Marriage Policies at Grace Church
The following information is intended to clarify the customs and requirements at Grace Church as you prepare for this significant event in your lives. In your planning, please remember that the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage is a service of Christian worship. While every attempt is made to make the service festive and joyous, primary attention is given to the devotional aspect of the Sacrament. Requests for practices and music more appropriate for a reception may not be honored.
Marriage ceremonies at Grace Church are normally celebrated according to the Book of Common Prayer, which provides a simple, beautiful, and dignified liturgy for a traditional ceremony. It has stood the test of almost four centuries and has become the model for most other Christian rites. Other rites for the Blessing of Civil Unions are available through the parish office.
According to the Summary of the Faith (the catechism) in the Book of Common Prayer, Christian marriage is a Sacrament "…in which the partners enter into a lifelong union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessings of God to help them fulfill their vows" (BCP, page 861). The ministers of the Sacrament are the persons exchanging these vows. The priest blesses the union in the name of the Church. The congregation gathers to witness the vows and celebrate with the couple. All planning for the ceremony should reflect these purposes of the Sacrament, and the roles of the participants.
Who may be married?
The Canons of the Episcopal Church state that for a marriage to take place in the Episcopal Church "at least one of the parties has received Holy Baptism." Marriages are solemnized for couples in which one person is a baptized Christian.
How to Begin?
Contact the Rector, Father Robert Hensley, at 508 693-0332 at least 90 days prior to the date of your ceremony to give the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the couple, and to tentatively schedule a date for the proposed ceremony. After the Rector has given preliminary approval, a form will be sent to you to complete. Return the completed form along with the applicable Deposit and Sanctuary fees that will be enumerated on the enclosed work sheet, to the parish office 60 days prior to the date of your ceremony. You will be contacted for an appointment to initiate your counseling. Firm arrangements for the date and time will be made after receiving the application form and the initial fees and only after discussion with the Rector. The date will be tentatively held for you until that time.
The Rector of Grace Church or his designee will officiate at the rehearsal and service. Other clergy, including those of other denominations, are welcome to assist. With the Rector’s approval another clergy person not associated with Grace Church may officiate at the rehearsal and service. However, all clergy must be duly licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Three counseling sessions are required; more if the Rector deems necessary. First, you must call the Rector between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday at the church office to set up the initial session.
During the counseling sessions, time will also be spent in planning the particulars of the ceremony. Those who are divorced need to mail a copy of their divorce papers along with their application and complete a request for remarriage that will be sent to the Bishop. The Bishop’s consent is necessary prior to any priest officiating at a second marriage. These papers will be kept on file in the records of the parish. For those seeking a third marriage, it is strongly suggested that you have a justice of the peace officiate at your ceremony as permission for a third marriage is rarely given. You may then request the church to bless your union at a later date.
If either member of a couple are living outside of Martha’s Vineyard, counseling from an Episcopal priest in your area is acceptable. The only requirement is that the clergyperson providing the counseling write a letter to the Rector of Grace Church at least 30 days prior to the wedding, stating that you have received counseling and that he/she sees no impediment to the marriage.
Couples that wish music at their ceremony should contact Mr. Wes Nagy, the Grace Church organist, through the parish office to plan the music for the service, as well as to discuss what type of music is permitted. Mr. Nagy, or his designated substitute, will provide the music for all ceremonies and will suggest music appropriate for the service should you not have specific choices of you own. If Mr. Nagy is expected to be in attendance at the rehearsal, scheduling arrangements must be made with him directly.
The Marriage License
A marriage license from the Tisbury Town Clerk or their counterpart in any of the towns in the Commonwealth is required. You may contact the clerk’s office at P.O. Box 606, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, tel. 508 696-4215. License fees must be paid in cash. The license and all fees (Fees sheet will be mailed directly from the Parish office) are due to the Parish Office by the Thursday preceding your ceremony.
The date and time of the rehearsal will be established with the Rector. The following persons participate in the rehearsal: the couple, their parents, all attendants, and ushers. Other invited guests are welcome as observers.
Wine and champagne may be used only in the parish hall or on the parish grounds if there is a reception on site following the wedding. For those who desire it, the Rectory lawn and flower gardens adjacent the church are a pleasant alternative for a reception, weather permitting. The office can provide you with the name and contact information for tent rental companies as well as caterers.
All flowers must be arranged by a professional florist or the Grace Church flower guild. Flower delivery time should be arranged through the parish office. Do not assume that the church will be open, or that someone will be here to receive them without prior arrangements being made. They may not be delivered at any other time. Flowers used on the altar are considered a gift to the church and are not permitted to be removed following the ceremony.
Photographers must speak to the Rector regarding Grace Church practices prior to the day of the ceremony. Photographers who wish to see the sanctuary prior to the ceremony should schedule a time with the parish office.
Still photographs of the processional and recessional are permitted. No flash photographs are permitted during the ceremony. All other still photographs must be taken after the ceremony (or before, predicated on the schedule of the officiant). One half hour is available after the ceremony for taking pictures.
All video photography must be cleared by the Rector prior to the day of the wedding.
The use of rice, confetti, rose petals and the like cause maintenance and safety problems and may not be used either inside of the church or outside on the church grounds.
Leaflets and/or programs are the responsibility of the wedding couple. Leaflets and/or programs will not be provided by the parish office. The Rector should be consulted prior to printing for the appropriate format to use. Samples are available.
We hope this will help you in the process of planning for this important day in your lives. Thank you for choosing Grace Church to share in your joy.
 In the State of Massachusetts, the term "Marriage" is used to denote both traditional male/female couples as well as same gendered couples.