The Y&YW guide to… Church of England weddings

All you wanted to know before taking to the aisle

St Mary’s, Whitewell

Canon Rosie Harper, Vicar of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, answers the burning questions on making your love legal in the Church of England.


Is it ok to throw a surprise wedding for my fiancé?

This idea has romance at its heart, but because marriage is such a big commitment and changes your legal status when you become husband and wife, both bride and groom must enter the process with full knowledge and consent. The vicar has a duty to properly prepare you both for the ceremony too; taking weddings is one of the very best parts of my job. But surprises can be built in to some of the choices you can make in a church ceremony, such as the music, musicians and readings, what you wear, and perhaps even the guests you invite!

Can we have our ceremony outdoors?

A church wedding must happen inside a church for legal reasons. Churches are special places, which provide a beautiful, spiritual space for your marriage to take place, whatever the weather. 

Do we have to pay the church for our ceremony?

Getting married is a legal process, so yes, there are some legal fees to pay for. In 2013, a couple living at the same address and marrying in their own parish would usually pay the set legal fee of £406. These fees can vary a little depending on your circumstances, so do visit yourchurchwedding.org for more details. If you want any extras at your wedding, like bells, flowers, a choir, an organist etc, these will cost more on top of the legal fee. The vicar will tell you how much each of these items cost at your church.

Can we get married in any CoE church or does it have to be in our local parish?

Since the law changed in 2008, it’s never been easier to marry in a church outside your parish. There are seven legal ways you can do that. We have a dedicated section on this at yourchurchwedding.org

Will our church ceremony be private or can anyone turn up?

In theory anyone could come to your church wedding because it’s a public service, but they would have to know the date and time.


For more practical planning advice, see our May/June 2013 issue – on sale now!