If you’ve always dreamt of getting married within the walls of a historic, beautiful and sentimental church, a Church of England wedding may be the ideal solution. While you may think these settings are out of reach to you, flexibility in their requirements means that more and more people can say ‘I do’ in their dream settings. Our COE Weddings guide will walk you through everything you need to know from legal requirements and finding the perfect church, through to choosing a bible reading for the day. Read on to learn more.

Legal requirements

If you’ve done any research into your wedding planning, you’ll know that there are a number of legal requirements you need to tick from the list first. And, with COE weddings, there are a few more. Below are the legal requirements set out by the church and the UK’s legal standing on marriage.

  • You must be over 16 years old to legally marry in the UK. If you and/or your partner are under 18, you will need full consent from your parents.
  • At this time, COE weddings cannot accommodate same-sex marriages
  • Divorcees can be married in a COE ceremony. However, this discretion is down to your vicar who will decide whether you are in a place to build a strong life with your new love. If not, they may be able to offer a blessing service which normally takes place after a civil wedding ceremony.
  • You need to have your banns published before the wedding can take place. These are an intent to marry and give the chance for anyone to put forward a case why the wedding shouldn’t legally go ahead. This ancient tradition dictates that the banns need to be read in the parish where each of you live and the church you’re to be married in on 3 Sunday’s during the 3 months before the wedding.
  • Some individuals will need a Special License, Common License or Superintendent Registrar’s certificate in order to marry in a COE church.

Planning the ceremony

Once you’ve covered all the legal requirements, it’s time to start planning the special day.

Finding a church

Ideally, COE wedding’s should take place in your local parish. This is a place you should visit regularly as a couple to strengthen your love of God and understanding of the religion. However, the church understands that there are often reasons why another church has more significance to a couple. There are 7 reasons why a marriage can take place in a different church and each one relates to the connection you have with it.

  • You may marry in a COE church away from where you live if:
  • One of you has lived in the parish for a period of at least 6 months
  • One of you was baptised (christened) in the parish
  • One of you was confirmed and the confirmation was entered in the register of confirmations for the church of chapel in the parish
  • One or both of you have attended normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least 6 months
  • One of your parents has lived in the parish for at least 6 months
  • One of your parents has regularly attended normal church in the parish for a period of at least 6 months
  • One of your grandparents were married in the parish

You only need to meet one of these reasons. And many churches are happy to welcome you to regular services for at least 6 months prior to the wedding.

Choosing hymns for the wedding

A traditional part of COE weddings are the hymns. They help to break up the significant percentage of talking there will be during the ceremony. They also bring people together, encourage energy to flow around the room and can have meaning for you and your loved one. Traditional COE weddings will have the following hymns form part of the structure of their day:

  • The first hymn – This is sung at the beginning of the ceremony and designed to bring everyone together
  • The registry hymn – Many couples choose to have a hymn sung while the register is being signed or straight afterwards. This marks a special point during the event.
  • The final hymn – Before the final blessing, the last hymn is sung. This one is chosen to reflect the feeling of celebration, love and joy in the day.

Some of the most popular wedding day hymns include:

  • Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
  • Lord Of All Hopefulness
  • Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
  • Be Still, For The Presence Of The Lord
  • Amazing Grace

Bible readings

Church of England wedding ceremonies must have a minimum of 1 Bible reading incorporated into the day. The couple can choose to have others or sentimental poems read by loved ones, themselves or the Vicar. You should choose readings that mean something to you both and understand that there are both modern or traditional options out there too. Some popular options include:

  • 1 Corinthians Chapter 12
  • Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 26-28
  • Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 1-10)
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
  • Romans 12:10
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ceremony Structure

While there is scope to personalise your special day to suit the wants of you both as a couple, COE weddings have a general structure to the day. This tends to go as follows:

  • The users are the first to arrive – approx 45 minutes before the ceremony. They need to ensure every guest has an Order of Service, Hymn books and are seated properly
  • The groom and best man should arrive 30 minutes beforehand
  • Guests should arrive 15 – 20 minutes before the ceremony
  • The organist will play the prelude music
  • The bridesmaids and Mother Of The Bride should arrive. They will wait at the church door for the bride to arrive. The Mother Of The Bride’s presence is used as a cue to the groom that the bride has arrived.
  • The organist will play the processional music while guests all stand
  • Bridesmaids enter – normally in pairs – behind the bride. The youngest is generally right behind the bride.
  • Bride takes her father’s right arm and they walk down the aisle together.
  • Once they have reached the groom, the bride’s father goes to his left. The bride gives her flowers to the chief bridesmaid


On average, a COE wedding ceremony takes around 30 minutes from start to finish. Once you have said ‘I Do’, walked through a shower of confetti and had your wedding photos taken, it’s time to carry on with the evening’s celebrations. We are big advocates for marquee receptions here at South West Marquees. They can be set up on a multitude of ground surfaces, allowing you to be more flexible with locations near to your chosen church. Our Traditional Marquees have an elegant and vintage look that pairs beautifully with the elegance of COE architecture. A focus on detail like this allows you to synchronise your entire day, allowing a chosen theme to be carried on throughout the evening.

Canvas Marquees are also a popular choice for church-based weddings. They have an authentic elegance to them, erected using wooden poles and cotton covers. The organic materials and traditional style again allow you to continue on with a chosen theme effortlessly.

Planning a COE wedding gives you the opportunity to embrace spirituality, tradition and a feeling of togetherness with the rest of your church congregation. If you need any help when trying to ensure the day goes off without a hitch – especially the post-ceremony celebrations – we have an experienced team here who are ready to help. Get in contact today.