An Episcopalian Church Wedding

In all its inclusive chaotic beautiful joy

Hayley, Student & Tim, Organist AND Choirmaster

Photographer: Holly Clarke Gardner

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our wedding was a celebration of ancient traditions and music, delicious food, drink, and an amazing community of generous and beautiful friends.

Soundtrack for reading: “This Marriage” by Eric Whitacre

Other Cool Stuff we should know about

From the very beginning we had three goals…

First, we wanted to bask in our faith tradition. The Episcopal Church is known and respected for its support of gender and marriage equality and its work for social justice, and we were proud of that. Its also home to a profoundly beautiful and ancient ceremonial and musical tradition, and we wanted that tradition to be the focus of the day, not us. We had a full nuptial mass, complete with incense. Tim’s choir sang, his friends and colleagues played brass, strings, and organ. We celebrated open communion, and as our first act of hospitality as man and wife we served the chalice to our guests. It was a full-throated celebration of everything it means to be an Episcopalian, in all its inclusive chaotic beautiful joy, and it could not have been more perfect.

Second, we wanted to jettison just about every other modern wedding tradition. For us, they just felt like a script that everyone expected us to follow, but to us… it just didn’t feel right. So we didn’t do it. I had no engagement ring. I didn’t wear bridal or carry a bouquet or wear a veil. Cue the genteel Southern gasp—I wore black! We had no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no showers or bachelor’s parties. Tim conducted his own choir. We walked up the aisle together as equals, no big bridal “reveal.” We instituted a “no gifts” rule, except for donations to charity. There wasn’t a fancy car, or a guestbook, or a photo booth. We DID have wedding cake(s), and we did cut our cake and serve each other… because at the end of the day, I’ll make an exception for the traditions where everyone eats!

Third, we wanted the sort of wedding where we could invite everyone—all these amazing artists, musicians and friends in our lives—and not have to worry too much about the size of the guest list or the bill. We wanted it to feel like a big family Christmas dinner… so that’s what we did. We had a formal-but-potluck dinner reception in our own parish hall. How does that work? Planning. Lots of communication, and planning. Hiring a professional waitstaff doesn’t hurt either. But I can tell you, it was all worth it, because the food was AMAZING. We ordered honey baked hams and roasted our own turkeys, and then invited everyone to bring their favorite holiday dish. We had the church kitchen manned all afternoon so guests could drop off their dishes, which were re-plated on the church’s serveware. By the time the guests came back in their finery, the buffet overflowed with the most amazing food. I collected the recipes beforehand and bound them together in a book with the name of each giver and the dish’s backstory. Our wedding recipe book was both our guest book and guest gift. I love the idea that years from now, I—and our guests—will still be able to get it out and make those dishes and remember.

We had three goals, and thanks to our church and our friends we were able to accomplish them. In a lot of ways, our wedding was “crowdsourced.” We wanted it that way. No polished professional perfection for us. A friend stepped in to be my day-of coordinator. Friends set up the reception hall, and cleaned up the mess when it was over. A friend baked not one, but TWO amazing cakes. A friend helped me with my makeup; a friend made my prayer book cover. A friend coordinated the potluck and ran the kitchen, keeping the amazing waitstaff running smoothly. A friend and his band played the reception. It was really a celebration of friends.

In the Episcopal wedding service, there’s a moment where the priest asks the assembly if they will do all in their power to support the couple; at our wedding the “We Will” thundered off the limestone walls, but they didn’t need to shout. They had already shown their support by coming together to make the day possible. I can really honestly say it wasn’t our wedding—it was theirs, a celebration of a whole family of friends, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Favorite thing about the wedding

Watching my groom conducting his choir for the offertory anthem, wreathed in clouds of incense, with everyone bonded together and lost hopelessly in the moment and the music.


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