The fairy lights twinkled, the bunting hung from pillar to pillar, and the guests gathered to celebrate the wedding of Jeremy and Molly Surtees at Holy Trinity Church in Barnstaple, North Devon.
By the late afternoon, the same church was transformed into a wedding reception, complete with a dance floor, wedding cake and a Hog Roast dinner in the churchyard.
Jeremy and Molly Surtees, who both now live in Southhampton, decided they that they wanted to have not only their wedding ceremony in the church that Molly had grown up in, but they also wanted their wedding reception to be there.
Jeremy said, "Having the ceremony in the church was always the plan. It saved us a lot of money, and was a very convenient way of celebrating."
The couple’s decision to have their special day in a church was influenced by their own Christian faith.
Molly said, "I've always wanted a church wedding and to be surrounded by church family, along with friends and close family. It was important for me to have God at the heart of our wedding."
The couple’s wedding ceremony started at 1pm, with the bride walking down the aisle with her dad and mum.
Molly and Jeremy exchanged vows, prayers were said by close friends, and there was a sermon (short talk) given by the Vicar. The newlyweds then signed the register and there were songs chosen by the couple. At the end of the service the bride and groom left the church via a confetti tunnel to pose for photos in the church and at a local park.
The guests were then led to the church hall, just a stone’s throw away from the church, for Cream Teas. Meanwhile a team of volunteers transformed the church into a reception venue.
The couple had opted for an autumnal colour scheme, with burnt orange and lots of foliage. They even had a beautiful flower archway which welcomed their guests into the church.
Molly said, "Whilst having photos, two teams were in the church transforming it for the reception. We made an example table for them to replicate, so they knew how each table should look. Everything looked incredible and exactly how we envisioned."
"Having support from friends and family who were willing to help made everything possible. We felt very lucky and loved as a couple."
The couple’s special day was surrounded by their loved ones, and they also felt the warmth from the community of Holy Trinity Church, who supported them from the planning stages to the big day itself.
Holy Trinity Church Barnstaple's Parochial Church Council (PCC) gave the green light for the reception to be held in the church, including allowing alcoholic drinks to be served.
Beforehand Jeremy and Molly met with the Associate Minister, Rev'd Shirley Patterson, to run through all the details of the ceremony, along with discussing the meaning of their wedding vows.
Molly said, "Our vicar was amazing, always there to answer questions and very supportive of any decisions we made."
Jeremy added, "Of course our vicar gave us an outline of the service, however we put our own stamp on it; instead of processing out of the church, as soon as the register had been signed we had a time of worship (Christian songs)."
When asked what advice they would give to couples exploring the idea of getting married in a church, or even having their reception there too, the couple were encouraging of the idea.
Jeremy said, "It's a meaningful and intimate way of getting married. If the church is amenable to having the reception there too, it can be very convenient and cost effective."
Molly added, "Go for it! It was the best decision we ever made."
Getting Married in an Anglican Church
If you would like to find out about getting married in a Church of England church in Devon, the first step is to contact the vicar of the church for a conversation. If you live in parish the church is in, you have a right to get married there. It is also possible to get married in other churches if you have what is called a Qualifying Connection.
You can find contact details for the vicar of the church you are hoping to get married in on the AChurchNearYou website.
If you are having trouble getting in touch with your local church or are not sure who to contact, Devon is divided into four areas called Archdeaconries which each have an Archdeacon (senior priest). Each Archdeacon’s office is very knowledgeable about the churches in their area and would be happy to help you through the process of getting married in a Church of England church in Devon. Contact your Archdeacon.
When you get married in a church, there is a statutory set fee. Click here to find out more about the cost. There are also optional additional costs, which you may choose or decline, such as bell-ringers, organists, musicians and support of vergers. If you would like to hold your reception in the church, it would be best to speak to the church Vicar to see if this is a possibility and for a cost enquiry.