Weddings at Christ Church, Exeter

Marriage is understood in the Episcopal Church to be the “union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind” 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.” (Book of Common Prayer, p 423). The intent of marriage is life-long. It is one of the seven Sacraments of the Episcopal Church. Marriage is the time for careful consideration on the part of the couple about how one feels about life, faith, trust, vocation, and other areas basic to human relationships. This consideration takes time; therefore, it is advisable to contact the priest as soon as possible to begin this conversation and arrangements.

As the wider church continues to discuss the matter of marriage for same gender couples, and while the traditional understanding of the marriage in the Book of Common Prayer as a union between husband and wife has not changed, clergy in the Diocese of New Hampshire have been given the opportunity, if they so choose, to provide pastoral care to same gender couples by officiating at and blessing their legal New Hampshire civil marriage.

Ordinarily, at least ninety days’ notice is required for a wedding, which gives time for counseling and preparation. If one or both of the persons lives out of town, then a longer time frame will be needed. Weddings with less than thirty days’ notice cannot be performed without the Bishops’ permission in writing, and then only in exceptional circumstances. If one or both of the parties have been previously married, then the Bishop’s consent must be obtained—please allow adequate time (two months) for this to happen.

Arrangements for your wedding at the Christ Church begin with speaking with the Rector. It is expected that the Rector or a cleric designated by the Rector will officiate at all weddings at the church. Should you wish to have another cleric or priest participate in your wedding service, please talk with the Rector as soon as possible. Any invitation to another cleric should be issued by the Rector or priest in charge.

Canon Law

Canon Law of the Episcopal Church (the rules by which we operate) provides regulations for marriage in the Episcopal Church. The relevant Canons are printed at the bottom of the page. Generally, they state:

In all marriages at least one of the persons to be married must be a baptized Christian.

Both of the persons to be married must undergo pre-marital counseling, according to the directions of the Church.

At least thirty days’ notice must be given to the clergy prior to any wedding date.

There will be two witnesses to the wedding.

It is the prerogative of the clergy to decline to do any wedding.

If a previous marriage has been annulled or dissolved, the Bishop’s permission is needed in order for the wedding to be officiated in the Church or by a cleric of the Church.

Please consult the diocesan website for specific policies.

Christ Church Requirements

Christ Church expects that all persons to be married in the Church be regular in attendance and contributors to the parish, or closely affiliated with the congregation. If neither of the persons to be married is closely affiliated with Christ Church, we ask that the person(s) become active in attendance and support, for at least six months prior to the wedding date.

Should neither of the persons to be married be regular and contributing members of the congregation, it is the sole discretion of the Rector to agree to perform the wedding. Additional charges for non-members will apply, including clergy fees.

At least three months notice must be given to the clergy for weddings at Christ Church, and four months notice for persons who have been previously married.

It is expected that the persons to be married will meet with the Rector at least three times for pre-marital preparation and planning the service.

The Place of the Wedding

It is customary in the Episcopal Church to perform weddings in the church building.

The Wedding Service

The preferred service is “The Celebration and Blessings of a Marriage,” which is found on pages 423-432 of the Book of Common Prayer. Variations to this, using other authorized Episcopal or Anglican liturgies, are allowed, with the permission of the Rector. In the Episcopal Church wedding services are not written by the persons to be married.

Weddings are public services of corporate worship in which the whole congregation is to take part. The range of the service may be from simple to very elaborate, depending on the tastes of the persons to be married. It is desirable that there be persons to read the lessons from Scripture, and that the wedding service be as participatory as possible.

Eucharist is an appropriate act of the celebration of marriage, in which the couple shares a sacred meal together.


The Organist will be in charge of arrangements for all music, as well as play for the wedding. Final decisions concerning music rest with the Organist. Other musicians may be hired. Please plan an appointment with the Organist, who will be a resource for music, hymns, processional pieces, etc.


The custom of the Episcopal Church is that the flowers for a wedding are those placed in vases at each side of the communion rail. Arrangements can be made through your florist, or the one the church uses.


A wedding is a service of worship. We ask that no flash photographs of any kind be taken during the service. This includes friends and family members. Photographers may stand at the rear of the church and take flash pictures as the wedding party enters, and may also take flash pictures as the wedding party leaves. Please have the photographer meet with the clergy prior to the wedding.

For videotaping, the clergy must be consulted before arrangements are made. Videotaping is allowed only from the rear or side of the church.

If the persons to be married wish, they and others may assemble in the church following the service to take pictures.

The church or chapel is open one half hour afterwards for pictures.

The Wedding License

You may obtain the license at the office of the Town Clerk of any town or city in New Hampshire. The priest will assume responsibility for returning the license to the Town Clerk in Exeter.

The Rehearsal

The rehearsal gives the opportunity for everyone involved in the wedding to practice. The rehearsal is usually done the day before the wedding, at a time when everyone can be present. It will last about one hour. The persons who need to be present for the rehearsal are: bride, groom, parents, best man, best woman, bridesmaids (if any), ushers, participants in the service, and offering bearers. Others are welcome to attend.

PLEASE bring the marriage license to the rehearsal.

The Wedding Day

A wedding service ranges in time from 25 minutes (no Eucharist and little music) to an hour (Eucharist and music). This is a helpful hint for people wanting to time a wedding and reception.

The ushers should plan to be at the Church at least one half hour before the scheduled start of the wedding, and the bride and groom and wedding party should be at the church at least fifteen minutes before the wedding.

There is to be no rice, birdseed, confetti, rose petals, etc. thrown or dispersed at the wedding in the church or on the church steps. 

Wedding Programs

All materials and artwork for the wedding programs, along with an accurate number of programs to be printed, should be in the Parish Office at least one week prior to the day of the wedding.


No one will be excluded from the ministry of the church for financial reasons. The financial charges serve as guidelines. All fees should be paid before the time of the rehearsal.

For parishioners, there is no fee for the use of the church or for the clergy. However, a contribution to the parish (for use and utilities) and/or the Rector’s Discretionary Fund (for Outreach use) is most welcomed and valued.

Canons of the Episcopal Church

Canon 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony

Sec. 1 — Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.

Sec. 2 — Before solemnizing a marriage the Member of the Clergy shall have ascertained:

That both parties have the right to contract a marriage according to the laws of the State.

That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.

That both parties freely and knowingly consent to such marriage, without fraud, coercion, mistake as to identity of a partner, or mental reservation.

That at least one of the parties has received Holy Baptism.

That both parties have been instructed as to the nature, meaning, and purpose of Holy Matrimony by the Member of the Clergy, or that they have both received such instruction from persons known by the Member of the Clergy to be competent and responsible.

Sec. 3 — No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize any marriage unless the following procedures are complied with:

The intention of the parties to contract marriage shall have been signified to the Member of the Clergy at least thirty days before the service of solemnization; Provided, that for weighty cause, this requirement may be dispensed with if one of the parties is a member of the Congregation of the Member of the Clergy, or can furnish satisfactory evidence of responsibility. In case the thirty days’ notice is waived, the Member of the Clergy shall report such action in writing to the Bishop immediately.

There shall be present at least two witnesses to the solemnization of marriage.

The Member of the Clergy shall record in the proper register the date and place of the marriage, the names of the parties and the their parents, the age of the parties, their residences, and their Church status; the witnesses and the Member of the Clergy shall sign the record.

The Member of the Clergy shall have required that the parties sign the following declaration: “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 pro creation 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.”

Sec. 4 – It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage.

Canon 19: Of Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony: Concerning Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution of Marriage, and Remarriage

Sec. 2 — Any member of this Church whose marriage has been annulled or dissolved by a civil court may apply to the Bishop or Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which such person is legally or canonically resident for a judgment as to his or her marital status in the eyes of the Church. Such judgment may be recognition of the nullity, or of the termination of the said marriage; Provided, that no such judgment shall be construed as affecting in any way the legitimacy of children or the civil validity of the former relationship.

(b) Every judgment rendered under this Section shall be in writing and shall be made a matter of permanent record in the Archives of the Diocese.

Sec. 3 — No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize the marriage of any person who has been the husband or wife of any other person then living, nor shall any member of this Church enter into a marriage when either of the contracting parties has been the husband or the wife of any other person then living, except as hereinafter provided:

(a) The Member of the Clergy shall be satisfied by appropriate evidence that the prior marriage has been annulled or dissolved by a final judgment or decree of a civil court of competent jurisdiction.

(b) The Member of the Clergy shall have instructed the parties that continuing concern must be shown for the well being of the former spouse, and of any children of the prior marriage.

(c) The Member of the Clergy shall consult with and obtain the consent of the Bishop of the Diocese wherein the Member of the Clergy is canonically resident or the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Member of the Clergy is licensed to officiate prior to, and shall report to that Bishop, the solemnization of any marriage under this Section.

(d) If the proposed marriage is to be solemnized in a jurisdiction other than the one in which the consent has been given, the consent shall be affirmed by the Bishop of that jurisdiction.

Sec. 4 — All provisions of Canon I.18 shall, in all cases, apply.

Thanks to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Buffalo and the Diocese of Western New York for the use of their materials.