Christians believe that marriage is a gift from God, through which husbands and wives may know the grace of God. God’s purpose is that as husband and wife give themselves sacrificially to each other through the course of their lives, they should be united with each other, find comfort, help, guidance, and much joy in their love for each other. This is the very best foundation for family life.
The heart of the marriage ceremony is a serious commitment of bride and groom to each other, expressed in declaring vows exchanging rings. The minister taking the marriage service acts as registrar, and the ceremony you a new legal status and a new stability within which your relationship can flourish and grow.
We love doing weddings at Ottery St Mary, and we are committed as a team to make your day a wonderful, joyful and celebratory occasion.
A wedding is one of life's great moments, a time of solemn commitment as well as good wishes, feasting and joy.
why get married in a church?
Many people over many centuries have chosen to get married at Ottery St Mary, not only because it is a very beautiful building. Many people sense God’s presence in our church, and it is reassuring to know as a bride or groom that God is with you cares about your relationship and that his resources and strength are available to help you. Any marriage has its ups and downs, but many couples’ experience is that turning to God in prayer brings help and strength.
The Parish Clergy of Ottery welcome your enquiry and hope to provide a user-friendly approach in ensuring that you see your marriage preparation as a happy and memorable time. They will guide you in the choices you will want to make around the timing of your service and the necessary preparation before your wedding day.
Can I get married in a church?
The law entitles you to be married in the Church of England Parish Church where either of you lives. If you have a connection with the parish – for example, if you lived in Ottery for a time, or your parents or grandparents lived there or were married at the parish church, you are able to marry there. (The laws were changed to allow these connections in 2008).
If you don't live in the parish, but are on the electoral roll, you can be married here. To qualify for this, you're expected to attend church services regularly for six months before applying for membership.
In certain circumstances you can apply for a Special Licence. At the moment you can only have a Church of England wedding in a parish church or some other place of worship - normally one licensed by the Bishop. It is not possible to have a church wedding in other venues.
What are the legal requirements?
You must have your banns read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. This is often done over three consecutive Sundays. Banns are an announcement of your intention to marry and allow anyone to put forward any reason why the marriage may not legally take place. Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you lives as well as at the church in which you are to be married if that is another parish. It is usual for couples to be in church to hear their banns being read on at least one occasion, and preferably on all three occasions.
Please contact the Church Office to talk about the banns application process. Please note, if you are under 18 years old, you need your parents’ consent to marry.
As you are planning your wedding, it is a good idea to come along to a Sunday morning service to meet the ministers and congregation, and to speak to the Director of Music and Flower Co-ordinator.
A wedding rehearsal is held in church usually during the week of the marriage service, and a convenient date and time will be discussed with you.
At the rehearsal you should try to have the Best man, Bridesmaids and the person who is 'giving away' the Bride present, if at all possible. This is a practice for the main event; a time to walk through the service and put you all at ease.
The vows are solemn promises that bride and groom make to each other - to love and cherish one another in all circumstances throughout the rest of their lives, witnessed by the congregation and made in the presence of God. It is still possible for a Bride to include the word 'obey' in her vows. If you wish to discuss this, please mention it to the minister. If the bride does say 'obey', the Groom may promise to 'worship' the Bride.
Photography is allowed during the ceremony, though the bride and groom may want limit photographs to the official photographer. The official photographer is encouraged to liaise with the officiating minister before the ceremony begins. The terms of any video of the ceremony must be negotiated well before the date, and usually involves a higher fee for organist and choir.
order of service
Couples usually like to have their own Order of Service printed. This would have the words of the hymns included and it may be a good 'keepsake' afterwards. Please discuss the Order of Service with the minister.
Please entrust your Orders of Service to a reliable person on your wedding day to ensure an early arrival at church.
It is always a good idea to brighten up the church with some flowers for your wedding. Contact the Wedding Flower coordinator, Frances Snell (email below) to discuss your thoughts on flowers. Payment for flowers by BACS, or cheque made payable to St Mary's Church Flowers.
Bridesmaids are there to support the bride throughout the service, making sure that her dress is arranged properly, and to 'wait' on her. The Bride will pass her bouquet to the chief bridesmaid at the start of the service. If she is wearing a veil, a bridesmaid would normally help to take it back near the start of the service.
He will be there to assist the Groom. It is possible to have more than one best man, and it is also possible for a woman to take the role, or be included in it. A best man should remember to untie any rings from a cushion, or take them out of the box before handing them to the minister taking the service !
ushers & Seating
It is helpful if you provide one or two ushers who will welcome your guests and assist people as they arrive. Ushers should be present forty minutes before the wedding and distribute the booklets for the service. They will also escort people to their seats. It is traditional for the family of the groom to sit on the right side of church as you walk in, behind the groom. The family of the bride sit on the left, with a space saved for the person 'giving away' the bride. However, you do not have to follow this tradition, especially if one family is very small.
length of service
The service in church is approx 30-40 minutes. It is normally possible to come back into church after the service for any internal photographs. This may not be possible if another wedding follows your service. Please check with the officiating minister should you wish to use the inside of the church for photographs.
Please don't be late as there may be another ceremony following yours. Lateness often leads to a restless congregation, especially if there are a lot of young children present.
Please let us know your music choices as soon as possible. You are welcome to see us after the 9-30 am Sunday service (but not the 4th Sunday in the month) and sometimes after 6-30 pm Evensong. Please plan the music well in advance and try to give final details to us (with a draft order of service if they are being printed) at least one month beforehand.
If the Choir is required please make contact at an early date with Choir Director Judith Reynolds (email below):
This is important as the Choir plans its commitments many months in advance.
All couples planning to get married at one of the Otter Vale Mission Community churches are invited to one of our Marriage Preparation courses. Virtually all couples who’ve attended previous days have said how helpful they have been.
The day is an opportunity for you to spend quality time with your partner thinking about your marriage relationship, and especially the things that are important to you both in your particular situation.
The courses are held at The Narthex, St Michael’s parish church, in Bendarroch Road, West Hill, EX11 1UW.
Planned Course Dates
A wedding is one day - a marriage is a lifetime
You have probably already spent many hours planning your wedding. There are so many things to think about - the dress, the cake, whom to invite, the honeymoon. All of these are important, but the wedding is just one day, while marriage should last for the rest of your lives.
Alongside the wedding preparations it is also important to spend time as a couple talking through your expectations of marriage. However much you think you have in common, you are still two separate individuals with different backgrounds, personalities, experiences, hopes and fears.