St. James The Less Episcopal Church
Ashland, Virginia
Parish Ministry Resources
Wedding Guidelines
Wedding Customary Guidelines
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! 
We are delighted you are seeking God’s blessing on your marriage here at St. James the Less. May God continue to bless you on your new holy adventure.
The following guidelines or “marriage customary” has been established for wedding ceremonies celebrated at St. James the Less. While at times the customary may appear stringent please remember that the Church and clergy are bound by Canons or rules of the church. Holy Matrimony, while indeed being a joyful and celebratory time as it should be, is also a sacrament of the church and is to be entered into reverently and deliberately. The church takes the sacrament, canon law and the obligations associated with it seriously. Though some elements of the service or guidelines concerning pre-marital counseling are fixed, the church is also flexible concerning some parts of the service. The overriding concern is to make this a joyful celebration of your marriage in the context of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. So with that in mind we hope the following helps answer some of the questions and concerns you might have for your memorable day ahead.
Make an Appointment. First and above all, make an appointment with the clergy. (We really don’t bite!) (804-798-6336) The first appointment will answer a lot of questions as well as discuss some of the guidelines depending upon you particular situation. (Keep in mind that the clergy will not make arrangements through parents, so please call yourself to set up a meeting time.)
Please do not make any final arrangements, place deposits or have anything printed with a date for the wedding, until you have met with the clergy and the clergy person has agreed to preside at the wedding and has placed the wedding on the parish calendar.  All arrangements for the wedding rehearsal and ceremony are made in consultation with the parish clergy. No dates will be placed on the parish calendar until the clergy have had a minimum of at least one meeting with the couple, sometimes two, before giving consent to preside at the service. If the clergy person agrees to preside at the service he/she will then check the parish calendar to see if the date is available.
Have you ever been married before?
First Marriage--If both persons intending to be married have never been married or have not had a prior marriage that ended in divorce, they should schedule an appointment with the clergy at least four months before a proposed wedding date.
Second Marriage--If one or both persons have had a previous divorce, please allow for a period of at least six months prior to the intended date for the wedding. (See also “When a previous marriage has ended in divorce” following below.)
Baptism and Membership are required.
Baptism-At least one of the persons to be married must have received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. If neither has been baptized and either or both are interested in exploring being baptized, the clergy will be glad to talk with you about baptism.
Membership-Because the vows are made in the context of a Christian sacrament and Christian Marriage is lived out best in a relationship within a faith community, it is required that at least one person should be an active member in a Christian faith community. Active means regular participation in worship, making a pledge of time, talent and treasure. If neither person is an active participant, then now is a good time to begin! The clergy person will be happy to discuss and guide you as to how you might become a member of St. James the Less. If you live outside the area, then the clergy person will help direct you to a faith community where you currently are or will be living.
Pre-marital Counseling-By Canon Law pre-marital counseling is required of all couples intending to be married in the Episcopal Church. Usually at least three to four sessions varying in length from one and a half to two hours is involved for each session. The purpose of such sessions is to help prepare the couple for the various areas they will encounter in marriage. Some topics might include finances, relationships, children, family, as well as covering aspects of the wedding service itself. If you are not living in the area of St. James the Less, working with the clergy, arrangements can be made to receive the pre-marital counseling from another Episcopal priest.
When a previous marriage has ended in divorce- If one or both parties intending to be married have had a previous marriage end in divorce, extra time will be needed by the clergy and couple in pre-marital counseling so that the canonical requirements dealing with the previous marriage may be met. Underlying the need for time in this matter is the pastoral concern that brought dissolution to the previous marriage. In some circumstances the couple might be asked to attend a pre-marital counseling retreat or visit a professional counselor. In all cases of marriages that have ended in divorce, the clergy person must seek written permission and approval from the bishop of the diocese in order to preside at the service. If one or both parties were divorced prior to the intended marriage please allow six months time before a desired wedding date to complete this process
Declaration of Intention  
By canon each couple must sign a Declaration of Intention before a marriage may take place.
The declaration follows:
We, A.B. and C.D. desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
'We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God's help thereto.
The vows of the man and woman are exchanged using the form found on page 436 of the Book of Common Prayer. The vows may not be altered.
Clergy have sole discretion in declining to preside at any marriage.
It shall be within the discretion of any member of the clergy of this church to decline to solemnize any marriage. (Title I Canon 18; sec.4)
Rehearsal and wedding date/time: Establishment of the date and time of the rehearsal and wedding is made with the parish clergy. The clergy or their appointees shall handle all matters pertaining to the service. The rehearsal is an integral part of the event and is generally scheduled the day before the wedding not later than 6:00pm. The wedding party, parents, grandparents, others who are assisting as readers and organist are present at the rehearsal which is conducted by the officiating priest. The rehearsal should take no more than one hour providing that all parties arrive at the scheduled rehearsal time.
Weddings are not held during the season of Lent.
Saturdays are the usual day for weddings at St. James the Less.
Rehearsals are generally scheduled for Friday, the day before the wedding.
Saturday evening weddings may not be scheduled to begin later than 6:00 p.m.
The Marriage LicenseThe Marriage license must be given to the priest no later than one week before the rehearsal. 
Wedding Coordinator: Having a wedding coordinator can help a couple in planning for their special day. If you have a wedding coordinator/consultant, please make sure he/she is aware that the clergy or their appointees shall handle all matters pertaining to the rehearsal and the service. The wedding coordinator’s services at the church will be strictly confined to the wedding day only in helping and preparing the bride/wedding party for the ceremony. The wedding coordinator must be willing to comply with the wedding policies of St. James the Less.
Music: It is the wedding couple’s responsibility to contact the parish Ellen Johnston, Interim Director of Music, to ascertain if he is available to play at your wedding on the date and times chosen. Mr. Hooley will help with music selections for the service. If you would like to have music selections performed by vocalists and/or instrumentalists, please discuss it with the Director of Music. The Director of Music must approve use of the piano or organ played by another musician. No pre-recorded music may be used. Ultimately, parish clergy have final approval of all music to be performed. The fee for the Director of Music is $150 dollars ($50 consultation fee plus $100 for the rehearsal and wedding day.) Fees for additional musicians and/or vocalists are the responsibility of the couple.
Flowers: St. Hilda’s Altar Guild at St. James the Less, a family member or friend, provides floral arrangements. Florist’s arrangements are permitted only in consultation and approval of the altar guild. If the flowers are to be arranged by family member or friend, an altar guild member will oversee the process. Two arrangements are placed on the shelves on either side of the altar and should not exceed 36 inches in height. Additional arrangements may be placed in the Narthex or in front of the pulpit. Wedding flowers are a gift to the church, paid for by the couple, and left in the church for Sunday services. There will be a notice printed in the Sunday bulletin indicating that the flowers are from your wedding. Only fresh flowers may be used.
Eucharisticelements and vessels to be used at a wedding or rehearsal are provided by St. James the Less unless other arrangements are made ahead of time and agreed to by the clergy.
Pew markers: Small bouquets, ribbons and such decorations as approved by an altar guild member may be fastened to the aisle pews using the holders provided by the Church. No nails, tacks, screws, staples, pin or tape is to be used in any part of the building, furniture or pews.
Window decorations will be decided upon by the bride and groom and an altar guild member on an individual basis.
Isle Runnersmay not be used.
Photography- Photography is welcome at the entrance of the wedding party and the bridal party. After the entrance procession the clergy will advise in an announcement to the congregation that no more photography will be allowed during the service. The clergy will also remind the congregation in that announcement to turn off all electronic devises. The congregation will be invited to take pictures during the recessional of the bride and groom at the conclusion of the service. The professional photographer will be allowed to take unobtrusive pictures from the back of the church without the use of a flash during the service.
Confetti, rice, rose petals, or other things thrown may not be used in the church or outside on the grounds for safety reasons. Only birdseed may be thrown outside. Bubbles are an increasing sight outside the building with the greeting of the bride and groom. 
Wedding ceremonies may also be conducted in our memorial garden, which has a limited space capacity (maximum 100).
Post-wedding photography is limited to one hour after the service, after which the church (Nave and Narthex) will be closed so it may be prepared for the next day’s services,
No smoking is allowed anywhere inside St. James the Less’ property. No one under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be allowed to participate in the rehearsal or wedding.
Seating-The church seats up to a maximum of 200 people in the nave (main part of the church). The balcony holds about 60 people.
Parking is available behind the church. The bridal car/limo and attendants’ cars may be parked in the semi-circle driveway in front of the church. Limited street parking is also available.
Clean up and left items-Please assign someone to clean up items brought into the building such as boxes used for the flowers, etc. Also please have someone do a walk through to make sure no items have been left in rooms used in the building as well as in the church itself. Please return all rooms back to the same arrangement they were found.
St. James the Less is not responsible for delivery or storage of any property, items or material goods left in the facility or damaged.
Any physical damage to the church or its property resulting from the wedding activities is the responsibility of the wedding couple.
If you have any questions, please contact the parish office (804/798-6336).
Any exceptions to the above guidelines are at the discretion of the clergy celebrant.
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