Creating Policies for Sacred Events

Steve Petty
Written by Steve Petty

Most of the sacred events that take place in church are worship events led by the church clergy, but there may be a significant number of events that vary from that norm.  It will be most helpful if the church has well-established policies to guide the church and the user through a helpful process and meaningful events.

Weddings

It will be helpful if the church has one set of policies and two fee schedules for weddings.

Wedding policies will vary greatly from church to church.  Small churches that rarely have outside requests to do weddings might not have any policies and treat each wedding request based solely on what feels right to do and not do.  Large churches that have many requests for weddings every year may have lengthy and detailed policies that have evolved over the years.

If your church finds that there are several weddings each year, you probably have, or would benefit from having, a wedding hostess – I say hostess as opposed to being generic because I have yet to find a male who does this.  I don’t rule that out and there is no reason the church could not have a host, I just have never met one who would create or maintain the policies and oversee each wedding.  Typically, the person who performs this role receives a fee from the church, paid for by the wedding family.  A normal range for such a fee would be between $100 and $500 per wedding, depending on the town and the size of a normal wedding in your setting.  If the hostess is also charged with marketing the wedding business in your church, she might also receive a small salary from the church.  If the hostess has other staff duties, i.e. secretary, administrative assistant, young adult coordinator, etc., be careful to estimate the hours spent on each responsibility and budget accordingly.

Wedding policies should apply equally to both church member weddings and non-member weddings.  Depending again on the size of the church and the properties used in the wedding, the church should have policies that explain what things are permissible and what things are not acceptable in the wedding:

When are the wedding fees due, and what happens if the checks bounce or the deadlines are not met?

Can the couple use their own clergy?  Are there limitations on who qualifies as clergy?

Is pre-marriage counseling required, by whom and at what cost?

Is there a ban on smoking, alcohol, and drug use on the property?

Is there a church-owned aisle runner or does the florist provide this?

Does the church provide the candles for the candelabra(s) or is the family responsible to provide candles?

What flowers may be used?  Is there a limitation to floral arrangements?  When can the florist gain entry to the sanctuary?

Are there restrictions on the photographer, where they may stand, can they move, can they use flashes during the ceremony?

Are there restrictions on the videographer, where can they put up tripods, can they tap into the church sound system, what if are there conflicting wireless frequencies, can they set up additional lights?

How long is the rehearsal?  Who must attend?

Here is a sample wedding policy.

Funerals and Memorials

Today there are fewer requests for non-member funerals and memorials in churches.  Mortuaries find it is easier to schedule services in their chapels or conduct the entire service at the graveside.  However, there are still occasions when the church office will field a request from a non-member family to provide a fitting memorial for a loved one.

The fee structure for memorials and funerals will be similar to weddings with the exception that there won’t be a Wedding Hostess.  The Funerals and Memorials Schedule can be printed up on the same paper as the weddings.  The same issues for Non-members and Members that pertain to weddings pertain to funerals and memorials.

However, whereas a clergy may accept a gift for a wedding from a member family, it is always in bad form to accept a gift from the family of a deceased member.  It is also in bad form to reject the gift.  The proper protocol for such gifts is to place them into the Church Memorial Account in the decedent’s name.

Non-Members Fee Schedule

The Non-Members Fees will depend on the complexity of your average wedding.  If you only open the building, turn on the heater and have the pastor perform the ceremony, it can be quite simple.

If your normal wedding includes the pastor, hostess, custodian, organist, sound technician and videographer, your fee structure might be a bit more complex.  You should list each person who is required by the church to be present.  Usually these persons / roles would be hostess, custodian, organist and pastor.  If the service is large and the sanctuary is large, you might include a sound tech and assistant hostess.   Such fees are usually flat fees for the day, expecting that each will perform duties which are the same length of time.

The main thing to remember when creating the Fee Schedule is to make sure all fees are included and explained.  If some personnel are required, that needs to be noted.  If some personnel are optional for an added fee, that should be included as well.

Here is a sample Non-Member Fee Schedule.

Member Fee Schedule

The Church Member fee structure is like the Non-Member structure but it shows the discounts that church members receive due to their membership.  This assumes that the people who are members have contributed financially to the support of the church.  As contributing members, they are already paying for the salary support of the pastor and staff.  It is therefore customary for the staff to perform these extra ceremonies without further financial benefit.

It has long been considered unethical for Methodist Ministers to accept gifts or honorariums from members for sacred services: weddings, baptisms, and funerals.  It was always made clear that such religious functions were part of the pastor’s normal responsibility in caring for the congregation and no additional financial gift was expected.

However, today’s clergy routinely tell people it is not expected, but happily accept gifts for weddings.  Also, today many non-clergy staff may decide that they must be paid extra regardless of who is receiving services.  Church custodians, who may have already worked a forty-hour week, may expect time and a half for a wedding or funeral on Saturday.  Organists may stick to the AGO guidelines.

It is worth the time to consult with all staff about how they prefer to be compensated for member services and a fee schedule can then be published which accurately reflects everyone’s expectations.

Here is a sample Member Fee Schedule.

 

Articles in this series:

  1. Who can you rent to?
  2. Understanding the types of rentals
  3. Understanding the actual costs of renting.
  4. Creating a policy for community groups and events.
  5. Creating a policy for sacred events.
  6. Creating a contract that protects everyone.