Congratulations on making the decision about marriage. It is a commitment as old as time itself and still serves as a key ingredient in the welfare and stability of society in the 21st century. Civil law and social acceptance offers any number of alternatives to marriage but when God invented marriage ...’a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person’ ... it was because He has made us to live ‘in families’. Some people can manage going it alone but, for most of us, marriage will be the answer.
And because God invented marriage, He has some good ideas on how it can work. Getting married and having God involved in it is a great way to do it. I hope you will find this process helpful, challenging and fun.
There are some basic things required by the Australian Government when you want to get married. And these things apply whether you get married in a Church or in a garden or in scuba gear off Eagle Rock. There is a NOTICE OF INTENDED MARRIAGE to be filled out, and then, at the rehearsal for the service, THE DECLARATIONS, to show that there are no reasons for you not to be getting married. Finally, at the wedding service, the MARRIAGE REGISTER and MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE are signed and witnessed by two others, usually the Best Man and chief Bridesmaid.
All that paperwork has been invented by the Australian Government and is standard regardless of getting married in Church. We will ask you to do a bit more. We believe it is worth preparing yourselves for this commitment and to explore some of the potential in making your commitment a formal and public act.
We ask you to meet with me four or more times in the months ahead.
The first meeting will be to fill out the NOTICE OF INTENDED MARRIAGE and to ask any questions you might have. It would be good to know the date and time you would like get married. At this meeting I will give you a leaflet entitled ‘Happily Ever ... Before and After’ produced by the Government. You will also be given a copy of the different marriage services available to be used in the Anglican Church – from the super old 1662 version to the most recent, 1995.
At the second meeting you will fill out a questionnaire called PREPARE which is designed to get you thinking about various aspects of married life – Decision Making, Role Relationship, Financial Management, Communication, Sex, Parenting, Family of Origin and so on.
The third meeting will look at the outcome of PREPARE and consider whether more preparation should be tackled.
After that, the remaining meeting(s) will go through preparation of the Service itself according to which form of Service is chosen – music, readings, poetry? We aim to have the service suiting your taste while maintaining the decorum and focus of the prayerbook service.
Well, you’ve survived the introduction and probably have an idea now whether you would like to pursue a Church Wedding. If not, we encourage you to take care and do some homework before you get married. It’s worth doing it well!
For the rest, the pages ahead go into some detail about what happens when you get married at the Surfcoast as well as explaining our policy on remarriage, confetti and photographs. And how much money is involved!
The Rev’d Lynton Wade
Vicar, Surfcoast Parish
Notice of Intended Marriage
This is the first of the various forms required by the Marriage Act 1961 and asks basic questions about names and addresses, date and place of birth and parents’ names and nationalities. It also records the date of any previous marriage and when it ended.
This form is signed by the Bride and Groom and witnessed by the Minister who will conduct the wedding. And it must be completed at least one month before the Wedding date.
In addition to the written form, the couple must produce their birth certificates (or extracts) so that the information on the form can be confirmed. If anyone is not able to produce a birth certificate, a statutory declaration may be acceptable. If anyone was born overseas, their passport may be acceptable.
There is no fee involved with the NOTICE OF INTENDED MARRIAGE but it is a vital first step in the marriage process.
Marriage and Remarriage
Remarriage, or the marriage of someone who has previously been divorced, has been a challenging pastoral issue for the Church for centuries. Until relatively recently it could only happen with the approval of the highest church authority.
Now, in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, remarriage can be possible with the approval of the local Bishop, in our case, the Bishop of the North & Western Region.
His permission is given or refused on the basis of prayer and a written recommendation from the Parish Priest or Minister. For that reason some extra time will be needed to talk through that experience of breakdown and divorce and to check that there are no ‘loose ends’ from the previous marriage. While it may feel a little like opening old wounds, it is intended purely to ensure that history won’t repeat itself and that both the Bride and Groom have a realistic understanding of the commitment involved in Christian marriage.
If counselling was not taken at the time of the breakdown and divorce, it may be appropriate for professional counselling for the couple going into this new marriage. There are excellent courses run by Lifeworks (a not-for-profit organisation partially funded by the Government under the Family Law Act 1975).
The official paperwork associated with the divorce will also need to be cited as part of the NOTICE OF INTENDED MARRIAGE.
Preparation and ‘Prepare’
Something as serious as getting married deserves to be done with some thought and care. We want to give you that opportunity. Getting married anywhere else, with a Civil Celebrant or at the Registry Office, is much simpler and you might decide it’s easier to do that. They won’t ask you any questions or get you to think about things. But, as mentioned above, God invented marriage so there are a few ideas and ideals that are worth hearing about.
The PREPARATION we ask you to do happens in two or three ways.
You will spend time with the Minister as you meet with him in the months leading up to the wedding and he will share his own insights into marriage in the process of your chatting and filling out forms. Particularly so when he takes you through the Service that you end up choosing. He will explain why you are being asked to say what you say in the Service and the reason for the various actions that form the ritual of the marriage. What is the ring about? Why do we hold hands that particular way?
Secondly, you will do the questionnaire for ‘PREPARE’ and then work through the feedback from that. It may not tell you much that you aren’t already aware of. But it may show up a blind spot. At the very least it will generate conversation, and that is vital in any relationship. ‘PREPARE’ is not a compatibility test. You won’t be told you shouldn’t be getting married because of it. It can even be fun doing it.
The other option you have is to do a Marriage Preparation Course offered by Lifeworks or the Catholic Marriage Education Services. They generally run several times a year at central venues in Melbourne or Geelong. They are excellent courses and you would register, pay and participate in them apart from the arrangements you are making with the Church.
The Prayerbook Services
In the Anglican Church there are a variety of traditions and styles of Service ranging from the very old 1662 Prayerbook (with thee’s and thou’s and plighting thee my troth) to the latest services published in 1995. All of them have a mix of Bible verses, prayers and explanations of the ritual as well as the Wedding Vows and Giving or Exchanging of Rings. There are six or more versions available to choose from and, at the first meeting, you will be given a copy of three of those Services to consider.
Apart from the variation in the style of language, some of the changes are quite interesting.
The later services have dropped the invitation that “... if any person here can show why they may not lawfully be joined in marriage he should speak now, or hereafter remain in silence.” There have been occasions, like in the movies, when someone has chosen to sabotage the day by objecting at the last minute.
The Bride and Groom will have already signed the DECLARATIONS which state that there is no reason why they shouldn’t be getting married.
The later services have also broadened the role that the Father of the Bride took in giving his daughter away so that, when the Minister used to ask “.... who brings this woman to be married to this man?” he now asks “Do the members of both families give their blessing to this marriage?”
Generally the other changes to the Services are about having different options for the prayers and readings.
It may be that a couple will choose elements from one service combined with another. And there can be space for other elements to be included like poetry, music and candles. But the Prayerbook liturgy must be the basis of the Service.
You may have a friend or member of the family who is a minister or priest and they are most welcome to be involved in the service. There may even be a way of sharing the conduct of the service, especially if he or she is from another Christian Denomination.
Service Design – Music, Readings, etc
The basic structure of the service is:
Introduction (A welcome & explanation of Christian marriage)
The Ministry of the Word - Reading(s) and Sermon
The Signing of the Registers
The Reading needs at least to be a passage from the Bible and you may choose that passage for yourself. You may wish to have other readings or poems or interludes and they will be allowed if they are in keeping with the tone and dignity of the service. Members of your family, or friends may do these readings.
There are a number of opportunities during the service for music, whether that is live or recorded. There may be hymns or songs the congregation can participate in.
Some suggested passages from the Bible are as follows:
Genesis 1:26-2:4a (Made in God’s image)
Genesis 2:4b-9,18-24 (One flesh)
Song of Songs 2:8-14 (The lovers)
Matthew 5:1-12(-16) (True happiness)
Matthew 7:21-29 (Hearing and doing)
John 2:1-11 (Wedding at Cana)
John 15:9-17 (Abiding in Christ’s love)
1 Corinthians 13 (Love)
Ephesians 3:14-end (Grounded in love)
Ephesians 5:20-end (Husband & wife in Christian marriage)
Colossians 3:12-19 (Everything in the name of Jesus)
1 Peter 3:1-9(-12) (Unity of spirit)
1 John 4:7-16 (The love of God)
The Service Booklet
We encourage you to have a Service Sheet or Booklet for the congregation. There will be some prayers and responses they join in with and it is generally helpful if they can see the order of service and what is going to happen next.
It is also a means by which you can write a thank you note for people attending and even publish your new address and contact details.
The booklet can be as detailed as to contain the full text of the service including the readings, poems and words of any music played in which case it could be a 20 page booklet. Or it could just contain an outline of the service with the particular words or prayers that the congregation joins in on and be a single folded sheet.
It will be a memento of the day for your friends and family!
There are some samples of such booklets or service sheets for you to view at one of the meetings. The Church can produce and print the booklet for a fee or you may have a friend or business contact who could look after it for you. If you are working with a design theme or colour for the day, you could continue that in the design of the booklet.
The Rehearsal involves everyone in the Bridal Party – Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, Flowergirls and Pageboys as well as the Father of the Bride or the Parents of the Bride and Groom ... everyone who will have something to do in the service. It would include anyone doing a reading as well.
This will usually be set for the night before the wedding given that some of the Bridal Party may be coming from interstate.
The purpose is to walk through most of the service so that everyone will have an idea of where to stand or sit. Care will be taken not to actually do the wedding during the rehearsal. While nothing has to be memorized as such, it can help the Bridal Party feel a bit more relaxed on the day, having seen the Church, met the Minister and walked through the order of things in the Service.
It is also the occasion when the DECLARATIONS are signed by the Bride and Groom to say that there is no reason known to them as to why they shouldn’t be marrying each other – they aren’t married to anyone else, they’re not related to each other and they’re old enough to be getting married.
It would also be the appropriate time to settle the fees for the Wedding. It is preferred that your payment be made in cash so that it can easily be dispersed to those involved – Florist, Verger, Minister, etc.
The Rehearsal and signing of the DECLARATIONS should take no longer than half an hour so that there can be time for the Bridal Party and families to go out or have a meal together afterwards.
The Wedding Day
A Wedding Day can feel like the busiest day of your life and, hopefully, with the Rehearsal and Fees out of the way, you will be free to enjoy the Service itself.
The Groom, Best Man and Groomsmen should be at the Church at least half an hour before the Service time. They can be around to chat with people as they arrive until about 5 minutes before starting time. At that point they would come into the Church and be seated in the front row on the right hand side, ready to stand at the front when the Bride arrives.
The Bride and Bridesmaids will have been coping with beauticians, hairdressers and photographers but need to arrive at the Church on time. The strange tradition of the Bride arriving late is pointless and ultimately insulting to the Groom and all your Guests ... unless someone can explain it serving some useful purpose!
Even if the cars arrive at the Church on time, it will still be 5 minutes or more before the Service starts once you have straightened up dresses and flowers and had photographs taken.
The Photographer must introduce him or herself to the Minister on arrival, so that the protocol for photography can be confirmed with them.
During the Service, the Photographer is welcome to take photos either from a fixed location near the front or from any or many places behind the congregation. Most professional photographers understand the need for discretion and our priority is that the Wedding Party and Congregation are free to concentrate on the Service and not be distracted by a photographer trying to get interesting photos. There will be an opportunity for photographs of the signing of the Registers and, if close-up photos of the Vows or the Rings being exchanged are needed, they can be re-enacted after the Service.
The Service should run in the order of the rehearsal and finishes with the Registers being signed on the Communion Table at the front of the Church. You then exit the Church as Husband and Wife!
Your copy of the Marriage Certificate will be handed to the Best Man or some appropriate person after the Service – it’s a bit bulky to carry around while you’re chatting and hugging people.
The throwing of confetti, rice, petals is allowed outside the building.
A recent survey showed that 7 out of 8 people turned to this section first. Why not? Weddings offer a lucrative trade for the hospitality industry and others ... You need to know whether this is going to cost the earth.
The fees at the Surfcoast Parish are as follows:
PREPARE costs $50 per couple and can now be done “online” but with complete anonymity and security.
The total cost for the Wedding is $700 and you will need to consider the cost of flowers for the ceremony. It is a bit of a challenge at All Saints Lorne since there is now no retail florist in the township!
A deposit of $100 is required at the first interview, with the balance to be paid in cash on the Rehearsal night.
The Parish now has Eftpos and Credit Card facilities.