Garden vs Church

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zimi61 Posts : 12 Registered: 8/8/09
Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 1, 2010 4:50 PM

My fiance and I are conflicted on our ceremony site. He says I can make the decision, but I'm having trouble, any thoughts about the situation would be appreciated, but I understand that it's a fairly personal decision.

We are not very religious, he grew up Catholic, I grew up Lutheran, but we don't attend any church.

When coming up with a possible list of locations to get married we had a few churches (that had some sort of meaning to us) and some gardens. Only one church would let us get married there, and we only found one garden we liked.

He now feels like he should get married in a church (and granted it is a GORGEOUS Catholic church) due to his "catholic guilt". Where as I'm leaning toward the garden because there are certain elements to the wedding I had planned on (like music and decor) that would not be allowed in the church. Also, I'm fairly laid back and the "pomp and circumstance" of the catholic ceremony feels a little too serious for me.

The church would cost less, by around $750, but I feel like I would spend more in other areas I wouldn't have to with the garden.

Weather isn't a big issue. The garden has a large canopy over the ceremony location.

The church is in our neighborhood, which is a beautiful historic district, and only 15 minutes from the reception. The garden is in a distant suburb and about 30-40 minutes from the reception.

We want to have a slightly later reception, starting around 7:00-7:30. We could have the ceremony between 4:30 and 7:30 in the garden. Due to Saturday Mass, the church must have us out by 3:00. Even if we move the reception up to 6:00, that's a three hour gap from the church. Most guests are local, but is that ok?

The church seats 900, the garden 250. We have approx 230 guests. Though the pews in the church are split by an aisle down the center (perpendicular to the usual aisle) I'm not sure if it will still make the place feel too big.

I want to see my fiance as happy with the ceremony as I am, and vice versa. Any thoughts?

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 1, 2010 5:56 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

dear Zimi,

Before you go any farther, you need to find out what is involved in getting married in the Catholic Church. I am not Catholic, but more or less know the drill.

Usually they require you to go through a pre-marital counseling routine called Pre-Cana. You may be required to go on a weekend retreat, or other activities.

Depending on the parish, they may not be willing to let you get married there unless the one Catholic person (your FH) is a parishioner.

It's not a question of just deciding which has the prettier venue or better decor.

My suggestion is for you to make an appointment with the priest of the church (call the church office) and see what all is involved and if you would be even eligible for a church wedding.

Then, make a decision.

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myras Posts : 396 Registered: 2/26/10
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 1, 2010 8:41 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

we don't attend any church.

Well, that really says it all. If religion isn't important to you in your daily life, then a church wedding is just a bit hypocritical (Catholic guilt aside). Is it some sort of insurance policy? Something to make the parents feel better? And, since you are not Catholic (or religious), why would you participate in a Catholic ceremony? The vows that you make are serious. Will you be serious when you speak them? And, as Aunt points out, getting married in a Catholic church is not as simple as hiring a hall with pretty stained glass. There's a lot of education and commitment that goes along with it. Are you up for that?
myra@classysassyweddings.com

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bosoxgirl Posts : 231 Registered: 2/3/10
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 11:20 AM Go to message in response to: zimi61

We are not very religious, he grew up Catholic, I grew up Lutheran, but we don't attend any church.

I think you answered your own question...

 

  

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 11:28 AM Go to message in response to: zimi61

I agree with AOTB and Myra - if religion doesn't play a part in your day-to-day life, you shouldn't get married in a church.

As AOTB mentioned, a Catholic wedding ceremony requires more than just renting a pretty location and hiring an officiant. There is a lot involved, and as a non-Catholic and a non-practicing Catholic, you may not be comfortable with the requirements.

Here's an idea of what you may be asked to do:

1) First off, your FH will probably be asked to make a promise before God that he will begin practicing Catholicism and continue to do so for the rest of his life. You, as a non-Catholic, will not be asked to convert or to make this promise, but you might be asked to make a promise before God to support your FH and do all in your power to see that he continues to practice. Most Catholic priests will not agree a couple unless one of them is a practicing Catholic, so unless this is important enough to him to change his practices, the whole thing will end right there.

2) Most importantly, you will BOTH be asked to make a promise before God that you will raise your future children Catholic. Note that you, as a non-Catholic, are still required to make this vow. You do not have to commit to the religion yourself, but you are required to commit to raising your children Catholic. So if you do not want to raise your children Catholic, I would not choose the Catholic church for your wedding, unless you are comfortable making and breaking a solemn vow to God.

3) If you live together, many priests will request that you begin living apart until your wedding. Some will flat-out refuse to marry you if you've been living together - others are more laid-back, but will ask you to stop having sex until the wedding.

4) You will have to attend pre-Cana, which is basically Catholic premarital counseling. Different dioceses have different pre-Cana requirements, so I can't really tell you what to expect, except that some of it will be very religious in nature - other parts are similar to secular premarital counseling. Our diocese required us to attend a weekend retreat with other couples getting married - frankly, we thought the entire thing was a waste of time and a waste of the $350 that it cost us to attend. Our church also required us to have 6 one-on-one meetings with the priest who was marrying us - we enjoyed these sessions much more, as we could spend time focusing on things that actually applied to us, rather than generic counseling in the group course. This was not required by my church, but a friend of mine was required to take a course on Natural Family Planning, which is the only birth control method approved by the Catholic church.

5) Also note that at any time during the pre-Cana process (even the day before the scheduled wedding), the priest can decide that you do not meet the requirements for a Catholic wedding and refuse to do the ceremony. It is very different from hiring someone to perform a ceremony or hiring a venue - you are basically working with someone whose first responsibility is to his faith and his church, not to you as a client. He has no legal obligation to perform your ceremony if he doesn't feel that you are serious about the promises you will be making in that ceremony.

6) As you mentioned, there will be restrictions regarding the ceremony itself. Many churches do not allow strapless gowns, you probably won't be able to move anything and decorations you bring yourself will be limited, music will be restricted to religious or classical pieces (note that a lot of Catholic churches do not allow the Wagner wedding march and might have other restrictions), readings will be restricted to biblical pieces (you will probably be able to choose your own, from a selection of pre-approved pieces), and there may even be restrictions on who can be Best Man and Maid of Honor. (This was not the case for our wedding, but I've seen brides on these boards complaining that they had to choose a certain person as MOH because of a requirement that the MOH be Catholic). And then there's also the issue of afternoon ceremonies, if you want an evening reception, as most churches won't do Saturday weddings after about 2 or 3pm, as it interferes with a regular Sat afternoon service.

If I were in your shoes, I would go with the garden - but since your FH has been inflicted with a major case of Catholic guilt, it might be a good idea to schedule a meeting with a priest, find out exactly what they require (including promises to raise your children Catholic), and make your decision from there. Also ask the priest about convalidations. This is a non-wedding ceremony that can be performed after a secular wedding - it is basically a church blessing and recognition of an existing marriage. I'm not sure what sort of rules they have about convalidations - they may not do them for non-practicing Catholics, either.

If you do end up getting married in the church, I wouldn't worry about the size. Very few people have weddings large enough to fill a church, unless their church is very small. The church that I attend regularly is actually a cathedral. I have no idea how many people it seats - probably several thousand, including the wings, but the central aisle itself can probably easily seat a thousand. From the back of the church, our 80 guests didn't look like much - but when I finally made it down the aisle (what felt like 10 minutes later, as it's such a big church!) and looked around, the church didn't look empty to me at all. It looked full of the smiling faces of our loved ones, and I didn't even notice the empty pews.


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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 11:56 AM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Ladies,

I mentioned this thread to a Catholic friend of mine, who is active in parish admin. She echoed everything that Art said, with one further comment. In her parish, they won't even talk to you about scheduling pre-marital counseling, pre-Cana, much less set a date, unless the Catholic part of the couple has been an active member of the parish for at least six months.

After years of church membership and service on governing board and parish admin, I can tell you that the question of what to do with "walk-ins" is a hotly debated topic. It varies from church to church, synagogue to synagogue, diocese to diocese. Some welcome walk-ins as part of an active outreach ministry. Others believe that services offered to non-members stretch their limited resources.

My own church takes a middling approach. We do welcome walk-ins, but charge them a stiff fee that covers the priest's time in required pre-marital counseling, use of the building, music director's fee, etc. No one saves money by getting married at our church, as opposed to a local hotel or other secular venue.

Church members get pastoral services as a part of their membership, and pay only for janitorial services and for the music director's time.

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AmyJustin2010 Posts : 201 Registered: 1/18/10
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 1:48 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

If you're not religious, don't get married in the church. There's really no point in getting married somewhere out of "guilt" or to please someone else.

AmyJustin2010.Weebly.Com

 

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MsDenuninani Posts : 3,962 Registered: 3/16/07
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 3:02 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

I'll leave all the church=relgious stuff for others although I don't think it's a big deal, personally, to get married in a church despite not being religious. Still, I vote garden.

I don't like big, empty catholic churches for weddings. Don't get me wrong, I love Catholic churches. Just not for weddings. They're is always this big empty space, and that feels silent and dark and formal, while I like weddings to feel friendly and intimate. Also, when you look back at your pictures, wouldn't you like to feel that the place you got married in meant something to you?

One other thing -- just because you don't get married in a church doesn't mean that won't end up with a lot of religious stuff in your ceremony. I have a good friend who got married in a garden and her officiant ended up saying lots of stuff that she was uncomfortable with. I myself found myself agreeing to raise my children Christian, which was a pretty meaningless thing to say for me. So, when you talk to who you choose to officiate, you may want to be pretty clear on exactly what you want said/not said at your wedding.

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CheetahAngel Posts : 2,017 Registered: 11/29/08
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 3:46 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

I agree with what everyone else is telling you. If you both are not religious and do not attend church reguarly then don't get married in a church. But if you must then how about just taking pictures at that garden instead?

 

                           
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zimi61 Posts : 12 Registered: 8/8/09
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 3:57 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

I accidently double posted.

Edited by: zimi61 on Mar 2, 2010 3:58 PM

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zimi61 Posts : 12 Registered: 8/8/09
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 3:58 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

OK, some of this is kind of what I expected to hear, and some of it is outside of what I expected (which is good, I asked for feedback and got it).

To provide a little more detail:

We have already met with the church administrator/wedding coordinator. This may be the most liberal Catholic Church I've ever heard of, within Catholic terms of course. They're ok with "walk-ins", however, if we choose to become parishioners, which isn't entirely out of the question, the fee would be reduced by $500, otherwise it's a little more than the garden. They don't expect that their parishioners convert, she said they have one who is actually jewish, and it's not a conversion they want, it's participation within the church.

We knew about the counseling going into it, and I don't mind. The church lady actually had some excellant suggestions on some acceptable more neutral counseling retreats. She was very blunt about them.

Only my FH has to sign the doc about the kids growing up catholic, and he went to catholic schools all his life and says thats what he wants to do for them, and I don't care.

I don't know what kind of vows they require be given, but overall as long as no one has to "obey" anyone, I'm ok with them. Maybe that could be a deal breaker.

They are ok with some non-hymnal organ/piano music, but in a very limited amount, and they do require a cantor/vocalist be used for hymns, which are required as part of the ceremony. My original plans had been a string group playing the peanuts theme and the like.

Another option I have found for the garden is there is a priest who says he is catholic, but of a different ?sect?. Since I don't know the religion well, I don't know how that works. And as far as I knew catholic ceremonies could only be performed in catholic churches/locations. FH says this guy isn't a "real" catholic priest. I don't know. Has anyone ever heard of that?

My point with all of these things is that this isn't a traditionally strict catholic church, if it were, my decision probably wouldn't be so hard. Though we don't practice now, we aren't atheist either, we just haven't attended anywhere since we've been on our own.

This decision is tough to me because while this church has some meaning to me (sentimental, not religious), I'm not sure that it will fulfill the ideals I've held about what kind of ceremony I want, but the garden has no meaning to me other than it is a setting I had wanted to get married in. This church has meaning to my FH (in a sentimental and religious sense) and the garden doesn't seem to meet his ideals about the kind of ceremony he wants.

Oh, would someone (maybe AOTB?) have an idea about any issues about the possible 3 hour gap between the church ceremony end and reception start? Is that normal? Ok? Would I need to find something else to occupy my guests time?

Again, I appreciate your thoughts.

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 4:35 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

On the gap between the ceremony and reception issue, what's wrong with starting the reception immediately after the ceremony? That's what we did, and everything was great. And as a guest, I very much prefer to go immediately to a reception rather than having a break between ceremony and reception or having to attend some other 'keep the guests entertained' thing between the two.

On the 'different sect' priest for the garden venue, I agree with your FH that he's probably not a legitimate Roman Catholic priest. So if your FH wants a traditional Catholic sacrament of marriage, you need to go with the church and the regular priest. If he's Ok with a ceremony in the garden that has Christian elements in it, I'm sure the other priest would do a wonderful job.

I think your answer comes down to how important the Catholic ceremony is to your FH. Personally, I have a hard time believing that it is super-important to him, because if religion was that important to him, he would practice it regularly. That said, I truly believe that one partner's religious beliefs trump the other partner's aesthetic performances, so if having a Catholic ceremony is suddenly important to him and you don't feel strongly on the subject, I think you should respect his feelings and go with the church, even if it's not quite what you had in mind.


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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 5:21 PM Go to message in response to: zimi61

Dear Zimi,

Yep, you've met possibly the most liberal Catholic Church I've ever heard of! Great!

"catholic, but of a different ?sect?. Since I don't know the religion well, I don't know how that works. And as far as I knew catholic ceremonies could only be performed in catholic churches/locations. FH says this guy isn't a "real" catholic priest. I don't know. Has anyone ever heard of that?"

Yes, I have. This is a group of former Roman Catholic priests who have left the RC Church, usually because they want to get married. They operate under the theory of "once ordained, always ordained" and, I would assume, live in hope they will be reunited with the church should married men (and women!!!) be allowed to become priests.

In the meantime, they work at various secular jobs and do priest-like work when needed. A person who is a lapsed Catholic for reasons of the issues of the celibate male-only priesthood might find spiritual comfort from one of these men.

Their organization has a very weird, yet legitimate, name: Rent-a-Priest. I have seen their website, where they explain their situation. You might want to check that out for current, accurate info.

Be aware that the chances of one of these men being permitted to officiate at a wedding inside the church building are about Zero.

www.rentapriest.com

This outfit might suit your needs.

As for the gap: I really dislike ceremony - reception gaps. I recognize, however, sometimes that is unavoidable especially when the church has Saturday late afternoon / early evening services.

Essentially, if it's unavoidable, then I just deal with it. If it's avoidable (couple wants photos at remote bizarre location, etc), then I'd be ticked off. Either way, some people will just make plans to attend one, but not both, events.

Bottom line: If I were in your shoes, I'd opt for the garden wedding with one of the former priests. That's what I would do. You say the garden has no meaning for you? IT WILL once it becomes your ceremony site. You would eliminate the "gap" problem as well.

On the other hand, it sounds like it's possible to get married by a legitimate priest inside the church, so if you can swing it, then why not.

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myras Posts : 396 Registered: 2/26/10
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 8:24 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

Actually, I have attended a ceremony led by an "American Catholic" priest. As Aunt surmised, actually a former RC priest who left the church in order to marry. In Laguna Beach, CA, this priest has (or had--I haven't kept up to date on this) a small church. Your FH, by the way, sounds a lot more religious than it seemed at first. He's not attending church or a member of a church, but wants a Catholic ceremony, was raised in Catholic schools, and wants to do the same for his children. You might find that his religion is becoming more important to him, now that he is about to marry and planning to have children. If you're OK with marrying in the church, and the church is OK with your plans, then this seems meaningful enough for him that you probably should choose the church wedding. As far as the time gap goes, I, too, don't like it, but if it can't be avoided, then it can't. I have attended a Catholic church wedding on a Saturday night, so whether or not that can happen depends on the church's schedule of services.
myra@classysassyweddings.com

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Garden vs Church
Posted: Mar 2, 2010 10:19 PM Go to message in response to: myras

Dear Myra,

"so whether or not that can happen depends on the church's schedule of services."

Again, speaking from years of experience on church governing boards, there are times when the physical space for church members is very limited. If you have 200 people coming to church every week, and your building has space for 100, then you've got to think of creative ways to deal with it.

The easiest thing is to expand not in space but in time. Add more services. Following the Jewish tradition of the new day starting at sunset, Saturday evening services are "officially" early Sunday, thus Sunday services can be held on Saturday evening. Lots of churches do that, then have three separate services Sunday morning.

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