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SOME SIMPLE & BASIC GROUND RULES
for the CELEBRATION of WEDDINGS at ST. MATTHEW'S
Since Our Lord's appearance at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (The Gospel of John, chapter 2), weddings have been part of the Christian Tradition and Story. Since September 1904, people have been celebrating their weddings in or through St. Matthew's. Over the years, we have learned some things. This is written as a basic Guideline, to answer some continual and basic questions.
TWO THINGS to REMEMBER:
Most wedding ceremonies really are simple. Most of the dynamics underneath are not. The wedding ceremony is relatively brief. Most wedding ceremonies last twenty to forty minutes. With variations on music, etc., the ceremony can last longer. The preparation, for those twenty to forty minutes, takes much much much longer.
BASIC UNDERSTANDING:
St. Matthew's is an Episcopal Church, a part of the Anglican Communion, a part of the Family of the Christian Church. To get married at St. Matthew's is NOT to get married in a building; to seek to be married at St. Matthew's is to seek to be married within that Community and Family of People. (The building is holy and special because of the People who are St. Matthew's, not vice versa. In seeking to get married at St. Matthew's, one is also seeking to be part of that Family and People.) To seek to get married at St. Matthew's is to seek to ask the blessing of God upon your relationship, and an invitation and commitment to Our Lord to be part of that relationship. A "Declaration of Intention", stating, among other things, this understanding of marriage is signed by the couple at the beginning of the pre-marital period.
BASIC NATIONAL CANONS (LAWS) REGARDING WEDDINGS
As part of the Episcopal Church, St. Matthew's is part of a national Church and therefore bound by National Church Laws (canons). Regarding Weddings, these are:
At least one of the couple must be a baptized Christian and there must be at least two witnesses at the ceremony. (In theory, you can have a small wedding, with only 5 people present. This rarely happens.)
There must be at least 30 days notice given to the Church prior to the wedding.
There must be pre-marital counseling and instruction.

PRACTICAL ADDITIONS ST. MATTHEW'S MAKES to the ABOVE CANONS:
Recall the "Basic Understanding" above. If you are a member of another Church or denomination, St. Matthew's will want to know why you want to get married in this Church.
If there have been previous marriage or marriages, and those marriages ended in divorce, there must be at least 60 days notice given. [See below.]
NOTE: There are exceptions to these laws, but they are limited.

RE-MARRIAGE after DIVORCE
It is possible within the Episcopal Church to get married if one has been divorced. National canons stipulate, however, that the Priest or Deacon performing the wedding MUST get permission from the Bishop to celebrate the Wedding. There is a Diocesan Form that is filled out by the divorced person, asking questions like "What happened?" "What have you learned?" "How is this marriage different?", etc. The Priest or Deacon submits this form to the Bishop, with a covering letter giving his or her recommendations. The 60 days notice above is to allow time for the exchange of paperwork.

PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING and INSTRUCTION
The purpose of the Pre-marital Counseling and Instruction is to shift the discussion from WEDDING (which, see above, is basically simple) to MARRIAGE. In most instances, pre-marital counseling involves 4 to 6 sessions, but often longer, of 2 or so hours each. The PREPARE-ENRICH Pre-Marital Evaluatory Instrument is taken by the couple (cost: $25), sent off to be evaluated (2 weeks turn around time), and then used as a springboard for further discussion. Most couples have found this all helpful.
Other variations on pre-marital counseling do occur, and the counseling can be done by others, or non-Church agencies.

SCHEDULING of WEDDINGS
By long-standing Christian tradition, weddings are NOT celebrated in the Church Season of Lent.
For practical consideration, weddings are NOT celebrated at St. Matthew's in the 3 days before Christmas; or on the Day of the Golden Days Parade in July.
For practical considerations, two weddings are NOT scheduled for the same day. There are sometimes rare exceptions to this.

CAN WE GET MARRIED OUTDOORS, etc.?
Yes. There is no requirement that the ceremony must be celebrated within the Church Structure.

CAN OTHER CLERGY DO THE WEDDING, or BE PART of IT?
St. Matthew's is an Episcopal Church and the wedding ceremony is an Episcopal ceremony. As such then, Episcopal clergy must officiate. Clergy from other churches or denominations can assist or participate in the Ceremony, with permission of the Rector.

HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN COME?
There are 26 pews within the Church; and each pew holds 6 to 8 people. Most of the time it is impractical to add further seating in the Church.

WHAT about MUSIC?
Music is often a part of the Ceremony. If requested, St. Matthew's can supply the names and telephone numbers of organists. Most organists charge $50 to $75. for their services. It is the couple's responsibility to contact the organists, or other musicians, and to make the arrangements. It is almost always best if the musicians are also present at the rehearsal. The organist can often help with the selections of music, if desired. St. Matthew's assumes, in a broad sense, that the music is appropriate for a ceremony within a Church.

WHAT about DECORATIONS?
Pew bows, etc. seem to work best if they are hung from the pew, as opposed to taped or tacked.
NO DECORATIONS are to be placed on the altar without permission of the priest or deacon celebrating the service.
THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE STATEMENT: The furnishings within the Church - baptismal font, lectern, prayer desk, icon, banners, plaques, candles, etc. -are NOT TO BE TOUCHED OR MOVED WITHOUT FIRST ASKING THE RECTOR.

WHAT about PHOTOGRAPHY?
By Church Tradition, no pictures are allowed during the actual ceremony. Generally this means that photographs are allowed through the entrance of the Bride, and then again at the Recessional. An exception is made for one or two video cameras, provided they are stationary. Photographic lighting (giant Hollywood lights, etc.) is not allowed during the ceremony. The priest or deacon celebrating the service is responsible for the ceremony, and the Church, not the photographer. Most of the professional photographers in Fairbanks are well experienced with weddings and wedding customs at St. Matthew's.
When pictures are being taken before or after the ceremony, no one is allowed within the Church Sanctuary (the area beyond the altar rail, around the altar) without first seeking permission of the celebrant.
THE USE of ALCOHOL
The serving or drinking of alcohol is NOT permitted on Church grounds.
THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE STATEMENT: All members of the Wedding Party must be sober for the Ceremony to be celebrated. Otherwise, it will not happen.

WHAT about FLOWERS?
Flowers are often a part of a wedding. If you wish to have flowers in the altar vases, and those flowers remain as part of the Church's Sunday worship (with a notice in the Sunday bulletin), contact the Church Secretary

WHAT about COMMUNION, EUCHARIST, the MASS?
Within the Episcopal Church, Holy Communion is an optional part of the wedding ceremony. It generally adds about 20 minutes to the service. When thinking and praying about it, remember that Holy Communion should bring people together, and not divide them

BIRDSEED, GRASS SEED, WALNUTS, etc.?
Any throwing of anything is to occur outside of the Church. Practically, and in recent years, this activity seems to have shifted to the Reception, and has rarely occurred at the Church.

CAN WE USE THE CHURCH PARISH HALL for THE RECEPTION?
The Church Parish Hall can be used for Receptions, providing scheduling permits. Note that alcohol is not permitted.

WHAT about CLEANING-UP?
It is the couple's responsibility to see that the Church, Parish Hall, etc. is cleaned up, wedding decorations removed, etc. immediately following the Ceremony. A $100 "Cleaning Fee" is charged when a couple first contacts the Church. This fee (which also reserves the wedding date) is returned, following the Ceremony, IF THE CHURCH is cleaned. Otherwise, the Fee goes to the Church Sexton, who is responsible for keeping the Church clean.

 

"WE WERE MARRIED BY THE JUDGE, BUT NOW WE'D LIKE TO GET
MARRIED AT THE CHURCH"

This often occurs. The Ceremony can range from a brief 5-minute private ceremony to a complete, giant "church wedding". There is some re-wording of the traditional vows and ceremony. Most of the above guidelines still apply.

SO HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
It costs nothing to walk in the front door of St. Matthew's; it costs nothing to come to Church on Sunday morning; it costs nothing to be baptized here; it costs nothing to take Holy Communion; it costs nothing to be buried from within the Church. Freely have we all received from God, freely do we give.
St. Matthew's (see above "Basic Understanding") is a Community, a Family; and one can't "rent" a Family. The only fee associated with the Church is the Cleaning Deposit, which is returned if the Church is cleaned. The couple hires and pays the organist or musicians directly.
One may wish to make a contribution to the Church Operating Fund, to help with the expenses. This amount is determined by your own Heart. (The rector did read an essay once that suggested the Biblical Tithe (10%) should be suggested to couples - i.e., 10% of the total cost of the wedding.)

FINALLY...........
Weddings are wonderful and holy and exciting and God-filled occasions, and we are thankful you are considering St. Matthew's as the place and Family within which to celebrate your love. The best way to begin is to come to Church on a Sunday morning, and begin to get to know the Family that calls St. Matthew's Home.

CLICK ON LINK TO GET A St. Matthew's Wedding In-Take Form

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OUR MISSION: We the people of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Fairbanks, Alaska receive God's love and are becoming a warm and loving community who share that love with ALL God's Children.

Sunday Services: 8:00 am & 10:30 am  --- Wednesday Services 10:30 am

Office Hours:  Monday through Friday 10 am to 3 pm

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church
1030 Second Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska  99701
Phone# 907-456-5235

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