First Congregational Church of Rockport, MA

ongratulations and best wishes as you plan this special event! We celebrate this exciting time in your lives. We at the First Congregational Church of Rockport, UCC, invite you to consider using our facility for your wedding. We'd be happy to assist you in any way we can.

Our understanding of Christian marriage is that it is a covenant or sacred promise among three parties: the two who are getting married, the witnesses (your guests), and God. This covenant is centered in the 'vows of the marriage covenant' in the wedding ceremony. These vows bind a couple both legally and spiritually to an everlasting commitment to one another. Here are some of our guidelines for weddings at our church:

1. The Minister

Services of worship in our church are performed by its minister. A wedding ceremony is first and foremost a service of worship and is the prerogative of our minister. Occasionally a couple may wish to invite a special clergy friend to assist our church's minister. This is solely the option of our church's minister. The church is a sacred space so weddings are performed in the sanctuary by ordained clergypersons. Our minister is does not perform secular ceremonies within or outside the church. Our pastor uses the wedding rite in the Manual of Ministry of the United Church of Christ. A copy of this ceremony will be given to you at your initial visit with the minister.

2. Before the Ceremony

As noted previously, marriage in our church is a sacred event and a lifelong covenant. Preparation for this commitment is vital. Our minister requires at least one pre-marital session and may, at his/her discretion, require more. Our minister reserves the right not to marry any couple he/she believes is unprepared for this serious commitment.

3. State Law

Marriage in our church is both a sacred and a legal act. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that a couple obtain their marriage license from the clerk of the town where they live within the Commonwealth. There are provisions for out of state couples to be granted a license from the Town of Rockport. Make sure you contact your town clerk well before your wedding and get all the information you need. Our minister requires that you bring your marriage license with you on the day of your wedding rehearsal. It is illegal for the minister pretend to do a wedding. He/she must have a license in hand the day of the wedding. There are no exceptions to this rule.

4. Setting the Date for Your Wedding

It is important to make dates for your rehearsal, wedding, and your initial meeting with the minister as soon as possible! Our church is a busy place, and the calendar fills up fast. A $150.00 deposit is required to reserve the church.

5. Your Wedding Rehearsal

While rehearsals are optional, they are strongly recommended for weddings involving over 20 guests. Wedding planners and parents are invited to attend, but please remind them that the wedding ceremony is a rite belonging to the church and follows the customs of the church. The minister and the wedding couple are in charge. The organist is usually not present at the rehearsal. At your initial meeting with the minister, you will be given a check list of who and what to bring to the rehearsal.

6. Music for Your Wedding

All music for your wedding is under the direction of our church's Director of Music. He will help you arrange for suitable music. He will also be open to your suggestions, but please know that he has many years of experience and has done many weddings and knows what works and what does not in our church. Wedding music which sounds great on your iPod may bomb in a large church sanctuary.

7. The Ceremony

A typical wedding ceremony lasts about 30 minutes. Please encourage guests to be on time. Remember that other church events may be planned after your wedding. You will be given complete instructions prior to the wedding about when to arrive, what you'll need, etc. Remember to talk to the minister about additions you'd like to your ceremony such as Communion, hymns, unity candle, bulletins etc. You may want to consider a bulletin for your ceremony. Speak to our minister for samples and ideas. I

8. Parking and Handicap Access

Parking is a challenge in Rockport. The church has no designated parking. You may want to contact the Rockport Police (978-546-3444) to inquire about reserving parking near the church. You may also want to contact the Rockport Chamber of Commerce about its shuttle service. Remember, Rockport is a tourist haven and parking takes some creativity. The church is handicap accessible with wheel chair access and elevator.

9. Flowers, Unity Candle

You are invited to bring flowers, ribbons, etc for decorating the sanctuary. If you do not claim the flowers after the ceremony, the church will distribute them to shut-ins. Please make sure the florist has made arrangements with the church staff for flower delivery and set-up. If you decide to use a unity candle, please remember that you must provide it. Decorating the church is the responsibility of the wedding party, not the church.

10. Photography

What would a wedding be without lots of great pictures? At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, the minister will explain when pictures may be taken. Remember, the wedding is a service of worship and you don't want anything to spoil the mood of your special day. Make sure your photographer checks in with the minister prior to the ceremony. The church allows for stationary videography and the minister will show you the best place for equipment set-up.

11. Use of Alcohol and Drugs

The church is a drug-free zone. Consumption of alcohol or any other drug is prohibited. By law, a minister in the Commonwealth may not allow a couple to enter into a legal contract if he/she believes either party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Please be aware of this policy and advise your wedding party and guests that this policy applies to them as well.

12. Use of confetti, flower petals and aisle runners

The use of rice or confetti is not permitted on church premises. Consider environmentally friendly bird seed or bubbles as alternatives. Flower petals may be scattered in the church, but be aware that this adds $50.00 to the cost of using the church. For liability reasons, the use of a white runner is not allowed. (They tend to be very slippery and dangerous.)

13. Costs for your wedding

Minister. If you or your parents are covenant members of First Congregational Church or if you or your parents make regular contributions for the upkeep and ministries of the church, there is no charge for the minister (although a donation is appreciated). For all others, the fee is $300.00

Organist. The fee for the organist (which includes planning music and the playing at the ceremony) is $200.00. If an additional rehearsal is required for soloists or instrumentalists, an additional $100.00 is required for each added session.

Custodian. The fee for all wedding parties including church members is $100.00 for up to four hours of custodial services. If more time is needed to clean up, a fee of $25.00/hour will be assessed. As previously mentioned, an additional $50.00 is assessed if flower petals are scattered anywhere on church property.

Use of the Church The cost for use of the sanctuary, which includes both the rehearsal and the wedding ceremony, is $600.00 for non-members There is no charge for families of members or those who contribute regularly to the church's upkeep and ministries. As noted previously, a $150.00 deposit is required to reserve the date for your wedding. All checks should be made out to "The First Congregational Church of Rockport"

Reception. You may want to consider the church's Fellowship Hall as a venue for your reception. It can comfortably seat about 100 people, with some space for overflow. Alcohol is not permitted although a champagne toast is allowed. Smoking is prohibited on all church property. The fee for up to fours hours use of Fellowship Hall is $500.00 for non-members. There is no charge for families of members or those who contribute regularly to the church's upkeep and ministries.

14. Who may be married in our church.

As an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ, our church allows all God's children, regardless of gender, to enter into the sacred covenant of marriage. Remember that Commonwealth laws are the very same regardless of gender. (Please review 3. State Law above) The church requires the same seriousness of intent for all adults who wish to make an eternal covenant before God. The pastor reserves the right to refuse to marry those he/she feels are not ready to take such a serious step.

Thank you for considering our church for your wedding. If we can answer any questions or further help you in planning your special event, don't hesitate to contact us.