been completed, what is exciting is that there are no restrictions as to what can be planned for this.
WHAT I PROVIDE.
Either, at one end of the spectrum, a completely traditional wedding service, with the content and style of the service being exactly as it would have been in a church I am fully robed, I bring a cross and candlesticks and the service includes a signing ceremony and the declaration that the couple are now husband and wife. In fact it would be experienced exactly as a traditional church wedding.
Or, at the other end of the spectrum, a completely ingenious service that has been individually and imaginatively created to reflect the beliefs, values and style of the couple concerned. This can reflect either one faith or, if the couple come from different faiths or backgrounds then a combination of their traditions. Alternatively it can be a non religious service. The point is that everything is flexible and everything is open for choice.
Part of my approach to make sure that the content of the service is personal is to send to the couple, once they have confirmed their booking, a resource book which includes the traditional wedding services but also pages of alternative vows, prayers, poetry, readings and other relevant resource material. I then invite the couple to select those parts, which they like, and to add, if they wish, any material of their own. I don't mind how many draft services I have to prepare and send. I am only satisfied when the couple are entirely happy with their service.
In addition to the content there is, of course, complete choice about the venue for the service. It can be inside or outside, in any building or situation, however ordinary, special or extraordinary! It is the couple's choice, which matters.
THE LICENCED BUILDING APPROACH
If your chosen venue has a room licensed for weddings then there are two options. I will explain both options and then suggest how the wedding could be carried out:
THE RELIGIOUS OPTION
Some licensed venues are very concerned not to jeopardise their licence and will not allow any religious ceremony to take place after the legal registration. However, the law does not forbid a licensed room being used for a religious ceremony after the registrar has left, as long as it is not used regularly for that purpose Therefore there are many venues which are willing to agree to a religious service taking place.
If your particular venue says no, it is worth exploring it with them further or allowing me to speak with them, because sometimes they are not really aware of what the law says on this issue. It is a good idea if possible to speak with me before speaking with the venue as I can give you advice about the best way of approaching the matter with them.
THE SECULAR OPTION
If you come across a venue, which is absolutely adamant that it will not allow anything religious, and the Local Authority support that approach, then the only thing that is possible is to lodge an appeal, but I suspect that is the last thing that anyone planning a wedding would want to do
So if your heart is set on that venue, or if you are not religious anyway then you have the Secular Option. Basically I can provide a resource book of material containing an entirely non-religious wedding service plus pages of exquisite additional words, readings, poetry etc from which in the same manner as above you can select the perfect service for you,
I can assure you that the way I conduct the service is full of meaning and although it is not religious, it loses none of its beauty, its depth or its meaning, and is as full and involved as a traditional wedding is, if you would like it to be. This service would be acceptable for any licensed venue,
HOW TO LINK THE LEGAL REGISTRATION WITH THE CEREMONY THAT POLLOWS IN LICENCED ROOM.
There are various ways of doing this, but I will explain two here:
All the guests attend both parts, with either a break between them or what is sometimes easier; to provide some music while the Registrar leaves and I enter, so the two parts flow naturally together.
Or: Only the bride and groom attend the registration with their two witnesses and if they wish a selection of others, having arranged it earlier than the planned ceremony or if it is just before it, keeping out of view of the guests. In a way this is like moving the signing of the registers in the vestry in a church wedding to take place before the service. Then, once the Registrar has left, the guests are invited to take their places and the ceremony begins in a normal manner.
Having gained an idea of what sort of wedding a couple have in mind and where, I prepare a letter for them which normally has a number of options of how I could go about the preparation. The simplest is for all the arrangements to be made by phone and letter and for me to attend for the wedding itself. Other options include me making preparatory visits to the couple, to the venue, for a rehearsal and for the wedding itself, or for the couple to visit me.
The contribution that I ask for towards my ministry depends greatly upon the distances involved but the options on average range from about £290 to £590. I should stress that this is the average range, but some work out to be less and some more. The exact contribution depends on a range of factors including distance, time of year, day of week, where I have to be before/after the service etc. So each letter is individually worked out. I am happy for the contribution towards my ministry that I have requested be made by instalments, the full details of which are given in the letter. I am also flexible about these arrangements and always endeavour to help where l can if resources are low.
YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY.
It may be that your experience of love and the preparations for the wedding have triggered other thoughts within you and you may have thought more deeply about the origin of love, spirituality and the responsibility you have towards your children, born or those of your dreams.
You may wish to consider Baptism, Confirmation, attending Mass or joining an Exploring Your Faith Course all of which I provide or if you live far from me, I could provide you with information of what is available locally. Don't hesitate to ask me more about these areas.
It is of great importance to me that I offer a very personal and high quality service. I love people and regard it as a privilege to be able to share such an important part of their lives. I never try to persuade a couple in any direction but fully respect and value the beliefs and values they hold.
I have hundreds of letters of warm appreciation for my work which I am happy to show to couples and many who have used my services in the past have contacted me again for other special occasions like their baby's baptism or if there is funeral in the family, or if they need other help.
My desire for the wedding is to create and provide a personal, sensitive and beautiful ceremony, which will be regarded as one of the special highlights of the day. I take each service with a distinctive warmth, skill, sincerity and care and to the very highest standards in terms of delivery. I am only satisfied with my best.
There are as many different situations as there are people and I am happy to work with everyone. If you are first timers or divorcees, from one faith or denomination or different ones, from traditional or alternative style of relationship, whatever, I am happy to be of service to you. Please feel free to talk with me about your circumstances and ideas.
If you would like to have further details or would like me to send you a letter then please phone so that we can talk further, Or you are more than welcome to arrange to come and visit me.
EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS CONCERNING MY WEDDINGS
`We had so many of our family telling us that our wedding was without doubt the most beautiful ceremony they had ever been to, that they felt a tangible love in the air. In fact the feeling you generated in the room was so powerful, so serene, yet so gentle, it was divine.`
'We both feel that the most magical moments of our wedding day were those created by you. We will treasure the memories and romance of your wonderful ceremony for always. The ceremony surpassed our wildest hopes and aspirations and was a momentous beginning of a truly unforgettable day.'
To be married under that magnificent tree, where I grew up, with the sun coming down and surrounded by all our family and friends was a dream come true. Without you it would not have been possible. You created such an atmosphere of warmth, love and happiness.`
`Thank you so much for making our wedding service so personal to us. We couldn't have asked for a better day. Your loving and caring manner brought tears to everyone's eyes.'
The way you did everything was so personal and unique, and thanks to your calm reminders during the service, we did remember it all. The strongest feeling we got from our wedding was a huge amount of happiness, felt by everyone, which naturally made us even happier. We have such a lot of wonderful memories of the day. One of the most vivid images is of your face, wreathed in a radiant smile.
`It was everything and more that we hoped for. It was so romantic. Everyone at the service told us afterwards that they had never enjoyed a wedding as much as they did our.`
`A brief note to thank you once again for a wonderful service everyone commented on how personal it was. '
'We had the best ever wedding. All the hard work you put into the ceremony, certainly paid off. So many people commented on the service.
'You delivered the service with such deep feeling and sincerity; you were kind, patient and wonderful and helped make our wedding day the most special day of our lives'
'The ceremony was fantastic. You immediately placesd us at ease with your words, presence and smile! Our guests loved you and the service. What we hear most about our day is it was the best wedding they had been to.'
'So many of our guests have rung us to say what a beautiful moving wedding service it was. Just as you said it felt like it was just the two of us and you. It was the most wonderful moment of our lives and will stay in our hearts and minds forever. It was everything we dreamed of and more. It was romantic, dreamy and we both truly feel we have been married in the eyes of God.'
'Thank you for such a beautiful and romantic service. I couldn’t have wished for anything better. You were so considerate and took all our nerves away.'
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTRIBUTION
The first thing to write is that I am not interested in money. I drive a modest car, have modest personal spending patterns and am not interested in possessions. I am one of those people who, if they won the lottery, ( not that I normally play it ) wouldn't rush out to buy a host of things or change my life. I have been called by God to minister as a priest and bishop and my life has been spent seeking to fulfil my vocation.
Sometimes people express surprise at the amount of the requested contribution, either because they feel it is too high or too low. Some regular church-goers don't understand the need for it at all and some suggest that there may be something suspicious about it, as though ' I was doing it all for the money '. This is to provide the facts upon which you can base a considered view.
First, the main denominations provide a stipend for their clergy; a regular monthly income from which they live. As you will have read I ministered within the Church of England for the first 12 years of my ministry. You may have read in the press articles about the 'low pay' of the clergy but when you put together the employment package for the clergy, it may appear somewhat different.
A Church of England parish priest receives an average £18,500 per year stipend. In addition to that they are provided with a good house that is rent free and mortgage free. Their Council Tax is also provided along with maintenance, repairs, external decoration, water rates and building insurance. They can apply for tax-free heating, lighting and cleaning. They are provided with resettlement grants for decoration and carpets. Removal expenses are paid. They are given interest free car-loans and can apply for other loans for major capital items. There are a host of charities which provide funds for Anglican Clergy for a variety of needs from private education to holidays. They are given a full non-contributory pension and free health insurance. On retirement, they are provided, in addition to their pension, with access to the funds to enable them to acquire a retirement home. In addition to this they enjoy full insurance and legal protection and advice. Of course, every working expense is reimbursed, which covers most of the cost of running the car and using the telephone etc. I have probably forgotten many of the other minor perks. If you calculate all these benefits, you can see that their actual income is considerable.
In contrast, I receive nothing from any denominational structure. I am a cleric within The Open Episcopal Church but none of our clergy receive any stipend; not even any expenses. They, like the early apostles of the church, must stand on their own two feet.
Rationalising the provision of a stipend for my ministry has been carefully achieved over the last 10 years and I have aimed to provide something in line with a cleric's stipend without all the 'added perks'. What needs to be understood is that while some parts of my ministry can be associated with a requested contribution, other parts cannot.
For instance, my ministry with the homeless, my funeral after care for the children and families of the bereaved, my ministry to the distressed, my support of the sick and dying, my child and adult teaching groups and confirmation, my provision of daily worship and fellowship group, my support of the clergy of the Church, many of my Episcopal duties and my ministry with the poor. This is not exhaustive.
Some of the above can be time consuming and exacting, for instance watching continuously beside the bedside of a dying patient for three days and three nights to be with them as they crossed the veil into the arms of Jesus, or travelling to North Yorkshire or Wales to help in emergency or pastoral situations, or providing a safe home for a child whose parents had been arrested, or trying to provide the homeless with accommodation and other appropriate help, or fulfilling my role as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the charity The Holy Circle Trust. Hours of time and considerable amounts of money can be consumed with no financial support.
So I have to look towards the brighter parts of my ministry to support the more traumatic. Contributions are then linked to the provision of my flexible, accessible and mobile ministry enabling weddings, baptisms, blessings, renewal of vows etc to be carried out at the location of a family's choice. The families who contribute at these times are in fact supporting the whole of my ministry and by so doing help wipe the tears away from the sad at a time when they are blessed by joy.
Of course, as my literature makes clear, the sacraments are free. However, there is always a collection plate out at churches and collections are taken at the services. The contribution is based on this same principle.
What also may not be understood is that there are considerable costs and expenses associated with my ministry. People can discover where their local Anglican Vicar lives and where their local Parish Church is situated but how do people access my ministry? They have to be informed and the cost of providing that information through advertising is immense. Then every other cost associated with being self-employed has to be borne. Office equipment, photocopier, computer, brochures, web site, ministry supplies, vestments, church furnishings, and then accountancy, insurance and legal matters, transport, secretarial and support services. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
In addition to this, 10% of all my disposable income is used for charitable and caring work.
It may seem that if I am doing a number of services over the course of a weekend that I am 'raking it in' but what needs to be understood as any 'seasonal worker' knows is that I am very pressurised for services during the clement summer weather but the first part of the year and the last part of the year is much quieter for the 'brighter' services. I have therefore to store up the summer harvest to support my ministry through the winter, when I concentrate on my other church and charitable duties.
If a family finds a contribution difficult then that does not prevent them from having a service. In those circumstances I find a way to make it possible, making some special arrangement, accepting whatever the family have felt able to donate or visiting their home for no contribution at all, depending on the circumstances.
Again the contributions I do receive have to support these situations as well, because practically I can only offer the ministry I do because it is supported by your kind help; I have to feed and support my five children and family as everyone else. Those who know me and observe my lifestyle know that my concern is to express the love of God to all and that my personal choices reflect this.
I hope that this provides you with enough information upon which you understand the concept of the contribution but if you have any further questions about this or any other aspect of my ministry, please don't hesitate to contact me.
FOR BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED HANDMADE OR PAINTED WEDDING STATIONERY CONTACT SAMANATHA AT:
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