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Planning Your Wedding

Marriage is one of the most sacred, beautiful and joyful of all church ceremonies. It celebrates God's uniting of two persons in holy matrimony and his blessing on their marriage by his sustaining presence. The Christian marriage ceremony is a service of worship before God. All of the preparations we will make together are undertaken in light of that fact. The marriage covenant is a significant event in the life of the church as well as in the lives of the two people who are promising to share their lives together. For that reason, it is important that your special day be as well-organized as possible and that the wedding meet both your expectations and the expectations of the church.

These materials have been prepared to help couples in planning their weddings at First Presbyterian Church. If you have questions, you may call the church at any time during office hours (9-noon Mondays and 1-4 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays) or ask the pastor when you meet.

Please note that the pastor will no longer accept non-member weddings that are planned for anywhere other than the First Presbyterian Church building.

What to do first?

The thing to do is call the pastor's secretary for preliminary clearance of the date on the church calendar and to make an appointment with the pastor. Since there are many activities at the church, it is suggested that the date be cleared as early as possible. The use of the building on this date must be officially approved by the session of the church. Note that because the custodian must spend considerable time preparing the building for Sunday, large, formal weddings with receptions should not be planned for Saturday evenings.

The pastor will want to meet with both the bride and groom well in advance of the wedding to discuss with the couple the meaning of the marriage relationship and the marriage service for Christians. The pastor cannot ordinarily commit himself to perform a marriage until after the initial interview. It is a good idea, therefore, to meet with the pastor before any public announcement of the wedding is made. Once the commitment is made, two more pre-marital counseling sessions with the pastor are normally required to prepare for the marriage.

It is expected that the pastor of this church will officiate at all weddings within the building. 

The wedding ceremony is a service of Christian worship. It is good to keep the wedding simple and without ostentation. The church will help you to plan a service which is a meaningful expression of our Christian faith, yet tailored to you as unique individuals.

Music—instrumental and vocal

Music in worship is intended to direct attention to God and our relationship with Him. Of course, music is not mandatory. Some beautiful weddings have taken place in the quiet, warm glow of the participants' words and movements. However, most will undoubtedly plan to include music as part of the ceremony.

The organ is most often the instrument used in our worship, but solo instruments such as violin, harp, flute or trumpet may also be added. A string quartet, brass ensemble or guitars could also be added or substituted.

Vocal solos are the form of special music most often used, but a choir or bell-ringing choir are also suitable, if they can be arranged. It is also appropriate to invite the congregation to join in the singing of hymns as part of the service, if you wish.

We are blessed with the services of a very talented organist named Angie Daniel. We do not require that you use her services. However, if you wish to have an organist, we prefer that you ask her first rather than bringing in your own musician. If you decide to ask Angie to play, she may be contacted at (563) 581-7719. In addition, we have several very gifted vocalists among our members who may be willing to perform as well. Ask the pastor if you're interested in their names and numbers.

Whomever you choose to perform, please make your arrangements directly with that person and then inform the pastor about your choice. Note: your initial contact with the musician(s) should be made well ahead of time so that they may be able to fit your service into their schedule.

Those who desire vocal music at the wedding most often ask a friend to sing. If you plan to invite a friend to do this, you should also make arrangements directly with that person and then inform the pastor. However, please do not decide upon what specific music will be performed until you have discussed the choice of songs with the pastor.

Processional and Recessional music needs to be carefully chosen to give a feeling of excitement and dignity to the service, as the participants enter and leave the sanctuary.

Vocal music should be carefully chosen keeping in mind what is appropriate for a worship service. For that reason, all music must be approved in advance by the pastor. As a "rule of thumb," the lyrics of music used at worship would speak of God's Word to us (scriptural) or our words to God (prayer). Popular music which has no Biblical content may be inappropriate to the service itself. Your favorite "romantic" ballad may be more appropriate if used at the reception instead.

Once the music has been agreed upon, the soloist is expected to know the music before arriving to practice with the organist—preferably before the day of the rehearsal.


After your initial interview with the pastor and confirmation of the time and place of the wedding, you may proceed to consult your printer concerning invitations, etc. The proper name of the church is: "First Presbyterian Church, 106 N. Bench Street, Galena, Illinois."

A bulletin is sometimes used to enable the congregation to join in the prayers, hymns and other portions of the service. Samples of wedding bulletins are available at the church or you may wish to consult a nearby Christian Book Store. Once the service is set, you may arrange to have your printer do the bulletin or the church can print it for a nominal charge.

Flowers, candles, et cetera

You will probably wish to confer with a florist of your choice about decorating the sanctuary for your wedding. It will be greatly appreciated if the florist will work cooperatively with the custodian in timing the placement and removal of decorations. They may not be fastened to the floor, pews, furniture or walls in any way that will be damaging. This sanctuary has a natural atmosphere of warmth and beauty. Simple floral arrangements tend to complement this setting the best. Free-standing candelabras are usually available for rent from local florists. You're welcome to use the candelabra, candles, and other items owned by the church. The only charge for this is for the candles used. However, if you wish to use a "Unity Candle" you need to make arrangements to bring one of your own.

Unobtrusive video taping is permitted during the ceremony. However, you will have to provide your own video camera and operator.

Still Photographs

All photographers, whether professional or amateur, are asked to respect the dignity and reverence of the ceremony. Most professional photographers will honor this request without being asked. However, you should mention that no flash pictures are to be taken during the ceremony except during the processional and recessional, and then only from the back of the sanctuary. Non-flash exposures may be taken from the narthex or the balcony during the ceremony if care is taken to be discreet in movements and to time the shutter for moments when other sounds will "cover" it. If you intend to print a bulletin, please place a notice to that effect in there for those whom you may not had a chance to tell personally.

Either before or after the ceremony, the bridal party may assemble in the sanctuary to pose for any reenactment of the ceremony. Increasingly, most formal poses are taken about two hours before the wedding begins. This is considerably more convenient for both the wedding party and the reception guests. Be certain that members of the wedding party, parents, and the pastor are informed if, when and where they are to be present for the photography session. To be on the safe side in our busy season, please be sure to reserve the church for your photography session as well.

In order to expedite the taking of pictures, it is helpful to give the photographer a list of the groups or persons you wish photographed. Plan to take pictures of the largest groups closest to the time of the wedding ceremony. In other words, if you are taking pictures before the wedding, have the largest groups last so that all those people don't have to arrive too early. If you're taking pictures after the wedding, shoot the largest groups first, so the additional people may filter out when their pictures are done.

The marriage license

Because the act of marriage is a civil matter as well as a spiritual one, a license must be secured from the State of Illinois before the wedding can take place. According to Illinois law, marriage licenses must be obtained in the county in which the wedding will take place.

Therefore, your license must be procured from the County Clerk's office at the Jo Daviess County Courthouse, 330 N. Bench St., Galena. This is conveniently located only three blocks down the street from the church. Courthouse hours are 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The County Clerk's phone number is (815) 777-0161.

Both persons applying for a marriage license in Illinois must normally be 18 years old when the license becomes effective. (For the rules on exceptions, contact the County Clerk.)

Both potential marriage partners must apply for the license in person at the Clerk's office and the fee must be paid at that time. The license becomes effective one calendar day after it is applied for and remains effective for 60 days, so the wedding should take place within that time frame or a new license must be issued.

Please Note: Laws do change on occasion. You are advised to contact the clerk well ahead of the wedding date to ask precisely what procedure is to be followed and what specific rules are currently in effect for wedding license applications.

The license should be brought to the wedding rehearsal and given to the pastor, who will obtain the necessary signatures and be responsible for returning it to the Courthouse. After all signatures have been affixed following the wedding, the Bride and Groom will receive their official Certificate of Marriage.


To assure that the ceremony will go smoothly and all parties will be relaxed and confident of their parts, everyone in the wedding party (including parents, soloist, ushers, etc.) should be present for the rehearsal.

You may schedule the rehearsal for whatever time is convenient for the people in your wedding party and for the pastor. However, usually rehearsals are held in the late afternoon (about 5:00 or 6:00) on the day before the wedding. This allows sufficient time for participants to attend the traditional rehearsal supper without having to stay up too late on the night before the wedding. The rehearsal normally lasts no more than one hour from the time it begins. All participants should be urged to be prompt.

At that time, procedural details of the ceremony will be worked out by the pastor with all the wedding party. Don't forget to bring the license and, if applicable, the cassette tape and materials needed for the reception.


The church is happy to provide the Fellowship Hall for your reception or you may choose to rent a hall elsewhere. Information regarding the costs is included on the fees and expense page of this brochure. Note that smoking and alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the church building.

We also insist that no rice be thrown inside the building. It is dangerous to walk on and can be very difficult to clean up. Confetti is not allowed in the building either.

For ecological reasons, many modern couples try to follow the rice-throwing tradition by providing their guests with small mesh bags of birdseed to use outside the church at the end of the wedding ceremony.

The wedding day

The time of arrival of the wedding party will depend upon whether you plan to have photographs taken before the service. If not, the bride and her attendants will want to arrive at least an hour ahead of the ceremony. The groom, groomsmen and ushers should arrive at least forty-five minutes beforehand. Time should also be allowed for the fact that friends and relatives you haven't seen for a while may choose the last minute before the wedding to stop and chant, or for the inevitable mad dash to the house or hotel to retrieve some item you've forgotten.

Parking is usually a problem in Galena, especially during the height of the tourist season. The only way to avoid that problem is to arrive early and advise your guests to do the same. The church owns two "No Parking" signs that may be placed in front of the church on the day of the wedding. Those spaces should be reserved for the wedding participants or any guests who are physically unable to walk very far.

By the way, the church is accessible to the handicapped by entering the door on the left side of the church at ground level and then riding the elevator from the basement to the sanctuary.

All participants are expected to be dressed and ready by one-half hour before the ceremony is to begin. Please allow sufficient time!

Ushers should begin seating people one-half hour before the ceremony is to begin. Candles are lit about 10 minutes before the service. Grandparents and the groom's parents should present themselves to be seated by 5 minutes before and the bride's mother three minutes in advance.

By then, the bride's and groom's parties should also be in their places (as determined at the rehearsal the evening before). When the prelude music is concluded, the wedding begins. Relax and enter into this experience of worship with joy and awareness of all of its words and symbolism.


Alcohol and weddings don't mix. What you do following the service is up to your conscience, but before the service, no alcohol, please!

Financial considerations

There is no charge for the use of the sanctuary for families of this congregation. We feel that, because members are already supporting the church with their time and money, it is appropriate that, wherever possible, services be extended to them at a lower cost.

For non-members, there is a charge of $250.00 to reimburse costs for the wedding and rehearsal. Because the wedding calls the organist and the custodian to special service beyond their employment agreements, there are also special fees to compensate them. For members and non-members alike, the current schedule of costs for weddings and receptions is attached.

The pastor feels it is appropriate to extend his time and service to those who are members of the congregation as part of his ministry to them. He does not expect any fee or honorarium unless for some reason unusual travel or expenses are involved. In that case, he should be reimbursed for those expenses. However, if neither party is a member of this congregation, an honorarium of $100.00 is appropriate.

Please pay all these items in advance of the wedding day, so that these expenses don't get lost in the flurry of wedding activities.

In addition, It is customary to send a wedding announcement to the pastor and his wife. However, it is not necessary for them to be invited to rehearsal dinners or receptions unless you would prefer to ask them to those events. After they receive an invitation, they will RSVP as to whether they can attend or not.

Summary of fees and expenses for weddings

Fees and Honorariums—please make checks payable directly to:

  • The Custodian $50
    Payable to Mary Halstead

  • The Minister $100 (Non-Members Only)
    Payable to Jim McCrea

  • Use of Sanctuary $250 (Non-Members Only)
    Payable to First Presbyterian Church

Note:  An additional fee will be charged if you wish to hold a reception in the church basement. 

And finally

We wish you a long and happy marriage! The pastor would be happy to meet with you again for further marital counseling to follow up on the pre-marital sessions. Many couples appreciate talking with the pastor again three to six months after the wedding to discuss their concerns and adjustments to married life. Feel free to call on the pastor any time!

We are happy that you are making your wedding plans through our church. We would like to make it a celebration of the love that God has given you and of the blessings that he will be giving you in all that lies ahead. We hope that everything that is done in connection with your wedding will help to make it a beautiful memory for years to come.

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