Celebrate your wedding at one of New York’s most beautiful landmark churches!
Who can be married here?
In the liturgy of the wedding service itself we hear the following:
The union of two people in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord (Book of Common Prayer, p.423).
Under most circumstances, The Church of the Ascension is able to offer the sacrament of Christian marriage only to members of the Episcopal Church. If neither person is a member of the Episcopal Church, we hope that you will first become active parishioners at Ascension. Establishing formal affiliation with the Episcopal Church normally occurs through Confirmation or Reception by a bishop. At Ascension, we try to have a bishop visit us for this purpose each year on Ascension Day (usually in May). Parish membership entails attendance at worship services, contributing financially to the support of the church, and becoming involved in the life of the parish family to the best of your abilities.
We do our best to accommodate weddings of non-members, and welcome inquiries a minimum of six months before a proposed date. Since non-members do not already support the mission and ministry of this parish church, we require a building-use fee, based on a sliding scale ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 (see below). While this technically can be considered a donation and thus deductible for income-tax purposes, it is not optional. The total for the use of the church and related services ranges from a minimum of $3,325 to $7,000 or more, depending on options chosen by the couple. Although one of our clergy will officiate in all cases, we welcome the participation of ecumenical and interfaith clergy, and will happily discuss appropriate adjustments to the rite in such circumstances.
At least one of the parties being married must be a baptized Christian.
The Church of the Ascension marries same-sex couples.
Church canon laws require that all persons being married in the Episcopal Church sign the following statement before the wedding:
We, [Name] and [Name], desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union as it is set forth in the liturgical forms of this Church. We believe it is for the purpose of mutual fellowship, encouragement, and understanding, for the procreation (if it may be) of children and their physical and spiritual nurture and for the safeguarding and benefit of society. And we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek God’s help thereto.
What does it cost?
There is no charge to members of Ascension to use the church for their wedding, although it is customary to pay the celebrating priest an honorarium of $500, as well as any musicians or vocalists from the church choir as arranged in advance with the music director depending on number of performers (see Music below). It is also appropriate to make a special donation to Ascension or to the clergy Discretionary Fund in thanksgiving to God for all that marriage means.
Applying for Marriage and Scheduling a Date
Call the office at Ascension at 212-254-8620 to discuss arrangements as soon as possible after you know that a marriage will take place. This process usually starts six months or more before a proposed wedding date. You may explore available dates and times for the wedding ceremony and rehearsal when you first inquire. No plans may be made definite, however, until after the first interview with a member the clergy at Ascension, after which the dates may be confirmed with the parish office. Non-members must make a minimum payment of $2,000 before a date is confirmed. Normally, weddings are not conducted during the seasons of Advent (late November and December) and Lent (usually February and March), as they are penitential seasons of solemn preparation for Christmas and Easter.
Clergy in the Episcopal Church are required to instruct couples in the meaning of Christian marriage, to assess their readiness for such a relationship, and to prepare them for the wedding ceremony. Our practice is that there should be at least three meetings of an hour or more each. On rare occasions, a member of the Episcopal clergy from another parish may provide this counseling. If so, your clergy counselor must contact the clergy of The Church of the Ascension personally to confirm these arrangements. There is a fee of $450 for pre-marriage counseling for couples who are not members of Ascension; this fee is fully tax-deductible.
In the Episcopal Church, remarriage after divorce is based on the recommendation of a parish priest to the bishop, after meeting with the couple. If the priest makes such a recommendation and the bishop approves, plans for the wedding may proceed as usual. These procedures require at least two months time before the wedding date.
If the divorced persons reside in another diocese of the Episcopal Church and are unable to consult with clergy at Ascension, counseling and approval may be sought under another bishop’s jurisdiction. Approval of the Bishop of the Diocese of New York must also be secured in order for the wedding to take place at Ascension.
The Wedding Service
A careful reading of “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage” is recommended (The Book of Common Prayer, pp.423-32). The service may include many elements of scripture and music or it may be very simple. The Holy Eucharist can be a part of the ceremony, and often is at Ascension. The officiating priest will discuss details with the couple. Weddings are public services of corporate worship to which all are welcome and in which the whole congregation takes part.
Although not required, music adds greatly to the joy of the ceremony. The parish organist or someone designated by him will help you choose music and will perform at weddings at Ascension, with the officiant as the final authority. If, in addition to the organist, you wish to have singers or instrumentalists, you must discuss this well in advance with the organist. The organist arranges to hire the necessary performers. The minimum fees are $600 for the organist, $250 for a soloist, $150 each for choir members (with a minimum of 10 singers).
The rehearsal at the church is an integral part of the wedding event and is best scheduled for the day before the wedding. The following are present at the rehearsal: all members of the wedding party, the parents, and others who are helping as lesson readers, ushers, or performers. The signing of the church register, marriage certificate, and wedding license occurs at this time. The officiating clergy conducts the rehearsal itself. All final payments are due at this time.
Flowers usually include two simple arrangements on the altar, prepared in suitable containers by your florist or arranged by the parish Flower Guild (fee based on cost of flowers). Flowers may not be placed on the pews, or anywhere other than the two columns at either side of the high altar and/or the shelves at the side altar.
Rice, birdseed, confetti, rose petals, or other things thrown are prohibited in the church and outside for reasons of maintenance and safety.
No flash pictures may be taken during the ceremony. Guests as well as any professional photographer may use flash photography only before the wedding party enters the church nave. A photographer may not stand in the aisle and snap pictures during the procession. Other pictures may be taken during the service, using available light and so long as the photographer is discreet and unobtrusive. Posed pictures are best taken before the liturgy, although in some circumstances they can be arranged afterwards. We allow no more than 30 minutes for posed pictures. Ushers and groomsmen must inform arriving guests carrying cameras that they may not be used during the service, and this must be indicated on any printed service leaflet. The same procedures apply to videotape. The commercial sale of any photograph or video recording of The Church of the Ascension is forbidden.
A Sexton is required to attend the Fifth Avenue door for weddings. One of the Ascension building staff will be scheduled for this duty. The fee for this service, a minimum of $450, will be adjusted if it requires unusual or prolonged hours. Dressing for the wedding must be done before arriving at the church. Ascension’s historic facilities do not offer an area where the bridal party may assemble.
Printed Order of Service
A printed service bulletin is included, although the couple may plan and provide this themselves. Please consult with the officiating priest who must approve the format and contents before printing.
The Wedding License and Certificate
To obtain a license from the State of New York, you must appear in person within 60 days of (but no later than 24 hours before) the wedding to fill out an application. You may obtain current information online at www.nycmarriagebureau.com. Bring the license with you to the wedding rehearsal. The officiant will sign and return the license to the City Clerk. If you live elsewhere in New York State, you may have your license issued there.