Frequently Asked Wedding Questions


Frequently Asked Wedding Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Must we be members of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (MAPC) to be married here?
No. We only require that at least one member of the couple be a professing Christian.

One of us is Christian and the other comes from another faith tradition. May we be married at MAPC?
Interfaith marriages require special care and counsel. If a couple is considering such a marriage, they should seek the counsel of their religious leaders long before attempting to plan a marriage service. If the pastors at MAPC are confident that in marriage the couple can continue to live and express their faiths while fulfilling the expectations of Christian marriage, they will be glad to officiate at the service. Aspects of other faith traditions that are in keeping with Christian worship may be included in the wedding service.

Does the church permit divorced persons to marry?
Yes. The gospel is not about punishing people for their pasts, but about inviting them to new life. However, before the church will marry a divorced person, it is essential that an honest assessment of the former marriage be taken. Our pastors are trained to assist with such discussions and will lead the couple through this conversation in pre-marriage preparation, discussing factors that caused the failure of the previous marriage.

Who can serve as officiating pastor?
Each wedding at MAPC will be officiated by a member of our pastoral staff. You may request a specific MAPC pastor, or a pastor will be appointed on the basis of his or her availability. If you are interested in having a non-MAPC pastor participate in the service, you should indicate so to the officiating pastor during your first meeting. Ecumenical weddings have long been welcomed at MAPC. Ministers or priests (or clergy of non-Christian traditions) are invited to participate in the service by the officiating pastor, whose responsibility it is to make those arrangements. The couple is responsible for the preparation or approval of any documents that may be required by another denomination. Also, theirs is the responsibility of providing an honorarium for the visiting clergy.

May we include family and friends in service leadership?
It is very appropriate for family and friends to be invited to participate in the leadership of the service, often being asked to read from Scripture. We ask that you keep in mind, however, that in the same way weddings are times of great joy, they can also be times of considerable stress. Children are particularly vulnerable to these pressures and are often not well served by being expected to be a part of the wedding party. We discourage the inclusion of children younger than 10 years of age as flower girls, ring bearers, junior bridesmaids or groomsmen.

Does the church require pre-marriage counseling?
Yes. When a couple makes a commitment to be married at MAPC, the wedding date is established and reserved. Shortly thereafter the officiating pastor will contact the couple to arrange for several meetings. Though each pastor at MAPC has a slightly different approach to pre-marriage preparation, the conversations generally focus on the couple's relational history and expectations, family backgrounds, work and financial issues and other pertinent areas that will impact the development of the marriage.

May we include the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in our wedding service?
The Lord's Supper may be celebrated if both the husband and wife are professing Christians. When the sacrament is celebrated it must be offered to all baptized people attending the service. Often the pastor will ask the bride and groom to assist in serving the elements to the congregation. The pastor will be glad to speak further with you about this at your first pre-marriage conference. The inclusion of the Lord's Supper usually extends the service by no more than ten minutes.

How long is a typical service?
Services range in length from thirty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the order of worship. Because of the complexities of traveling within the city and the difficulty out-of-town guests may have finding the church, we have found it prudent to start wedding services five to ten minutes after the invited time. Because of this, at least an hour should be planned for the service, and at least half an hour should be planned between the end of the service and the reception. If the wedding is during holidays, and the reception is to be in a mid-town location, we would suggest that you consider some form of chartered transportation for your guests. Cabs can be difficult to find on Saturday afternoons during the holiday season.

Is the church accessible for people with disabilities?
MAPC has been officially designated an "Accessible Congregation" by the Council on Disabilities. There is wheelchair accessibility from Madison Avenue, and several places within the Sanctuary accommodate people with walkers or wheelchairs. A sound system for the hearing impaired is also available. Arrangements to have the sound system in operation need to be made with the officiating pastor prior to the wedding rehearsal. ADA bathroom facilities are available in the Parish Hall, which is accessible by elevator.

Is parking available near the church?
On-street parking around the church is scarce. There is, however, a parking garage on 73rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, but rates are very expensive. We recommend that, if possible, wedding guests use public transportation. There is a significant "standing only" area immediately in front of the Sanctuary where limousines may be parked during the service, as long as the driver remains with the car.

Does the church have facilities suitable for a reception following the service?
The Parish Hall is available for wedding receptions, large or small. Our Business Office can provide the necessary information about catering fees, rental of linens, and other items necessary for the reception. Care of guests' coats, supervision at the reception desk, and all other details of the reception are expenses that are the responsibility of the couple. Guests may smoke outside the buildings and are asked to be respectful of church property and not litter. Alcoholic beverages may be served in accordance with the church's policy on alcohol, which can be explained by the Business Manager.

How do we obtain a marriage license?
A New York State license is required for marriage, though it need not be secured in New York City. It is always advisable to check the hours of operation at the Office of Marriage Licenses at City Hall if the license is being obtained in Manhattan. The license is good for 60 days, but not for the first 24 hours after it has been issued. A blood test is not necessary. If one or both of you has been divorced, it is necessary to present a copy of all pertinent official court divorce papers to obtain a marriage license. After the ceremony, the wedding license needs to be signed by you, two witnesses (often the Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor) and the officiating pastor. It will then be mailed by the Church Office to the Clerk of the City of New York for registration purposes. Thereafter you may secure a copy of your marriage license from the city. (Please note, the city does not automatically mail a copy of the signed license to you after the license is registered.) If you need proof of your marriage immediately following the wedding, please indicate that to the officiating pastor, who can provide you with a photocopy of the completed license.

What about a printed program for our wedding?
Couples often enjoy having a printed program, especially if the service will include congregational participation. Programs will be produced by the church at a modest cost, or an outside printer may be engaged. The cost will depend upon the nature of that printing (photocopy or offset press), the number of copies and the cost of the stock. In either instance, the officiating pastor will be responsible for developing the final order of worship. A final copy of the service and the list of participants will be provided at the final pre-marriage conference so the program may be proofed for the list of participants and spelling of names.

May we throw rice or release balloons?
Exuberant delight in a new marriage is understandable, but for many reasons we ask that you do not throw rice, confetti or birdseed, all of which litter the sidewalk for others and may sometimes present a hazard. Balloons are an ecological hazard and can suffocate birds that may attempt to eat them. Friends and family are most welcome to gather on the steps and sidewalk of the church for celebration and photographs, but please do not throw things that create hazards for the church or for those passing by on the street.

Will the pastors attend the rehearsal dinner and reception?
Though the pastors and their spouses appreciate the hospitality of such invitations, their schedules do not permit them to participate in the festivities that follow rehearsals or the wedding service. If there is no wedding or other official event following your service, pastors will happily join you at your reception and offer a blessing as the dinner begins. They will then ask to be excused as Sunday is a workday for them! Please do not plan to include them for dinner.