Experience has taught us that proper planning and preparation are vital to ensure that a marriage ceremony is dignified and God-honouring. Since we want yours to be successful and beautiful, we have found it necessary to offer the following guidelines, suggestions, and observations concerning your upcoming wedding.
Brackenhurst Baptist Church strives to be a New Testament church, which desires to honour Christ in all its ways. As the body and bride of Christ, it is imperative that we behave ourselves in a manner worthy of this calling. Consequently, our requirements for conducting a wedding are a collective attempt to honour Christ by following biblical principles. We desire for your upcoming wedding ceremony to have the authentic ethos of being a Christian wedding in the way that dignity and order are maintained and by ensuring that no one is unduly tempted or caused to stumble in what they see or hear.
It has been noted recently that Christians often adopt the world’s wedding traditions, simply sprinkling in a few spiritual aspects to “Christianise” the ceremony and reception. To keep Christ central to your wedding, it is recommended that this be reversed: Design your ceremony and reception to glorify God and add in more secular traditions where doing so is not contrary to biblical principles.
Should you choose to commit yourself to the requirements and guidelines that follow, then we would be privileged to be the ones to conduct the wedding for you.
The bride and groom are required to meet with one of the elders for counselling and to discuss the marriage plans on a regular basis prior to the wedding. This is normally done on a weekly basis, for approximately one hour a week, over a period spanning 4–6 weeks.
Previous Relationships and/or Children
The bride and groom are required to make known to the elders from the outset any existing or previous marriage relationships, or any prior relationships which have resulted in children being born to either the bride or groom. Failure to be honest in this regard could potentially result in immediate withdrawal of the elder from the marriage ceremony. If, during the counselling period, the elder feels that there is good reason why the prospective bride and groom should not be married, he reserves the right to withdraw himself from performing the marriage ceremony.
The wedding ceremony is the most important part of the wedding day, as it is here where the bride and groom make a lifelong commitment before God and witnesses to leave and cleave. Too many couples spend much time, energy, and money planning the reception and leave scant attention for the ceremony. As a Christian couple, this should not be! Glorifying God during this part of the wedding day is paramount and requires equal (if not more) care and planning than the events following the ceremony.
Good planning will ensure that the entire wedding ceremony and reception run smoothly and on time. Plan to arrive at the church early enough so that the ceremony can proceed on time. The bride should arrive a few minutes before the stated starting time of the ceremony. Keeping guests waiting unduly either before the ceremony or while taking photographs is inconsiderate.
As you prepare for your wedding, and prayerfully consider how to best show God’s greatness and the power of the gospel, here are some considerations.
As a local faith family and church body, we are commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice. What better way to do this than to have an open ceremony, including all church members to be witnesses as the two are joined together in holy matrimony? Not only does this practically allow fellow brothers and sisters to share in your joy, but it can set a powerful example to the younger generation of what a Christian wedding should look like. As members of BBC, we have all made a covenant of accountability to one another. Should we then exclude partakers of that covenant from being witness to the solemn marriage covenant being made during the wedding ceremony?
If the bride and groom elect to issue an open invitation to all to attend the ceremony at the church, it is required that they then also make the invitation to the reception at the church open to everyone as well. What is in view here is the potentially offensive process of the transition between an open ceremony and a restricted (i.e. by-invitation-only) reception. Where the reception is to be held at some venue away from the church, inviting only selected guests is appropriate.
Selection of the guest list can be excruciatingly difficult. Although there will be certain obligation invitations, a good rule of thumb is to invite those whom you know will continue to be a part of your lives after the wedding day and those who will be involved in keeping you accountable in your marriage. However, even when trying to stick to your designated number, please be considerate. It is good etiquette to invite all members of a family (when still living together), or at the very least, to not exclude only one member of the family. Consider inviting those whom you are involved in ministry with. When handing out invitations, please be sensitive to those around you who are not being invited. Hand out invitations discreetly so as not to cause undue offense or awkwardness.
Should you choose to include all the BBC family in your ceremony, you will obviously require a venue large enough to hold the guests. What better venue to consider than the BBC building? Besides the obvious benefit of cost (it’s free!), it has sufficient parking and space inside the auditorium. Also consider the importance of this place where you have worshipped week-after-week before your wedding, and where you will continue to worship as husband and wife. Such a consideration is not merely sentimental but can provide you with a very real memorial of your sacred wedding day.
There are no set fees for wedding ceremonies or receptions held at Brackenhurst Baptist Church except where the church has incurred direct expenses in preparing for the wedding. We ask, however, that appropriate remuneration is made by the couple to those who have spent many extra hours working to prepare for your wedding. This may include the custodians and cleaners, as well as the musicians if these have been provided by the church.
Please note that any set-up and decorating at BBC for your ceremony and/or reception can only be done either late Friday evening or Saturday morning since Friday night youth ministries will not ordinarily be cancelled to allow for wedding preparation. The bride and groom are free to speak to the youth leaders to see if an arrangement can be made that will allow Friday night setup. Ask one of the elders to find out who to speak to in this regard.
Please ensure that the necessary arrangements are made to clean up the church after the ceremony and/or reception and to set up for the Lord’s Day services the following day. To book your ceremony at the church building, contact Stuart at the church office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 011 867 3505).
Emcee and Wedding Party
We suggest that the bride and groom choose close Christian friends to be both the master of ceremonies (emcee) at the reception and to participate in the wedding party (best man and main bridesmaid or matron of honour). These persons will be able to influence and control the atmosphere and direction of both the pre-wedding events, as well as the reception, and prevent any embarrassing or ungodly situations from occurring.
Even if the emcee or members of the wedding party are not believers, they should be aware of the expectations of common decency and decorum. Ask these individuals to read over this wedding policy, to give them a sense of the BBC ethos. Reception speeches should be done with dignity and propriety and are not the time to tear down the bride and/or groom or speak disparagingly of marriage.
The attire of the bride and of her bridal party is to be of a modest and dignified standard, in accordance with the expectations of the corporate gathering for worship (1 Timothy 2:9–10). The bride is encouraged to consider carefully the value statement she is seeking to make by means of her wedding dress and those of her attendants. Because these issues can be a bit subjective, the leadership of BBC prescribes the following for the dress of the bride and the bridal party where the wedding is to be held at the church building:
- All dresses should have a neckline that is high enough to completely conceal any cleavage.
- Dresses should be knee-length or longer, with no slit that extends above the knee.
- Avoid dresses without sufficient covering in the back.
- Strapless dresses or dresses with only spaghetti straps are not permitted. These are revealing and thus do not serve the men in attendance at your wedding.
- Dresses should not be excessively tight and draw unnecessary attention to your figure.
It would be wise to clarify these issues with the dress designer right from the start. Should there be any confusion regarding these points, please show your dress design to one of the elders’ wives for further clarification.
The bride and groom are responsible for securing their own musicians. The elders will be happy to make suggestions and recommendations concerning satisfactory musicians, but the responsibility of contact will rest with the bride and groom.
As these musicians frequently perform this service as a labour of love, please consider honouring their service by giving them a small gift, or at least including them on the reception guest list. Christians should be known to thankful people, giving honour to whom honour is due.
The music to be played at the ceremony should obviously be of a Christ-honouring sort. As this is a holy ceremony, consider that the music of the processional and recessional, as well as any special music items, should lend itself to this atmosphere.
Any music played at the reception should also be Christ-honouring. In other words, the atmosphere of the reception, though merry, should not be that of a night club. The music played (and the lyrics of songs) should meet the requirement of doing all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Since the Scriptures condemn the lusts of the flesh, the custom of dancing at weddings should be well thought through. Though BBC does not forbid dancing at weddings, we encourage you to guard against producing an atmosphere where sensual dancing would be encouraged. Should you have dancing at the reception, choose music that lends itself to dancing with decorum instead of encouraging the type of dancing that looks more like sexually-suggestive gyrating.
The bride and groom must arrange to have a rehearsal at least two days before the wedding. All those participating in the wedding ceremony should attend. If you plan to use the church building for this purpose, please check with the church office to ensure that the church building is free on the night you choose to rehearse.
It is recommended that an outline of the ceremony and reception proceedings be given to all involved in the ceremony, so as to ensure a smooth and non-stressful rehearsal, ceremony, and reception (and to avoid unnecessary strain on your big day!)
Photography and Videography
When planning how your photographer and/or videographer will capture your special day, please ask them to remain as unobtrusive as possible, particularly during the ceremony. While photography is an important part of your day, it should be done discreetly.
No alcohol may be brought onto the premises of the church at any time, including the rehearsal, the ceremony, and the reception. When the wedding is to be held at premises other than the church facilities, we encourage the couple to consider the inherent dangers associated with the availability of alcohol. In many cases, the reception loses its dignity and Christian ethos by those who are resistant to the biblical principle of moderation. BBC will not prohibit the use of alcohol, but its leadership does counsel that proper controls should be in place. For instance, the principles of the weaker brother and that of not offending another’s conscience should be applied here (see Romans 14:1–23).
When planning your wedding ceremony and reception, please give thought to whether the traditions you include are God-honouring, dignified, and appropriate. For example, perhaps some thought should be given to the propriety of the tradition of the groom sticking his hand up his bride’s dress to remove her garter, and then throwing this garter to a group of single men (none of which are her husband!). While this may be permissible (the bride and groom are married at this point), perhaps it is not the most Christ-honouring action.
Making Your Marriage Official
Please ensure that you obtain a copy of the state marriage register and wedding information sheet from the elder presiding over your wedding. Complete the document and return it to him along with your original identity documents as soon as possible. Your identity documents will be returned to you as soon as possible.
Right to Withdraw
The elder reserves the right to withdraw himself at his own discretion from the wedding ceremony if he feels that the bride and groom have not sufficiently prepared themselves for marriage or that the testimony of Christ would be dishonoured in any way by the wedding ceremony and/or reception. This will, of course, only be done under extreme circumstances and will be motivated by a desire to protect the name of Christ, the good name of the church, his own reputation, and that of the bride and groom.
We want yours to be the sweetest and most impressive Christian wedding possible. The above suggestions and regulations have been designed to make your wedding exactly that. May God bless you in these days of preparation for one of the most important steps of your life.
Revised June 2012