Marriage in our culture and society is recognized by the State of New York as a civil contract. The Church acknowledges the secular meaning of marriage but views it as more than a contract. In marriage, couples commit themselves to a mutually shared life and respond to each other in sensitive and lifelong concern. The following guidelines reflect a Protestant theology and our staff’s accumulated experience in conducting wedding ceremonies. We hope our guidelines will answer your questions so that you can feel confident about the details and enjoy your important day.
Who may arrange for a wedding ceremony at Middle Church?
A wedding ceremony at Middle Church must satisfy the requirements of both the State of New York and a recognized faith tradition. It is not necessary that you be members of Middle Church. It is not necessary that you be Christian. Requests to marry must be sought at least three months in advance of the wedding date.
May same-sex couples be married at Middle Church?
Yes, Middle Church marries same-sex couples. Middle Church has blessed same-sex couples since the 1980s. Our consistory celebrated and practiced marriage equality long before it became state law.
Will there be pre-marital counseling?
Middle Church requires each couple to attend pre-marital counseling with the minister officiating the ceremony. This is usually accomplished in three sessions, though in some cases the minister may require the couple to seek additional outside premarital counseling prior to the ceremony. The focus of the meetings with the officiating minister is mainly to help the couple explore their relationship in the context of the church, to prepare for the joys and challenges of life together, and to plan for the wedding ceremony.
How is the wedding scheduled?
Couples should first complete the inquiry form to check the availability of the sanctuary and minister for the preferred wedding date. The Hospitality Team will contact you, collect your pertinent information, and secure your date on the calendar with your $500 deposit. The date for the wedding should be secured before you make any date for a reception hall. While weddings are often held on Saturday, other days of the week are possible. The clergy assigned to officiate your wedding will contact you to discuss pre-marital counseling and other details.
What takes place during the wedding ceremony?
Middle Church is a liturgical church and uses an order of worship that is both meaningful and elegant. The vows of the couple and proclamation of marriage by the officiating minister are at the core of the ceremony. Some flexibility in the order of worship can be accommodated. The officiating minister will review the liturgy and arrange the details of the ceremony with the couple. A wedding coordinator may assist you with many other elements of wedding planning but may not play a part in planning what is, at its heart, a religious ceremony. We strongly encourage participation by family and friends, typically offering scripture or poetry readings, or presenting a musical selection. The officiating minister will conduct the wedding rehearsal, if needed.
May visiting clergy participate in the wedding?
Yes. While a minister on the current clergy staff of Middle Church will be the primary officiant of your wedding and lead the ceremony, visiting members of the clergy may participate in various portions of the ceremony at the discretion of the officiating minister.
Can my wedding be performed by a minister not on staff at Middle Church?
Yes. Should you desire to have your ceremony completely officiated by a non-staff clergy, we are happy to help with arrangements as long as the officiating clergy person is ordained in a recognized faith tradition. Proof of ordination and current standing will be required.
Who selects the music?
The musical offerings in the wedding ceremony are selected and arranged in consultation with the officiating minister and one of our staff musicians. In addition to the wedding ceremony, the staff musician will attend the rehearsal as needed. If you prefer to have a guest musician of your own choosing in addition to or in lieu of our staff musician, the guest musician and their musical selections should be arranged in consultation with the officiating minister and one of our staff musicians. The fees for guest musicians are negotiated and paid directly by the couple.
How may we decorate the sanctuary?
Middle Church’s beautiful gothic interior tends to require very little additional ornamentation other than flowers. Your own florist should arrange with the church office to visit the church during open hours to view the sanctuary well in advance of the ceremony. Typically, two arrangements are placed directly on the pulpit. On the day of the wedding, the florist will be granted access to the sanctuary up to two hours in advance of the ceremony. It is the custom that flowers remain in the sanctuary for the next Sunday worship celebration. Aisle runners, should you choose to use one, should be provided by the couple.
How much time will we need at the church?
The wedding ceremony may last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the music and readings chosen, and whether or not communion is included. Generally, we reserve a three-hour time block for each wedding: one hour before the ceremony to arrive and prepare; one hour for the ceremony itself; and one hour after the ceremony for photographs in the sanctuary and on the front steps. It is possible that more than one wedding will be scheduled on the same day. On such occasions, couples may communicate with each other beforehand and share the cost of flowers if they have similar preferences.
What is the fee for a Middle Church wedding?
The fee for a wedding in the Sanctuary is $3,000. Special member rates are available to couples who have been members of Middle Church for a minimum of one year prior to their wedding date. Members are those who have joined the movement. The wedding fee includes the time officiating clergy will spend with you in counseling and for the ceremony, an honorarium for our talented staff musician, security for your wedding day in this intensely urban setting, a sound technician for the ceremony, a room for each in the couple to dress, and use of the beautiful, historic Middle Church sanctuary including pre- and post-wedding cleaning. In consultation with the senior minister, wedding fees can be adjusted for members in regular Sunday attendance who have been pledging members of record for at least one full year. For others who may find our fees prohibitive, we invite you to consider an advance payment plan through the church business office. We also accept PayPal and most major credit cards, which includes a processing fee. In all cases, fees must be paid in full no later than one week before your wedding day.
When is the wedding rehearsal?
The wedding rehearsal usually takes place a few hours before the wedding, but can also be scheduled the afternoon or evening before the wedding at a time agreed upon with the officiating clergy. The rehearsal usually takes about an hour. It should also be scheduled in advance. All members of the wedding party should attend.
May we take photographs during the Wedding?
Photographs and video recordings of the ceremony must be taken by a professional photographer or designated person who will work with the officiating clergy. You may also set time for photographs before and after the wedding on the steps of the church or in the sanctuary.
Where should we place our wedding book?
Receiving lines and wedding books (in which guests sign their names) should be located at the reception. Placing them in the narthex of the church obstructs access to the sanctuary just before or after the wedding ceremony.
What documents are necessary?
All persons who intend to get married in New York State must obtain a marriage license. A marriage license is valid for 60 days. Please plan accordingly. Visit Marriage Bureau for complete information. Please give the license to the officiating clergy prior to your wedding rehearsal. You and your witnesses will sign the license on your wedding day. After the ceremony, the officiating minister will mail the completed license to the City Clerk’s office. You will receive your official marriage license directly from the City Clerk’s office about two months after your wedding.
Can we hold our reception at Middle Church?
Yes, you can also hold your wedding reception in the Social Hall for an additional fee. The hall can accommodate up to 92 guests seated at rectangular tables or 200 guests standing. The fee for the hall is $1,500 and, if needed, the kitchen is an additional $500. Special member rates are available to couples who have been members of Middle Church for a minimum of one year prior to their wedding date. For photos and information about the Social Hall, click here.