First Lutheran Church
410 Main St.
Onalaska, WI 54650
The Wedding Handbook
“Gracious God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ into the world to reveal your love
to all people. Enrich this couple with every good gift, that their life together
may show forth your love; and grant that at the last we may all celebrate
with Christ the marriage feast that has no end;
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.
ELW ‘Marriage’ Prayer of the Day
Marriage is rooted in love — a gift from God. God gives this kind of love so that his people may practice both joy-filled and difficult tasks. Companionship and creating a new family (whether it’s just the two of you or ten of you) are usually fun. Forgiveness and reconciliation can be quite difficult. And yet God-given love leads us into all these
places and more. Your wedding day is the day you embark upon this marriage journey with your vows. At no time before has your relationship been tied to such a solemn, genuine, (legal) promise. It is because of the importance of your wedding day and the meaning behind the vows you make that this booklet has been created. The staff and congregation at First Lutheran want to serve engaged couples preparing for marriage as well as possible. We want to make clear our expectations, hopes and reasons for why we do things the way we do. Please read this booklet thoroughly so that your wedding day — and, more importantly, your marriage years — may be as joyful as possible.
Please take the time to read this entire handbook so that you understand our expectations, avoid misunderstandings and feel confident that First Lutheran is the right place to celebrate your wedding day!
How to schedule your wedding
In the beginning…
1) Contact the church office — 608-783-2236, firstname.lastname@example.org or in person — to reserve a date and time for both your wedding and rehearsal.
Your wedding date and time will not be guaranteed until you have completed the ‘Wedding Agreement’ form and paid a $150 non-refundable deposit, which will be applied to the total cost. Also, you must promise to be present at our Wedding Workshop (described below).
Keep in mind that the worship service will take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on musical choices, whether communion is included and other special rites within worship (like a unity candle). Your wedding day is not a great time to feel rushed. Please try to offer yourselves and your guests plenty of time to receive the gifts of worship on your wedding day.
2) When you reserve your wedding date and make your deposit, you also will be required to commit to attend the Wedding Workshop, which takes place on a Saturday in February, from mid-morning until mid-afternoon.
The next wedding workshop will be on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020,
from mid-morning until mid-afternoon
You will meet and hear from Gabriel Hicks, our congregation’s organist and wedding
music coordinator. You will meet the wedding coordinators and the pastors as we walk through the worship service and field questions about your wedding.
The cost is $100, which covers your online premarital inventory (we finish the workshop by beginning the first steps of your premarital counseling, which is based on the results of this inventory), lunch and a couple of other resources.
You must attend the workshop except for truly EXTRAordinary circumstances. Failure of any couple to attend the workshop will cause you to surrender your deposit and means that your wedding will not take place at First Lutheran.
The pastor at your workshop will discuss the shape of future counseling sessions and set a date for your next meeting. At individual sessions, we will make decisions about your order for worship, music, readings, vows and everything else that needs individual attention.
“Because of sin, our age old rebellion, the gladness of marriage can be overcast and the gift of the family can become a burden. But because God, who established marriage, continues still to bless it with his abundant and ever present support, we can be sustained in our weariness and have our joy restored.”
LBW ‘Wedding’ Prayer
Wedding vows are much easier to make than keep. It is with this understanding that the pastors at First Lutheran require premarital counseling for every couple. All couples are expected to participate in our annual wedding workshop, described on page 3. Couples will continue premarital counseling, typically within 2 months of their wedding date, and will meet as necessary to address any challenges or concerns.
During these premarital counseling sessions, we will consider how God is working within your relationship. Because this relationship with God is integral to your marriage, you will be asked to regularly attend worship as a part of your premarital preparations, whether at First Lutheran or at a church in the town where you live. Patterns formed during this time of your life will carry forward into your marriage. We believe that worshipping together regularly is a key to a successful
We also will address the particulars of the worship service. You will be provided with a
devotional booklet meant to grow your prayer life for each other. You will consider your vows (your choices are included in the back of this handbook), Scripture readings, and whether you would like to include Holy Communion in your wedding.
Your wedding will be performed by a called pastor of First Lutheran or, if necessary, by another area Lutheran pastor who assists when scheduling does not permit our two
primary pastors to preside. Your inability to participate in these opportunities will be addressed with mercy and
creativity. Unwillingness to meet these requirements, however … well let’s not go there. (Besides – it’s fun!)
After reserving a date with the church office, making your deposit and agreeing to attend the wedding workshop, Gabriel Hicks, First Lutheran’s organist and wedding music coordinator, will contact you.
Gabe will be your primary contact for all things musical. If available, Gabe will play for your wedding. If not, he will make arrangements for someone else to serve you. If you would like to invite a visiting organist, pianist, soloist, duet, quartet or other musicians, Gabe is the person with whom to seek approval for such a request. It is best to talk with Gabe before inviting guest musicians.
Music is a gift from God, able to express faith, hope and love unlike anything else. So your musical choices will play a major role in shaping your wedding day and reflecting your understanding of the gift of marriage. Selecting hymns, solos and other music requires care and discernment. Gabe will guide you through this. Including at least one hymn that is sung by the entire congregation is vital to providing guests with a mutual sense of worship and participation. Singing brings voices and hearts together. Feel free to request a congregational hymn from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), which is the primary worship resource for First Lutheran. A short list of favorite wedding hymns is provided on page 11, but Gabe can offer other suggestions from the red book as well.
After reserving a date for your wedding, making your deposit and agreeing to attend the wedding workshop, a wedding coordinator from First Lutheran will contact you.
Our wedding coordinators are Cathy Wittchow (608-769-1909) and Jeri Metzig (608-780-3644). The pastor is your guide through marriage preparation and making choices about your wedding worship service; Gabe is your primary contact for all things musical; your wedding coordinator will respond to all the other incidental issues, especially issues pertaining to decorating the sanctuary. She will offer you an opportunity to walk through the facility long before your wedding day and will be present for the rehearsal and wedding. She will assist in seating family members, double-check all attire and help with small children in the wedding party, if necessary. During the ceremony, the wedding coordinator attends to any ongoing needs: giving direction, seating late guests and handling emergencies. Try not to faint on your wedding day, but know that if you do, a wedding coordinator from First will save the day (this is not a guarantee)!
Historically, a ‘legal’ marriage has always required witnesses; people willing to vouch for the genuine intent of each spouse to keep their wedding vows. Your marriage license requires the signatures of two witnesses. Traditionally, they are the best man and the maid of honor, but they can be anyone who witnesses the worship service. Please provide your marriage license at the rehearsal, which will be signed by your witnesses and the pastor after the wedding, before you leave the church for your reception.
In addition to your wedding party, loved ones may be included in your wedding in other roles. Ushers are crucial to a smooth worship service because they welcome and seat
everyone and clarify communion distribution. Readers offer the Word of God. A greeter can welcome guests as they arrive, encouraging them to sign the guest book. An acolyte (light the candles), a crucifer (cross-bearer) or a chalice bearer are also possibilities. Ask your pastor about the many ways to include others in your wedding.
You will need to print an order of worship to hand out to people attending your wedding so that everyone may participate in the ceremony. Your pastor can show you a sample order of worship and explain its parts. This sample order includes responses that need to be included in your worship bulletin so that everyone knows what to say and when to say it.
You can design and print the bulletin yourself or you can have it professionally printed. But before it is printed, you must submit a draft of the order of worship to the pastor for his or her approval.
For all the effort you put into your wedding day, a well-attended, attentive and on-time
rehearsal sets a helpful tone for the whole weekend. We will take time for introductions, walk through the worship service (multiple times) and answer questions. Usually the
rehearsal takes 60 to 90 minutes. All attendants, minister(s), reader(s), acolyte(s), crucifer,
usher(s), chalice bearer(s) and anyone else walking down the aisle need to be present.
Those offering special music are welcome, too.
Good rehearsals lead to good worship!
Church office 608-783-2236 email@example.com
Pastor Jason Stanton, Senior pastor 608-783-2236 firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastor Karyn Bodenschatz, Associate pastor 608-783-2236 email@example.com
Gabriel Hicks, Organist 608-385-0937 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Wittchow, Wedding coordinator 608-769-1909 email@example.com
Jeri Metzig, Wedding coordinator 608-780-3644 firstname.lastname@example.org
The following fees pay for the premarital and wedding-day services of the pastor, organist, wedding coordinator and custodian. One check is remitted to: First Lutheran Church.
Members of First Lutheran: $600
“Member” fees apply to couples in which at least one person is a member of First Lutheran at the time the wedding date is reserved with the church office.
Additional costs include the $100 Wedding Workshop fee and might include additional musical leaders and/or clergy that you invite.
Your $150 deposit will be applied to the total cost.
All costs must be paid in full at least one month prior to the wedding date.
After the wedding …
The pastors at First Lutheran are always willing and available to serve your marriage with ongoing counseling or by referring you to helpful marriage builders in our area. Your ongoing participation in the life of the church, whether that be at First Lutheran or within another Christian congregation is expected! Families of faith can be very good at returning you to your vows, nurturing your infant relationship and teaching you how to forgive each other. The wedding day is just the first day of a life lived together in the love of Christ. May God bless your labor of love!
Policies & practices
• One of the current pastors will officiate your wedding here. Should they be unable to be present, due to scheduling or emergency, another area Lutheran clergy person will officiate. If you would like to include other clergy to serve as assisting minister, please discuss this with one of First’s pastors before issuing an invitation. The pastors are willing to serve couples off-site in special circumstances. A $200 fee will be required for ceremonies in the immediate La Crosse area. A hotel room and mileage fees also will be required for weddings at distant locations.
• Decorating the worship space will be done in consultation with your wedding coordinator, who will approve all decorations before the date of the rehearsal. Candelabras, aisle candle holders and flower stands are available. However, the church does not provide a unity candle or candle stand. Aisle runners are notorious for getting stuck as attempts are made to unroll them, and they always provide opportunities for tripping. If you feel up for the challenge, it will need to be about 75 feet long.
Please note that the paraments (the pulpit & altar cloth) will remain unchanged from the appointed color of the church season or day.
Advent (late November – December 24) — Blue
Christmas (December 25 – January 5) — White
Epiphany (January 6 – Ash Wednesday) — Green
Easter (Easter - 7 weeks later) — White
Time of the Church (late May/early June – late November) — Green
The church building might be available for decorating the day before your wedding. All decorations must be removed after the ceremony and/or photography is over.
• Photography is a way to remember your wedding day forever. It can also be the most distracting thing possible for a worship service. Your photos may be taken before and/or after worship – but not during. From the time the wedding party gathers at the altar to the time they leave, there shall be no flash or floodlight photography. Please allow ample time for your photographs to be taken. It seems they always take longer than estimated. If taken before worship, they must be completed (including removal of all photography equipment) 30 minutes before the wedding. Video recorders are welcome in the sanctuary, provided they remain stationary upon a tripod in an appropriate location. Please share the ‘Guidelines for Photography and Videography’ on page 12 with your providers so all are clear on these expectations.
• We encourage live music rather than tapes or CDs. However, if your recorded music is approved by Gabe, you must provide an operator responsible for its use during the service.
• Dressing rooms may be made available to the men and women well before worship (as early as 9 a.m.). The wedding coordinator will designate the space that best fits your
party’s needs. You may not, however, leave your wedding gown or bridesmaid dresses in the building the night before. First Lutheran will not be responsible for lost or missing items.
• The nursery may be made available by the wedding coordinator at the rehearsal and/or the wedding for children up to age 5. However, you will be responsible for providing adult supervision at all times.
• If you are considering including a child or children younger than 5 in your wedding, please share this with your pastor prior to making an invitation.
• Pets are not allowed to participate in your worship service.
• Food brought in for the wedding party must remain in the Fellowship Hall. Arrangements for any other serving of food to guests prior to or following the wedding must be approved by the wedding coordinator. Please don't bring food that contains nuts or nut products because our kitchen is used by our members long after your wedding day.
• Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the building or on the grounds. Anyone
under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances will not be permitted to
participate in the wedding. As the legal wedding officiant, the pastor holds the right to stop the ceremony due to inappropriate behavior. Smoking is not permitted in the building.
• Damage to church property, grounds or equipment will be restored to original condition. Any equipment or supplies destroyed or missing will be replaced by First Lutheran with equipment or supplies of equal quality, and the cost will be charged to you.
• Balloons are welcome in the facility so long as they are not made of latex.
Latex balloons and gloves are not allowed in the building.
• Birdseed, rice and other things nice might be fun to throw at newlyweds, but they are no fun to clean up. Please use bubbles (outdoors only) or applause for such a celebration upon your departure from the church.
• First Lutheran’s Fellowship Hall may be used for your reception. Please contact the church office for more information.
• The pastor officiating typically will not be able to attend your wedding reception to
offer a prayer prior to the meal. Please consider inviting a family member or friend to offer this prayer. It is a great way to include them in the day’s celebration.
I take you, (name), to be my (wife/husband), from this day forward, to join with you and share all that is to come, and I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us.
In the presence of God and this community, I, (name), take you, (name), to be my (wife/husband); To have and to hold from this day forward, In joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, To love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.
I take you, (name), to be my (wife/husband), and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, trust, help and care for you; I will share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you to better understand ourselves, the world and God; through the best and worst of what is to come until death parts us.
I take you, (name), to be my (wife/husband). I promise before God and these witnesses to be your faithful (wife/husband), to share with you in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to forgive and strengthen you, and to join with you so that together we may serve God and others as long as we both shall live.
(Name), I take you to be my (wife/husband), from this time onward, to join with you and share all that is to come, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond, and in all the circumstances of our life together to be loyal to you with my whole life and with all my being until death parts us.
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee 836
Lord of All Hopefulness 765
Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life 816
Now Thank We All Our God 840
Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness 488
Blest Be the Tie That Binds 656
Jesu, Jesu, Fill us With Your Love 708
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling 631
Borning Cry 732
Hear Us Now, Our God and Father 585
This Is a Day, Lord, Gladly Awaited 586
Rise, Shine, You People 665
Take My Life, That I May Be 685
Amazing Grace 779
Guidelines for photography and videography
Photography keeps memories alive unlike any other gift. At First Lutheran Church,
Onalaska, we value this gift for the couples who are married here and for their families and friends. These guidelines are meant to offer helpful direction for those professionals and non-professionals who intend to take pictures or video before, during or after the wedding worship service.
1) Photos may be taken anywhere inside or outside the church building before or after worship.
2) If taken before worship, all photography must be completed — including the removal of all equipment — at least 30 minutes before the worship service is scheduled to begin.
3) From the time the wedding party is gathered at the altar to the time they leave there shall be no flash photography or floodlights used.
4) Video recorders are welcome in the sanctuary, provided they remain stationary upon a tripod in an appropriate location.
5) Photographers will not distract from the worship service with constant movement, equipment changes or other disturbances.
6) Videographers are welcome to plug into the sound board but may NOT adjust any dials without consulting the pastor, wedding coordinator or organist.
7) All photographers and videographers are expected to be present at the rehearsal
and/or 20 minutes before the time of worship.
The officiating pastor at First Lutheran will answer all questions and concerns pertaining to these guidelines.