St Mary's Church, Billingshurst

Wedding Guide


This section of the website is designed for those who are enquiring about getting married at St Mary’s. If you need any more information, or if you would like to talk things through, get in touch with the church office.

If you have just got engaged, our congratulations to you both. Your wedding day should be a wonderful occasion, and we want to help you make the day memorable and enjoyable. You may have already realised that there is a lot to organise, and this section will, we hope, help you in the planning of your wedding service – a service in which man and woman become husband and wife.

Christian marriage

Christians believe that marriage is a gift from God – from God, who is love. In the marriage ceremony, you make a public declaration of lifelong commitment to love each other, whatever happens. The Bible tells us that we love, because God first loved us – it’s as if He pours out His love on us, and that love overflows so we have love for another. A Snoopy cartoon once had the words ‘love is for giving’. Love is for giving, and love is forgiving; we see that in the amazing, unconditional love of God, whose son, Jesus, expressed his love by being prepared to sacrifice himself, even to die, for the people he loved. Jesus never says ‘I love you, but…’. In Christian marriage we try to follow Jesus’ model by loving our spouse in a self-sacrificial way, putting their needs before our own – loving, cherishing, our spouse forever.

Can you be married at St Mary's?

First, we need to be sure your wedding service can take place at St Mary's. Both of you normally have to be at least 18 years old, although you can be married from the age of 16 with the consent of your parents. Provided neither of you has been married before or has a former spouse still living, you are entitled to be married in St Mary's if: (i) either of you lives in the Parish or, (ii) if you live outside the Parish, if either of you is an active, worshipping member of St Mary's or, (iii) where either of you has a family or special connection.

'Qualifying connections' for couples are: if one of you was baptised or prepared for confirmation in the Parish; if one of you has lived in the Parish or regularly attended public worship here for at least six months; if one of your parents has lived in the Parish or regularly attended church services at St Mary’s for six months or more in your lifetime; or if your parents or grandparents were married in the Parish.

What about booking the church?

Once we are sure you can be married here, you can book the church. However, please check with us before confirming your Reception booking, or other arrangements, as sometimes the church may not be available on the day or at the time you would prefer. You can book the church by contacting the church office.

What about Banns? And what are they?

Banns are an announcement of your intention to marry, and give a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why your marriage may not lawfully take place (rather like, if you were to marry in a Register Office, having a notice displayed publicly outside). They are read in church on three consecutive Sundays within three months of your wedding date, and if either of you lives in another Parish, Banns must also be read there.

You must complete a Banns Application Form. This is a legal document; the information is used both when we read your Banns, and also to complete the Marriage Register (if there are changes, eg: to your address, between completing the form and your wedding day, you must notify us in writing of the change, making clear both of your names and the date of the wedding).

What form of service? What about hymns and readings?

You can choose to have a modern language service, or one in more ‘traditional’ language – discuss this with the Vicar. We will give you an outline order of service, together with a list of suggested hymns and songs, and readings. Three hymns or songs is typical, and one or two readings (one reading must be from the Bible – all can be, one must be). The Vicar, or the organist, can advise on suitable hymns and songs, and the organist can advise you on music for the Bride’s entry, and for the departure of the Bride and Groom. You will also need to think about music during the signing of the Registers.

If you have friends or family members you would like to be involved in the service, for example by doing a reading, or leading the prayers, or playing a musical instrument, please discuss this with the Vicar.

What does a wedding at St Mary's cost?

Please discuss wedding fees with the church office. Additional fees are payable for extras such as the choir, church bells and candles.

Please note: if you wish to make an audio recording, the organist’s fee is increased by 50 per cent. If you wish to video your wedding the organist’s fee is doubled (the making of an audio or video recording requires the prior permission of the Vicar and the organist).

When do we pay?

We ask for a deposit of £50 when the church booking is made. The balance of fees must be paid at least three weeks prior to your wedding date. Fees can be paid in cash or by cheque.

Church bells

The bell ringers will endeavour to meet all bookings, although they cannot guarantee to ring for more than one wedding in a day. The first wedding booked on any day takes priority. There can be no guarantee that the bell ringers are available other than on a Saturday, and there are one or two Saturdays in the year when the bell ringers are not available.

Church flowers

Enquiries regarding flowers should be directed to the church office. If there is more than one couple getting married on the same day, you might like to discuss flowers together and share the cost. If you use the normal church flowers, we suggest a donation is made towards the cost.


Only rose petals and rice can be used (and bubbles can be blown) but only in the church car park – not outside the church door.

Marriage preparation

It may seem to be stating the obvious, but your wedding is just one day – your marriage should last for the rest of your lives. So in addition to helping you with the actual wedding preparations, we also want to spend time with you discussing your expectations about marriage. Our aim is to help you both to build strong and lasting foundations for your life together.

We occasionally run marriage preparation courses. These take place on a Saturday, with other couples being married at St Mary’s. We give you and your fiancé the opportunity to think through together possible areas of difficulty and how, as a couple, you will handle them. The topics we will cover include communication, coping with conflict and pressures on marriage (which might include money, in-laws, children and family issues). We also give an overview of the whole concept of a church wedding - Christian marriage, during which we would look more at the structure of your actual service, and the vows you will make.

If we can't offer a marriage preparation day at a time suitable to you, the Vicar will normally discuss these things with you.

Any further questions?

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions please contact the church office.