Free Wedding Weekends

About a year and a half ago I was sitting in a counseling session with a wonderful young couple who wanted to come get some deeper insights about their relationship as they were navigating their relational channels towards marriage. One of their pressing concerns was that a wedding was simply too expensive to pull together.

Right now, in Fort Bend County couples will spend between$26,003 and $43,339 on average for their wedding. However, most couples spend less than $10,000. You can find out how much a wedding in your locale cost over at costofwedding.com.

For this couple, $1,000 was too much to spend but they desired to get married with some kind of meaningful ceremony. So as we began to through some options, I realized that their home church (where we were sitting) had all the facilities and resources to provide them their wedding…for no cost.

In working through this idea, and realizing that one of the top reasons for continued cohabitation in many other couples is the high costs associated with marriage, we came up with the idea of a Free Wedding Weekend. This would be a no-cost wedding ceremony for an individual couple who might otherwise not be able to afford one.

This is a no-cost weekend where the church provides:

  • Venue
  • Officiate
  • Music
  • Flowers
  • Basic Photography
  • Day of Coordinator
  • A set of photographs following the ceremony

Since I enjoy naming programs what they are, we just called it “Free Wedding Weekend.” As we began publicizing the event we place key ads in local magazines and in our own congregational publications. We had no idea what the responses would look like. For our first three we filled up the spots quickly and had wonderful responses. Each couple has to fill out a form to help in identifying couples with true financial needs. This is a ministry event that we hope would be meaningful and for connecting with couples desiring to be married but have limited means to do so.

From a ministry level planning stage, the costs were minimized because we asked several key lay people to help out while also agreeing to cover their costs. We have an amazing florist who is a member and she provides the platform flowers, in plain colors, and individualized bouquets for the brides. Photography (the really hard part of the day) is split between to two wonderful professional wedding photographers who also provide the editing and printing of photos. Our ministry staff facilitated the rest of the day.

Our chapel on campus is free for ministry use and properly air-conditioned, or heated, as needed for the day. We do require two things from the couples:

1. That they fill out an application for our weekend. In the application they agree to follow our directions about schedule, ceremony style, and a few other details.

2. They attend our all day preparing for marriage workshop, or a similar program, prior to the Free Wedding Weekend.

 

As a result we are able to offer a Free Wedding Weekend twice a year for couples who need assistance of this kind for a minimal amount of budgetary allocations.

In developing the day we also realized we needed to put up some controls to best serve our church family, ministry staff, and make each session meaningful for couples. Here are a couple part of the actual schedule for the day:

  • Each couple has a 90 minute time block with the ceremony beginning 30 minutes into the time block. Brides are asked to arrive nearly ready to go and they have access to our bridal suite.
  • The ceremonies all have the same format and though we would love to accommodate requests for added parts, we cannot accommodate these requests. Each ceremony is meaningful and unique to the couples as much as possible. The ceremony lasts about 20 minutes.
  • Basic photography is provided for each couple and their wedding party. All couples receive the same shots, same number of photos, and all photos are given to them, in an open format, on a CD after the ceremony.
  • We also provide 5 photo prints of varying sizes for each couple.
  • Even though our church has a sizable facility, because of limits on our weekend activities we do not accommodate receptions afterwards.

 

All in all the ceremonies keep moving and the weekend is over before you know it. Having wonderful support staff is vital to making sure everything runs on time. Our principal goal in all of this though is uniting loving couples in marriage. We believe marriage is a unique covenant between a man and woman created by God as the first institution for this world to make this world better and that marriage is an example of the future union of Christ and the Church. Our goal is to be active agents of grace in bringing couples together.

So, that’s pretty much what our Free Wedding Weekend looks like and how we’ve been able to do some good Kingdom work through the program. Having a supportive church leadership is ultimately the key. Our next Free Wedding Weekend is the first weekend of June, so let us know if we can help out.