Freddie and Hayley Biss were married on 7th August 2021 in Ottery St Mary’s Church, Exeter, Devon and the vicar was the Archdeacon of Exeter, Andrew Beane. In this article, Freddie and Hayley share what surprised them the ins and outs of a church wedding and offer some words of advice to couples thinking about a church service...
What made it special having your wedding in a church?
you've got that focus...
Just the whole day of it and the support that we were provided or given by the church and by Archdeacon Andrew. It just made the day really special. We were really looked after and it bought together close friends and family in such a special place. And down in Ottery St Mary the church is spectacular. So it just made the day sort of that much more special.
I think also having that time when you've got that focus, and that is just about you two and the vicar. We were so lucky to have the Archdeacon as well, but it was about us and it was about making those commitments to each other in such a such a special place with such significant meaning. And you don't even think about the people behind you don't think about anyone there. You're just thinking about you two really.
How was your vicar able to support you?
What we wanted to do was what we could do.
He was incredible, to be honest, from the very first moment. All of our meetings were on Zoom but he was just so so supportive, and he made you feel so comfortable so we weren't worried about sort of any of the questions that might have been asked, you didn't feel like you were being inspected about anything, you know, it was very much about us and us getting to know Andrew and him getting to know us as well and it was just I think it felt really natural. It felt really supportive.
He took us through how the day would go, he gave us some guidance, but he was very vocal about it was our wedding. What we wanted to do was what we could do.
There were some things that were the formal elements, but the rest of it, for example if it was about how you want your bridesmaids to walk in or what the order of people coming in or out or what type of Best Men or groomsmen you had he said it's absolutely up to you do what you want to do. There's no set way. It's your wedding.
I think sometimes people think it might be more intense than it is and actually going through the motions and meeting the people who are going to marry you and meeting the teams at the church talking to them, was actually just so comforting, and so natural and so relaxed, that that made us feel really good and really excited about it. Every time we went down for service every time we went down to the church you could we you feel yourself getting ready for it and knowing that you were going to get married there but in a really natural and supportive way.
The church service was by far the best part of my day.
Are you still in contact with the church where you got married?
We haven’t been down to the church since the wedding because of Covid but we still have connections with the church. We still discuss everything in emails with Archdeacon Andrew. I've emailed the church office and like to send them photos of the wedding and tell them our baby news. So we do still communicate quite frequently and we have open conversations with Andrew so we do feel that connection and I don't think that will ever go away. You know that will that will always be there because it's the biggest day of your life.
The Archdeacon actually asked me he said what was your favourite part of the day and one of our emails post wedding, and I said the church service was by far the best part of my day, because it was the actual significant moment of the day. The rest of it was a celebration and it was lovely, but the marriage and the ceremony in the church was the wedding. And that was that was the most significant, most special moment for me.
What was your experience of how churches can do weddings well?
It is about more than just the wedding day.
I think for us specifically with Ottery St. Mary where we were allowed and chose to get married, it's the bringing together of everyone and a sense of community. So for example, in the build up to the wedding, my mum, Haley's Mum, my granny and family from all over the place came and actually visited that church. I think we visited a good half dozen times before we got married and everyone was in awe of how incredible it was and the services and this sort of the togetherness for that local community. It was really special and sentimental.
Pre-visits are so important for that build up to the wedding and to be part of that community, to recognise the faces that are there to know who lives there to have those conversations. The conversations we had with other people going to the church and getting to know the community was so lovely. It is about more than just the wedding day. It's about getting to know the community and getting to know the people in the church.
Ottery St. Mary has got a real special place in our heart now, and always will based on the experience that we had from Andrew and the team and that's something that we'll never forget.
Are church weddings just for people who regularly go to church?
To be honest, we think the value that comes and this sentiment and the morals that come with Christian weddings can be shared across anyone, whether you're religious or not. It's everything that comes with that day and the experience of it.
We're churchgoers but felt we didn’t go as much as we probably should but the wedding really changed our mindset on it. Going down to the church and feeling like you're part of the community, being looked after and having conversations with lovely like-minded people is definitely something we would recommend whether you’re Christian or not. It’s such an incredible experience, and it's definitely something that people should think about.
I think people now maybe forget a little bit about the importance and the values taught through the church.
I also think people forget the value churches have on family and older generations. Hayley’s granny is a churchwarden in their local church, which is a tiny, tiny church, but you know, it's a very serious job for her and it's a big part of who she is and how she brought your mother up. And then how you remember what you like and things like that, and I think people now maybe forget a little bit about the importance and the values taught through the church. And maybe that's something that just needs to be highlighted a bit more but going to the build up services and things like that does just make you think about that and think about how you would then raise your own children and the morals and values. You would sort of teach them how you would bring them up.
Is there anything you would like to say to someone thinking about a church wedding?
It is worth it.
To people looking into potentially getting married in church, I would say definitely definitely look into it. Approach the local community and make inquiries because for us it is something that we'll never forget. It was the best experience we've ever had. It's not as intense as people might think, in the preparation and it is worth going for because you're never going to look back and regret it. So I think go for it. It's worth it. You're not going to regret it. And also, thank you, thank you so much to everyone who was part of our day because it was the best.
And to churches looking to do more weddings, it's just a really good opportunity to bring people into the community. It's value for both sides of the party.