Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston
Rector: The Rev. Hannah Atkins
First of all, best wishes on your engagement! We at Trinity are delighted that you are seeking God's blessing on your marriage.
Below are the details of the customary or guidelines for being married here. They may seem strict at first, but I hope that you will not find them unfriendly. Please remember that the Episcopal Church is bound by Canon and takes the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the service itself very seriously. Whereas other denominations may marry couples with very few rules or premarital guidance, the Episcopal Church does have rules we must follow, for the spiritual benefit of all concerned. Even with rules there are many ways you can make this service very personal. It is a joyful service, but it is also a solemn service. In addition, Trinity is a very busy church and wedding parties are our guests. We know what works smoothly here for everyone involved, and how to make your wedding day holy, gracious and beautiful. Amidst these guidelines, there is room for creativity. We welcome conversations about what that might include with our Rector, Hannah Atkins and our Wedding Manager.
A marriage is, at the least, a legal occasion, in that all marriages must conform to the laws of the state in which they are performed. It may also be a social occasion when family and friends gather together, and borrowing from a rich array of customs and traditions, join in celebrating the union of man and woman.
If one or both of the persons being married is a committed Christian, a third dimension is added to the legal and social aspects. By choosing to be married inside the church the couple is making a faith statement to all their family and friends which in effect says, “We are two people who desire to make a marriage covenant before God and in the presence of God's people. In a service of worship we want to stand before God's altar and commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We intend to live our married life in the community of the faithful (the Church). We are inviting the life and love of Jesus Christ to be at the center of our marriage. In order to make an appropriate beginning, we have come to this place to ask a priest in the name of God to bless our commitment and to ask the congregation to pray for us.”
A Christian wedding is far more than a legal or social event; it is above all a service of worship. Indeed, it is a sacrament called the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in the Book of Common Prayer, whereby the grace and love of God is given and made known through the words and actions of the people.
How to begin planning:
All arrangements for your wedding at Trinity begin with making an appointment to see our Wedding Manager. They will not make any arrangements with parents, so please contact him yourself. First they will meet with you to see if you agree to the terms and then set up a time for you to meet with the Rector. It is within the discretion of the Rector to decline to solemnize any marriage. The Rector approves and assigns pastoral and officiating responsibilities for all marriages. Do not make any wedding plans until you have talked with the Rector about your wedding. An appointment can be made by calling the Church office or using the contact form on this page. Important note: If you choose to book a reception date and time before meeting with the priest, and the date is not available at Trinity, we cannot help you. Trinity will not change any prescheduled events for weddings.
At least one of the persons to be married must have received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. The Episcopal Church accepts the baptism of any Christian tradition, which baptizes in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Because Christian Marriage is best lived out in the context of the community of faith, participation in the life of a Christian community is required. If the couple is not currently a member of such a church, now is the time to start. Being a member of a church entails regular participation in worship, and making a pledge of time, talent and treasure. If the couple lives in the area, the Rector will discuss with them the steps to becoming members of Trinity. If the couple lives in another community, the Rector will help the couple to find a local Episcopal Church where they can become members. In these latter cases, the couple will most likely do their premarital work with the priest of that church, and spend two sessions with the Rector planning the ceremony itself. Before the ceremony, the priest at their home parish will write the Rector of Trinity, discussing the couple’s involvement in the church, and the premarital counseling.
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas require that couples being married within this diocese complete at least three counseling sessions of not less than one hour each with an Episcopal priest. These should be scheduled well in advance with the Rector. If you live a distance away, you may seek counseling at an Episcopal Church near you. An Episcopal priest must do the counseling, and send a written report of it to the Rector.
The purpose of these meetings is to try to prepare you for marriage. We discuss the joys and difficulties of married life, what each of the partners brings to the union and the specifics of the marriage service. Please make appointments directly with the Rector by calling in advance.
Wedding vows may be found in the Book of Common Prayer on Page 427. All weddings at Trinity adhere to the service in the Book of Common Prayer. There are no changes and couples may not write their own vows.
Readings for the service come from the Holy Bible only. The bride and groom should work with the Rector to choose the actual selections from the recommended readings. Readers should be chosen by the bride and groom. It is quite appropriate for members of the family, the wedding party, or guests to participate. The version of the Bible used at Trinity is the New Revised Standard Version. Readers of lessons should prepare their readings in that translation.
One or more of the following passages from Holy Scripture may be used. If there is to be a Communion, a passage from the Gospel always concludes the Readings.
Genesis 1:26-28 (Male and female he created them)
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-24 (A man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh)
Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7 (Many waters cannot quench love)
Tobit 8:5b-8 (from the Apocrypha) (That she and I may grow old together)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (Love is patient and kind)
Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Father from whom every family is named)
Colossians 3:12-17 (Love which binds everything together in harmony)
1 John 4:7-16 (Let us love one another for love is of God)
Matthew 5:1-10 (The Beatitudes)
Matthew 5:13-16 (You are the light . . . Let your light so shine)
Matthew 7:21, 24-29 (Like a wise man who built his house upon the rock)
Mark 10:6-9, 13-16 (They are no longer two but one)
John 15:9-12 (Love one another as I have loved you)
Holy Communion is the central event of Christian worship. It is a festive holy meal in which Christians celebrate Christ's love in their lives and come to the altar to be fed by his Body and Blood. Holy Communion, or Holy Eucharist, is the ideal context for the sacrament of marriage. When the service includes Communion, the couple, following the taking of vows, shares with the congregation the feast of God's love.
Suitable Wedding Dates
Saturday is the preferred day for weddings. Sunday, the Lord's Day, is never available for weddings. Other dates in the Church calendar when weddings are not performed at Trinity are during the 40 days of Lent, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There will be no exceptions to these dates.
Flowers and Decorations
The floral arrangements for the Great Altar must be done by Killion's Milan Florist, Trinity's Florist as they know the requirements for how the altar is to be decorated. No rice or confetti may be used inside or outside the church. Flower petals, birdseed or bubbles may be used outside only. Flowers may be left for the Sunday service after the wedding, or may be taken to the wedding reception. Please let the parish office know of your plans for your flowers. If the flowers are to remain for Sunday morning, the bride and groom may request a dedication for the flowers in the weekly Sunday church bulletin (if so, the exact wording of the dedication must be given to the parish secretary no later than noon on the Wednesday before the Sunday of that bulletin.
The candles on the altar are lit during the wedding. Unity candles are not part of the Episcopal tradition and are not permitted. Unity may be expressed by a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
If you want Trinity's organist at your wedding, it is your responsibility to contact us. If you want an organist other than the church organist to play at your wedding, you must get Trinity's organist's consent first and you must pay him the standard fee even though he is not playing, as per the policy of the American Guild of Organists. Our organist is available for consultation and as a resource for finding other musicians and soloists. Music at a wedding should reflect the liturgical and sacramental nature of the service. The organist will discuss your music choices with you. (Because the contexts of the familiar Mendelssohn and Wagner are not in harmony with the holiness of marriage and love, these two pieces are not an option.)
The church office does not provide printed programs. It is the bride and groom's responsibility. Programs for a wedding ceremony are not required, but can be helpful if a majority of guests are not familiar with the Episcopal liturgy. When a printed program is to be used, you must fax a copy to the Rector for her approval well before it goes to the printer.
Photography and Videography
Please tell your photographer and videographer that they must call the Wedding Manager prior to the service. Please also inform them of these general guidelines which apply. Video and still pictures may be taken as the wedding party enters and leaves the church. No flash photography is allowed during the service. If the ushers notice wedding guests with cameras, they will inform them that pictures may not be taken during the service, or the ceremony may be halted until the photography ceases. This is because the priest cannot read her lines if she is blinded by the flash. The procession and recession may be videotaped from the side aisle. Other videotaping should be from the back of the aisle. Since it is a short aisle, any good zoom lens will give the videographer the shot s/he needs. Photographers should not move about during the service. We also recommend that you mention the restrictions on videography/photography in the wedding service program, if you have one. Trinity highly recommends Nesossi Studios for your photography as their primary wedding photographer is an Episcopalian who knows the requirements during the Liturgy and is very familiar with how to "light" the church interior. Most of the interior photography of the church on this website was done by Nesossi Studios who have been shooting weddings for over 30 years. You may visit their website at www.nesossistudios.com.
Marriage License and Canonical Requirements
Those being married at Trinity are required to fill out a Declaration of Intention (attachment below) at least two months prior to the wedding date. The Declaration of Intention is an affirmation of a couple's intention to live in a Christian covenant as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
NOTE: There will be no wedding service without a valid marriage license brought to the Rehearsal.
You may need a copy of your marriage certificate once you are married. This can be obtained by contacting the town hall that issued the license. The certificate is a legal document. The Church does not handle the certificates and cannot send you a copy.
In cases when one or both parties requesting marriage in the Episcopal Church have had a prior marriage that ended in divorce, the couple must first meet with the priest to determine whether she will support their request. They must bring a copy of their divorce absolute to this meeting. If this is the case in your situation, please make sure the Rector knows of the situation so you can discuss what needs to be done.
In cases when one or both parties has had two previous marriages end in divorce, an application for permission must be made by the Rector to the Bishop of the Diocese of Texas. Couples in this situation must meet with the Rector six months prior to the proposed wedding date. Please note that application for remarriage does not automatically ensure acceptance by the Bishop.
While all of this may sound very formal and legalistic, the underlying concern is a pastoral concern that the issues which led to the dissolution of the previous marriage do not come back to haunt the newly married couple. There are serious issues for all of us and it will be important to allow at least a six-month period of time between the first interview with the Rector and the proposed date of the wedding.
The Rector invites your further inquiry for clarification or additional information on this subject.
The Wedding Rehearsal
A rehearsal gives all involved the opportunity to practice, which will allow the wedding service to be carried out without undue stage fright and confusion. The rehearsal is conducted at 6:00 p.m. on the evening before the wedding.
The rehearsal will take no more than an hour. Persons needed for the rehearsal are the bride and groom, best man, maid/matron of honor, bridesmaids, ushers, readers, father of the bride (or whomever will walk her down the aisle), mothers of both the bride and the groom. The Rector is in charge of the rehearsal as she is responsible for conducting the service itself.
It is important that all participants be present and ready for the rehearsal five minutes before the scheduled starting time. The rehearsal starts promptly at 6:00 p.m. and always ends no later than 7:00 p.m. This is why it is so important to be on time or early for this event.
Be sure to bring your marriage license to the rehearsal. Without the license, the rehearsal will not be held. This sounds serious, and it is. It would be awful to hold up the wedding the next day while the wedding party searches for the wedding license! So, look for it on the day of the rehearsal and bring it with you, or delegate this task to a trustworthy best man or maid of honor.
Finally, the Wedding!
In scheduling the hour of the wedding, please note that a wedding service takes about 30 minutes without Holy Communion, and about one hour with Holy Communion. This may be significant when figuring out the time of arrival at the place where the wedding reception is to be held.
Ushers should plan to be at the church, ready to play their important part in greeting and seating the guests, at least 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the wedding.
The Groom and the best man should meet at the Church 30 minutes ahead of time as well.
The Bride, maid of honor, and her bridesmaids will want to observe the same kind of timing, 15 minutes ahead of time.
Please do not hesitate to call with any questions you may have. We will do our very best to answer your questions and to make your wedding day a joyous beginning for your marriage!
Now that you have read the above wedding customary, in order to reserve your wedding date at Trinity, we require that you sign the attached Declaration of Intention form and mail it to the church as soon as possible, along with the informational form, also attached.
This will confirm that you meet the qualifications and intend to be married at Trinity. If you have any questions before signing and agreeing to what you have just read, please call us and we will try to answer your questions.